Though Dakota Ebare took the lead after day one of the Toyota Series presented by A.R.E. on Sam Rayburn with 23 pounds even, he wasn’t the only pro to crack the 20-pound mark. Six other pros dropped 20-plus on the scale despite battling cold-front conditions Thursday.
Hunkering down in one area and capitalizing on a morning bite was the common thread between the rest of the top pros. Here’s a look at how they got the ball rolling in the first Southwestern Division of the season, which is presented by Berkley.
With water temperatures dropping 5 degrees or more for the start of the tournament, many pros were scratching their heads as to where their fish went. Not Jason Conn.
“Yesterday I jacked around and caught close to 30 pounds in the same spot I fished today,” says Conn. “I went there today and every fish I hooked I landed. I didn’t break nothing or lose nothing. It was clean. Probably one of the best days I’ve ever fished.”
Conn saying this was one of his best days of tournament fishing is especially impressive considering he had his weight by 9 a.m.
“I tried to get my co-angler fish the rest of the day,” he says. “We tried to do the same thing in different spots. I was just trying to find some more stuff for tomorrow basically.”
Rayburn is a lake that can get crowded quickly, but Conn had his water all to himself today.
“There were some locals in there, but I didn’t have any other competitors around me,” Conn says. “I should be able to get in there and get my five again.”
Despite not having been on Rayburn for a few years, you wouldn’t know it based on Bass Pro Tour pro Jeff Sprague’s day-one performance.
“It’s been a couple years since I’ve been down here,” Sprague says. “Probably since the last FLW Tour event we fished. Since we’re coming here for the Bass Pro Tour I figured I’d jump in.
“I like Rayburn, but I wish it was a little warmer. I think it’d be better if it was a little warmer, but this is a good start.”
Sprague was also one of the pros that prepared for the cold front and made the necessary adjustments to get quality bites.
“I was wanting to fish one way, but I knew as cold as it got last night I couldn’t do it,” he says. “I started in the grass like everybody else usually would and it paid off this morning. I think some of the fish went back out to where I fished, so I was able to get a nice limit before I left the grass.
“Then I went to an area I knew I had some bigger fish. I caught one big one there and lost another giant. So, I’ll get a chance to swing on ‘em again tomorrow and if it works out maybe go on Saturday.”
Sprague caught roughly 30 bass on a day where many were begging for bites. He’s a little worried he burned some 2 ½-pounders that could come in handy later in the week, but overall, Sprague is fired up to spend another day on the famed Texas fishery.
“Rayburn is showing off and the lake is healthy,” says Sprague. “That’s what’s cool. There’s a lot of grass here now and last time I was here there wasn’t much grass. So, the lake’s fishing healthy and it’s cool to see.”
Jeff Reynolds may be from Oklahoma, but he’s got experience on Rayburn and he’s eager to rub shoulders with a field comprised of Texans. On day one, he covered a lot of water to land his 20-14.
“It was a good day,” Reynolds says. “I caught a decent one early and really just went fishing. I had several areas I was catching a bunch of fish, but it’s been hard catching big ones. Today, I got lucky and got three or four good bites and that’s what got me where I’m at.”
Reynolds says that the only adjustment he had to make today to his game plan was tweaking his retrieve. Other than that, he did what he likes to do.
“I like to move a lot,” Reynolds adds. “I don’t like sitting in one spot. I’m not a dragger or slow fisherman. I got to move around quite a bit and chunk and wind and got the right bites.
“I was around people all day, but I’m kind of doing something a little bit different that maybe helped get the better bites. I could go out tomorrow and catch 10 pounds, or not catch any. But I feel pretty good about it, so we’ll just have to see.”
Reynolds has quite a bit of new water yet to run. Knowing things could be tougher today, he stuck to a section of the lake where he knew he was getting bites, but tomorrow he plans to expand on his program a bit more.
Brandon Flowers had one main spot that produced for him throughout the day en route to his 20-11 limit. If things go right, he’s hoping that’s the case again tomorrow.
“I got after them early and then they started biting good again around 1:30 or 2,” Flowers says. “Then I made that last cull with a 6-pounder around 2 and I just left them alone. I probably could have kept catching some more, but you’ve got hopefully two more days of this so I saved it.”
Starting on his spot, Flowers takes advantage of the morning bite and leaves to run “other stuff” until the afternoon bite picks back up. The Texas pro has put his time in practicing and knows the feeding windows of these bass like the back of his hand.
“These fish have been doing almost the same thing the five days that I’ve practiced,” Flowers says. “It’s been pretty consistent. It’s just shallow, muddy water up the lake. I think this bite will pick up with warmer days and the fact that the water temp dropped and they didn’t leave made me real excited. If I can get to Saturday, which if I can catch decent bag tomorrow I think I will, that overcast, high-70s day should be the day to absolutely lean on ‘em.”