Canadian Sim 28th and Richardson 88th
by Justin Onslow
FLW PRESS RELEASE
FLW Tour rookie Nick LeBrun is no stranger to Sam Rayburn Reservoir, but that doesn’t necessarily explain his day one eruption on the Tour’s first stop of the 2019 season. Abnormally high water levels at Rayburn this week have all but eliminated the “local advantage” for the lake’s regulars, but LeBrun still found a way to sack up 29 pounds, 2 ounces to kick off the tournament and pace the rest of the 170-angler field.
|Great start to the 2019 season. Rayburn is flooded and warm.|
The Bossier City, La., native has fished Rayburn and Toledo Bend perhaps as much as any southern lake. He considers both to be his home lakes, though his focus for the last month-plus has been on Rayburn and the Tour’s first event of the year. Still, preparation only goes so far when a lake’s water level is nearly 10 feet above full pool.
“The lake’s never been this high, and I really didn’t know what it was going to do,” he says. “Once I knew that some of my fish (from December prefishing) were still there, I had to spend a day or two to find out what’s going to be the deal to get them fired up where you can catch them one after the other.”
LeBrun spent most of the day — and caught most of his fish — throwing a crawfish color Bill Lewis 1/2-ounce Rat-L-Trap. He only needed a couple spots to do his damage.
“My marshal said I had a limit in like seven minutes after I went to the second spot,” LeBrun says. “I probably caught 20 fish today.”
Twenty wasn’t a gaudy total for day one at Rayburn — several anglers mentioned catching upwards of 60 keepers — but LeBrun found the right mix of quantity and quality. He did so to the tune of his best-ever individual limit in a tournament.
And he sure picked a good day to do it.
Sam George – 28-5 (5)
LeBrun outpaced fellow rookie Sam George on day one, but not by much. The 23-year-old Athens, Ala., pro appeared to be headed for the top spot at weigh-ins before being bumped to second by LeBrun’s monster stringer. He finished the day just 14 ounces short of the outright lead.
“I really—and I know everybody’s going to think I’m lying—but I really only had one good bite the entire practice,” he says. “It was on a deal that felt like it had potential, but I really only had one area that had what I was looking for.”
George ran around looking for similar areas throughout the day, and he found one at 8 o’clock that produced a near 6-pounder. From there, he continued to roll, filling out his limit and culling up to his eventual 28-pound, 5-ounce stringer, thanks in large part to a 9-3 behemoth.
“They’re pre-spawn fish, but they’re on a very specific kind of grass and a break line,” he admits. “I can’t find enough of it. I found one place in practice that had what I wanted.”
Chad Warren – 25-7 (5)
Chad Warren of Sand Springs, Okla., pulled six keepers off his first spot of the day and left plenty of meat on the bone for day one. If conditions hold, there’s a good chance he’ll get another crack at those same schools of fish on Friday that he opted to leave hungry and biting on Thursday.
“My practice wasn’t that great,” he says. “I actually got sick on Tuesday and didn’t even get to fish. I didn’t catch a fish over 4 pounds in practice.”
As it turns out, you don’t always have to find them in practice to crack them when it counts.
Jordan Osborne – 25-1 (5)
A 9-pound, 12-ounce monster largemouth helped propel Longview, Texas, pro Jordan Osborne to a 25-1 finish on day one, positioning him well within striking distance of the lead entering day two of the event.
Osborne primarily relied on a Carolina rig, a spinnerbait and a crankbait to piece together his massive bag, and given the fact that he’s taking off in the fourth spot tomorrow morning, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to utilize those techniques again on some of his best spots. Instead of guarding his honey holes — which Osborne admits was a necessity on Thursday — he’ll have time to get there first and clean up before anyone else gets a crack at it.
David Dudley – 24-3 (5)
As should be expected after a top-five showing on day one of a Tour event, Polaris pro David Dudley is guarded about how he did his damage on Rayburn. His limit of 24-3, after all, was one of only 10 limits of 20-plus pounds, and the rest of the field should be eager to find out how FLW’s all-time leading money winner got it done.
Suffice it to say, Dudley “caught them shallow and deep” with a variety of baits, a near 5 1/2-pounder anchoring the bag.
“It was a grind,” Dudley says. “It really was.”
A grind to the tune of 24-3 isn’t a bad grind to be on. Good work if you can get it.
John Cox is called “Tin Man” for a reason. Sure, it has a lot to do with his choice of wheeling and dealing from an aluminum rig, but it has just as much to do with his steely penchant for finding the one shallow-water technique no one else is employing and catching a bunch of fish with it.
Cox treated day one on Rayburn like late-August on, well, Rayburn, by tossing around a frog in what could probably be considered the only true skinny water on the engorged reservoir that is Rayburn right now. And, both surprisingly and unsurprisingly, Cox caught fish – 16-1 to be exact.
The land of giants
Prespawn at Rayburn is essentially a factory outlet store for mount-worthy largemouth. Water levels and a mild cold front did nothing to change that this week.
With a slew of 6-plus-pounders weighed in on Thursday, the shock value of monster bass lessened with each angler’s turn at the podium — almost, anyway.
It’s hard not to be shocked by 9-pounders, and even harder to not be shocked by a pair of 9-pound, 12-ounce hawgs weighed in by Scott Martin and Jordan Osborne. The duo split the day’s big bass payout ($250 each) and used those fish to put together top 10-worthy bags (Martin sits in 8th place with 22-2).
Costa FLW Series stalwart and FLW Tour rookie Ryan Salzman found a stretch of bank Thursday afternoon that produced scores of fish, and while most of them were of the non-culler variety, he did land a 4-pounder on that stretch to aid in compiling a 12-13 limit.
He found that stretch — not entirely by accident — but literally by way of an accident that left him unable to do much fishing during the official practice session at Rayburn.
“I cut my hand with a pair of scissors and I couldn’t fish in practice,” he admits.
Salzman didn’t need stitches—he says the wound was deep but not wide enough to require them—but his sore hand made casting and reeling painful and not altogether a smart idea. Instead, he spent a lot of time idling around and marking fish and structure. One of the areas Salzman graphed was the lucky stretch of bank that produced an abundant supply of limit-fillers.
Of the 170-angler field at Rayburn, only 44 failed to weigh in five fish. Only Rob Jordan (53rd place) weighed in fewer than five fish and still finished day one inside the top 100 places.
In total, 1,869 pounds and 3 ounces of fish — all of which made it to weigh-ins alive.
Top 10 pros
1. Nick LeBrun – Bossier City, La. – 29-2 (5)
2. Sam George – Athens, Ala. – 28-5 (5)
3. Chad Warren – Sand Springs, Okla. – 25-7 (5)
4. Jordan Osborne – Longview, Texas 25-1 (5)
5. David Dudley – Lynchburg, Va. – 24-3 (5)
6. Jim Tutt – Longview, Texas – 23-9 (5)
7. Troy Morrow – Eastanollee, Ga. – 22-12 (5)
8. Scott Martin – Clewiston, Fla. – 22-2 (5)
9. Bryan Thrift – Shelby, N.C. – 20-15 (5)
10. Terry Bolton – Benton, Ken. – 20-10 (5)