GROVE, Okla. – Adverse weather conditions plagued anglers in the Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats Plains Division event on Grand Lake.
The large majority of the Top 10 found themselves abandoning patterns they put together in practice in favor of a technique that dominated the field this week: casting umbrella rigs to isolated targets and singular fish found using forward-facing sonar in 10 feet of water or less.
While some members of the Top 10 mixed in a few other offerings, almost all of them went to work with the five-wire breadwinner to get part (or all) of their limits to the scales throughout the week.
1. Muskogee, Oklahoma, pro Blake Capps went to town this week on Grand Lake, after finding fish shallow on reaction baits in practice. Capps got to casting a YUM YUMbrella Flash Mob Jr. around on as many different stops as he could manage throughout his tournament days. Adorning the rig were Keitech Swing Impact FAT swimbaits in 3.8- and 4.3-inch sizes. His rod of choice for his umbrella rig was a Falcon Cara “Big Bait” model.
2. Michael Harlin fished his way into second place this week on Grand by wheeling an umbrella rig exclusively all week. His setup of choice was a 7-foot, 7-inch FX Custom Rods stick matched with a 7.4:1 Shimano Curado 200K. He spooled his Curado with 20-pound Seaguar InvizX. Harlin’s go-to umbrella rig was a YUM YUMbrella Flash Mob Jr. with 1/8-ounce jig heads and 3.3-inch Keitech Swing Impact FAT swimbaits. He also mixed in a Shane’s Baits model tipped with the same heads and swimbaits.
3. Missouri pro Brad Jelinek also utilized his forward-facing sonar to identify and target isolated fish and cover before working it over with an umbrella rig. Jelinek attempted to mix in a jerkbait and jig but found himself resigned to swinging around the chandelier in the end. His setup choice was 20-pound Sunline Sniper, a 6.5:1 Lew’s SuperDuty LFS 300 reel and a 7-5 6th Sense ESP Series rod. The rig itself was a 6th Sense Divine Umbrella Rig with 1/8-ounce 6th Sense Divine Swimbait Jig Heads and 3.8-inch 6th Sense Divine Swimbaits in pro shad.
4. Chad Warren spent much of his week with an umbrella rig in hand, holding the lead with it for the first two days of competition. Warren utilized different size homemade jig heads, opting for ¼-ounce heads for fish in the 15- to 20-foot depth range and sizing down to 1/8-ounce heads in the 10-foot range. He even dropped down to 1/16-ounce heads when he worked over his shallowest areas. His setup for the rigs was either 20- or 25-pound Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon on 7.1:1 Abu Garcia Revo STX reels. He used Falcon Cara “Amistad” rods for each umbrella rig setup. On the final day, Warren mixed in a Berkley Stunna 112, thrown on a Falcon rod and Abu Garcia Reel.
5. Austin Culbertson found himself in the top five after a challenging Day 2 that only saw him bring a pair of fish to the scales. Looking to make his rig stand out amongst the hundreds being thrown in the field, Culbertson elected to throw a larger profile swimbait in hopes of getting fish to key in on his bait. Culbertson wielded a 6th Sense Divine Umbrella Rig paired with 6th Sense Divine Swimbait Jig Heads in both 1/8- and ¼-ounce sizes with 6-inch 6th Sense Divine Swimbaits on the back. He also targeted isolated pieces of brush and laydowns with a ½-ounce Crock-O-Gator jig in Ozark craw pattern with a 6th Sense Stroker Craw as a trailer.
6. Cole Breeden bucked the trend this week, going rogue with a jerkbait and football jig pattern that landed him in sixth. Breeden also utilized forward-facing sonar to target his fish, but opted to avoid the umbrella rig, fearing it would hang up in the brush and timber he targeted throughout the week. Breeden threw a Berkley Stunna 112 in the Table Rock shad pattern, using 8-pound Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon to keep the bait suspended. An Abu Garcia Pro Series Hank Cherry jerkbait rod and Abu Garcia Zenon X reel was the combo of choice. For the jig, Breeden worked a 3/8-ounce green pumpkin football jig with a matching Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Meaty Chunk.
7. Reverting to the consensus lure of choice, Billy Lemon threw an umbrella rig all event, opting to utilize two different colors to mix things up. For his heads, he went with 3/16- and 1/8-ounce ball jig heads on a YUM YUMbrella Flash Mob Jr. rig. The difference between the two being the swimbait color, one with pro blue pearl Keitech Swing Impact FAT swimmers for clear water and one with Bruiser Baits swimbaits in an Alabama shad pattern swimbait for dingier water.
8. Mike McClelland did everything in his power to use “conventional” tactics this past week at Grand Lake but eventually had to resort to an umbrella rig and his Garmin LiveScope just to stay competitive. For his normal baits, the Ozark expert used Falcon rods matched with either a SPRO RkCrawler 55 (red bug, red craw and stone cold) or a SPRO McStick jerkbait (PM twilight).
9. Kevin Miller covered water this week with yet another umbrella rig set up and a custom-painted SPRO RkCrawler 55. His rig of choice was a True Bass Diamond Baits model, rigged with 1/8-ounce 6th Sense Core X Swimbait Jig Heads with 2.8- and 3.3-inch Keitech Swing Impact FAT swimbaits.
10. Rounding out the umbrella rigging bonanza was Preston Cook, who chunked and wound his way into the Top 10 at Grand. Cook elected to throw a Picasso Bait Ball Junior with 3-, 4- and 5-inch Keitech Easy Shiner Swimbaits and Zoom Swimmin’ Flukes on the back in a variety of shad colors. Having multiple rigs ready on gameday, Cook threw them all on Seaguar Red Label fluorocarbon in 20-pound-test.