Montgomery, Texas, pro Kris Wilson caught a big-time stringer of more than 26 pounds to take the day-one lead at the Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division event presented by Mercury at Sam Rayburn. Wilson says he fished some of the flooded cover that’s lining Rayburn’s shorelines, but the bulk of his catch came from a series of offshore areas where bass are starting to pile up.
The rest of the top five fished a mix of patterns, but their results indicate that the offshore pattern could wind up being the most consistent as the tournament goes on.
Here’s how they got it done on Thursday.
Josh Bensema, in second place, put together the best true in-and-out combo limit of the day.
“We started deep on a spot I really expected to catch them and didn’t, so we went ahead and went shallow and caught most of our fish there fishing some grass,” Bensema says. “We caught a couple good ones then bounced around all over the lake on a bunch of deep stuff the rest of the day and got a few big bites.”
Up shallow, Bensema keyed on patches of green hydrilla, which isn’t available in abundance right now due to high water killing off a lot of the grass this spring. He says he and his co-angler, Alan Moore, who leads the co-angler division, were both culling by 8 a.m.
Bensema plans to continue to dabble up shallow tomorrow, though the offshore bite is how he expects to make a run at the W this week.
“Coming into this I really thought offshore was going to win it, but there’s just not enough big ones out yet to make it your only deal, so I felt better going shallow part of the time,” he says. “The deep bite is getting better, for sure. There are not many people out there, and the shallow bite is getting worse. I think they’re coming to me.”
A mix of moving and slow presentations up shallow and offshore has Jake Ormond of Sterlington, La., in third place after one day of competition. He weighed in 17 pounds, 13 ounces.
“Most of my bites are coming offshore. I give them a break, and, basically, I just go to the bushes and flip around, give those fish time to calm down, set back up, and then I go back out and catch some more of them,” Ormond says. “But I’m catching fish when I go shallow, too. So I’m catching fish all day.”
Ormond found four spots offshore that comprise his milk run. They’re close enough together than he can fish each one of them between jaunts to the bushes.
His weight today surprised the pro, but Ormond is confident he can at least put together another decent catch tomorrow.
“Four-pound bites are just random,” he says. “It’s hard to say [what he’ll have tomorrow], but I’m catching enough 2- to 2 1/2-pound fish that 12 pounds should be pretty easy to catch. I don’t know what that’s going to do as far as where that’ll put me [in the standings]. I feel like for sure I can catch another 12, 13 pounds, then hope for one or two big bites. I got three of them today. Didn’t know it was going to happen, but I got three.”
Keith Combs is known for hammering out giant stringers of bass throughout his home state of Texas. Today, he didn’t pound on them like he used to in the glory days on Lake Amistad or Fork, but catching 17 pounds, 10 ounces was enough to land him in the top five.
“We moved around, and we stayed offshore, just various depths, and I ran stuff in about a 25-mile stretch of lake,” Combs says. “I got to practice quite a bit this week, so I found quite a few schools of fish. A lot of them went away, surprisingly. I thought more of them would have came. The big ones all went away. But I caught a lot of fish. Rayburn is full of them.”
With fish transitioning, Combs says there’s no guarantee that they’ll stay put on his best spots. He experienced that today, in fact.
“I thought I had a 30-pound hole, and I never had a bite there,” he says.
Tomorrow, he’ll continue with the offshore pattern and plans to work in some other options as well.
“I’ve got some flipping stuff. There’s 9 feet of water in the cypress. The biggest one I caught all week was flipping cypress. I didn’t do that today. I just really wanted to stick with this [offshore] pattern. I didn’t have a long day today, and tomorrow I do, so I’ll flip tomorrow.
“I don’t think a guy can win solely in the bushes, but I’m going to try for a combination.”
It was all shallow fishing for Orange, Texas, pro Cory Rambo, who weighed in 17 pounds, 8 ounces today.
“I started off flipping, and I wasn’t getting bit,” he says. “I caught one 3-pounder quick. And then I fished for about 45 minutes and caught a couple little ones. The bite wasn’t as good as it’s been. So I moved. I went and threw a frog a little bit and caught a 3-pounder and the big one [a kicker that weighed 5 1/2 to 6 pounds]. And then it died. So I flipped the rest of the day to cull out what I had. The bite was definitely off today from what I’ve been seeing.”
Rambo attributes the change to the tournament falling on the third day after a cold front that brought in multiple days of north winds. Plus, he says the moon phase isn’t ideal.
“I guess I’m gonna have to go back and do what I did today, and hopefully it pans out,” he says.
Eric Wright was one of the first pros to weigh in on day one and was atop the leaderboard for the first third of the weigh-in. His 17-pound, 8-ounce limit has him tied for fifth place.
A 7-12 kicker that won the day’s big bass prize on the pro side went a long way toward putting Wright in position to make the cut.
“I was junk-fishing a lot, just running around,” he says. “I caught a 4 flipping. I caught a bunch of fish out deep. I picked up a [Strike King] 6XD, which I’ve been catching a bunch of fish in practice on a 6XD, just not a lot of big ones. I fired into a school I had going. – it was all about 2- or 3-pound fish – and ended up catching that 7-12 out of them, and that’s pretty much how the day went.”
Though Wright is leaning more on his deep spots, he thinks the tournament could be won shallow, just because of the number of bass still up and the amount of cover there to fish. His decision to spend more time out deep was mostly based on his preference for this time of year and the amount of pressure in the bushes.
Regardless, he plans to try a little of everything again tomorrow.
“I think you’ve got to have fish deep, shallow and in between,” he says. “Not all the fish are out deep, especially the big ones. A lot are up shallow, especially with Rayburn being high and a lot of cover. They stay shallow a lot this time of year, especially the big ones.”