UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2020 - Lake Wylie

Thompson takes commanding lead on Sam Rayburn

Thompson takes commanding lead on Sam Rayburn
Bert Thompson of Benton, La., wowed the crowd with these lunker largemouths on the way to first place on the opening day of the EverStart Series Texas Division event on Sam Rayburn Reservoir with a 27-13 limit.

JASPER, Texas - Bert Thompson hasn't had a top-10 finish in an FLW Outdoors tournament on Sam Rayburn Reservoir since an eighth-place showing in a Walmart BFL event here in 2000. But after his incredible day-one performance Friday on this fishery in eastern Texas, he's almost a shoo-in for another in the EverStart Series Texas Division this week.

Thompson ransacked the underwater ridges of Sam Rayburn today for a jaw-dropping five-bass limit weighing 27 pounds, 13 ounces, leaving him over 6 1/2 pounds ahead of his nearest competition heading into the final day. (Thursday's competition was canceled due to inclement weather, leaving the second Texas Division tournament of 2011 a two-day event.)

Pro Bert Thompson collected $230 as the Big Bass winner in the Pro Division for this sizable Sam Rayburn largemouth weighing 9-3."I was fishing ridges, finding a little point ... or a few regular breaks ... off of a ridge," he said. "I didn't move very far - a couple hundred yards on points."

Thompson said he fished near Ayish Bayou, a major creek linked to Sam Rayburn Reservoir. He fished a Carolina rig on bottom in water 18 to 20 feet deep, and he rigged it with "a creature bait, kind of like a Brush Hog, with a lot of legs on it ... I can't remember the name," in watermelon-red color.

"It was slow but steady, about a fish every hour - maybe a couple in an hour here and there - but nothing consecutive," he said. "I was shooting for 20 pounds, but when I caught that 9-3, that put me well over 20."

His 9-pound, 3-ounce largemouth took the Big Bass award, worth $230, in the Pro Division, and he was able to upgrade with another lunker that weighed in at almost 8 pounds. After practicing about five days total for this tournament, broken up by bad weather, he said he was confident he could do well, but didn't expect such a windfall.

"I'm just looking to catch some 4(-pounders) and maybe a 5 tomorrow," Thompson said.
Pro Todd Castledine of Nacogdoches, Texas, is in second place at Sam Rayburn with 21-4.
Castledine breaks 20-pound barrier for second

Nacogdoches, Texas, pro Todd Castledine assembled a strong five-bass limit Friday for 21 pounds, 4 ounces to end the opening day in second place. Though he is staring up a steep hill to Thompson weight-wise, he'll enter the final day a full 3 pounds ahead of his closest competition from behind.

"I didn't practice but a couple days ... because of the weather," he said, adding that he entered the tournament with his eye on three areas, but only fished two today. "I went to my first spot to try to catch one and caught four. Then I went to another area to catch my fifth keeper."

Though he still has one untouched area to go to on the final day tomorrow plus the option of revisiting the two that have already produced for him, Castledine isn't counting his money just yet (he can, however, count the $5,129 he earned for a seventh-place finish at the Texas Division opener at Choke Canyon last month).

"Even though this is my home lake ... this is the time of year I have zero confidence," he said.

Castledine fished his own signature-series Strike Pro Flapjack (lipless, rattling crankbait; 1 ¼-ounces) in bloodshot-craw color all day long over "the deepest grass (he) could find."

Pro Robert Seals of Porter, Texas, is in third with 18-4.Seals third

Robert Seals sacked an 18-4 limit to end the day in fourth place. The Porter, Texas, pro said he fishes Sam Rayburn Reservoir regularly, but hadn't been on the lake in a week until the tournament started Friday.

"We were just on a Rat-L-Trap bite that was sporadic throughout the day," he said. "We'd catch a few here and then a couple there later on."

Despite taking a weeklong weather break from Sam Rayburn, the bass Seals caught today from among a half-dozen spots in the midlake area had been in his sights "for about two and a half months."

"The fish are getting ready to spawn ... they keep replenishing," he said.

Seals caught his fish on a Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap in brown-eyed-shad color, mostly between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. He fished the Rat-L-Trap over hydrilla in about 8 feet of water.

Eschete ends day in fourth

Pro Ronnie Eschete Jr. is in fourth with 18-3.Fourth-place pro Ronnie Eschete Jr. of Thibodaux, La., parlayed only two days of practice into a strong start to this tourney, ending the day with 18-3. He practiced with a fellow Louisiana pro, also fishing this event, but was confined to only two areas due to rough weather.

"The areas we did get to scout, we got bites," Eschete said, adding that he worked one of them today for his limit of bass. "Today I stayed in one spot, approximately 200 yards long, all day. I was way up north."

He fished an XCalibur Rattle Bait to hook most of his keepers in water anywhere from to 2 to 8 feet deep and rounded out his limit with finesse-style baits like Senkos in isolated grass patches when the bite on his faster-moving baits slowed.

"Grass was the key," Eschete said.

Bebber rounds out top five pros

Another EverStart Series Texas Division pro fresh off of a top-10 finish at the season opener at Choke Canyon (sixth place), Charles Bebber of Willis, Texas, placed fifth Friday with a five-bass limit weighing 17-1. He is also a strong competitor on Sam Rayburn, having finished in the top 10 here in EverStart Series competition the last two seasons in a row, and he's poised to do it again.

Pro Charles Bebber of Willis, Texas, is in fifth with 17-1."I consider it my home water pretty much - even though I live a couple hours away - because I fish here a lot," Bebber said. "It fishes the way I like to fish.

"I like to power-fish, and by that I mean I like to keep the reel turning ... lots of crankbaits, traps, spinnerbaits."

Bebber had to slow down today, however, to sack his limit. He caught one on the various traps he threw, primarily a red Lucky Craft LVR D-7, but the rest came from fishing soft plastics on a Carolina rig.

"I was fishing extremely shallow with (the Carolina rig) - most guys can hardly believe that, but I'm getting bit doing it," he said. "I'm catching them, so I'm not going to change up until the fish tell me to."

Tomorrow Bebber said he'll continue to alternate between fishing traps and the Carolina rig with Big Bite Baits like lizards and finesse worms in shallow grass.

"Nothing I'm doing is secret here," he said, "but I won't tell you where I was."

Rest of the best

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

6th: Russell Cecil of Willis, Texas, five bass, 16-14
6th: Art Garza, Buna, Texas, five bass, 16-14
8th: Chuck Naomi, Rayne, La., five bass, 16-13
8th: Claude Rabb, Vidalia, Texas, five bass, 16-13
10th: Stephen Johnston, Hemphill, Texas, five bass, 16-2

Hubert Davis of Kirbyville, Texas, leads the Co-angler Divsion on Sam Rayburn with a limit weighing 17-4.Davis takes charge in Co-angler Division

Hubert Davis of Kirbyville, Texas, led the Co-angler Division Friday with a five-bass limit weighing 17 pounds, 4 ounces. He'll take a 14-ounce lead over his nearest competition heading into the final day of EverStart Series competition on Sam Rayburn.

Davis fished from the back deck of pro Gary Riffle's boat, casting a chrome Rat-L-Trap with a green back and light-crawfish belly over grass in about 3 to 3 1/2 feet of water around the midlake area. He was able to practice last weekend and then two days this week for the event.

Co-angler Brett Rachal of Monroe, La., is in second place with 16-6.
"It went good," Davis said of his opening day, adding that his performance tomorrow in the finale will depend on the depth being targeted by his pro partner. "I think if they get me close enough to some shallow water, I can catch a few."

Rachal in second

Brett Rachal of Monroe, La., placed second Friday with a 16-6 limit, anchored by a stout 7-2 largemouth.

Rest of the best

Johnny Carr of Loxley, Ala., earned $153 for the Big Bass in the Co-angler Division weighing 9-5.Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers on the opening day of the EverStart Texas event on Sam Rayburn:

3rd: Dan Wilson of Pilot Point, Texas, five bass, 14-11
4th: Johnny Carr, Loxley, Ala., four bass, 14-0
5th: Pernell Roberts, Humble, Texas, five bass, 13-15
6th: Rusty Harvey, Nederland, Texas, five bass, 13-9
7th: Trevor Rogge, San Antonio, Texas, five bass, 13-2
8th: Kerry Barnett, Waldron, Ark., five bass, 12-15
9th: Buddy Hicks, Port Neches, Texas, four bass, 11-16
10th: Jeremy Bawcum, Cibolo, Texas, five bass, 11-15
10th: Chip Woods, Alice, Texas, five bass, 11-15

Big Bass

The Big Bass award in the Co-angler Division went to Johnny Carr for a 9-5 monster worth $153. Carr said he caught it on a spoon in 30-plus feet of water around 12:30 p.m.

EverStart Series Texas action will continue on Sam Rayburn at 8 a.m. Saturday when the full field fishes the finale. The final weigh-in will begin at 3 p.m. at Umphrey Family Pavilion.

Tags: patrick-baker  headline-story  2011-02-10-sam-rayburn-reservoir 

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