By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Many of the 80 anglers who competed in last week's MLF Bass Pro Tour event in Texas did a considerable amount of sight-fishing. That wasn't the case for 4th-place finisher Brent Chapman or 5th-place Brandon Coulter.
Chapman relied primarily on a bladed jig at both Lake Fork and Lake Athens (the latter was the site of the 10-angler Championship Round), and also did some flipping and threw a jerkbait a bit. Coulter cranked offshore at Fork and threw a wacky-rigged soft stickbait at Athens.
Following are some of the details of their programs.
4th: Brent Chapman
Chapman caught just one fish while ogling a bed and didn't even get a complete look at it ¬– he was completely clueless as to its size when he made the cast (it wasn't a monster). The rest of his bites all came from unseen fish.
"The key areas where I found fish, the conditions weren't great for sight-fishing – it was cloudy and rainy and kind of crappy," he said. "Whether they're bedding or not, I enjoy it more when I can't see them."
He plied spawning flats that were lined with reeds and had hydrilla or coontail in slightly deeper water. All of his fish came from depths of 4 feet or less.
"A lot of the bigger females were sitting out in the hydrilla. They were fat and healthy and they looked like pre-spawn fish.
"The biggest key for me was finding an area and committing to it and sticking with it. Instead of bailing (when he wasn't getting bites), I stuck it out and made the most of it, knowing they'd eventually turn on."
His rod was bent frequently on his practice day at Athens and he caught a 9-pounder on a jerkbait. In hindsight, he said he should've fish more away from the bank during the Championship Round, considering that Ott DeFoe caught his winning fish from depths in the 7-foot range.
Instead, he did pretty much the same thing he'd done at Fork in water that was a big dingier than what was found across most of the 1,800-acre impoundment.
"My Garmin LiveScope was very important for seeing the hydrilla," he said. "I could keep the bladed jig in the strike zone because I could see the edges so well."
> Bladed jig gear: 7'3" medium-heavy KastKing Speed Demon rod, KastKing Bassinator Elite casting reel (6.4:1 ratio), 20-pound Gamma fluorocarbon line, unnamed 3/8-ounce bladed jig (black/blue or white), unnamed 4" swimbait trailer (colors to match jigs).
> He flipped a 4" craw imitation (black/blue) on a 5/0 Trokar hook under a 3/8-ounce weight.
Brandon Coulter's cranking routine resulted in him winning qualifying Group B and advancing straight to the Championship Round.
5th: Brandon Coulter
Coulter showed up at Fork with the notion to locate offshore fish.
"It was really a matter of necessity, I guess," he said. "I'm a pretty good sight-fisherman around the house, but some of those guys (on the BPT) are hard to compete with. I don't see them as good as some other guys do and if I can figure out something else, that's what I'm going to do."
He idled around for two practice days and located four groups of fish, but only two paid dividends in competition. He caught a 9-pounder and a 6 from one locale and a pair of 7s from others.
He estimated that 80 percent of the fish he caught were pre-spawners and the others post-spawn. One of his key places was about 10 feet deep and he worked it over with a Rapala DT10. The other was 16 feet and he used a Rapala DT16 and a Norman DD22.
He won the Group B qualifying portion and thus got to sit out the Knockout Round. He'd hoped to crank at Athens in the Championship Round, but he found that the hydrilla there was soft and he couldn't bring his bait through without the hooks picking up grass.
He ended up blind-casting to beds with the wacky-rigged, weightless stickbait. He said that about one out of every 10 beds was occupied by a willing fish.
"I got on that stupid wacky worm in the morning and it kept me in the game for a while. I thought about going and doing other things, but in my mind I was keeping pace."
Other baits that produced scoreable fish during the event were a Carolina rig, a dropshot rig and a bucktail jig.
> Cranking gear: 7'4" medium-heavy or 7'11" heavy-action Savage Gear Squad rod, unnamed casting reel, 12-pound Berkley Trilene 100% fluorocarbon line, Rapala DT10 (old school), Rapala DT16 (parrot) or Norman DD22 (shad).
> Worm gear: 7'1" medium-action Savage Gear Black Ops rod, unnamed spinning reel, unnamed 15-pound braided line (main line), 10-pound Berkley Trilene 100% fluorocarbon (18' leader, size 1 VMC Neko hook, Savage Gear Armor Tube (black/blue).