Hopkins’ handiwork

DENISON, Texas - Ronnie Hopkins Jr. - the pro leader for three days at the Stren Series event on Lake Texoma - didn't just seal the deal Saturday, he slammed the door, nailed it shut and wrapped it in duct tape. Needing just 3 pounds and 13 ounces to unseat Douglas Jones of Fort Gibson, Okla., who had just bumped Denison, Texas, pro Ryan Lovelace from the hot seat, Hopkins took the stage, heaving a bag that wiggled way too much to be bluffing with water. Reaching the victory mark after just three fish, Hopkins yanked out a pair of chunky largemouths that completed a limit of 13-11 (55-15 total) and delivered a winning margin of nearly 10 pounds along with $25,000. Throughout the tournament, Hopkins' strategy hinged on later bites along rocky shorelines where stiff winds had congregated baitfish. That said, his daily weights track clearly with the week's meteorological record. Day one saw lots of wind, and Hopkins bagged a 17-pound, 14-ounce limit. Day two was more of the same, and Hopkins weighed a 15-8 limit. Day three saw the wind fall flat, and Hopkins caught four fish at 8-14. "Fishing shallow rocks in the wind was the key," he said. "They bit late and I hadPro winner Ronnie Hopkins, Jr. used a handmade crankbait for his big win. to stay with it. A lot of days I'd only get one bite by 11, and then between 11 and 3, I'd catch a lot of fish. The first day I had a late flight, and I caught my two biggest fish in the last hour." Hopkins did most of his damage with a square-bill crankbait. On day one, he lost his bait of choice to a trotline, and fellow angler Toby Hartsell of Livingston, Texas, gave him a replacement. The new lure was handmade by Hartsell's road partner and FLW pro Kenta Kimura, also of Livingston. Each day, Hopkins started out fishing in the Washita River and started working his way southwest back to Hiport Marina by 11 a.m. He picked up many of his fish within two miles of the marina. "I was surprised that I did so well," Hopkins said. "I only prefished one day for about six hours. I figured it would be like it is in the spring where you catch (bass) around boat docks, but I couldn't get bit around boat docks. I had to change up, and it was a day-to-day deal." The winning pattern became apparent during Hopkins' lone practice day: "I pulled up on this one stretch of bank and got five bites in 45 minutes, and they were all 3-pounders. So I went with that the rest of the week." Jones hides out, holds on for second While the majority of the field spent a lot of time running from spot to spot, second-place pro Doug Jones of Doug Jones fished inside a creek the entire tournament and pulled out a second-place finish.Fort Gibson, Okla., bucked the trend and fished the entire tournament tucked way back in the cozy confines of Briar Creek. There he boated a limit weighing 8 pounds, 12 ounces for a four-day total of 46 even. "Very rarely do you practice and have a plan come together like it did this week" Jones said. "I went up the creek ditch about as far as you could float a boat." Fishing green-pumpkin jigs and Brush Hogs around submerged structure in 2 to 5 feet, Jones stuck with familiar tactics and maximized a pattern that he confirmed during practice. "I went to my strengths. I like to flip and fish in creeks with shallow wood and lay-downs and things like that, so when I came down to practice, that's what I looked for. When I went up there and found the fish, I felt at home, so I pretty much stayed at them the entire tournament." While many others struggled to hold their position and make effective presentations in blustery conditions, Jones gave only cursory consideration to daily weather reports: "The only thing I looked at was how rough the ride was going to be getting there. Other than that, I really didn't care." Jones landed in a three-way tie for first on day one with 13-5, moved into second on day two with nearly a mirror effort of 13-3 and held on to the No. 2 spot on day three with 10-12. Lovelace takes third despite culling error Local pro Ryan Lovelace of Denison, Texas, fished in Little Mineral Arm and threw shallow-diving crankbaits around chunk rock. Aggressively bouncing his bait off the rocks producedLocal pro Ryan Lovelace bagged a limit in the final round and finished fourth. a limit of 11 pounds, 3 ounces. His final total was 42-5. "The fish were moving up to feed, and if you could get a windy bank, you could catch them." Lovelace said. "Also, the fish were grouped up. If you could find the fish and stay with them, you could give them 15 minutes (between catches) to settle down and then go back and catch some more." Lovelace said the final-round weather favored his game plan: "The wind didn't blow yesterday, but I knew it was going to blow today, and that's what I needed for my fish to bite. Once the wind started blowing, I got back on my pattern and they were there." Sadly, Lovelace inadvertently liberated a couple of fish that may have enabled him to close the gap of 3 pounds, 11 ounces between second and third. "I had two cull rings on my two smallest fish," he explained. "It was really rough, and evidently on the way across the lake, one of the cull rings came off. I pulled up on a spot and started catching fish really fast and got excited. I just didn't see the other fish in there, and I threw three good fish back. I didn't realize that I had one little fish in the well until we got back to the marina." Combs finishes ounces back in fourth Keith Combs Covering water and relying on local knowledge led Keith Combs to a fourth-place finish.of Temple, Texas, entered the final round in fourth place and finished in the same spot with a limit catch of 9-1 that gave him a four-day total of 42-2. For Combs, consistency hinged on mobility and local knowledge. "I covered a lot of water," he said. "Fishing new water every day helped me a lot. The second thing is that I've seen this lake low a couple of times in the spring, so I knew where some key brush piles and lay-downs were." Combs fished crankbaits in the morning, and when that bite slowed, he turned to an 1/8-ounce shaky-head worm in green-pumpkin. The latter was an unfamiliar tactic for Combs, however; he said it gave him a viable option for when the crankbait bite diminished. "This is the first time I've had a spinning rod on my deck, but I was able to scratch out a limit," he said. Hatchel's heartbreak yields fifth Craig Hatchel of Whitesboro, Texas, caught a limit weighing 8-15 and ended up withCraig Hatchel found his fish on windy banks with lots of chunk rock habitat. 41-2 - a total he felt should have been higher. "I lost a 5-pounder right at the net today," he said. "That hurt." Hatchel ran down the Red River and pitched Penetrator Jigs made by Weedless Lures around chunk-rock shorelines in depths "from 6 inches to 5 feet." The day's windy conditions created a situation that facilitated his tactics. "The water was muddy, so the fish felt secure in the shallow water," Hatchel noted. "When it's clear, you can't get them that shallow. It had to be windy. Wind and big chunk rock - that's what I looked for." Rest of the best Rounding out the top 10 pro leaders at the Stren Series event on Lake Texoma: 6th: Russell Cecil of Willis, Texas, 40-6 7th: Bradley Hallman of Norman, Okla., 39-13 8th: Lendell Martin Jr. of Nacagdoches, Texas, 39-12 9th: Ben Matsubu of Hemphill, Texas, 39-10 10th: Robert McFarlane of San Antonio, Texas, 35-1

Tags: headline-story  david-a-brown 

/news/2015-06-29-dobson-sticks-with-jerkbait-for-win

Dobson Sticks With Jerkbait for Win

Scott Dobson of Clarkston, Michigan, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 21 pounds, 6 ounces Saturday to win the first Walmart Bass Fishing League Michigan Division tournament of 2015 on Lake St. Clair. For his victory, Dobson earned $5,804. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-29-johnston-targets-beds-for-big-limit

Johnston Targets Beds for Big Limit

Cory Johnston of Cavan, Ontario, Canada, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 25 pounds, 13 ounces Saturday to win the second Walmart Bass Fishing League Northeast Division tournament of 2015 on 1000 Islands. For his victory, Johnston earned $5,632. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-29-football-jig-helps-bates-net-title

Football Jig Helps Bates Net Title

Matthew Bates of Greenville, Mississippi, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 20 pounds even Saturday to win the fourth Walmart Bass Fishing League Mississippi Division tournament of 2015 on Lake Ferguson. For his victory, Bates earned $3,963. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-29-hipsher-hops-ledges-for-victory

Hipsher Hops Ledges for Victory

Craig Hipsher of Benton, Kentucky, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 22 pounds, 8 ounces Saturday to win the fourth Walmart Bass Fishing League LBL Division tournament of 2015 on Kentucky and Barkley lakes. For his victory, Hipsher earned $4,385. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-29-lauer-wins-on-ohio-river

Lauer Wins on Ohio River

David Lauer of McConnelsville, Ohio, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 12 pounds, 5 ounces Saturday to win the second Walmart Bass Fishing League Buckeye Division tournament of 2015 on the Ohio River. For his victory, Lauer earned $6,289. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-29-creature-bait-does-it-for-berhorst

Creature Bait Does it for Berhorst

Dennis Berhorst of Holts Summit, Missouri, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 16 pounds, 12 ounces Saturday to win the fourth Walmart Bass Fishing League Ozark Division tournament of 2015 on Lake Truman. For his victory, Berhorst earned $5,963. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-28-wendlandt-back-at-the-top

Wendlandt Back at the Top

It’s been 14 seasons since Clark Wendlandt last stood on a Walmart FLW Tour stage and hoisted a tournament championship trophy. Since that time, the Texas pro has experienced ups and downs, including an Angler of the Year title (his third) in 2009 and a major medical issue that sidelined him for most of the 2014 season. All that’s in the past now, however, and Wendlandt is right back where he belongs in the world of bass fishing – in first place after the final day on the Potomac River in the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Ranger Boats. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-28-top-10-patterns-from-the-potomac-river

Top 10 Patterns from the Potomac River

Clark Wendlandt didn’t pull off any secret techniques to win the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Ranger Boats on the Potomac River. He simply found an area with the right quality of bass to win and managed it perfectly despite facing a medley of Mother Nature’s toughest challenges. The rest of the top 10 stuck with the standard Potomac targets too, namely grass, docks and wood cover. The only underlying trend of the top 10 is that they found areas to themselves. Here’s how the rest of the top 10 got it done at the 2015 Tour finale. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-28-potomac-river-day-4-coverage

Potomac River Day 4 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on the Potomac River presented by Ranger Boats. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-27-wendlandt-receives-helping-hand

Wendlandt Receives Helping Hand

Not to discredit Clark Wendlandt’s skills as a bass fisherman, but if it wasn’t for an extreme act of kindness on the part of fellow competitor Shin Fukae, Wendlandt wouldn’t be where he is this evening – leading through three days of competition at the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Ranger Boats on the Potomac River. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-27-top-5-patterns-from-potomac-river-day-3

Top 5 Patterns from Potomac River Day 3

Pouring rain, gusting winds, a remarkable act of kindness, an Angler of the Year title on the line – day three of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Ranger Boats on the Potomac River certainly was not boring. To say the top 20 anglers were waterlogged after Saturday would be any understatement, but as nasty as the weather was, it wasn’t the biggest story of the day. Shinichi Fukae generously helped Clark Wendlandt retain his lead, while Scott Martin sealed the deal on his first AOY title. Meanwhile, a number of other anglers scrambled to adjust with what the weather and the Potomac are throwing at them. Here’s how the rest of the top five caught their fish today. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-27-potomac-river-day-3-coverage

Potomac River Day 3 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on the Potomac River presented by Ranger Boats. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-26-wendlandt-in-familiar-territory

Wendlandt in Familiar Territory

A lot of flip-flopping took place on the second day of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Ranger Boats on the Potomac River. When the scale closed, it was three-time Tour Angler of the Year Clark Wendlandt who found himself on top with a two-day total of 32 pounds, 10 ounces. Wendlandt caught 17-13 today – the day’s second-heaviest limit – and leads Potomac local Bryan Schmitt by 1-12 going into the weekend. Wendlandt missed part of last season after suffering a heart attack but has rebounded with good success this season. He has won three times on Tour but hasn’t finished in first place since Beaver Lake in 2001. Details to come on the patterns of the top five. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-26-potomac-river-day-2-coverage

Potomac River Day 2 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Chickamauga presented by Ranger Boats. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-25-jersey-boy-leads-the-pack

Jersey Boy Leads the Pack

Talk about a traffic jam. And, no, we’re not talking about the streets around the Washington, D.C. area. We’re talking about the standings at the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Ranger Boats on the Potomac River. Adrian “Jersey Boy” Avena leads the way with a 16-pound, 12-ounce limit, but a total of 41 pros weighed in at least 12 pounds. Many pros lamented the tough bite today, but the results say otherwise as 114 limits were brought to the scale on the pro side. Troy Morrow trails Avena by just 1-06, and 1 ounce behind Morrow is one of the most successful tidewater bass anglers of all time, Bryan Schmitt. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-25-top-5-patterns-from-potomac-river-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Potomac River Day 1

It might seem impossible for 405 miles of water to fish small, but space was hard to come by on day one of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Ranger Boats on the Potomac River. The creeks near takeoff at Smallwood State Park have seen as much traffic as a Washington, D.C. highway at rush hour. On the flip side, anglers who were able to develop patterns that got them away from the crowds, such as day-one leader Adrian Avena, have been able to reap the benefits of what has been a stingy fishery. Here’s how the rest of the pros in the top five caught their fish today. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-25-aoy-shake-up-martin-makes-his-move

AOY Shake-Up: Martin Makes His Move

Scott Martin has been talking about winning the Angler of the Year title since before the 2015 Walmart FLW Tour season started. It’s on his mind and for good reason: Angler of the Year is the only major FLW title he hasn’t won in what Martin has built into one of the most decorated professional fishing careers in FLW Tour history. Today, on the first day of competition at the Tour finale on the Potomac River, Martin has unofficially moved into the lead in the AOY race for the first time all season. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-25-potomac-river-day-1-coverage

Potomac River Day 1 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Chickamauga presented by Ranger Boats. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-06-22-thrift-flirting-with-second-aoy-title

Thrift Flirting with Second AOY Title

Bryan Thrift can’t say for certain what baits will sit on his front deck during the final Walmart FLW Tour event of 2015 on the Potomac River, which is set to kick off this Thursday, but he’s quick to say what will not join him – the memory of his 2010 Angler of the Year title. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-20-richardson-wins-all-american

Richardson Wins All-American

Curtis Richardson has a way of surprising people – even himself. The Ontario angler had all but written himself off in the championship round of the Walmart Bass Fishing League All-American, thinking his limit of five bass wouldn’t hold up for long with the likes of Jeremy Lawyer and Bill Schroeder breathing down his neck. READ MORE »