Kris Wilson handily dominated the Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division event presented by Mercury at Sam Rayburn Reservoir. His three-day total of 72 pounds, 8 ounces was 13 pounds, 15 ounces better than the tournament total caught by runner-up Josh Bensema and almost 22 pounds better than Justin Morton in third place.
Wilson caught his fish on hard-bottom structure situated in between creeks with shallow, flooded brush and main-lake summertime haunts.
The rest of the top 10 fished a little of everything, but mostly stuck to areas within a few miles of the 147 bridge.
Here are the details.
2. Bensema fishes deep points with bream beds
Josh Bensema chose, for the most part, to ignore the flooded cover on Sam Rayburn and searched out areas where bass should be in a typical June.
“It was basically deep, underwater points,” he says of his target areas. “A lot of them were sitting kind of on the sides of points; hard spots. My best spot had some perch [bream] beds in about 18 feet. There weren’t really perch still there, but it’s a spot perch were probably spawning on during the last full moon.”
He threw a 5/8-ounce 6th Sense Divine Shakey Head with an 8-inch Big Bite Baits Finesse Worm in a new color that’s a mix of junebug and watermelon with green flake. The first two days, he also caught a few on a 6th Sense Cloud 9 C20 crankbait in platinum citrus and a 5-inch Big Bite Baits Trick Stick in watermelon red. The Trick Stick rigged on the 5/8-ounce shaky head became his go-to bait on the final day to imitate perch.
The only real variation from the pattern was a couple of forays into some healthy patches of hydrilla the first two days.
“It was on a creek bend. The creek was 16 feet deep. The side was 8 to 10 with some green hydrilla growing on it,” he says. “I caught them on a 6th Sense Cloud 9 C6 in lavender citrus – it’s a little 6-foot-diving crankbait – and then dragging a Big Bite Baits 8-inch B2 Worm on a Texas rig.”
Bensema weighed in more than 20 pounds each of the first two days and was Wilson’s only real competition by Saturday, but that’s when he struggled the most. He weighed in only 14-12. The fish just weren’t set up the same as they were the day before.
“At home I fish a lot of brush piles and rock piles and stuff where every time I go to those spots I make the same exact cast, and they’re always in the same spot if they’re there,” he says. “Here it was just kind of like these big underwater points and kind of big areas, so they moved around. Even on the spots I caught them multiple days in a row, I never caught them on the same cast. They’d be 50 yards, 100 yards in either direction. I just didn’t have a stacked-up group of big ones. I had big ones pretty much everywhere I went, but I had to really fish around, so I couldn’t really be that efficient.”
3. Morton cranks deep structure
Local angler Justin Morton caught 50 pounds in three days. He says his casting deck was packed full of rods rigged with Strike King 5XD, 6XD and 8XD crankbaits in citrus shad, ghost minnow and green gizzard shad colors and two rods rigged with the Strike King ReCon Worm in watermelon red and red bug.
Some of his ledges were on the main lake, and others were up creeks and river bends.
“I had probably close to 30 schools,” he says. “They were all related. If you found a deep ledge – 12 to 18 feet – they were there.
“I had no problems catching my fish and finding my fish, but with the water dropping they were moving. But I was capable, from knowledge of the lake, of being able to keep up with what they were doing.”
4. Moore flips and frogs key stretch in Buck Bay
Despite a dismal practice in which the best day he had only produced a 10-pound limit, young gun Cole Moore figured out a top-10 pattern to catch 47 pounds, 6 ounces.
At 11:30 on day one of the tournament, Moore had one fish in the livewell. He eventually worked into the back of Buck Bay and somewhat stumbled on a section of water with a key type of large bush that he says was kind of like buck brush, but it looked “a little like a willow but wasn’t a willow.” That turned out to be his only productive area.
“They were all over back there,” he says. “I couldn’t catch them off cypress trees. It was only that bush. It was obvious every time I caught a quality fish they were on some kind of a little point that comes out in the bushes. They were on the tip of the point.
“You could see it was alive in there. There were bream in the bushes, and fish were spitting up crawfish. It was just a lot of quality fish in there.”
Moore caught his fish by flipping a V&M J-Bug in the moneymaker color with a 3/4-ounce weight to get it down deep quickly. In the morning, he threw a SPRO Bronzeye Popping Frog in white to try to get a big bite.
5. Collins works the combo pattern
Texas pro Albert Collins fished out and in the bushes to catch 47 pounds, 1 ounce.
“I’ve been fishing the first drop-off, basically, in 8 to 12 feet of water mostly, and flipping bushes a little bit,” he says.
Offshore, Collins Carolina-rigged a Mister Twister Buzz Bug in green pumpkin candy red and backed it up with a 6th Sense Cloud 9 C6 crankbait. He flipped the bulkier Mister Twister Hawg Raiser in green pumpkin candy.
“The first and second days I didn’t run any of the same water, but today [Saturday] I ran water I ran yesterday and the day before yesterday,” he adds. “I just went through my best places and then followed up with some places that I really hadn’t been catching fish but typically can catch a big one. It just didn’t work out. I got a limit, but I didn’t get a big one.”
6. Rambo leans hard on the frog
Local pro Cory Rambo weighed in 46 pounds, 15 ounces. He caught most of it on a popping frog by targeting shady areas on a grassy flat, but also weighed in a few fish that he caught flipping bushes and hay grass with a Big Bite Baits Fighting Frog in tilapia magic.
“I had the back of two pockets, and in between those two pockets it had a big flat on the top of it, and it’s got hay grass and peppergrass and bushes and all that,” says Rambo. “I was throwing a 6th Sense prototype frog all through there, and that’s where all my fish came from. They were up there eating bream. But I could really tell yesterday [Friday] it was drying up, and so I knew I was in trouble for today.”
7. Newberry flips up a top 10
Bass fishing legend Dicky Newberry made his 57th top-10 finish with FLW (though he probably has more; most FLW records prior to 1996 were destroyed in an office fire) with a three-day total of 44 pounds.
“I flipped all my fish. Actually, I started off and caught a limit every morning where I had about three or four dragging spots,” Newberry says. “I caught 20 or 30 every morning off those spots. There just wasn’t any size to them. All my bigger fish were coming flipping, but from a long ways up the river.”
Each day, Newberry dialed in a different flipping pattern.
“One day they’d be on cypress trees. The next day they’d be on buck brush,” he says, “and the buck brush is just mixed in with all the other trees. You had to go to those once you got your pattern down.”
Newberry fished a Mister Twister Buzz Bug in Fork special (watermelon with red flake) or watermelon candy.
“The fish were keying in on perch, so I was trying to mimic a perch,” he adds. “I was using a 3/4-ounce weight, which would make it fall fast and go down through the thick stuff.”
8. Pangrac flips for eighth
Oklahoma’s Matt Pangrac, who’s been a guest host on FLW Live this season, made the top 10 with a three-day total of 43 pounds.
He committed to flipping from the start of practice but was open-minded enough to run new water and dial in a specific target type each day.
“I would just kind of run through an area until I got a limit, and then once I got a limit in the bushes I would fish cypress, live willows, dead willows or buck brush and just kind of figure out where they were and then run that pattern the rest of the day,” he says.
“The key, I think, was in the bushes and early in the morning they were keying on bluegills. I saw some fish spit up bluegills. So I’d use a chartreuse green pumpkin punch skirt with a 420 [Reaction Innovations Sweet] Beaver with chartreuse tips. When I was flipping the cypress, I caught a couple of fish that had crawfish sticking out of their throats, so I’d throw a [Strike King] Rage Craw in watermelon meat color, and I put orange on the pincers and threw an orange punch skirt.”
Pangrac says the punch skirts helped to enhance each bait’s profile in thick, gnarly cover. He flipped with 25-pound-test Sunline Shooter fluorocarbon, a 3/4-ounce tungsten weight and a Duckett White Ice 2 Kelly Jordan extra-heavy rod.
He also caught four keepers by targeting bass that were chasing fry in hay grass behind some willows. There, he used a Reaction Innovations Skinny Dipper in the sungill color with a 6/0 weighted Gamakatsu swimbait hook and 60-pound-test Sunline FX2 Frogging & Flipping braided line.
On the final day, when boat pressure from a large local tournament made his best areas feel a little cramped, Pangrac slid out and caught some fish on a worm.
9. Vote expands on BFL pattern
Bob Vote caught 41 pounds, 3 ounces using the same flipping pattern that earned him a check in the T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League Cowboy Division event on Sam Rayburn the weekend before.
During BFL practice, he located about five schools.
“I used one of them in the BFL and pretty much used it up,” he says. “I cashed a check, and my co-angler [Michael Glynn] won it. So there were a lot of fish there. I tried to expand that this week in practice and spent, I’d say, 95 percent of the time flipping.”
Vote’s fish were on all sorts of wood, but cypress trees were his most productive. He spent his tournament fishing both sides of the river north of the 147 bridge.
10. Wright flips and fishes offshore
Eric Wright peaked on day one when he weighed in 17 pounds, 8 ounces, which included a 7-12 kicker. His weights went down from there, and he finished with 40 pounds, 15 ounces.
Wright flipped and fished offshore, just running a bunch of spots to try and scrape together a limit each day. He says his flipping bite got progressively worse every day, and his offshore schools were tapped out by Saturday.