At just 33 years old, Andy Newcomb has seen success at the Phoenix Bass Fishing League level. From a Toyota Series Presented by A.R.E. perspective, he’s only fished events whenever they swung by his home lake – Lake of the Ozarks – and made a few top 10s. This year, however, he decided it was time to fish the full Plains Division and see if he could qualify for the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit and maybe win Angler of the Year or get a win along the way.
Well, Newcomb is certainly off to a great start in all of those categories.
Finishing second on Lake of the Ozarks back in March, Newcomb dropped 17 pounds, 13 ounces on Day 1 of the Plains Division event on Grand Lake presented by Fenwick to sit in ninth and keep the momentum rolling. He backed it up yesterday with 19-5 to take the lead and after weighing 15-11 today, he’s now a Toyota Series champion. With 52-13 overall, Newcomb was able to hold off the charge from a stacked top 10 to bring home the big trophy and over $76,000 thanks in part to the Phoenix Bonus money.
“It’s incredible,” Newcomb says of his win. “I haven’t really had a chance to think about it, but just the fact that I was able to edge out Chris (Jones). Chris is the man. Eric Olliverson is a buddy of mine and he catches them everywhere. I’ve worked hard at it and I’ve never felt I was truly at that level. So, to win one, I feel a little better about it. It feels really, really good.”
From a fishing standpoint, Newcomb has experience on Grand, so even with limited practice he wasn’t behind the ball. Not one to fish “the way everyone else does” on a lake, Newcomb spent some time looking for something off the wall before throwing in the towel and grabbing a spinnerbait.
“I always try to find something different and Monday was horrible,” he says. “At that point I thought I just might have to do what everyone else was doing and catch them better. Tuesday I went out a threw that spinnerbait and caught them pretty good.
“Thursday I caught all of my fish off chunky gravel, not pea gravel, it’s a little bigger is the best way I can describe it. All of my good ones came halfway back in pockets. If I went back further I could catch small keepers and towards the main lake I couldn’t catch anything.”
With no wind, warmer temperatures and clear skies on Day 2, things changed and Newcomb tried to force his “chunky gravel” pattern. He eventually scrapped it and thanks to a bathroom break, he found a new pattern.
“I tried for a long time to make that pattern from Day 1 work,” he says of Day 2. “Finally, I rolled up to a bluff and you know, nature was calling, and I thought that it looked like a place I could catch one.
“I threw out there and had one hit it and not get it and that changed my whole tournament. Just that fish biting and not getting it made me think, ‘there’s fish here.’ I went a little further down and had one slack that spinnerbait and not get it. I looked at my co-angler and said we were going to camp there. In the last hour and a half of the day, they turned on. I went from 9 pounds to over 19 in a hurry.”
Today, with clouds, wind and cooler temps, his bigger fish didn’t set up right on his bluff bank in the Elk River.
“I milked that spot today and it didn’t really pan out like I thought it would. I knew I couldn’t die there, so I ran to another bluff I saw on Google Maps and caught my big one and caught a couple more that culled. I stopped by my honey hole on my way back and culled again and I think that did it for me.”
As far as baits go, Newcomb stuck with Grand Lake staples – a jig and a spinnerbait.
He threw a BOOYAH Covert Spinnerbait with a small, gold Colorado blade and bigger, silver willow blade in cleaner water or a chartreuse War Eagle spinnerbait that he swapped the painted blades on for smaller willow blades. The reason for swapping the painted blades was so that he could fish it a little faster and when he’d do that the fish would go from “getting the bait” to “swallowing it”. He also added a BioSpawn ExoSwim (Feider shad) to his spinnerbait for extra bulk and dyed the tail chartreuse. He threw his blades on a 7-4 Daiwa Tatula Elite vibrating jig rod with an 8.1:1 Daiwa Tatula reel spooled with 17-pound-test Vicious Pro Elite fluorocarbon.
A ½-ounce Apex Tackle Company Dirk’s Jig got a key bite on Day 2 but did all of the heavy lifting today. He put a Zoom Ultravibe Speed Craw on the back and pitched it to any rock or wood he could along the bank. His jig tackle consisted of a 7-foot, 1-inch Tatula Elite rod, with the same Tatula reel as the spinnerbait and he ran 20-pound Vicious Pro Elite fluorocarbon on it.
“It’s a very small jig, with just a few strands of skirt,” he says. “Color didn’t seem to matter. If you got it in front of one they would bite, but they just ate funny. I think I weighed every fish today on the jig and most everything the first two days on a spinnerbait.”
With the trophy in hand, Newcomb is happy that his fish-to-win mentality finally paid off on the big stage. He’s also hoping it may lead to an even bigger stage sooner than later.
“At the end of the day, whether I win or lose, I know I did everything I could to win,” he says. “Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but when it does, boy it feels really, really good.
“I want to win everything that I’m in, but at the end of the year if I’m in the top five in points it’ll be a dream come true. I want to do this for a living but haven’t really had the financial means to pursue it. So, if I could [qualify for the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit] first try and not have to go through the grind and come up with the money, I think it would change my life.”
1. Andy Newcomb – 52 – 13 (15) – $76,500 (includes $35,000 Phoenix Bonus)
2. Chris Jones – 52 – 02 (15) – $15,500
3. Kyle Minke – 51 – 15 (15) – $12,000
4. Joey Cantrell – 51 – 08 (15) – $10,000
5. TJ Martin – 49 – 04 (15) – $9,000
6. Brent Algeo – 48 – 12 (15) – $8,000
7. James Watson – 48 – 09 (15) – $7,150
8. Eric Olliverson – 48 – 00 (15) – $6,000
9. Kyle Weisenburger – 46 – 08 (15) – $5,000
10. Toby Hartsell – 45 – 13 (15) – $4,000