JASPER, Texas – In tough conditions and an even tougher bite there can be no better tool for an angler than experience. That’s where Chris McCall of Brookeland, Texas, comes into play. McCall consistently put fish in the boat this week to bring home his second Rayovac FLW Series title on Sam Rayburn with a two-day total weight of 33 pounds, 15 ounces.
McCall started his week with a solid limit of fish that weighed 14-8 to put him inside the top 10 despite the wind, rain and falling temperatures. As a winter storm rolled in and temps plummeted under freezing, Rayovac FLW Series officials decided to cancel day two of the event for safety of the anglers. This led to the decision to fish all 112 pros and 112 co-anglers today to decide the champion.
“I’m pretty grateful of the weather this week,” said McCall. “I think it helped me out. I fish tournaments on Rayburn basically every weekend and most of the time I can’t even get to the spots I want to fish because they are so crowded. But this week I got on spots that you just normally can’t.”
Being that the 43-year-old pro has such vast experience on Rayburn he didn’t feel the need to practice much.
“I fished a tournament out here last Saturday and another one on Sunday and did all right,” said the Texas pro who has 11 top 10s on Rayburn with FLW competition. “I went out for a little bit on Monday morning and tried some silly stuff on Wednesday but I pretty much knew what I wanted to do.”
McCall knew it would be one of the toughest tournaments he has fished when throwing traps has been in play. With this in mind he decided to make a milk run of areas he knew would produce the best.
“I fished the same 10 spots each day. The first day I had about 12 bites and was able to narrow down the heart of every spot for today. Basically, I was fishing around 20 miles up the lake by the 147 bridge in a square between four creeks. I focused on the outside grass edges in 5 to 8 feet of water. I was keying in on the main points on these spots where the drains were. The fish were up in the drains further on Thursday but the water temp dropped about 8 degrees today so those fish pulled back out some.
“I didn’t change anything up today from the first day. I caught my first fish around 8:30 this morning and that gave me hope that they would bite some. Once the water warmed up around 11 o’clock it was on. I caught a bunch of fish after that and around 1:30 I put a 6-pounder in the boat. I never thought I had a chance to winning when I started the day. But I ran into Jay Yelas (who started the day in second) around 2:30 and he said he had 1 fish and I thought that I might have a chance.”
McCall’s limit was one of only 15 brought to the stage and his weight of 19-10 was the second largest to hit the scales and secure the win by over 2 pounds.
His primary bait was the Rat-L-Trap. He had six different Rat-L-Traps tied on in a variety of colors including red, white craw and gold. McCall threw those on 17-pound fluorocarbon on a heavy action rod with a 6.1:1 gear ratio. He also caught some fish on a 6th Sense squarebill and a Santone football jig with a Gambler craw trailer.
In his free time he runs a Payday Loans business and is part owner of Sam Rayburn Tackle Monkey.
“This win feels good mostly because of the competition that was out here. The quality of fisherman that is on Rayburn is as good as anywhere. I’m just so excited.
“I also want to thank all my sponsors with a big thanks to my Legend boat and Evirude motor. That boat and motor made a big difference this week.”
McCall was awarded over $33,000 for his efforts this week.
Case has been out of the game for the past two years while he worked on his new business venture, Case Mobile Homes. Between that and busting his Achilles tendon last July there hasn’t been much time for fishing.
“I had a great time this week and it felt good to be back on the water,” said Case.
While many anglers struggled this week to catch a limit, Case was sorting through multiple limits each day.
“I made a long run this week way up north of the 147 bridge. It is a 100-yard long flat I found years ago and when the conditions get like this the fish stack up in it. The crazy thing is, it’s only about 5-feet deep. I stayed in that area both days just slinging traps. It was awesome. I had probably 25-30 bites a day and I bet I pulled six limits out of there over two days.
“When I got there today the water temp had dropped about 10 degrees to 43 degrees. The strange thing was that the big fish bit best in the first hour of the day.”
Case believes one of the biggest differences for him was using 12-pound fluorocarbon instead of the 17 or 20 pound that the majority of the field was using. He had five different Traps tied on to his rods – all some different variation of red.
Newberry notches third
The always dangerous Dicky Newberry of Houston, Texas, made a run at the top of the leaderboard with a limit weighing 17-3. In the end, his two-day total stood at 30-3 which was enough to land him in third place and close to $10,000 in winnings.
“I fished one spot the entire tournament,” Newberry stated. “I was worried my big motor wouldn’t start because I never fired it up until it was time to leave each day.”
Newberry didn’t want give out too much information about his spot but said it was in the mid-lake area. It featured a grass flat with an 8-foot deep drain that ran through it.
“I caught a 10-pounder off that spot last weekend. I went back on Monday and caught a 5-pounder so after that I just sat back the rest of the week.
“When I pulled in there Thursday I had a fish slap at my Trap and had her hooked – about a 6-pounder – but she came off near the boat. After that I bent my treble hooks out and started catching them a lot better.”
Newberry fished a different area to start the day but at 11o’clock with one fish decided it was time to adjust.
“I went back to where I lost that 6-pounder on Thursday and when I got there I put my Power-Poles down and never moved again. By 2 o’clock I had culled probably 10 times. The big key was keeping that Trap in contact with the grass and snapping it free when it got hung.”
His tackle this week consisted of a gold Strike King Red Eye Shad and a Rat-L-Trap in Rayburn Red. He matched those with 16-pound Sunline fluorocarbon on a 6.4:1 Lew’s reel and a 7-foot, 2-inch American Rodsmiths jig rod.
Branum down to fourth
After sitting in third after day one with 16-13, Brian Branum of Sam Rayburn, Texas, slipped a spot to fourth with a 12-6 limit today. His two-day total stands at 29-3 which earned him a check worth over $8,300.
Branum manages the Umphrey Family Pavilion which was the host of the tournament this week and is also a lure designer for Santone Lures. Because he lives on the lake he didn’t practice in the days leading up to the event.
“I had found an area with some good green hydrilla in it,” said Branum. “I caught a good one when I found it and then threw a Rat-L-Trap with bent hooks and had all kinds of fish slap at it.
“I actually made a gamble to start on that spot on the first day. It was a gamble because I didn’t really know the size of the fish that were in there but I felt confident.”
The grass flat was located in Ayish Bayou and was about the size of four or five football fields with several ditches running through it. Most of the grass was in 1½ to 4 feet of water with the ditches being about 10-feet deep.
“The bite was pretty tough on both days. I bet I caught one fish every hour on the first day. The problem was the fish were just so lethargic they would just slap the bait when you got one to react. I just kept ripping that Rat-L-Trap out of the grass and it paid off.
“The fish turned on today for about two hours despite the drop in water temperature. I caught one non-keeper and just those five keepers.”
Branum’s main bait was a Rat-L-Trap being ripped through the hydrilla, however, he did catch his kicker on day one with a ¾-ounce chartreuse and white Santone spinnerbait.
“This was my first FLW tournament from the front of the boat and this is awesome. Over the last two years Mercury has really been helping me out so I need to thank them. I’d also like to thank Lew’s reels and Falcon rods.
“My parents have put up with a lot from me over the years and I’m so thankful. And most of all I’d like to thank the lord.”
Local stud Jason Wells of Center, Texas, got off to a tough start this week. He sat tied in 19th with just four fish weighing 12 pounds. Wells found his groove today and sacked a limit weighing 16-9 bringing his total over two days to 28-9. That earned him over $7,400 in tournament winnings.
His fifth-place finish makes it Wells’ third top 10 on Rayburn in FLW events including his win last October at the final Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division event of 2013.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top-10 pros in the Rayovac FLW Series event on Sam Rayburn:
6th: Todd Castledine of Nacogdoches, Texas, nine bass, 27-5, $6,660
7th: James Stricklin Jr. of Texarkana, Texas, 10 bass, 26-2, $5,827
8th: Keith Combs of Huntington, Texas, 10 bass, 26-2, $4,995
9th: Ray Hanselman of Del Rio, Texas, six bass, 25-5, $4,162
10th: Clint West of Beaumont, Texas, 10 bass, 25-3, $3,330