UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Lake Cumberland

AOY Showdown Looming in Texas

AOY Showdown Looming in Texas
Ray Hanselman (top) leads a stacked Texas Division AOY field on to Lake Texoma this week.

Lake Texoma on the Texas-Oklahoma border will play host to a Strike King Angler of the Year showdown in the Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division this week, and there are plenty of storylines worth discussing before this one gets underway.

Several pros are in contention for the AOY title, and many others are vying for a trip to the Rayovac FLW Series Championship, which requires finishing in the top 40 in AOY points.

Here’s what you need to know.

 

Local guide Ray Hanselman was on them today. He landed two limits worth of keepers and is poised to make a run at Brauer's lead on Friday. Oh, and check out the smallie.

Hanselmania Part 3?

Ray Hanselman has dominated the Texas Division thus far by winning the first two stops of the year at Lake Amistad and Sam Rayburn. He told us a couple weeks ago that Lake Texoma is a hit-or-miss lake for him. If he hits, he could easily lock up AOY and the Strike King $2,000 prize package that includes deposits into the 2016 FLW Series. He has a perfect 500 AOY points so far.

However, if he misses, Denny Brauer and Joe Don Setina are hot on his heels thanks to also finishing in the top 10 in back-to-back events. Hanselman’s points lead is only 6 over Brauer and 12 over Setina. Albert Collins is 29 points back in fourth, and James Stricklin Jr. is 30 points back, but he won a Texas Team Trail tournament on the lake last weekend (more on that shortly).

Hanselman fished the TTT event, but he says the lake was filled (and flooeded) with red muddy water due to a terrific storm, and it took until noon just to find fishable water. He opted not to come to weigh-in and instead stayed out for extra practice. Many, many teams either didn’t catch a fish or skipped the weigh-in in that event. Based on that tournament, it’s tough to draw a conclusion regarding his chances this week, especially since the lake has had a few days to recover from the storm. Hanselman did say that he’d found some fish in practice this week, so maybe the lake is turning around.

 

Del Rio pro Denny Brauer dropped a couple of spots in the standings today. He never got the big bite that he needed to maintain his day-one lead.

Brauer Injured, Barely Hanging in There

We spoke with Denny Brauer at the end of practice yesterday (Tuesday), and he was in pretty rough shape. Brauer severely injured his shoulder on the first day of the Rayburn tournament and somehow managed to fish the remainder of the event and finish in the top 10.

He had an MRI after the tournament, and it showed a torn rotator cuff. The doctor also informed Brauer that his shoulder is stricken with arthritis, bone spurs and bone-on-bone contact – the lingering effects of a long tournament career.

“Let’s put it this way, the best way to sum it up is that it’s not a good situation,” Brauer says. “I knew I screwed it up really good [at Rayburn]. I just got the word from the specialist that it needs a whole new-shoulder replacement, not just a scope. I’m going to go in a couple weeks and get that done. It’s going to be one of those three-month deals that you just hate to have happen. I didn’t even know they did shoulder replacements, but now I know.”

When we caught up with Brauer, he was ending his practice day in early afternoon. He said just about any physical activity causes shoulder pain. In fact, he’d felt something “pop” that day when he was pushing off his boat at the ramp. The inability to physically perform up to standards has forced Brauer to change his goal at Lake Texoma.

“AOY is not even a thought,” Brauer says. “My goal is to try and catch a keeper in the two days of the tournament to earn enough points to qualify for the championship. Then I’ll go get it fixed and be healthy and ready by then. I would love to be able to give AOY a shot, but I don’t know if I’ve found the fish to do it or that I’m physically able to catch them.”

 

After a slow start, Joe Don Setina turned his day around and landed 23 pounds, 6 ounces to take the lead.

Setina Has Done it Before

Joe Don’t Setina also did not weigh a fish at the TTT. Setina strikes me as a scrappy angler who knows how to junk up a limit. At Amistad this year, he was doing something a little different than the rest of the field for his top 10. That might be what it takes to do well this week, as the fish are in prespawn, spawn and postspawn mode on Texoma, and many of the spawning and staging areas will be crowded.

Assuming he’s on the water practicing all week, and given that the weather conditions are supposed to turn around (lows in the 50s and highs in the upper 70s) during the event and bring the fishing back with it, Setina could very well put something together before the FLW Series event begins.

Setina also has a Texas Division AOY already on his resume from 2009. He knows what it takes to finish strong and shouldn’t feel the pressure that Hanselman might be feeling right now in the search for his first.

 

Albert Collins was on many fishing fans' radars this week. He lived up to expectations on Thursday by opening the event in seventh place.

Collins Feeling Good About His Practice

Up until last January, Albert Collins was making his living as a plumber and fishing guide. But last year he won his third American Bass Anglers annual championship and decided to see if he could parlay his success in weekend-level events into a full-time gig, starting with the Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division. Collins finished 17th in the standings last year and is in fourth this season.

He’s not much of a clear-water guy and definitely not a smallmouth guy, but because of recent rains that have stained Texoma, he’s been able to sniff out a practice pattern that gives him some confidence with the tournament just a day away.

“Up until about an hour ago I was not feeling very good about it, but I think I might have figured something out,” Collins told us yesterday afternoon while practicing on Texoma. “If I can find some more of the same stuff I’ll be OK. I’m afraid there’s going to be boats all in it, but I’m doing something a little different than everybody else.”

Conditions in practice yesterday were cloudy, and Collins is concerned that the sunshine predicted for the tournament could squander his bite, but if not then he might have a shot catching Hanselman.

“The way this lake is fishing right now it’s very, very doable if I can catch fish like I’ve found [in practice],” he says. “There are a lot of guys, locals too, that are getting one or two or three or four bites a day. It’s really, really fishing tough.”

 

Veteran pro James Stricklin Jr. cracked the 50-pound mark to finish in fourth.

Stricklin on Track

As mentioned, Stricklin and his team partner, Billy Cline, won the TTT event last weekend. The fish were on beds, but nasty weather pretty well shut down that bite. If Stricklin makes the top 10 this week and Hanselman and Setina stumble, and Brauer is out of the race, there’s definitely a chance that Stricklin could come from behind to win AOY.

Here’s a little more background on the TTT tournament.

It was a low-weight tournament. Ten limits were weighed, and the tournament was won with 16.93 pounds. Tenth place weighed in 10.75 pounds.

Russell Cecil (sixth in the AOY) and Todd Castledine (17th) fished together and weighed in two keepers. Stephen Johnston (10th) fished it with Dicky Newberry (97th), and they also weighed in only two keepers.

Philip Crelia, who’s in 24th place and a long shot to win AOY (he’s 82 points back), took third with partner TJ Goodwyn. He might still have a crack at the title if he can duplicate his success this week.


Versatility will be Key

To lock up AOY on Texoma is going to require the ability to change it up on a moment’s notice. The top three teams in the TTT event weighed in prespawn, spawn and postspawn fish, and a mix of largemouths, smallmouths, spotted bass and meanmouth hybrids. With all the transitioning going on, there are going to be a lot of patterns in play, and those patterns could change daily.

This is also most likely going to be a low-weight tournament, though if another wave of spawning largemouths moves up to the banks to spawn with the oncoming warm weather, then sight-fishing for 5-pound-class fish in very crowded and well-known spawning areas (especially the lake’s marinas) could produce a big limit at least one or two days. And with the water up, a lot could depend on how stable the water level is in the next few days. If it starts to drop, it’ll pull some of those fish out with it.

Normally in fluctuating conditions you’d give the nod to the angler in the top 10 of the standings with the most tournament experience, but just about every pro in the top 10 has been contending for major titles in Texas for many years. Every one of them has what it takes to win the title.

One thing we know for sure is that there’ll be some drama in the Texas Division this week. The top three anglers are all on the ropes. Who’ll be standing in the end?

Tags: flw-series  lake-texoma  curtis-niedermier  pre-tournament  2015-04-30-lake-texoma 

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