BROOKELAND, Texas – Alec Morrison made Sam Rayburn look like a place to get an easy big bite in his win at the season finale of the Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats Southwestern Division last weekend. But if you paid attention to the rest of the field, it proved to be tougher than Morrison made it look.
Offshore brush piles proved to be the No. 1 target for the majority of the Top 10, but there were a few bank beaters who found success.
Not a bad showing for the first win of your career, Mr. Morrison. A three-day total of 73 pounds, 5 ounces gave him a 24-pound margin of victory—the largest in Toyota Series history by more than 3 pounds.
The New York pro did his damage with a two-bait combo of a 7-inch Reins Bubbling Shaker on a drop-shot with a 3/16-ounce Reins tungsten weight and a 1/0 Hayabusa FPP Straight hook, as well as a 10-inch Bubbling Shaker on a ½-ounce Reins TG Sliding Football Sinker with a 5/0 Hayabusa WRM959 hook.
Morrison scanned for offshore brush piles for about 10 days before the event began, so he had plenty of spots marked that he knew he wanted to hit. He spent his days bouncing from pile to pile in about 20 feet of water, but Morrison liked for his piles to have a certain characteristic.
“The better piles I found were the fresh ones that still had leaves on them,” Morrison said. “I couldn’t actually see through the pile on my electronics because it was too bushy. Those are the ones those fish would be hanging out in.”
Tater Reynolds was also in the offshore contingent, fishing with a 6th Sense Crush 300DD in blue-treuse shad, a worm and a 6th Sense Whale in a prototype 6-inch model on a 1-ounce 6th Sense Divine Swimbait Jig Head.
“I used that crankbait to catch my limit every morning,” Reynolds said. “I had a point that I would hit early in the morning where I would target them in about 15 to 17 feet of water. I could get a 9- to 12-pound limit doing that in the morning.”
Once he had five in the box, he would move out to deeper water and look to upgrade.
“I would take that big swimbait and run brush piles,” Reynolds said. “Those brush piles were in about 20 to 30 feet. That’s how I would really get my big bites.”
Brett Preuett was found near Brushy Creek on the north end of the lake on Day 3. He filled his limit quickly later in the morning after making that move, catching them on a Scum Frog Trophy Series Popper and a Creme Baby Brush Pig that he dipped in chartreuse J.J.’s Magic Dippin’ Dye.
“Whenever I had some cloud cover and a little bit of wind, that’s when that frog really came into play for me,” Preuett said. “I threw that Brush Pig on a Carolina rig off shallow points. I was targeting bream beds with that one.”
Preuett also found success with a Treeshaker Tackle Preuett’s Cajun Bug jig that he used to target isolated cypress trees.
“It’s a big flutter spoon that weighs about 3 ounces, but it’s built differently than most flutter spoons,” Huff detailed. “It has a slow and wide fall that worked really well around brush piles in deeper water. I caught an 8-12 and a 5-pounder out of the same pile with that bait. It would really call them out well.”
When his arm needed a break from casting the spoon, Huff relied on a new jerkbait from Rapala that will be released at ICAST this summer. He said he would focus on reeling it in over the tops of brush piles that topped out at around 10 feet.
“I was looking for either hard spots or brush piles,” Reynolds said. “I caught them the best in about 28 feet of water. That’s how I caught a 10-pounder and a 5-pounder. Later in the day they would get more suspended in the brush, so they were harder to catch.”
After an impressive 24-5 limit on Day 1, Reynolds struggled to find the bigger fish on the final two days. Bags of 10-3 and 13-5 left him scratching his head a bit after having an impressive opening day.
“Those fish were either well-educated or I wasn’t smart enough to catch ‘em,” Reynolds admitted. “I could see more fish on my electronics, I just couldn’t get them to bite later on in the day.”
Matt Reed definitely enjoyed himself on Rayburn because it allowed him to get a little “old school.” A punch skirt with a ¾-ounce tungsten weight and a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver made Reed feel like he was fishing in the early 2000s as he targeted matted hydrilla under the surface in 12 to 13 feet of water.
“That’s some old-school fishing right there that we did back in the day,” Reed said. “Fishing with that punch skirt is all we used to do for about seven months out of the year on Sam Rayburn. You couldn’t compete any other way when the hydrilla was really at its best here.”
This time of the year, Reed says that hydrilla serves multiple purposes for the fish, which makes it a prime target when you can find it.
“When that hydrilla mats up, it creates a canopy for those bass,” Reed explained. “It provides shade, there’s bluegill that swim under there, really anything those bass could want is under those mats.”
Jaden Parrish would fill his limit in the mornings flipping a 6th Sense Stroker Craw in black and blue on a 7-3 medium-heavy Pride Rods stick. Once he had five, he would move to casting a 6th Sense Crush 300DD in blue-treuse shad on a 7-11 Pride Rods The Glide.
“I was looking for offshore hard spots mostly,” Parrish said. “About 12 to 15 feet was the depth I was looking at.”
“I was throwing that bait around pretty much anything that came in front of me,” Hughes said. “Brush piles, main-lake points, stumps, really anything. I was burning a full tank of gas a day just running around. With the lack of wind we had, that big worm really seemed to be the biggest player for me all week.”
Hayden Heck improved his bag every day of competition, finding better quality as the week went on. While many anglers found it easier to get bit in the morning hours, the Texan found that lunchtime was really when his fish wanted to eat the most.
“Once the sun got up and the fish got a little more active, it was easier for me to see them and catch them,” Heck explained. “Really from about noon and on, that was my best shot to get a bite off those baits.”
“I went everywhere I could where I could get that frog to the bank,” Risinger said. “The bushes were high, and the fish were up in the bladed grass near the bank. If I could get that bait to the bank, that’s where I would catch them.”