Brookeland, Texas (June 11, 2020) — Persistence ranks high among the tournament angler’s requited traits and a solid stick-to-it effort by Chance Woods and Steve Phillips Jr. yielded a 25.51-pound limit that topped the June 6 Texas Team Trail presented by Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s, at Lake Sam Rayburn.
The tournament was the second of two back-to-back events held on this Angelina River reservoir. This double-header replaced the Toledo Bend and Lake Amistad qualifying events that were postponed earlier in the season due to Covid-19 restrictions.
“We didn’t have a fish in the boat until 11 o’clock,” Woods said. “Steve caught a 7-pounder, then we had two small keepers. We were grinding; we hit some stuff and zeroed, we left and went to some other stuff that had boats sitting on it.
“So we said ‘Let’s go back to where we started. Those fish have to bite.’ We pulled up there and I catch our biggest fish (an 8.57, the tournament’s second-largest). About 10 minutes later, he hangs a 6-pounder.”
This was about 1:30 and Woods recalls the moment giving him and his teammate cautious optimism. Neither angler was ready to make any assumptions, but they certainly weren’t selling themselves short.
“I thought: ‘Well, we have a shot. We’re going to be right there with them; we’re going to scare them to death.’ Then, I caught another fish that was about 3 pounds and culled a pound and a half fish.
“We figured we had 25-26 pounds. We thought we’d be right there with them because we thought the weights would be just about the same as Friday (Kris Wilson and Harold Moore won with 26.04), but we really thought that somebody would sneak in there and beat us.”
Notwithstanding their restrained optimism, Woods acknowledges a spike in enthusiasm when his partner nabbed big’n number 2.
“We got a lot of confidence after he caught the 6-pounder,” he said. “Usually, when you catch big fish like that, a lot of times, you won’t catch another one off that same water. Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug. It was just our day today. We were very blessed.”
Fishing the mid-lake area across from the event site at Umphrey’s Family Pavilion, the winners focused on deep points with laydowns in 20-25 feet. They caught their fish on 1-ounce Jig-X football jigs with green pumpkin Berkley Chigger Craw trailers a Texas-rigged watermelon red Zoom Old Monster worms Texas rigged with 3/4-ounce weights.
Woods described the key to his team’s success: “I think it was the way that we put that boat right in the middle of those points; we threw uphill and brought it downhill. The way the wind was blowing determined how we had to set up.
“We had set up on the side, we had quartered into it, we moved to the other side. We had graphed those fish, we saw them, and we had to do whatever we could to make those fish bite.”
The most tense moment of the day was bringing a cantankerous big fish to the boat. Oddly enough, their largest was not the trouble-maker.
“Our (8.57) just kinda did her thing, but that 7-pounder Steve caught at 11 o’clock was a rodeo,” Woods said. “That fish went under the boat, came up the other side, back under the boat, around the side. We thought for sure she was going to end up in the trolling motor. The big fish was really drama free; she didn’t get crazy on us.
For their efforts Woods and Phillips earned a Ranger Z519 with a 225 Mercury. In addition, they claimed $2,085 of Anglers Advantage cash. Their total payday was $52,180.
Catching bass on football head jigs is nothing unusual, especially on Sam Rayburn. But suspended fish? That certainly wasn’t what Brannon Mire and Ben Matsubu set out to do, but when opportunity knocked in a most unconventional way, the anglers flung open the door and welcomed a second-place limit of 23.21
Here’s how it went down. Mire and Matsubu were working brush on a large flat in the lake’s north end, but when that didn’t pan out, they started graphing the ends of the flat and points where the suspected they’d find more brush. They did, indeed, find two sweet looking structures, but this is where it gets crazy.
“Ben pulls us up on the brush pile and flips a jig into it, he took he Minn Kota Ultex off Spot Lock and as the boat backed up into about 40 feet, those fish followed us out — I guess because of the shade of the boat,” Mire said.
Coming from right off their shallow presentations, the anglers were still holding rods rigged with 5/8-ounce Talon Football jigs and Yamamoto Twin Tail Big Bite Baits Cane Thumper trailers. Seeing the fish clearly on the graph, the anglers simply dropped their baits and caught their fish while they suspended about 15 feet below the boat.
“Ben caught a 10.25 (the event’s big bass) that morning, then we went shallow because we knew there was a shad spawn happening,” Mire said. “We didn’t catch anything big, so we went back out to those brush piles to duplicate that same pattern.
“We sat on those brush piles for 5-10 minutes, took the Ultrex off Spot Lock, let the wind drift us back and those fish followed us again. They stayed on the graph and we sat there and caught probably 15 fish. It was something. This a brand new technique that we just stumbled onto.”
Odd? Yes, but who’s gonna argue with success?
For second place, Mire and Matsubu earned $8,139, which included $1,529 in Anglers Advantage cash, $1,060 for the big bass and a $250 Mercury bonus.
Richard and Ronnie Madole didn’t catch a lot of fish, but they caught the right ones. Leveraging this quality-over-quantity outcome led them to a third-place finish with 20.94.
Fishing the upper end near the 103 Bridge, the anglers targeted a point in 11-13 feet.
“They were coming and feeding on that point early in the morning,” Richard said. “We found these fish last Saturday before cutoff. We found them at 1 o’clock; it was the last place we went to look at.
“We went to this spot first thing and they bit for about 30 minutes. We had a 6 1/2, a 4 1/2 and a 3 off that one spot. Then we had another spot around the bridge where we caught a 4 1/2 and a 2 1/2. We probably didn’t catch eight fish all day.”
Most of the Madoles’ bigger fish bit on a chartreuse/blue Strike King 6XD. The others bit a 3/4-ounce V&M football head with a tilapia color swimbait trailer.
For third place, the Madoles earned $3,930, which included a $500 Garmin bonus and a $250 Ranger bonus.
Boulware-Collins fourth, Wise-Bryan fifth
Clayton Boulware and Albert Collins weighed five bass worth 20.93 pounds, taking fourth place and earning $4,010. Behind them was Cody Wise and Zachary Bryan with 20.77 pounds. For fifth place, they earned $1,590.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 teams at the 2020 Texas Team Trail event on Sam Rayburn:
6th: Anthony Jones and Ed Melton — 20.72
7th: Kurt Luker and Jason Stovall — 19.92
8th: Alan Moore and Robert Davis — 19.41
9th: Jeff Randolph and Joe Byrd — 18.54
10th: Shaine Campbell and Chuck Ware — 18.47