March 28, 2014 by Curtis Niedermier
Weathermen lie, but Mother Nature never does.
Her power was on display on day two of the Walmart FLW Tour event on Sam Rayburn Reservoir presented by Chevy. Forecasts called for a gloomy, potentially stormy day. But other than a light mist at takeoff and a dense fog that hung around until mid-morning, the weatherman couldn't have been more wrong.
By lunchtime, sunshine and slick conditions spread across Sam Rayburn. The bass responded quickly by repositioning deeper into shallow cover and, in some areas, heading for the bank to answer nature's spawning call.
The pros atop the day-two standings experienced mixed results. For some, the bite was better and should continue to improve over the weekend with more warm weather expected. For others, it was a day of scrambling and grinding, trying to make the most of what their primary areas had left.
Topping the list at the halfway mark is Walmart pro Mark Rose. He followed up a first-day catch of 23 pounds, 14 ounces with 19 pounds, 2 ounces for a qualifying-round total of 43 pounds.
On day one, Rose had the exact conditions he wanted: windy and cloudy. Though he took over the lead, the Arkansas pro indicated that today was a struggle. Fishing in the sun, he caught only seven fish and cobbled together one of the stranger limits we've seen on Tour this season, at least from a tournament leader. It included a 12-inch spotted bass and a brutish 9-pound largemouth.
"I was really blessed to get that one big bite," Rose said. "If I had wind and clouds, I could catch them. I just can't get them to bite the same in the sun. I'm fishing the outside and inside edges of grass lines, and when it's like this [sunny] they move into the grass. I'm not a grass fisherman."
Rose indicated that he's fishing away from the bank, targeting what most would consider mid-depth areas for this derby, and that his limit was mostly postspawn bass.
Yesterday, Rose relied on two primary lures, but he expanded a bit today and used a variety of soft plastics, a crankbait and a Strike King Red Eye Shad lipless crankbait.
Many reports from the water indicate that the bass are making a strong push to the banks to spawn. Some pros are looking at the weekend as an opportunity to make a move. For Rose, it could be a grind to get to the podium.
"I'll look at my depth finder, but I won't be looking at them on the bank," Rose said when asked if he'd go sight-fishing if the bass hit the banks with force. "I'm pretty committed [to what I'm doing]. I might have to adapt a little better and get in the grass and learn how to catch them."
The rest of the best
2nd Place - Jason Meninger - 41-07
Though Jason Meninger is a soft-spoken Georgia angler, he proved he's also a formidable competitor this week. He slammed a 24-pound, 2-ounce limit that could have been even bigger.
"I left an 8-pounder today. It spit the hook," Meninger said. "I could have had a better bag, but things are going well. I'm happy. I'm blessed."
Meninger is relying on a key spot where a few patches of hard bottom substrate are mixed into a 30- to 50-yard stretch of grass that's 10 to 16 feet deep, a notable pattern amid a field of anglers primarily targeting shallow transitioning fish.
"It's a spot where if conditions are right, I can win," he said. "If they aren't right, I could catch nothing. I almost want it to be cold because my best spot is a deep-fish spot."
A mix of a half-dozen traditional summertime ledge-fishing lures has been the key to Meninger's week thus far, though he did admit to making a shallow move later in the day today after spending most of the morning guarding his spot. Clearer water and "lots of options" in the shallows might make for a good back-up plan if the flow of prespawn and postspawn fish sliding through his grass dries up - a possibility, though tough to predict considering Meninger landed 30 fish today and culled about 10 times. Don't bank on him sight-fishing if the fish do hit the shoreline in numbers.
"I don't like looking at them [sight-fishing]," he said. "I'm not a good sight-fisherman, so I won't be even if they come up."
3rd place - Steve Kennedy - 40-10
Spinnerbait? Swimbait? ChatterBait? Nope, it was none of the usual suspects for Auburn, Ala., pro Steve Kennedy today. He called on an old favorite to catch several keepers that contributed to his 21-pound, 12-ounce limit: a Snagless Sally.
"Dad will be proud of me," he said. "I tied on the Snagless Sally and caught a 5-pounder. I used to catch a bunch of fish on a Snagless Sally way back when, but I hadn't caught one on it since I turned pro, which was 13 years ago. We travel all over the country, and we don't get many times to use it. I'm having fun."
It was the dirty water and shallow cover - and that he couldn't get them to bite much else - that prompted Kennedy to reach for the old-school weedless in-line spinner.
He's covering a lot of water and expanded on some areas he uncovered on the first day, mostly targeting wood cover within pockets where bass will eventually spawn.
"It's a pretty good pattern, but there's no guarantee that I'm going to get a big bite every day," he said. "They never really stormed the bank like I expected. I never found a pair on a bed. Now we've got a front coming in tonight. I haven't seen the forecast yet, but the winds are supposed to flip-flop."
4th place - Bryan Thrift - 39-10
Chevy pro Bryan Thrift has spent two days camped in his primary area, a pretty good-sized chunk of real estate that stretches several miles and is full of shallow cover to target.
"I'm running around in there some," Thrift said. "It seems like they're starting to move up and set up. Fishing slow seems to be the only thing that I've figured out. I'm fishing the same place with the same technique [as day one]. I just kind of made myself slow down more and dragged plastics around.
"I don't think it's going to replenish," he added. "That's what worries me. I could get there and catch nothing."
Thrift reported having zero keepers today at 10 a.m., but he stuck it out long enough to bring in 20 pounds, 14 ounces.
5th Place - Rick Cotten - 37-14
Day-one leader Rick Cotten slipped to fifth place today with a five-bass limit that weighed 11 pounds, 15 ounces.
"Things changed," Cotten said bluntly. "The wind didn't blow, and that hurt me. I had none at 1 p.m."
The wind helped Cotten's bite the first day because it pushed baitfish into areas where he'd located chunky prespawn females. With the slick conditions today, he had to counter in the afternoon by running and gunning on about 15 spots with an entirely new lineup of lures.
"They left the deep and headed shallow," Cotten said. "I'm going to be scrambling to get back in the lead."
Steven Crawley moves into co-angler lead
Louisiana co-angler Steven Crawley feels right at home on Sam Rayburn, and it showed in his results on day two. Crawley caught 11 pounds, 2 ounces to increase his two-day catch to 26 pounds, 6 ounces and take over the lead going into the final day.
"I pretty much junk-fished," Crawley said. "That's what I'm used to back home.
"I love Sam Rayburn," he continued. "I've been here a few times with my dad, and my family is from east Texas. I'm having a great time."
Crawley will be paired with Walmart pro Mark Rose for the final day of competition for co-anglers. He's currently only 2 ounces ahead of Eric Self, one of the co-anglers who tied for the day-one lead.
Big Bass Awards
Pro: Mark Rose - 9 pounds
Co-angler: Bryan Partak - 10 pounds, 2 ounces
In FLW Tour competition, pros and co-anglers are randomly paired each day, with pros supplying the boat, controlling boat movement and competing against other pros. Co-anglers fish from the back deck against other co-anglers. The full field competes in the two-day opening round. After day two the field is pared to the top 20 pros and co-anglers. The co-angler competition concludes at Saturday's weigh-in, and the top-10 pros continue competition Sunday, with the winner determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from all four days.
For more coverage
On-the-water video from each finalist's boat will not be available during this event due to a lack of cellular data coverage on Sam Rayburn Reservoir. Tune in to Tour Insider for hourly live updates starting at noon daily and FLW Live during weigh-ins starting at 4 p.m. daily. On-the-water video will return for the FLW Tour Razorback Rumble on Beaver Lake April 10-13.
Walmart FLW Tour event information
Location: Cassels-Boykin County Park, FM Road 3123 (off State Hwy 147), Zavalla, Texas
Time: 7 a.m. Thursday-Saturday; 7:30 a.m. Sunday
Days 1 and 2: 3 p.m.; Cassels-Boykin County Park, FM Road 3123 (off State Hwy 147), Zavalla, Texas
Days 3 and 4: 4 p.m.; Lufkin Walmart, 2500 Daniel McCall Drive, Lufkin, Texas
Date: Saturday, March 29 and Sunday, March 30
Location: Lufkin Walmart, 2500 Daniel McCall Drive, Lufkin, Texas
Time: noon-4 p.m.
Free Concert: See Michael Ray perform live Sunday, March 30 at 3 p.m.
Activities: Fans are welcome to join FLW for the FLW Expo at the Lufkin Walmart. Come meet Walmart FLW Tour pros, who'll be on hand signing autographs. Families can enjoy interactive games, receive free samples, drive a Ranger Boat simulator and have a chance to win a $250 Walmart gift card.