By BassFan Staff
The State Fair of Texas is about to kick off its third and final week tomorrow, but fairgoers in Dallas haven’t experienced a roller-coaster ride with anywhere near the peaks and valleys that the pros have at the Sam Rayburn Reservoir FLW Tour Open over the past 3 days.
The makeup of the Top 10 changed significantly again today as some anglers just couldn’t shy away from their pursuit of the difference-making big bites, which have been at a premium this week, and got burned in the process. As Texas pro Tommy Durham said on stage today, “You live by the big bites and you die by them.”
It’s so true, because really how many people come to Rayburn to catch limits of 2-pounders?
So far, only leader Phil Marks and 2nd-place Keith Combs have been able to maintain any semblance of consistency to this point and they’ll head out tomorrow separated by less than a pound atop the standings. The rest of the Top 10 will enter the final day at least 9 pounds out of the lead, making it essentially a 1-day match-fishing shootout between the two friends from Texas.
Marks wrangled the day’s best stringer, an 18-01 limit to give him 49-04 and a 14-ounce lead over day-2 leader Combs, who caught 14-15 for a 48-06 total. They were only anglers today to crack 14 pounds, illustrating the shortage of big bites.
Here’s how tough it was today: Jason Wells caught four fish for 11-02, endured an 8-ounce dead-fish penalty and still managed to jump five places in the standings to 3rd with 40-04. Landan Ware rose from 11th to 4th with an 11-10 bag that gave him 39-08 while Darrell Davis hooked 11-03 to move up from 10th to 5th with 39-01.
Ray Hanselman was the biggest mover upward for the second straight day, advancing seven spots to 10th, thanks to his 12-07 bag that gave him 37-07. Randall Tharp jumped six spots to 7th while Chad Grigsby moved up five places to 9th.
Here's a look at the Top 10 who’ll fish tomorrow, with deficit margin from Marks indicated by red numbers in parentheses:
1. Phil Marks: 49-04
2. Keith Combs: 48-06 (00-14)
3. Jason Wells: 40-04 (9-00)
4. Landan Ware: 39-08 (9-12)
5. Darrell Davis: 39-01 (10-03)
6. Jacob Wheeler: 38-15 (10-05)
7. Randall Tharp: 38-12 (10-08)
8. Matt Herren: 38-07 (10-13)
9. Chad Grigsby: 37-09 (11-11)
10. Ray Hanselman: 37-07 (11-13)
Rayburn’s unpredictable nature this week resulted in several pros falling out of the Top 10 today. Todd Castledine fell swiftly from 2nd to 16th after catching just two for 4 pounds while day-1 leader J.T. Kenney mustered 6-03, but dropped from 4th to 12th. Mike Surman weighed two for 5-09, but he also missed the final-day cut by falling from 6th to 15th. John Cox came into today in 9th, but his 9-01 limit pushed him back to 11th, 3 ounces out of 10th.
Rain is expected overnight and into tomorrow in the Zavalla and Lufkin areas and if the clouds hang around through the final day, it could dramatically help the bite much like the cloudy conditions did during practice.
Marks Caught Two Big ‘Uns Early
> Day 3: 5, 18-01 (15, 49-04)
Marks stuck with his deep-first, shallow-second strategy and it paid off as he boated 5- and 7-pounders on consecutive casts early in the morning to set the tone. But he felt like he left some good fish in the lake today as he suspects he could’ve come in with close to 22 pounds.
“I felt like I had a chance to have a really good bag because I caught two good fish early,” he said. “I had a chance to build on them, but the rest of the day I only caught one 3 1/2-pounder and managed to jump off a couple more. I’d fished flawlessly up until today.”
He had four in the box when he made the move to shallow water around 10 a.m., but it wasn’t as productive as he expected it to be, especially with the wind blowing like it did.
“I caught three more keepers and lost three others,” he said. “My batting average wasn’t real good. They were more scattered and harder to pinpoint. I couldn’t see the little clumps of grass. I was throwing a little crankbait and a spinnerbait around. I couldn’t position the bait as effectively and when I would get bit, they just weren’t eating it. Even the ones I caught were just barely hooked. I very well could’ve lost them all. Yesterday, I didn’t lose any. It was a completely different deal. It was pretty amazing.
Keith Combs is banking on an afternoon bite tomorrow.
“I’m a little worried about that, but this whole tournament, from the first day of practice, I knew it all hinged on what happens during those first 2 hours out deep which has been typical. It’s been that way for about 4 or 5 years. If I get a couple of those right bites early, then the rest of the day it’s pretty easy. If I don’t, then it’s going to be a long day for me.”
He won’t get wrapped up in worrying about what Combs is catching tomorrow.
“I’m really just fishing against myself,” he said. “Keith and I are good friends and we signed him to Strike King within the last year and we’ve worked together on some product development. If one of us gets a chance to catch a big one tomorrow and if we execute, that’ll be the guy who’ll probably win the thing.
“This is my first FLW Tour event, but it’s not my first tournament so I’m trying to keep it in perspective. It’s still fishing and you still have to go catch them. I don’t get wrapped up in the money or fame or all these interviews. I’m fishing because I love to fish and love to compete and we’ll see how it plays out.”
2nd: Combs Caught Numbers
> Day 3: 5, 14-15 (15, 48-06)
Combs isn’t ready to concede that the pros in 3rd through 10th are out of contention just yet even though he caught about 30 keepers today.
“It’s Rayburn – anything’s possible,” he said. “It doesn’t seem like the topwater deal up shallow is playing into this tournament at all, but they can. Somebody could show up on a spot where they hadn't caught any fish and catch 25 pounds in an hour. I don’t want to say it’s a two-man race just because this lake’s not even showing its true potential at all.”
While he caught plenty of numbers this morning, he didn’t stick a 3-pounder until noon. He then moved to a spot that had produced later in day on day 2 and made three upgrades in the final hour. He’s hopeful that his timing is right again tomorrow.
“Today went pretty smooth,” he said. “I never went shallow. I just wrote that off. We had a short day so you really had to get with it. That hurt me, too, because I have this one spot where I left them biting yesterday and I started on it today, but didn’t catch anything. I went back to it around noon and my co-angler caught a 4 1/2-pounder. I came back to it at 2 and it was just like yesterday – every throw I’d catch a good fish.
“I think if that spot will continue to produce and I can catch a good one earlier on, it could get interesting. I’m pretty sure Phil’s going to catch them. He’s definitely on some fish if you look at his co-angler’s weights and his weights. If somebody doesn’t just bust a giant bag from behind us, it’s going to be between me and him and it’ll boil down to who catches a big one tomorrow.”
Jason Wells has lost some quality fish this week.
3rd: Wells Thrilled
> Day 3: 4, 11-02 (14, 40-04)
It’s not often an angler comes in one fish shy of a limit and advances five spots in the standings, but that’s how Wells found himself in 3rd today. If not for a few missed opportunities earlier in the week, this might be a three-man race at the top.
“I’ve just gotten lucky and got some quality bites, but I’ve lost some that are going to come back to haunt me for sure,” he said. “I have no gripes and no complaints. I’m just proud to be here.”
He jumped off a 4 today, lost a 7-pound class specimen yesterday had a 6-pounder come unbuttoned on day 1. Still, he’s thrilled to have qualified for the final day in his first FLW Tour event.
“It’s overwhelming. It’s pretty surreal,” he added. “I sit and watch these events on TV at the house and you dream of maybe being up there one day in the Top 10. I decided to get out there and fish one since it was close to home and here it is.”
He’s been cranking deep ledges this week and trying to target areas holding bigger fish. He’s been fishing seven different areas, but the winds today kept him off some main-lake stuff. If he’s able to connect on a few good ones, he might be able to put some pressure on Marks and Combs if they both stumble.
“They would have to really slip up tomorrow,” he said. “A 20-pound sack is not too far-fetched if I can get the bites and get them in the boat.”
He thinks he’s still around those quality-type fish.
“I’ve been fishing them for 3 days, though, so I hope they hold up for 1 more day for me,” he added.
4th: Ware Only Caught 8
> Day 3: 5, 11-10 (15, 39-08)
Like Wells, this event is Ware’s first taste of the FLW Tour and to make the final-day cut is something he never could’ve imagined.
“It’s actually one of the bigger accomplishments of my life,” he said. “I’ve been in the Top 10 in EverStarts and Texas Tournament Trails, but I haven’t ever cracked a check out of my pocket for $4,000 to go fishing. I’m just beside myself. I’m glad that I put the money up. It’s just great.”
After getting bit in some areas today where he hadn’t caught anything, he was surprised the weights came down today, but he thinks the wind had a role in that.
“You can’t got out and say, ‘I’m going to catch them deep or I’m going to catch them shallow,’ because you just don’t know right now,” he said.
He caught eight keepers today, by far his worst day as far as numbers go, but he’s committed to a mix of deep and shallow water. His best fish have been coming out of deep water with a Rapala DT-22 crankbait.
“There are certain drains and there are certain brush piles that fish just like to get on and those are the ones you try to milk-run and hope that somebody else isn’t on them,” he said.
Darrell Davis is pretty confident he can catch a solid stringer tomorrow.
5th: Davis Left Them Biting
> Day 3: 5, 11-03 (15, 39-01)
Davis has been starting his days over deep water casting crankbaits, jigging spoons and Carolina rigs depending on how the fish are positioned. Today, he weighed two fish out of the depths and the rest came flipping matted grass once the sun came up.
“I’m thinking I’m going to be good tomorrow because my co-anglers have really been beating me up,” he said. “I’ve been fishing open water and you really can’t do anything to stop them from catching them. Tomorrow, if I can keep my boat positioned good I might be able to do better.”
He’ll start deep again, but he’s noticed the schools he marked in practice have gotten progressively smaller with the weather warming up through the week. That’s made them tougher to cach.
“When they do group up, they’re so tight on one little spot you have got to make the perfect cast from the right angle,” he said. “Maybe tomorrow, the wind won’t be so bad and I’ll be able to do that.
“I think I still have fish to catch. I’ve been leaving them biting every day and then going to other spots. I left a bunch of fish today that I think I can catch tomorrow.”
16th: Castledine Was Hunting Win
> Day 3: 2, 4-00 (12, 35-06)
Castledine’s offshore spots seemed to be adversely affected by today’s south wind.
“The wind definitely messed me up,” he said. “That deep-water fishing can go either way like that. That’s why it always scares me out there. The wind moved the bait around. Every time I pulled up to an area, I’d see all the bait way off from where I was supposed to be fishing and it started right off the bat for me like that.”
Instead of punting and heading to shallow stuff where he could scrounge out a limit, he opted to stay deep for the majority of the day, hoping to he’d collide with a giant or two.
“Being a local, I knew what I could go catch in the grass, but I knew that wasn’t going to be good enough to stay in the Top 2 or 3 and have a chance to win it,” he said. “Looking back, I probably should’ve gone and fished the grass and caught 8 or 10 pounds. I did that the last 15 or 20 minutes and caught four fish. I just didn’t think 6 pounds was going to get me in. I just didn’t get bit today.
“After the day I had yesterday, it’s hard to be disappointed. I fish a lot of tournaments and there are tournaments where you know you’re on them and this week the fish kept changing on me and I just didn’t adjust good enough today. I didn’t go out to make the Top 10. I can’t bring myself to fish that way. I knew I had to catch a pretty good sack to stay up there with Keith and Phil and I didn’t really care about a Top 10. I wanted to win it. I’m not saying that’s why I didn’t catch them. It’s why I didn’t go do other stuff.”
> Day 3 stats – 20 anglers, 12 limits, 4 fours, 3 twos, 1 one.
> Sun., Oct. 14 – Showers Likely - 86°/67°
- Wind: From the SSW at 5 to 8 mph
Day 3 Standings
1. Phil Marks -- Dallas, Tx -- 17-01 (5) -- 14-02 (5) -- 18-01 (5) -- 49-04 (15)
2. Keith Combs -- Huntington, Tx -- 16-12 (5) -- 16-11 (5) -- 14-15 (5) -- 48-06 (15)
3. Jason Wells -- Center, Tx -- 12-00 (5) -- 17-02 (5) -- 11-02 (4) -- 40-04 (14)
4. Landan Ware -- Jewett, Tx -- 13-13 (5) -- 14-01 (5) -- 11-10 (5) -- 39-08 (15)
5. Darrell Davis -- Dover, Fl -- 13-01 (5) -- 14-13 (5) -- 11-03 (5) -- 39-01 (15)
6. Jacob Wheeler -- Indianapolis, In -- 9-13 (5) -- 19-15 (5) -- 9-03 (5) -- 38-15 (15)
7. Randall Tharp -- Gardendale, Al -- 11-04 (5) -- 15-07 (5) -- 12-01 (5) -- 38-12 (15)
8. Matt Herren -- Trussville, Al -- 14-13 (5) -- 15-11 (5) -- 7-15 (4) -- 38-07 (14)
9. Chad Grigsby -- Maple Grove, Mn -- 13-07 (5) -- 12-11 (5) -- 11-07 (5) -- 37-09 (15)
10. Ray Hanselman -- Del Rio, Tx -- 8-07 (5) -- 16-09 (5) -- 12-07 (5) -- 37-07 (15)
The following anglers did not make the cut and will not fish on day 4.
11. John Cox -- Debary, Fl -- 14-00 (5) -- 14-04 (5) -- 9-01 (5) -- 37-05 (15) -- $8,710
12. J.T. Kenney -- Palm Bay, Fl -- 19-06 (5) -- 11-07 (5) -- 5-11 (4) -- 36-08 (14) -- $8,710
13. Tommy Durham -- Whitney, Tx -- 17-02 (5) -- 10-04 (3) -- 8-13 (2) -- 36-03 (10) -- $8,710
14. Dave Lefebre -- Erie, Pa -- 12-14 (5) -- 11-09 (5) -- 11-03 (5) -- 35-10 (15) -- $8,710
15. Mike Surman -- Boca Raton, Fl -- 11-07 (5) -- 18-08 (5) -- 5-09 (2) -- 35-08 (12) -- $8,710
16. Todd Castledine -- Nacogdoches, Tx -- 11-10 (5) -- 19-12 (5) -- 4-00 (2) -- 35-06 (12) -- $8,343
17. Jim Tutt -- Longview, Tx -- 8-12 (5) -- 15-10 (5) -- 10-09 (5) -- 34-15 (15) -- $8,343
18. Jason Reyes -- Huffman, Tx -- 6-04 (4) -- 19-04 (5) -- 9-04 (5) -- 34-12 (14) -- $8,343
19. Chris Baumgardner -- Gastonia, NC -- 9-07 (5) -- 15-02 (5) -- 6-14 (4) -- 31-07 (14) -- $8,343
20. Tim Reneau -- Del Rio, Tx -- 8-11 (5) -- 16-10 (5) -- 1-15 (1) -- 27-04 (11) -- $8,343