Sweet taste of victory

JASPER, Texas - "When it's your time, it's your time." Those were the wise words of Stephen Johnston, who finally earned the Stren Series victory he's been hunting for so long, and he did it close to home at the Texas Division event on Sam Rayburn Reservoir with an astonishing four-day weight of 70 pounds, 2 ounces. Johnston annihilated the competition this week, ultimately taking the victory by 11 pounds, 11 ounces after leading three of the four tournament days. His worst day was yesterday, when he brought in 14 pounds on a day that was tough for everyone, and he brought in Saturday's heaviest limit today en route to a victory that tastes so sweet because of how long it's been coming. "I've been doing this a long time," said Johnston, who before today had five FLW Outdoors top-10 finishes on Sam Rayburn and another three on his home lake of Toledo Bend without a victory. "Over the years, I've had guys tell me that once you get that first win, they come easy. I had a terrible practice, and then everything just came together. I just felt that I was going to win this tournament." Winner Stephen Johnston poses with his hard-earned trophy.Johnston left this tournament considerably richer, having won $25,000 plus a fully rigged Ranger boat for the win, and he won another $3,000 in Ranger Cup money. The key to his victory, he says, was slowing down when the tough conditions demanded it. "Right off the bat today, with that northeast wind and high pressure, I talked myself into slowing down," he said. "I pulled up on my first place and slow-fished it with a Texas rig, and I didn't catch a thing. In 30 minutes, I had one keeper." On a good day at Sam Rayburn, a solid limit can be had in 30 minutes. But Johnston didn't let the tough bite get to him. Rather, he buckled down and fished harder. "I just started covering water," he said. "I knew I was able to catch 10 to 15 keepers a day, and today wasn't a moving-bait day. With them pulling water, it pulled fish out of the bushes and into what I was doing." Johnston reported fishing a Sebile crankbait early and then moving on to a Texas-rigged lizard. "I was fishing a Sebile Flat Shad, and with the water falling, the fish quit chasing," he said. "I took a Texas-rigged lizard and slow-fished the bushes and was able to catch them." Johnston caught one of three pro limits today, and with his recent top-10 performance at the Wal-Mart Texas Tournament Trail event on Lake Amistad, he has kicked his career back into high gear. Johnston fished the Stren Series and the TTT in the past, but about three years ago, he decided to back off and spend more time on local circuits with his sons, now 16 and 17. After discussing it with his family, Johnston decided this year to re-enter Stren and TTT events, and without a doubt, he is off to a phenomenal start. Gibson moves up to finish second Shane Gibson jumped from 10th to second with a day-four limit that brought his combined total weight to 58 pounds, 7 ounces.Jumping from 10th place to second is Kilgore, Texas, pro Shane Gibson, who caught a limit weighing 16 pounds, 8 ounces today to bring his four-day total to 58 pounds, 7 ounces. For Gibson, the trick was staying consistent throughout a myriad of changing conditions. "I was dragging a Big Bite Bait lizard, fishing inside grass lines," he said. "I stayed with it from the time I got here until today, and I caught at least two limits a day." These inside grass lines were on points that led into the drains, and for Gibson, a Carolina rig helped put the knowledge gleaned from 17 days of fishing Sam Rayburn to good use. "When the weather started warming up, my big fish left," he said. "When the temperature dropped, it pulled them back down to where they needed to be." Also working well for Gibson was a familiarity with Sam Rayburn in February. "I just ran a pattern," he said. "I knew this time of year that when they leave, there's another bunch that takes their place, so these areas stay full of fish." This was Gibson's first Stren Series top-10 performance and his seventh top-10 overall. Guzman drop-shots his way to third Jim Guzman scored his first top-10 finish with a third-place showing on Sam Rayburn.Also moving up the ladder is Jim Guzman of Coldspring, Texas, who moved from sixth place to third with the only other limit on the pro side, a five-bass catch weighing 10 pounds, 3 ounces that bumped his four-day total to 53 pounds. "I've just been drop-shotting," he said. "I could cover a lot more ground quicker." Guzman practiced for 10 days and said that while the changing weather conditions this week did make the bite a little tougher, his fish pretty much stayed the same. "I caught them in practice but a lot deeper," he said. "I practiced in the cold, and the bite didn't change for the most part." He was drop-shotting a trick worm and said the color didn't seem to matter. This was his first top-10 finish. Millender, Haralson score top-five finishes Randy Millender had a tough day four and fell to fourth with a combined total of 52 pounds, 11 ounces.In the No. 4 spot is Randy Millender of Teague, Texas, with a four-day weight of 52 pounds, 11 ounces. He had his most difficult day yet today, catching only three bass worth 3 pounds, 10 ounces. "It was tough," he said. "I was catching them in front of the buck brush with a Carolina rig, but this cold weather knocked them in the head. I could not get them to bite today." Millender was Carolina-rigging a 6-inch green-pumpkin lizard. Behind him in fifth is day-one leader Charles Haralson of Laredo, Texas, with a four-day weight totaling 52 pounds, 8 ounces. He, too, struggled today, bringing in only three fish worth 5-15. He caught 20-2 on the first day, but has seen his weight fall every day since. "The fish moved," he said. "I wasn't familiar enough with the lake, and I couldn't find them. I had to hunt new water every day, and I managed to scratch out a limit every day but today. I tried to pick an area and catch everything that area had to offer." Rest of the best In eighth place on the pro side is Tommy Durham with 50 pounds, 3 ounces.Rounding out the top 10 pros on Sam Rayburn: 6th: David Truax, Beaumont, Texas, 18 bass, 51-13, $6,000 7th: Stan Burgay, Timpson, Texas, 18 bass, 51-2, $5,500 8th: Tommy Durham, Waxahachie, Texas, 18 bass, 50-3, $5,000 9th: John Bond, Owasso, Okla., 17 bass, 46-9, $4,500 10th: Dicky Newberry, Houston, 15 bass, 42-12, $4,000 Coming up The next Stren Series event is a Western Division contest at Lake Mead near Las Vegas Feb. 21-24. The next Texas Division tournament is the second event of the season. It will be held at Lake Amistad in Del Rio March 21-24.

Tags: headline-story  jennifer-simmons 

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Top 10 Baits from Lake Murray

Competitors in the FLW College Fishing National Championship mostly targeted bass feeding on spawning blueback herring on shallow points and main-lake pockets. Across the board, herring-imitating baits such as soft jerkbaits, swimbaits, topwaters, wake baits and umbrella rigs dominated the event. READ MORE »

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Morfis Dominates With 34-Pound Limit

OKEECHOBEE, Fla. – Joshua Morfis of Cape Coral, Florida, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 34 pounds, 14 ounces Saturday to win the fourth Walmart Bass Fishing League Gator Division tournament of 2015 on Lake Okeechobee. For his victory, Morfis earned $6,336. READ MORE »

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Salzman Cracks 31 Pounds on Guntersville

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Lanter Wins on Rend Lake

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Top 10 Patterns from Lake Murray

As contestants in the FLW College Fishing National Championship on Lake Murray discovered last week, fishing the blueback herring spawn can be backbreaking work. All that stooping over to grab a different rig to cast at bass busting their favorite forage, and then quickly straightening, is hard on the old spinal column. Flexing up and down is what it took to contend in the championship, however, as bass couldn’t make up their minds whether they wanted their grub served on the surface or closer to the bottom. Typically, the collegians were fan-casting Carolina rigs, umbrella rigs, hard jerkbaits and even crankbaits to likely looking points and broad flats. Sometimes they caught fish with such random prospecting, but perhaps more bass were taken when anglers found themselves within casting distance of blowups and were quick enough to grab a soft jerkbait rig or topwater lure and virtually spoon-feed it to the fish. READ MORE »

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Gamecocks Win College Title

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Gamecocks Win National Title

As any good Palmetto State bass fisherman will tell you, home lake advantage only works if you’re consistent in your catches from day to day. Anthony Gagliardi proved it here on Lake Murray last summer in the Forrest Wood Cup, and the University of South Carolina proved it again in the FLW College Fishing National Championship that concluded Saturday. READ MORE »

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Hallman Prevails On Grand

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Lake Murray Midday Update Day 3

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Top 5 Patterns from Grand Lake Day 2

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College Championship Race Tightens

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Hallman Out Front

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Lake Murray Midday Update Day 2

The air temperature reached a high of 53 degrees here yesterday, which tied a record for the coolest high temperature for that date. Apparently, the short-lived cold snap also had a chilling effect on the fishing at Lake Murray this morning, as several competitors in the FLW College Fishing National Championship presented by Lowrance Insight Genesis College Cup reported meager results. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-16-liberty-leads-college-championship

Liberty Leads College Championship

A 22-pound, 2-ounce stringer anchored by a 7-pound, 9-ounce largemouth boosted Liberty University’s Travis Rulle and Caleb Eppler into the opening-round lead of the FLW College Fishing National Championship presented by Lowrance Insight Genesis College Cup here on Lake Murray. Rulle and Eppler were the last anglers to weigh in on day one, and their five-fish limit gave them a lead of more than 3 pounds ahead of Eastern Kentucky University veterans Kyler Raymer and Ethan Snyder, who had 18-15. The surprise team of the tournament so far is Colorado Mesa University’s Josh Worth and Kennedy Kinkade, who brought in 18-10 despite never having fished east of the Mississippi River before. Worth and Kinkade are in third place, followed by Cade Laufenberg and Wyatt Stout of Winona State University, and Benn Curry and Tim Ward of Auburn University, both teams with 17-8. Lamar University’s Cameron Lafleur and Justin Royal in 10th place set the cut mark at 16-8. The entire field will fish again tomorrow, and only the top 10 based on two-day cumulative weight will fish in Saturday’s final round. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-16-castledine-stands-tall-on-grand

Castledine Stands Tall On Grand

Day one of the Rayovac FLW Series presented by Power-Pole on Grand Lake produced stunning weights. With “thousands” of bass on the beds, the pros brought in a total of exactly 2,240 pounds and it took 16 pounds to make the top 60. Rising above the crowd was Nacogdoches, Texas, pro Todd Castledine, renowned for his prowess in Texas, the sight-fishing master cracked 23 pounds, 13 ounces and leads second-place pro Jonathan Henry by 1 pound, 6 ounces. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-16-top-5-patterns-from-grand-lake-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Grand Lake Day 1

The first day of the Rayovac FLW Series Central Division tournament was all about the sight-bite – from day-one leader Todd Castledine on down. The event, presented by Power-Pole and hosted by the Grand Lake Association, undoubtedly featured other patterns, but every angler who did well relied in large part on bedding bass. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-16-lake-murray-midday-update-day-1

Lake Murray Midday Update Day 1

With precipitation ranging from an incessant mist to torrential downpours sweeping the area throughout the morning, the odds favored a slow start to the FLW College Fishing National Championship being presented by the Lowrance Insight Genesis College Cup here on Lake Murray. As it turns out, however, the bass apparently liked the extra water and reacted accordingly. A number of the teams that found prime spawning areas for blueback herring in practice earlier this week returned on day one and were rewarded with limit catches of largemouths and spots by midmorning. Among them was the local favorite, the University of South Carolina, which reportedly had culled up to about 13 pounds by 11 a.m. Likewise, the Oregon State University was sitting on about 15 pounds and had culled five times. Tanner Masters and Wyatt Ryan of East Central University (of Oklahoma) caught their limit fishing seawalls and riprapped banks during the sporadic herring spawns that fired up as soon as boats reached their first fishing destinations. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-11-hanselman-wins-back-to-back

Hanselman Wins Back-to-Back

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