June 7, 2014 by Kyle Wood
FLORENCE, Ala. - At just 26 years old, Braxton Setzer of Auburn, Ala., is experiencing a phenomenal sophomore season on the Walmart FLW Tour from the back of the boat. He already holds two top-10 finishes from Hartwell and Beaver Lake - where he came close to grabbing the title - and now he gets to taste victory after crushing 21 pounds, 5 ounces today to claim the $20,000 check.
Setzer got off to a slow start on day one with a catch of 12-11. He made a leap of day two thanks to his 17-7 limit to overtake the seventh position. Setzer was paired with Casey Ashley on the final day and managed to put together the largest bag to hit the scale from a co-angler this week. His three day total sat at 51-7 to give Setzer the win by 15 ounces.
"I've been wanting to win so bad but the guys in the back of the boat are so good," says Setzer. "I came to close (to winning) at Beaver and it feels good to be able to seal the deal here."
Consistently putting fish in the boat is a difficult task as a co-angler. Often times during tournaments where pros pound the bank the co-anglers struggle to put fish in the boat. But when the pros get offshore on large schools of fish it opens up plenty of opportunities for the anglers in the back.
"There is a learning curve to fishing from the back of the boat," Setzer explained. "I think I have figured it out and what I'm doing seems to be working. I have been fishing more relaxed and it shows. One of the biggest things for me was learning to slow down and adapt. I have become a more versatile fisherman and realized that a spinning rod goes a long way. That's why I put one in my hand this week to make it happen."
Tied on the other end of his spinning rods this week were a drop-shot and shaky head. He used 10-pound line for the drop-shot with a 6-inch Roboworm (morning dawn color). For the shaky head, Setzer used either a 1/2-ounce head with a Zoom Magnum Trick Worm or a 1/4-ounce head with a Zoom Trick Worm - both rigged on 8-pound line. The primary colors for the worms were either green pumpkin or watermelonseed. Setzer also noted that he caught a few fish on a G Money football jig rigged with 14-pound line. All of his presentastions were run on Phenix rods.
"Fishing was awesome all week. I caught a lot of fish each day. You just really had to try and find some structure on the bottom like shells or stumps and make repeat casts to it. That's really what I did today. I had a small window to cast to avoid getting in the way of Casey (Ashley) and Shad Schenck who was fishing behind us.
"I'm a fisheries biologist for Auburn University so I do a lot of work on the Tennesse River. It's cool that I got my first win on this system. My goal was to make one more (day three) cut than I did last year, and this was it.
"I have to thank my girlfriend Amy for putting up with my fishing for the past two years," says the Alabama co-angler. "And thanks to all my sponsors - The Fish Ranger, Typhoon, Phenix rods, Ranger Boats and FLW for putting on such a great event.
"Really, I just can't wait to get home and get my tackle ready for Kentucky Lake."
Jacobs drops to second
He took the lead on day two, but after some final-day heroics by Braxton Setzer long-time Tour veteran John Jacobs' reign wouldn't last. Jacobs would haul in a final-day limit weighing 15 pounds to take the runner-up position and a $7,500 check.
Jacobs started the week paired with Texas pro Jason Reyes and found himself fishing deep. Jacobs' first thought was to throw a worm but after Reyes caught better sized fish from a jig, he made the switch. The Birmingham, Ala., resident knew it was the right choice when he put his fifth fish in the boat - a 7 1/2-pounder.
The following day he would encounter a similar fate when he caught a 6-pounder to round out his limit which only reinforced the fact that the jig was the deal.
Jacobs' streak of filling his limit with a kicker would end today, though he did have a fish break off that could have made the difference.
"I did break one fish off today that would have won it for me," says Jacobs. "I was fishing around some shell beds and my line must have had a nick in it. When I set the hook I knew it was a good one but then it broke off.
"Other than losing that fish, I had a wonderful week. It was really a lot of fun."
Jacobs caught his fish on a jig in two colors - peanut butter and jelly as well as green pumpkin.
Combined with his catches from days on and two - 18-2 and 17-6, respectively - Jacobs' total weight for the week was 50-8.
Smith remains third
Grayson Smith of Clarksville, Tenn., locked down the third spot on the leaderboard today with a three-day total weight of 47 pounds, 2 ounces. Smith caught limits of 14-3, 18-4 and 14-11 over the course of the week to earn his $5,000 payday.
This is Smith's first year fishing the Walmart FLW Tour as a co-angler and he currently sits ranked 11th in the Co-Angler of the Year standings. It's an impressive feat considering the 24-year-old rookie didn't get into competitive fishing until the fall of 2008.
"I got into fishing tournaments when I entered my first one in the fall of 2008," said Smith. "I went to the University of Tennessee at Martin and fished for them. I loved every minute of it and have been addicted ever since."
Like many of the other competitors, Smith employed a variety of techniques but the football jig was the main player. A 3/4-ounce Strike King football jig teamed with a Strike King Rage Craw (both in green pumpkin) was his weapon of choice. Smith also used a Strike King 10XD, Strike King Thumper Worm and a Strike King Shadalicious swimbait.
"I was paired with great boaters all week," stated Smith, who is a civil engineer. "In these tournaments the pros can really handicap the co-anglers but this week I never had an issue with it. That was huge to my success."
Smith spent his time offshore - where he prefers to fish - however, he fished deeper than most. He said that he had to fizz half of the fish he caught this week due to them being caught in water in the 30-foot range. Most of these ledges featured shells on top that were crucial to getting bites.
Being that Smith is a fan of offshore fishing he is chomping at the bit to get out on Kentucky Lake.
"I have been biding my time for these last two events. I love to throw a football jig and that's what I plan to do. Fishing a little slower with that jig helped put fish in the boat this week and I hope to do the same on Kentucky Lake.
"I want to thank Odom's Blue & Gray Marine, DBS & Associates Engineering, Cumberland Bank & Trust, Wyatt Johnson Automotive, Mercury and Triton. Without them I couldn't be chasing my dream to move to the front of the boat."
Johnson, Edel round out top five
Jason Johnson of Gainesville, Ga., took fourth place with a three-day total weight of 46 pounds, 8 ounces to walk away with a $4,000 check.
Claiming the fifth spot was Brandon Edel of Hendersonville, Tenn., who ended the week with a total weight of 46 pounds, 5 ounces. Edel was awarded $3,000 for his finish.
Rounding out the top co-anglers at Pickwick Lake:
6th - J.P. Sims - 45 pounds, 10 ounces - $2,500
7th - Chad Randles - 45 pounds, 6 ounces - $2, 250
8th - Stephen Smith - 44 pounds, 3 ounces - $1,800
9th - Nick Hensley - 43 pounds, 11 ounces - $1,700
10th - Kyle Monti - 43 pounds, 9 ounces - $1,600
Complete co-angler results can be found here.