UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2020 - Dale Hollow Lake

With Hanselman on the Last Practice Day

With Hanselman on the Last Practice Day

Plenty happened in the fishing world in 2015, but the highlight of it all was unquestionably Ray Hanselman’s incredible run through the Costa FLW Series. After winning all three of the Texas Division events for a sweep in the regular season, the Del Rio, Texas, pro completed the sweep by winning the Costa FLW Series Championship on the Ohio River. As a result, he qualified for the Forrest Wood Cup and put his mark on history. Though his winning streak has since come to an end, he’s still got another shot at history this week on Wheeler Lake. I rode along on the final day of practice to see him in action.

 

We meet at the ramp at about 5:15 a.m. CT and Hanselman is the first in the water, idling out toward the lake in near-darkness as the first tinges of the sunrise begin to light up the sky on the opposite shore. After a quick detour back to my truck to grab a rainsuit just in case, he cranks up and heads up the river a ways before cutting into one of Wheeler’s big backwater areas.

 

Hanselman starts off by pulling a few rods out and tying on a black topwater and cutting the hooks off it. Fishless bait ready to go, he begins working through the backwater bay fairly quickly, aggressively tossing his topwater into patches of bank grass, parallel to the shoreline and up under any tree he can shoot it below.

His plan for the day is pretty loose. With one good spot already located earlier in practice, Hanselman plans to work shallow during “primetime” and then perhaps head offshore.

“The only thing I regret about this practice is not going as far as I could up the Elk River or something like that.”

 

Still moving through the backwater, Hanselman’s first action comes just a touch after 6:00 a.m. when a quality bass (likely at least 3 pounds) blasts his topwater. Despite not having any hooks, Hanselman swings out of reflex and the bait jolts back toward the boat. A few minutes later, perhaps 50 yards down the bank, another keeper-sized bass takes a swing at the bait, though not nearly with the same level of aggression.

A few bites are no doubt a good thing, but it doesn’t mean the bite is on fire. After another hundred yards of prime looking bank loaded with grass, laydowns and the occasional snake, Hanselman has nothing to show and makes a move.

 

Moving out of the backwater, Hanselman goes to work on a windblown stretch of bank with a mix of grass, wood and rock on it. He starts off with a swim jig, hoping to capitalize on the earliest wind he’s seen all practice, but soon starts flipping as the grass gets ever more tempting.

“It’s all obvious fishing, both shallow and offshore,” says Hanselman of his practice and tournament strategy. ”If it looks good, you better fish it. It’s a definite junk-fishing deal for me. A lot of it you don’t even want to fish, because you don’t want to mess with them or maybe hurt your confidence.”

 

After finishing the bank with no results, Hanselman stops to fish a little main-river current under a bridge. When he finishes fishing a topwater around a shallow piling with several perfect casts and no results, he trolls over to the closest piling in the main river and pulls out a drop-shot to try and tempt some suspended fish he marks on the graph. Alas, they aren’t in the mood (and maybe not bass). It’s moving time.

 

Running up the river a short ways, Hanselman ties on a Wing Ding and hits a few offshore rises along the river channel that look promising. Each stop is loaded with bait, but seemingly no bass after a little fishing and no idling.

“You can idle for hours and not find a thing and then just pull up and catch something sometimes. I just don’t think they’re grouped up really well.”

 

Though Hanselman added a couple rods in throughout the day, he also put a few back, keeping his front deck tidy and minimalist. Suffice to say, he’s not the kind of guy to have a dozen rods on deck. Even without loading up on tackle, he still covered his bases well with some stuff to drag and flip, a topwater, Wing Ding and crankbait.

 

Next, Hanselman moves off the river to a nearby creek, keeping an eye on a storm building to the north and hitting a few humps along the creek channel. He says there are shells on them, and it sure looks like a good area, but after flinging a mid-running crankbait around for a while with no bites, we move on again.

 

Further back in the creek, Hanselman tries out a shallow shoreline with some cypress trees as well as a deep channel-swing bank loaded with over-hanging cover. It all looks good, but it doesn’t result in anything.

Running out into the main channel, Hanselman fishes some exposed rip rap and gives his take on birds.

“Ospreys and loons are my favorite birds. Ospreys because they’re freakin’ badass and loons ‘cause they look cool. And they both like to fish.”

 

With hundreds of days on the water per year as a guide in Texas, Hanselman doesn’t like to take chances he doesn’t have to, especially with lightning involved. With a storm building to the north, he runs down the lake a ways past Decatur to an offshore ledge where he can fish a bit and keep an eye on the storm.

He hits three different spots, one simply along the main channel and two other rises that are off a secondary channel snaking through the Decatur flats. There, he actually gets a few bites, but they don’t hook up, he assess them as “maybe a gou” (short for gaspergou, another name for drum) or a 10-inch spotted bass.

 

A few more minutes pass by, and he decides to pull the plug and put it on the trailer. Well aware that he isn’t making the boldest move, he heads back to the ramp and trailers up, effectively ending his practice. He already had to get off a little earlier than the 5 o’clock cutoff time to go pick up his family from the airport, but in addition to being the first on the lake, he’s probably the first off as well. When competition starts we’ll see how it all pays off for Hanselman and everyone else gunning for $300,000 and a big silver cup.

Tags: jody-white  pre-tournament  2016-08-04-forrest-wood-cup 

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