BROOKELAND, Texas — Knowing when to pull the plug proved critical for Josh Bensema and Matthew McArdle who caught a 5-bass limit of 20.45 pounds and won the second of two back-to-back Texas Team Trail presented by Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s events at Lake Sam Rayburn.
Hailing from Willis and Magnolia, Texas, respectively, Bensema and McArdle spent most of their day fishing the Canyons area near the 147 Bridge. Both had fared well there in a recent tournament, but the bite they sought wasn’t happening.
“At 1 o’clock we had two small keepers in the well and made the decision to go down to the Buck Bay area,” McArdle said.
Plan B found them focusing their attention on flooded bushes in about 4-5 feet. That’s a common Rayburn scenario, but Bensema said he and his partner dialed one large bush with a few smaller bushes on its perimeter. The lane between them was money.
“I think bluegill were spawning around this bush; that’ s the only way to explain 20 pounds of bass coming off one bush,” Bensema said. “This would have been the main plan about a week ago before that water came up, but once it rose, that spread the fish out. It was those bluegill beds that kept the fish on this one bush.”
Describing a 1-2 punch strategy, Bensema said McArdle skipped a 3/8-ounce shad pattern Santone Swim jig with a white Strike King Menace through the gap and kept it high in the water column. Meanwhile, Bensema worked the bottom with a 1/2-ounce Buckeye Football Mop Jig in peanut butter and jelly with a Big Bite Baits College Craw in tilapia. Covering both levels was key, but precision proved essential
“Definitely, it was an angle deal,” McArdle said. “There was plenty of water behind this bush, but you had to make the perfect cast to bring your bait through a specific area. I think it just lined up with the bream beds and kept our baits in the strike zone longer.”
Noting that the flooded bush pattern exceeded their expectations, Benesema said he and McArdle visited their key spot three times between 1 and 2:30. Thanks to the bream bed attraction, the spot kept reloading and each subsequent visit produced at least one good fish that contributed to their overall weight.
For their efforts Bensema and McArdle earned a Nitro Z18 with a Mercury 150 Pro XS. In addition, they claimed $2,370 of Anglers Advantage cash and a $500 Garmin electronics bonus. Their total payday was $36,465.
Kris Wilson and Brandon Flowers bucked the trend, did their own thing and sacked up a second-place limit that went 19.49. Staying in the mid-lake region, they targeted postspawn fish that were leaving the shallows.
“With the water being high, it had (most) of the competitors up in the bushes, so we stayed away from the bushes and focused on places in 12-16 feet of water where they were coming out,” Wilson said. “Hard bottom was the key; a couple of places had shell.”
Wilson and Flowers caught their fish on dragging presentations. Specifically, they threw a 3/4-ounce football jig with a Strike King Rage Bug trailer and Carolina rigs with a mix of flukes, Zoom Brush Hogs and straight tail worms.
For second place, Wilson and Flowers won $7,163, which included $1,738 of Anglers Advantage cash.
Mike Griffin and Larry Tidwell focused their efforts on secondary points with flooded bushes and trees in 8-12 feet of water and placed third with 19.44. While their morning yielded only small fish on moving baits, they found their success by slowing down and Carolina rigging a Junebug Zoom Magnum Lizard and dropshotting a 6-inch Roboworm in the margarita mutilator color.
“We figured they would be up shallower with the higher water, but the big fish were out deeper, so we went out deeper,” Griffin said. “We caught 20 keepers today and the dropshot produced the most. They wanted it really slow today.”
For third place, Griffin and Tidwell won $4,835, which included $1,580 of Anglers Advantage cash.
Goodwyn-Crelia fourth, Imhoff-London fifth
TJ Goodwyn and Phillip Crelia weighed five bass worth 19.26 pounds, taking fourth place and earning $4,598 (including the $1,085 Big Bass bonus for their 7.31). Behind them was Will Imhoff and Shane London with 18.81 pounds. For fifth place, they earned $2,812.50
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 teams:
6th: Mark Martin—Chris McClain – 16.81
7th: Ed Whaley—Darren Sebek – 16.51
8th: Todd Castledine—Jason Bonds – 16.02
9th: Brian Shook-Danny Iles – 16.01
10th: Robert Emmert-Kody Emmert – 15.65
Castledine and Bonds are leading the Team of the Year standings. Castledine said finishing eighth exemplified the mindset he and Bonds bring to each event.