Targeting prespawn bass as they transitioned into spawning coves was the dominant pattern at the Rayovac FLW Series Western Division event on Lake Havasu presented by Mercury. A few focused on smallmouth, but most of the top 10 keyed on the largemouth bite.
By far, the factor that separated the top five from the remaining top 10 finishers was the ability to keep up with the fish all three days. The anglers feature here, who finished sixth through 10th, consistently saw their weights slack off throughout the week.
Here are their patterns. To read about the top five, click here.
Making the drive over from Modesto, Calif., was Hunter Schlander, who made his second top 10 with FLW. He caught solid limits of 16 pounds and 16-2 on the first two days, but angling pressure eventually took its toll, and he only managed two fish on the final day. They weighed 5-9.
Schlander focused on several areas located roughly four miles south of the launch site. Largemouth bass were his main target, and a YUM YUMbrella Flash Mob Jr. with Keitech swimbaits was his weapon.
“There were five or six key areas for me in the central part of the lake,” says Schlander. “I was focusing on spawning coves with habitat [man-made fish cribs] in the 10- to 15-foot depth range. I only had about an hour and a half to catch my fish in the morning. If I didn’t get them by then it was a grind.
“I knew it’d be tough to get five bites every day, and I was never able to figure something out for the rest of the day when my bite slowed [on Saturday],” he adds. “That was the hardest thing for me. It was still fun feeling those fish crush my rig when it would come over the top of the cage. I had a blast.”
Probably the most off-the-wall tactic in the event was executed by Gilbert, Ariz., pro Matt Shura. While the vast majority of the field was up on the bank, Shura went deep.
The sun and warming water had the Havasu largemouth eager to move up shallow, yet the bigger smallmouth were more reluctant to do so. Shura graphed structure in 25 to 30 feet of water to find schools of smallmouth still in winter mode.
“There were three keys I was looking for out deep,” says Shura. “You needed a drop-off, rocks and trees. If you had all three then you’d find the fish. I was able to duplicate that pattern and had four different spots with those ingredients. The best part was I wasn’t catching anything smaller than 3 pounds.”
Most of Shura’s fish were suspended in the tops of trees that rose up about 14 feet off the bottom.
“I was watching my Lowrance the whole time,” Shura explains. “When I’d mark a fish I’d drop down to it. Over the first two days when I did that I could see the fish follow my bait to the bottom on my electronics, and when I’d pick up they were there.”
Shura used a drop-shot ox blood-colored Roboworm rigged on 10-pound-test line to haul the fish from the deep trees.
His pattern produced an 18-pound bag on day one and had him excited for what was to come. But the warm weather in the region during the early days of the tournament triggered the smallies to move shallow, and his weight dropped throughout the tournament – he only weighed two fish on Saturday for 7-1. Shura’s three-day total of 38-5 earned him a $7,000 check.
Mark Williams of Blythe, Calif., netted his first Rayovac FLW Series top-10 finish on Havasu in as many tries. Like Shura, Williams’ pattern also dissolved as the week progressed, and his catches reflect that. He caught 17 pounds, 14 ounces on day one and 11-4 on day two. On day three, Williams scraped together three fish worth 8-4, pushing his total to 38 pounds. He claimed a solid $6,000 check for his efforts.
“I was fishing a flat with a lot of bait on it,” says Williams. “It was out in the main basin of the lake, and the amount of bait in the area was the only reason those fish were there. I could tell the bite was dying off after day one, but I didn’t really have anything else, so I stuck to it.”
He received close to a dozen bites per day but relied heavily on the morning bite to catch the bulk of his fish. Williams’ baits of choice were a 3/8-ounce Phenix vibrating jig with a Zoom Fluke trailer and a Lucky Craft LV 500 lipless crankbait in the striped shad or ghost chartreuse shad color pattern.
Gary Pinholster of Lake Havasu City, Ariz., finished in the top 10 on his home lake in 2014. He replicated that performance this year with a ninth-place showing. Pinholster’s three-day total weight of 36 pounds, 13 ounces added another $5,300 to his career earnings.
Fishing spawning coves with isolated habitat was the primary pattern for Pinholster, though his spots failed to replenish throughout the tournament, and he saw his catch fall from one day to the next.
“I was just fishing spawning coves around the main lake and secondary points with isolated targets,” says Pinholster. “Most of what I was fishing was wood piles and cages that were 15 to 25 feet deep. I did fish some backwaters, but the isolated cover was the best.”
An umbrella rig with hollow-bodied swimbaits did most of the heavy lifting for Pinholster, however, he also caught some fish on a Lucky Craft spinnerbait.
Noted California stud Charlie Weyer did what he knows best – flipping shallow cover – to earn the seventh top-10 finish of his career. Weyer was on the right caliber of fish to make a run at the title but didn’t get the bites he needed during the tournament.
“I caught a 10-pounder in practice by punching the grass,” says Weyer. “There were really two grass beds I fished, and they were roughly in the same area. When I got to one grass bed in the morning I’d keep my trolling motor down and just fish.”
Weyer kept close to the Lake Havasu State Park and had fish moving up to him all week. He actually could see some of the fish he caught sitting in holes in the grass where they were preparing to spawn. Unfortunately for Weyer, bites became scarcer each day, and on the final day he weighed only one fish – a 5-pound, 10-ounce bruiser.
His punching setup was comprised of a 1 1/4-ounce weight with a punch skirt (sprayed grass color) and Yamamoto Flappin’ Hog. Fan-casting a Yamamoto Senko (also a sprayed grass color) with a 1/4-ounce sinker caught a few fish that were positioning to move into the grass. His curveball was a SPRO Phat Fly hair jig rigged on 4-pound-test line that he cast around the edge of the grass when things got tough.
Top 10 Pros
1st – Joe Uribe Jr. – 67 pounds, 3 ounces
2nd – Josh Bertrand – 52 pounds, 5 ounces
3rd – Scott Hellesen – 48 pounds, 3 ounces
4th – Shaun Bailey – 45 pounds, 6 ounces
5th – JJ Gibbs – 42 pounds, 8 ounces
6th – Hunter Schlander – 38 pounds, 5 ounces
7th – Matt Shura – 38 pounds, 5 ounces
8th – Mark Williams – 38 pounds
9th – Gary Pinholster – 36 pounds, 13 ounces
10th – Charlie Weyer – 36 pounds, 7 ounces
For complete results, click here.