UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Dale Hollow Lake

Walker emerges from fog as Stren leader

Walker emerges from fog as Stren leader
Pro Phillip Walker of Spring Branch, Texas, caught a five-bass limit weighing 19 pounds, 3 ounces Thursday to capture the lead in the Stren Series Texas Division tournament on Sam Rayburn Reservoir.

JASPER, Texas - Maybe it was last night's lunar eclipse or the full moon, maybe it's that the bass are stubbornly on the verge of spawning - for that matter, maybe it can be chalked up to the oddity of a leap year. Whatever the cause or logical lack thereof, things got turned on their head Thursday on day two of Stren Series Texas action at Sam Rayburn, beginning with a fog and rain delay in the morning.

The field of 173 boats experienced extreme weather changes throughout the day - from calm to breeze, rain to reprieve - but if the fog wasn't in the anglers' faces, shrouding the reservoir around them, then it was always just around the corner.

Stepping out of the mist to take the lead on day two was Spring Branch, Texas, pro Phillip Walker, who sacked a five-bass limit weighing 19 pounds, 3 ounces for a two-day total of 37-7. Walker sat back in 13th place after day one, but with today's strange conditions, that turned out to be a lucky number, which he gladly exchanged for the No. 1 spot.

Walker, whose 9-7 kicker earned $268 as the Snickers Big Bass, started the day cranking the shallows like he had Wednesday. However, he only managed a couple keepers before he knew it was time to adjust.

"That bite died out after it rained this morning," he said. "I figured out I needed to back out and slow down."

Back out he did, switching to deeper water and changing up his pattern, which made all the difference.

"I started Carolina riggin' with a Kicker Craw in about 12 feet of water," Walker said. "I'm not sure what pushed them out deep, but it seems to come with the rain."

Though the shallow bite was dominant Wednesday and many thought it would continue today despite the weather, Walker was able to capitalize on the opposite nature of Thursday, while yesterday's leader, Tommy Dickerson, fell victim to it, zeroing on day two to end up in 47th place.

The winds are forecasted to come from the opposite direction tomorrow - the northwest - with isolated showers giving way to some sun in the afternoon. If the weather prediction holds, Walker could be well suited to come in strong again Friday as he has shown he can adapt, catching bass shallow or deep.

Second-place pro James Stricklin Jr. of Jasper, Texas, managed to haul in a total of 10 bass weighing 35-14 during the first two days of competition on Sam Rayburn Reservoir.Stricklin secures second

Jasper's own James Stricklin Jr. climbed from seventh to second Thursday thanks to a 16 1/2-pound catch, bringing his two-day total to 35-14.

"I'm happy with what I have," Stricklin said, explaining that a dead battery near the end of the day could have evaporated his standing if not for boater John Ballard of Wichita Falls, Texas, who hauled him back to the weigh-in. Stricklin said he was "very thankful for his generosity," especially considering that Ballard may have given up his chance for a limit today to help.

"The fog was tough, but we finally found a spot out there where they were biting," Stricklin said of his good fortune earlier in the day. He has been covering a lot of water on Sam Rayburn Reservoir both days.

He reported catching his limit between 10 and 11 a.m., then essentially going prefishing for Friday after that. He caught his fish on a Jackal lipless rattling crankbait, red in color, on grass ledges in 2 to 5 feet of water.

Stricklin is one pro who hopes the bass will move up to begin spawning tomorrow: "The water's warm, full moon's out - they've got to be moving up."

Pro Russell Cecil of Willis, Texas, holds down the third-place position with nine bass weighing 35 pounds.Cecil climbs two slots

Willis, Texas, pro Russell Cecil managed to move up two places on the leaderboard to third Thursday despite weighing only four keepers that fell short of his day-one catch by over 6 pounds. His day-two weight of 14-5 boosted his total to 35 pounds.

"Those fish couldn't find my lure in the fog today," he said. "It just wasn't my day today."

The ones that did take the bait again came on a chartreuse crankbait in 6 to 10 feet of water. Due to the fog, Cecil said he wasn't able to reach his go-to spots, but still fished the midlake area in general.

"I lost a lot of fish today ... seven keepers," Cecil said. "It didn't seem like they were biting it right."

Brandon Crouch of Buna, Texas, is only an ounce behind third place in the Pro Division on day two with 10 bass for 34-15.Crouch falls to fourth

Weights were down overall on day two, and pro Brandon Crouch of Buna, Texas, was not immune, weighing in nearly 10 pounds less than yesterday. But he still managed a five-bass limit worth 12 pounds, 7 ounces for a two-day total of 34-15, falling from third to fourth place.

Throughout Thursday's weigh-in, many pros, with the occasional dissenter, said they think the spawn on Sam Rayburn is imminent. Crouch is one who is hoping for the minority opinion.

"I want them to stay right where they are," he said.

Though Crouch said he's "fishing spawning flats and drains with Carolina rigs," he's finding fish in scattered grass at the deeper ends of such areas in 8 to 10 feet of water. He's fishing his rigs with Zoom Brush Hogs and Lizards on the north end of the lake.

Pro Gary Vining of Morgan City, La., is in fifth with 10 bass weighing 34-6.Vining slides to fifth

Pro Gary Vining of Morgan City, La., fell from second place to fifth Thursday, weighing in an 11-3 limit for a total of 34 pounds, 6 ounces.

Vining has been mostly throwing red Rat-L-Traps to shallow grass on the south end of the lake for his catch, but has also plucked some from as deep as 15 feet with a different, as-of-yet unnamed pattern.

"I did the same thing; I just didn't get the big bites today," Vining said. "Plus, we had less fishing time ... but we'll get 'em tomorrow."

Part of his confidence likely rests on his having found productive locations in practice that he has yet to tap.

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 pros on day two of the Stren Series Texas Division event on Sam Rayburn Reservoir:

6th: Dicky Newberry of Houston, 10 bass, 34-5
7th: Bradley Stringer, Huntington, Texas, 10 bass, 33-11
8th: Dean Alexander, Florence, Texas,10 bass, 33-10
The largest Sam Rayburn sack on day two was weighed in by pro Bob Weaver of Lawton, Okla.9th: Toby Hartsell, Livingston, Texas, 10 bass, 33-3
10th: Stephen Johnston, Hemphill, Texas, 10 bass, 33-1

Notable

Today's heaviest sack was weighed in by pro Bob Weaver of Lawton, Okla., who reeled in a five-bass limit for 21 pounds, 6 ounces, rocketing him up the leaderboard into 12th place.

Dalbey dominates co-anglers on day two

Rich Dalbey of Greenville, Texas, hooked an 18 1/2-pound, five-bass limit Thursday to bring his two-day total to 34-3, giving him a commanding lead in the Co-angler Division. His nearest competitor now lies 5 pounds, 11 ounces behind.

Dalbey's consistency from the back of the boat over the first two days of competition on Sam Rayburn has been impressive to say the least, especially considering his day-two pro, Buz Craft of Vidalia, La., only managed to boat two keepers Thursday.

Rich Dalbey of Greenville, Texas, leads the Co-angler Division at the Stren Texas event on Sam Rayburn Reservoir with a total of 10 bass weighing 34-3."I had an awesome day with that man," Dalbey said. "In all honesty, it was just the luck of the bite ... he had bites too."

The co-angler leader tied into his keepers by fishing a Carolina rig with a Zoom Brush Hog and a Rat-L-Trap, the former catches coming from depths of up to 20 feet and the latter coming from as little as 2 feet. Dalbey caught his kicker fish on his second cast of the day on the trap, but most of the rest of the bag came rigging in the midlake area.

Herald the runner-up

Consistency has been the friend of co-angler Gilbert Herald of Pittsburg, Texas, over the first two days of the tournament. He backed up a day-one, 14-pound, 1-ounce limit with another five bass weighing 14-7 Thursday, enough to move up six spots into the runner-up position.

Co-angler Gilbert Herald of Pittsburg, Texas is in second with 10 bass, 28-8."I caught them on a variety of baits today," he said, including a ¾-ounce black-blue-purple jig, a red Rat-L-Trap and a Carolina rig.

Like Dalbey, Herald outshone his pro, who only managed one keeper today. But Dennis Kirby of Lakeland, Tenn., was good natured about being outfished by his partner in the back of the boat.

Kirby said: "I was a wonderful guide today, and I'm for hire. I got a lot of practice with the net, too."

The two mostly fished the deeper edges of grass near drains where the bass are staging for the spawn, but ran into some luck elsewhere near the end of the day.

"I was really fishing a mix today," Herald said. "We finished our limits right out here (near the takeoff site at Umphrey Family Pavilion)."

In third place after day two in the Co-angler Division is Nick Diberardino of Huffman, Texas, with 10 bass for 28-4.Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers on day two of the Stren Texas event on Sam Rayburn:

3rd: Nick Diberardino, Huffman, Texas, 10 bass, 28-4
4th: Roy Walton, Oakhurst, Texas, 10 bass, 27-2
5th: Harry Holloway, Dayton, Texas, 10 bass, 26-13
6th: Jonathan Simon, Orange, Texas, nine bass, 26-7
7th: Ryan O'Neal, Woodville, Texas, 10 bass, 26-1
8th: Steve Evans, Lufkin, Texas, 10 bass, 25-8
9th: Randy Hicks, Lumberton, Texas, 10 bass, 24-11
10th: James Bartlett, Crowley, La., 10 bass, 24-10

Notable

The Snickers Big Bass award in the Co-angler Division went to Robert Moffett for a 7-pounder worth $138. And like in the Pro Division, a bit of the backwards-world syndrome hit the Co-anlger Division on Thursday, with Wednesday's co-angler leader going into freefall. Neil Ward Jr. only managed one keeper today after landing a venerable 20 1/2-pound limit the day before.

Day-three action resumes Friday at 7 a.m. when anglers take off from Umphrey Family Pavilion, located at 5438 RR W. in Sam Rayburn, Texas.

Tags: patrick-baker  headline-story  2008-02-20-sam-rayburn-reservoir 

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