JASPER, Texas – As the field returned to the Umphrey Family Pavilion to weigh their fish, many had a look of defeat. After battling wind, rain and dropping temperatures Ray Hanselman of Del Rio, Texas, claimed the top spot with a 21-pound, 5-ounce limit in the opening round of the Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division on Sam Rayburn.
Out of the 112 pros that started the day, only 27 of them managed to find a limit. This only reinforced much of the dock talk that Rayburn was not in the giving mood.
One guy who did get to sample the good side of Rayburn was Hanselman. He had a spectacular day considering the conditions and is reliving the Rayovac FLW Series event that was held here last October.
“I was leading after day one last year at this event,” said Hanselman who went on to take third in that tournament. “I know how this goes and the pressure there is to catch them for several days.
“I had probably 30 bites today and caught 25 of them. I made about a 20 mile run and fished one big area the entire day – it’s about the size of a football field. The area is a staging flat for these fish before they spawn. It has a bunch of grass with a channel swing nearby and is loaded with bass.”
When Hanselman found these fish in practice they were chomping a trap but today he could only coax one to eat it.
“I caught one fish on a trap this morning but otherwise the rest all came by slow rolling a swimbait,” Hanselman explained. “I fish a lot of swimbaits on Lake Amistad and caught a lot of fish in practice with it here. My co-angler actually started out throwing one and it was the only color those fish wanted. After a little bit he loaned me one and we caught them all day.”
Hanselman has two spots similar to the one he fished today and never even touched them. These staging areas are loaded with 3 ½- to 5-pounders. The other thing he has going is that his primary spot doesn’t have many other boats nearby for competition.
“The nice thing about fish that live in the grass is that they don’t leave. With all of the weather they may shut down, but they won’t leave. There is still a lot of fishing left but I feel pretty confident with the pattern I am doing.”
In what could be considered a homecoming of sorts for Chevy pro Jay Yelas, it seems only fitting that he would haul in the second largest bag of the day on his favorite lake to fish. His weight of 18-8 is impressive considering he received 1/6 the bites of the leader.
“The fishing was really off,” said Yelas. “I have seen days out here that were just like this and the fish went nuts. I thought it would be way better. I only had five bites the whole day and I was very happy to get those.”
Like Hanselman, Yelas is also targeting grass in 5 to 10 feet of water. He alternated a variety of baits and meticulously combed through one area.
“It’s just a grind fishing through the same water all day,” said the Corvallis, Ore., resident. “It makes it even tougher with this weather. I have been doing this a long time and I think this was one of the toughest days of fishing weather wise that I have been a part of. Between the wind and driving rain it makes it so tough to function.
“I know there are a lot more fish there from what I saw in practice and because I can see them on my Humminbird electronics. They just don’t want to eat.”
Yelas’ bag consisted of two solid fish – a 5-pounder and 4-pounder – but it was his co-angler Ted Robbins who really opened his eyes to the spots true potential. Robbins hooked up with a monster early in the morning on a spinnerbait. That fished tipped the scales at 10-13, taking big bass honors for the co-anglers. Yelas is hopeful there are more like that one waiting for him.
“I plan to go fish that same area tomorrow. That fish Ted caught was so beautiful and I’m excited to get back out there. That is the beautiful thing about Rayburn – you never know when you might hook a double-digit fish.”
Branum in third
Branum has four career top-10 finishes in Rayovac FLW Series competition including a seventh-place showing on Sam Rayburn back in 2007.
“It was pretty tough out there today,” said Branum. “I only got nine bites throughout the day.”
Stricklin Jr., Case round out top five
James Stricklin Jr. of Texarkana, Texas, claims the fourth position after day one with a five-bass limit weighing 15-15.
Rounding out the top five would be Robert Case of Point, Texas, with a limit weighing 15-5.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top-10 pros after day one in the Rayovac FLW Series event:
6th: Keith Combs of Huntington, Texas, five bass, 15-1
7th: Larry Nixon of Bee Branch, Ark., five bass, 14-7
8th: Chris McCall of Brookeland, Texas, five bass, 14-5
9th: Jim Phillips of Greenwood, Miss., four bass, 14-3
10th: Albert Collins of Nacogdoches, Texas, five bass, 13-6
Gates leads co-anglers
Leading the event after day one for the co-anglers is Jason Gates of Kountze, Texas, with a rare limit that weighed 15 pounds. Gates has just one top 10 to his credit which came last year in the Rayovac FLW Series on Toledo Bend. He carries a mere 3-ounce lead into day two.
Clint Farris of Joshua, Texas, only managed to catch four bass today, but they were the right ones. His total after day one is an impressive 14-13 which should easily keep him in contention.
Keith Honeycutt of Temple, Texas, is as decorated of a co-angler as they come. He boasts four wins from the back of the boat – three of which are from Rayovac FLW Series competition the other came last year on the Walmart FLW Tour Grand Lake stop. He sits in third place thanks to a limit weighing 14-12.
Harris, Wilson round it out
Andrew Harris of Jackson, Miss., sits in fourth place with a day-one limit that weighed 14-1.
Dan Wilson of Pilot Point, Texas, round out the top five with four bass weighing 13 pounds.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top-10 co-anglers in the Rayovac FLW Series event after day one:
6th: Robert Peduto of Kimberling City, Mo., three bass, 11-15
7th: Larry Regina of South Bend, Ind., four bass, 10-14
8th: Ted Robbins of Longview, Texas, one bass, 10-13
9th: Neil Herline of Silsbee, Texas, three bass, 8-8
10th: James Callaghan of De Berry, Texas, three bass, 8-3
Anglers will take off from the Umphrey Family Pavilion located at 5438 RR 255 W. in Brookeland, Texas, at 7:30 a.m. each day. Weigh-in will be held at the takeoff location on Thursday and Friday beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday’s final weigh-in will be held at Walmart located at 800 W. Gibson St. in Jasper, Texas, beginning at 4 p.m. Takeoffs and weigh-ins are free and open to the public.
With a winter weather advisory for the area starting this evening and running through the morning, Rayovac FLW Series officials will determine if conditions will be safe for day two early tomorrow. Anglers will receive a text at 6 a.m. from the tournament officials with information regarding the status of the day.