by Brett Carlson
CORSICANA, Texas – After nearly ideal conditions at the first two Texas Team Trail events of the 2016 season, Mother Nature delivered a high pressure cold front just in time for stop No. 3 at the Richland Chambers Reservoir. With temperatures barely reaching 60 degrees and a brisk north wind gusting up to 30 mph, bass fishing was more of a chore than a pleasure. As the old adage says, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Dennis Matlock and Don McFarlin got going early, taking advantage of a small feeding window to put 25 pounds in the boat. Despite not getting a bite for the last five hours of the tournament, the two won by nearly a 3-pound margin.
“Last night we talked about the cold front and what it would do to the frog bite, which was how we were catching them in practice,” said Matlock. “So we decided to switch to a Craw Worm and a Brush Hog.”
The two started in a pocket on the south end of the lake where they had located a few spawning bass.
“We went to one spot where we knew a good one was located on bed. Within five minutes, we caught our biggest fish of the day – a 5.56. So we fished around some and then went back thinking there might be another male on the same spot. But we caught another female that went about 5 pounds. Then I caught a 3-pounder fishing behind someone. After a few minutes, we went over to a flat and caught two more to give us our five. Finally, Don caught another 5-pounder that culled a 3-pounder. That was at 9:35 this morning and it was our last bite of the day.”
Matlock explained that there were several other boats in the area, but none were using soft plastics.
“The guys all around us were throwing frogs, because that’s what they were biting. Starting with the plastics was a huge factor. We made the right choice at the right time; it was just a picture perfect day for us.”
As the north wind strengthened throughout the day, the water on the south end turned muddier and muddier and the fish shut down. Matlock and McFarlin did their damage just in the nick of time.
“They were on beds, but we weren’t sight-fishing,” added Matlock. “A couple of them were pretty much spawned out. The fish were shallow, I mean real shallow – like 12 or 14 inches. We were fishing these shorter weeds – throwing into the pockets.”
Both the Craw Worm and the Brush Hog were Zoom baits. Both were also Texas-rigged with 3/16-ounce weights.
“A combination of starting with plastics and downsizing weights was the key. We were catching them while everyone else was still trying to figure it out. We were just one step ahead today.”
For an official weight of 25.15 pounds, Matlock and McFarlin earned a Triton 189 TRX with a 150-horsepower Mercury outboard. Combined with $2,040 of Anglers Advantage cash, their total prize package was $30,535.
“I haven’t won a tournament since 2001, so it’s been a while,” said Matlock. “I had two back surgeries last summer and I’m doing better now than I have in like eight years. I guess you could say it’s a bit of a comeback.”
Millender and Cannon runners up
Second-place finishers Randy Millender and Ricky Cannon stuck with their sight-fishing program on the north end throughout the day. Instead of throwing their baits at specific fish, they would fan-cast the area near nests.
“We only had about three spots we were wanting to fish,” said Millender. “Fortunately, they were on the north side and out of the wind. We started in the back of a creek we know. There was one boat where we wanted to go, so we tried another spot first. Eventually, they left so we went in there and caught a few.”
Millender and Cannon received only eight bites all day. They caught everything that bit, with six of those fish being keepers. Their final weight for five bass was 22.65 pounds.
“They weren’t on the beds. The wind was so strong today that it stained up. The high pressure moved them a bit too. They didn’t move too far – like 5 or 10 feet off. We never saw any bass at all today. We just knew the fish were in there and were committed. So we’d fan-cast the area.
“We caught everything on tubes and creature baits in 2 feet or less,” added Millender. “We used the Lake Fork Baby Fork Creature in black neon and Bass Pro Shops tubes in black neon.”
With four minutes left in the tournament, Cannon caught a 5-plus that culled out a 2-pounder. For second place, the two earned a total paycheck of $6,646.
“It’s always great to get a check against these guys; I’ll take second anytime.”
Stevens and Clark third
Jeff Stevens and Brian Clark took third place with a 22.59-pound stringer, earning $4,450. They caught their fish on a variety of baits including a frog, a swim jig, a craw and a tube.
“Every fish we caught was on a bed, but we couldn’t see them,” said Stevens. “We started on a fish we knew and right away it blew up on our frog, but missed it. While my partner is trying to get her to bite, a different fish, a 4 1/2-pounder comes and eats my frog. But we never got the other fish to bite.”
After catching another small keeper, the two left the area and ran across to another pocket. There they caught two more keeper bass – one on the Spro frog and one on the homemade swim jig.
“Those fish couldn’t have been in more than 12 inches of water, maybe 10. The water is falling fast. The places we fished, some of them looked too shallow for there to be a bass there.”
After checking several other areas only to discover they were blown out, Stevens and Clark went back to their primary area.
“Just as I was crossing the pocket to head to the other side I saw the thickest clump of willows. So I pitched in there and as soon as the Chigger Craw hit the bottom I felt the thump. She got all wrapped up and I thought I lost her. Nine out of 10 times you do lose that fish. But we landed her; it was our fifth fish with probably 30 minutes left in the day.”
With only 5 minutes left, Clark caught a 4 3/4-pounder that culled out the 14-incher. It was their only cull of the tournament.
“We closed out the day with two fish that made a big difference. Usually in springtime tournaments, especially with cold fronts, they bite best in the afternoon. So we always tell ourselves, let’s be on the best water in the middle of the day.”
Stevens credited lure variety and speed as the key to their presentation.
“Literally we switched rods out every three to four casts. Some of those fish had six or seven boats go across them today. A lot of people were throwing Senkos and fishing slow. We were triggering more of a reaction strike, especially with the swim jig. We were making longer casts and then reeling it so fast they didn’t have time to think about it. We both like to fish fast and fish shallow.”
Setina-Walker fourth, Sullivan-Wilkinson fifth
For the second consecutive tournament, Joe Setina and Aaron Walker took fourth place. At Richland Chambers, the two weighed 20.15 pounds and earned $3,466. Behind them was Timothy Temple and Tyler Bradfield, who caught 18.61 pounds and won $1,545. Both teams brought five-bass limits to the scale.
Big fish honors went to Neal Childers and Ben Fuller, who caught an 8.30-pound largemouth. That fish alone earned them $1,030.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 teams at the 2016 Texas Team Trail event on Richland Chambers:
6th: Joseph Goodrum and Rick Witten, 17.19
7th: David Curtis and Mark Mueck, 17.02
8th: Caleb Young and Jason Rogers, 16.77
9th: James Martin Sr. and Terry Stevens, 16.26
10th: Chad Adkins and Clint Abernathy, 15.25
The fourth qualifier of the 2016 Texas Team Trail season is slated for April 16 on Lake Texoma.