February 6, 2010 by Patrick Baker
JASPER, Texas - In tournament fishing, it's almost a sure bet that winners will say their dreams have come true. But when that sentiment was uttered Saturday by rookie Cody Woods, relatively unknown in professional circles, his sincerity was palpable, leaving one to wonder if some dreams are just bigger than others.
So many facets of the Jacksonville, Texas, pro's story magnified his FLW American Fishing Series win at stop No. 2 of the 2010 Texas Division on Sam Rayburn Reservoir: Woods doesn't have any sponsors; he was fishing in only the third FLW Outdoors event of his life; he was fishing against some of the biggest names in the sport of professional bass fishing like Tommy Martin, Larry Nixon and Bud Pruitt; and he was so nervous last night that he poured a gallon of oil in his boat's gas tank.
America loves its underdogs, so Woods' win was well received by the weigh-in crowd - and not just his family and friends.
"This is a dream come true," Woods said, seeming almost shocked by his victory. "I may wake up tomorrow and be mad if this is just a dream. Somebody might have to drive my boat in, because I'm afraid I'll wreck it."
Woods said his father used to guide on Toledo Bend Reservoir back when Martin and Nixon did the same, and when he was a boy, Woods would sometimes clean their fish when they returned to the marina. He said he was so star-struck at the top-10 meeting for pros Friday evening that he could barely believe he was standing next to them, and though he was excited, he was even more nervous.
But rattled nerves obviously didn't stop Woods from claiming his first major title this week from his father's boat. His dad passed away last year, so the win was even more special for Woods.
Woods, who works a little more than half the year as a construction foreman, strung together weights of 15 pounds, 11 ounces on day one, 11-5 on day two and 5-10 today for a three-day total of 32-10 and winner's check for $24,680.
"I can finally get my milk out of lay-away," Woods joked.
Though many resorted to fishing deep this week in cold, windy conditions that made for a tough tournament, it didn't work well for Woods in practice. When he caught a 5-pounder shallow in a creek before the tournament, he decided to commit to a shallow pattern. The vast majority of his bass this week were caught on a gold Smithwick Rogue stickbait and 15-pound-test line.
"I stuck to my game plan," he said. "I just had to slow down and get real methodical. You could throw it out there and forget about it - count to 10, twitch it, count to 10, twitch it."
Woods would fan-cast the bait along grass lines, as shallow as he could get it, in the mid-lake area. He said he also caught a few of his fish on a red Rat-L-Trap with red Gamakatsu treble hooks.
Pro Randy Cisler of Mesquite, Texas, converted a phenomenal day-two catch into a runner-up finish and a check for $8,391. He weighed the heaviest sack of the tournament - 24 1/2 pounds, including a 10 1/2-pounder - Friday, but bookended it with tiny sacks of 3-9 on day one and 2-15 today for a tournament total of 31 pounds.
Despite missing what would have been his first win with FLW Outdoors, Cisler was still pumped.
"I've had a wonderful, awesome week ... I'm just glad to be here," he said. "That's the biggest fish I ever caught."
Cisler caught his fish this week in the Norris Creek channel at a depth of about 27 feet. He caught them Carolina rigging with a 7-inch Zoom Trick Worm in watermelon-candy color on a 1-foot leader anchored by a 1-ounce weight.
Bebber bags third
Pro Charles Bebber of Willis, Texas, weighed one of the heaviest bags of the day - three bass for an adjusted weight of 6-5 - to come in third despite a penalty for a late return. Added to his day-one weight of 8-10 and Friday's 15-4 sack, his three-day total of 30-3 earned him $5,923.
"I made two mistakes this week: being late today and making a wrong choice as to where to go the first day," he said. "Mental errors - they cost you."
After trying to force a Rat-L-Trap bite - normally a go-to tactic on Sam Rayburn - Bebber tried pulling a ChatterBait through deeper grass, which produced more keepers. Most of his keepers in competition came on black, green-pumpkin or white ChatterBaits rigged with a swimbait as a trailer on 20-pound line, though he was finally able to catch two today on a Rat-L-Trap.
Martin moves up
Veteran pro Tommy Martin of Hemphill, Texas, started the day in ninth place, but caught the only five-bass limit Saturday to help move him up the standings to fourth and earn $4,936. His weights this week were 11-5, 9-15 and 8-13 for a three-day total of 30-1.
"It's been a tough tournament; today was especially tough," he said. "But I do better in a tough tournament. It seems like ones like Falcon Lake, where everybody catches limits, it's harder to separate yourself."
Before this week's AFS Texas Division tourney started, Martin "found a lot of fish off in deep water" and said he wanted to be where the greatest numbers were. He fished many spots over the course of the tournament, but all week he fished deep with Zoom Trick Worms or Zoom finesse worms. His best colors were purple-smoke and black-emerald.
Another veritable legend of the sport and good friend of Martin, pro Larry Nixon of Bee Branch, Ark., stayed with Martin during the event, and he said Martin had clued him in to what type of water to look for at the onset of competition.
Nixon found such a spot in the mid-lake area, which produced limits weighing 9-4 and 18-12 over the first couple days. When he landed a 10-pounder and another fat largemouth there Friday, fishing at a depth of 32 to 34 feet, Nixon said he thought he had a decent shot at winning it.
"I came back to reality today," he said of his lone bass that weighed 1-11. "All the shad got blown way out, and when they do that, all the bass follow and won't come back to structure."
Nixon's total weight of 29-11 was good enough for fifth place and $4,442.
Caka falls to sixth
Friday's pro leader Keith Caka of Huntsville, Texas, also only managed one keeper bass today for 1-5, dropping him to sixth place. His limits over the first two days weighed 13-11 and 14-9 for a three-day total of 29-9 and $3,949.
Caka thought sun could help his pattern, but when it finally came today, it was accompanied by a cold front and pressure system that he believes shut down his fish in the Buck Bay area. All week he fished on the inside of grass lines in 2 to 6 feet of water with a white-chartreuse ChatterBait with a swimbait trailer, concentrating on old lily pad patches.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros finalists of the AFS Texas Division event on Sam Rayburn Reservoir:
7th: Buz Craft of Vidalia, La., three-day total of 29-9, $3,455
8th: Robert "Speedy" Collett of Zapata, Texas, 29-7, $2,962
9th: Bud Pruitt of Houston, 23-9, $2,468
10th: Mike Moody of Alba, Texas, 23-5, $1,974
AFS Texas Division competition will resume June 17-19 for the third and final stop of the season at Toledo Bend in Many, La.