Reel Chat transcript with PHIL MARKS - Major League Fishing

Reel Chat transcript with PHIL MARKS

Marks shares his thoughts about his recent FLW Tour win at Sam Rayburn, the new Strike King 10XD crankbait and much, much more
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Phil Marks holds up the new Strike King 10XD. Photo by Rob Newell. Angler: Phil Marks.
October 23, 2012 • MLF • Uncategorized

Welcome to FLW Live Reel Chat. Today we’re joined by Strike King pro Phil Marks of Dallas, Texas., who recently took home the top prize of $125,000 after winning the 2012 FLW Tour Sam Rayburn event.

Today, Marks is here to take questions from you, the fans. So, without further delay, let’s get started.

With nearly $140,000 in FLW earnings to his credit, Marks managed to notch his very first FLW Tour victory on Sam Rayburn Reservoir this October. In addition to his win, Marks also boasts four other top-10 FLW finishes including: a fourth-place EverStart Series tally on Sam Rayburn (2012), a 10th-place EverStart Series finish on Toledo Bend (2012), as well as eighth-place and third-place BFL results on Sam Rayburn (2011 and 1995 respectively).

Q: How does it feel to get your first FLW Tour victory?
— Pat Zak (Oakland, CA)
A: It feels awesome. It took a lot of years to prepare for those four days. I’ve won 30, 40, 50 local tournaments all over Texas through the years but no question, this tournament was special.

Q: Phil, What made you fish offshore instead of fishing all the grass and buck brush on Rayburn?
— Garrison Taska (Kingwood, Texas)
A: Well, three years ago I fished a big tournamenet in the same type of venue and I watched what the pressure did to the shallow grass bite. By the third or fourth day, I knew the fishing was going to get tough there so I decided to make offshore spots my primary fishing pattern.

Q: Were you hitting anything with your crankbait on the retrieve?
— George (Lake Charles, LA)
A: The bottom. There was no cover at all, no stumps and no brush piles.

Q: Was the winning spot in an area that you have fished before?
— Tommy (Westlake, La)
A: Yes, I had fished the area before but not that particular spot.

Q: How deep were you fishing? Were you fishing a creek channel?
— Tommy (Westlake, La)
A: All of my deep fish came in 16 to 23 feet of water and I wasn’t fishing creek channels but rather big drains, 30 or 40 yards wide.

Q: What kind of shape was the grass in and did it play a role in your tournament win?
— Jason Smith (Alabany, GA)
A: The grass by Rayburn’s standards was in OK shape, growing about 10 to 11 feet. And it did not play a factor in my fishing.

Q: What type of structure and depth were you looking for to fish the Strike King 10XD crankbait? And were you hitting the structure with the bait or catching suspended fish?
— Jason Smith (Alabany, GA)
A: I wasn’t looking for stuff to fish the 10XD specifically. I was just looking for fish and trying to figure out the appropriate bait to use at the time based on depth and water conditions. What I was looking for was subtle changes in those big drains, a corner, a hard patch and in some cases just the baitfish themselves.

Q: Is the Strike King 10XD crankbait solely a big-fish bait? I guess I’m wondering if the 13- and 14-inch squeakers will still be able to eat it.
— Clark (Livingston, TX)
A: Surprisingly, I’ve caught some 10-inchers on it. It’s shocking. While it’s designed to target big bass it does catch some smaller fish as well.

Q: Was that final-day catch your biggest stringer ever on Rayburn? If not, what was?
— Clark (Livingston, TX)
A: No, it was not. My biggest stringer was 41 pounds – about 17 years ago while flipping grass in June. My final-day catch, I believe, was my fourth biggest stringer on Rayburn.

Q: Why were cloud cover and wind so crucial to your offshore bite? For us, that usually makes the fish roam instead of sitting tight to the cover.
— Tim (Paducah, KY)
A: You know, I’m not sure. It’s just something I’ve learned over the last 20 years fishing Rayburn. Those fish, after the spawn, they only bite early. When you throw some cloud and wind on them, it just seems to extend the bite period.

Q: How long is the new Strike King 10XD? It looks huge compared to the 6XD. And I’ve heard it runs 25-feet down. But how deep does it really dive because you know these crankbaits never go quite as deep as they say?
— John G. (Beaumont, TX)
A: It’s 6-inches long from the tip of the bill to the tail. And yes, it will go 25 feet but as with all deep-diving crankbaits, it’s directly dependent on the length of your cast.

Q: Do you think the Strike King 10XD will spawn a whole new industry category like the Alabama Rig did last year?
— Kyle (Eden Prairie, MN)
A: Yes I do. The major rod and reel manufacturers are currently coming up with jumbo cranking rods. They’ll be bigger cranking reels that hold more line, etc. The equipment you’re throwing the A-rig on is the exact same equipment you’ll need to use to throw the 10XD.

Q: What gear did you use when throwing that awesome new Strike King 10XD crankbait?
— Mic Miller (Buena Vista, GA)
A: I was using an 8-foot swimbait rod and a Shimano 300 reel because I was making 70- to 80-yard casts. I was using 16-pound Gamma fluorocarbon line.

Q: Congratulations Phil! What advice do you have for young anglers who are pursuing tournament fishing as a career?
— Mic Miller (Buena Vista, GA)
A: Obviously, thanks for the congratulations. As far as advice, I’d say two things. One, get a good education. Two, spend absolutely as much time on the water as you can. And be self-reliant on your information. Trust yourself and don’t listen to dock talk because I think that’s the worst thing you can do as a tournament fisherman.

Q: I think it is fascinating that you fished “virgin water” despite knowing Rayburn so well and having so many spots. How do you ignore all your waypoints and make yourself find new water? And what process do you have for finding new water?
— Steve (Jasper, TX)
A: First of all, you have to take the event and put it to the side. You have to let the fish tell you how to fish. I don’t care how well you know a lake, you don’t know every square inch of it. When it comes to finding new water, I had gotten bit on a couple of old places, a bite here and a bite there. Then I started looking for more spots that mimicked those areas where I had been catching fish earlier.

Q: Phil, you said that your offshore spot was loaded with Kentucky’s. How did you know there were bigger bass lurking and they were feeding on these spots? Most people would have evacuated the area if it were covered up with spots. Is it previous knowledge of the lake or something you’ve figured our over time?
— Chuck (Tyler, TX)
A: Previous knowledge helped. The big fish will pull up in the same areas with the spotted bass. But when the big ones are there, the spotted bass will disappear. The last day I didn’t catch a spotted bass in those areas. As far as how I knew they were feeding on spotted bass, on numerous occasions I’ve had largemouth spit them up in my livewell. I probably would have another 2 pounds if I was able to weigh in the half digested spots that wound up in my livewell.

Q: Phil, did the Lowrance Gen2 structure map play a role in your recent victory? Do you use it when you fish offshore or do you rely on your conventional map+sonar+downscan while on the trolling motor?
— Chuck (Tyler, TX)
A: Definitely. The main feature I use is the downscan. The mapping systems just keep you in the right area. With the downscan I could see the type of bait that was down there as well as the type of fish I wound up catching.

Q: Phil, we know that weather was the most important factor in your offshore spot on the final day. Say the conditions were different going in to the final day. How would you have approached it and what decisions would you have taken on the fly if it weren’t panning out for you? Give us some examples of post frontal conditions and bluebird high skies.
— Chuck (Tyler, TX)
A: Weather helped extend the early morning bite for me on the final day. The other days I only got two or three big deep bites. But on that final day, I had seven bites, brought five in the boat and had four nice sized fish by 9 a.m. So the weather was really important. But if the weather had been like it’d been the previous days, I still would have gotten some bites, but I would have had to finish out a limit in other areas.

Q: Phil, how did you distinguish this irregularity on this ditch? You said there was a high spot that you found, was this some sort of shell or rock? How large was this high spot and how were you able to pinpoint cast to it without a buoy marker?
— Chuck (Tyler, TX)
A: I found the high spot by catching a fish off of it in practice as it wasn’t on any map. When I caught the fish, I dropped a waypoint. During the first three days, I fished the spot using a waypoint on the Lowarance. But on the fourth day I actually did drop a buoy. I dropped the buoy about 35 yards off the spot. That main spot had something hard on it, maybe shells, and it was about the size of two boats – 20 yards by 10 yards.

Q: Phil, how exactly did you distinguish between between gizzard shad and spotted bass on your downscan? How do you set your graphs up accordingly in settings with downscan, sidescan and regular 2D and what screens do you use?
— Chuck (Tyler, TX)
A: The spotted bass look like small, little lines pretty tight to the bottom. The gizzard shad come across as eight to 15 little dots in a tight cluster. With threadfin shad it looks like a little ball with hundreds of little dots They’re all very easy to tell apart. I had it on downscan and the chart speed at 100 percent. I also used a split screen.

Q: What is the best gear ratio to use for your reel when using a crankbait?
— Tyler Ward (Grover, NC)
A: I like high-speed reels because I want to pull the bait fast. personally, I like a 7:1 Shimano. I use low-speed reels for cranking big plugs.

Q: What size line do you recommend for different crankbaits?
— Tyler Ward (Grover, NC)
A: Depends on the depth you’re trying to achieve. If there is a lot of cover, you go a little bit heavier. I’ll crank anywhere from 10- to 20-pound test.

Q: In clearer water, is it better to use silent baits or ones with rattles? Would a Red Eye Shad be a consideration for clear water?
— Tyler Ward (Grover, NC)
A: Let the fish tell you. Typically for the spawn, use rattles. Post-spawn into summer, I’d go silent. Red Eye Shad would definitely be a consideration, especially before the spawn.

Q: What would be the best fishing method to try right now with the transition going on. I live in North Carolina and our weather is weird down here. It will be freezing cold in the morning and hot in the afternoon.
— Tyler Ward (Grover, NC)
A: Crank. Cover water. Look for bait. And know the fish are moving.

Q: What color did you get most of your crankbait bites on? And the same question goes for your jigs and plastic worms.
— Robert Yorgensen (Grapeland, TX)
A: On the crankbait, I’d start off on the low-light conditions with a chartreuse blue back and then I’d switch to a shad color when the sun got up. For my jigs and worms, I’d start off with Junebug earlier in the day, and Red Bug later.

Q: How did you prep for the event?
— Byron Stephens (Bloomingdale, GA)
A: Well, as with all events, I made sure that all of my equipment and tackle were in the best shape. Then I cleaned my mind, went fishing and paid attention to details. I’m a local on Sam Rayburn and I never win a tournament on the same spot. You have to be conscientious of that. The best tournament anglers in the world learn from their mistakes. So you have to keep learning and keep and open mind. You also can’t say enough about practice. Practice is very important. You really have to stay focused. Tournament days are easy compared to practice.

Q: What other baits hauled in winning fish offshore besides the four fish on the 10XD, the Recon Worm or the jig? How did you decide to throw these in each situation and what size weight were you using on the Texas rig?
— Bob (Tulsa, OK)
A: Some of the fish came on a 6XD as well. I let the fish dictate what I threw. There were times I thought a certain bait would work and it didn’t. So I had to be ready to change on the fly if it wasn’t working. I wound up using a 1/2-ounce Strike King tungsten weight on the Texas rig.

Q: What pound line were you cranking with to get that deep? And was it the same on 6XD and 10XD?
— Robert Yorgensen (Grapeland, TX)
A: I was using 12-pound fluorocarbon on the 6XD and 16-pound fluorocarbon the 10XD. I can hit 22 feet with the 10XD but I could barely reach 20 feet with the 12-pound line on the 6XD.

Q: Is the spot you were fishing a popular spot or was it something you found new?
— Justin (Austin, Texas)
A: I found it new in practice. And I truly believe that it’s never had a lure put on it before.

Q: What type of retrieve were you using on your football jig?
— Gerald (Huntsville, Texas)
A: Good question. A lot of those fish would hit it and not take it. So I would drag it on the bottom really slowly and when I’d snap it up, they’d eat it real quickly. And that comes back to paying attention to details. And that’s actually something I figured out in practice.

Q: Could you talk about why the weather made your fish active?
— Henry (Edmond, OK)
A: I don’t know why it made them active but it does. It’s something I’ve learned over the last 20 years on that lake.

Q: Congrats on your win Phil! What rod set up would you recommend when you use the 10XD? A heavy action rod? And when do you expect the 10XD to go out on shelves?
— Miles Kong (Rockaway, NJ)
A: A big rod with a soft tip is what I’d recommend. I believe the 10XD will be on store shelves after the first of the new year.

Q: Would you catch any of those spotted bass while fishing your most productive areas?
— Matt (Forney, TX)
A: In the area, yes. But not on the exact spot. When those big largemouth move up, those spots will disappear.

Unfortunately, that’s all the time we have to chat with Phil Marks today. Thanks, once again, to all the fans who tuned in and participated in today’s Reel Chat. And a special thanks to Strike King pro Phil Marks, the 2012 FLW Tour Sam Rayburn winner, for giving us his time and insights into bass fishing.