Feb 10

BROOKELAND, Texas (Feb. 10, 2018) — Nearly surgical precision and disciplined patience proved to be the winning formula for Phil Marks and Tim Reneau, who won the second event of the 2018 Texas Team Trail, presented by Cabela’s, at a Sam Rayburn Reservoir. Sacking up a massive 5-fish limit of 37.04 pounds, the Texas duo won by nearly a 7-pound margin.

Working the lake’s upper end, near the Highway 147 Bridge, the winners caught fish on two spots, which Reneau described as corners at the ends of ridges in 18-10 feet. Both anglers have decades of experience on Rayburn, but these particular areas were the ones Marks fished during a recent BFL win.

“They’re hard bottom with isolated stumps on them,” Marks said. “They have old spider stumps; you can see them on your down scan. I don’t know that we caught any that weren’t around stumps. I known the first 8-pounder I caught, my bait deflected off the stump and it locked up.”

Marks said his experience has taught him that the spots that produced are especially productive on the low, stable water conditions that Rayburn is currently experiencing. Classic prespawn staging areas, these waypoints were inexplicably unique.

“Over the course of the last six weeks, I’ve checked hundreds of spots just like them, but I could only count on these two places,” he said. “I don’t really know why. I’ve gotten a bite here and a bite there, but there have been schools of big ones in these two places.

“I fished stuff that was identical; same bottom topography, same depth, wind orientation, the whole nine yards and, I don’t know — they’re just little glory holes, I guess.”

With the day’s cloudy, foggy, rainy conditions, Marks said he knew they could expect a solid crankbait bite. True to form, a Strike King 8xd in chartreuse/blue and Tennessee shad tempted the giants; but the winners also caught a couple of fish — including one of the ones they weighed on a 1-ounce Strike King Denny Brauer Structure Jig (blue craw peanut butter) with a Junebug Strike King Rage Bug trailer.

“If we went around a corner and actually saw a couple of fish on the graph that didn’t eat the crankbait, we’d throw on top of them with a jig,” Reneau said. “We caught four on the crankbait and three on the jig.

“Someday, they want you hopping the jig; somedays they want you dragging it; this was just dragging it.”

Noting presentation specifics, Marks said that the angle at which he and Reneau approached the targets was critical. Random casts wouldn’t cut it with these picky prespawners and success required exacting performance.

“They wanted the bait going kinda quarter from shallow to deep,” Marks said. “If you went deep to shallow, you couldn’t get bit. When you’d get the angle right, you could duplicate it.

“On one spot, I caught three big ones on five casts. I’d already fished through it in a different direction and I spun around and fished it from a different. Those fish, no doubt, had already seen my bait, but it was the right angle. I got one to bite and that kinda triggered the school.”

Marks said he knew he and his partner weren’t fishing for a lot of bites. In fact, they knew that targeting the big prespawners meant they had to make the perfect casts and capitalize on every opportunity.

“I’d circle these fish and I went 360 around the tip of this little point and fish four or five different angles and finally got one to bite,” Marks said of a day-making flurry. “I caught three of our seven bites in five casts; one of those was a 6-pounder and one was an eight.”

Marks said he and his partner fished their crankbaits on 14-pound Gamma fluorocarbon and used 20-pound fluoro for the jigs. The fish, he said, were not feeding aggressively. Most were barely hooked.

“We were fortunate that we didn’t lose any because they were not hooked good,” Marks said. “When you see the fish and he’s hooked outside the mouth, you have to slow down and really take your time with him

For their efforts Marks and Reneau earned a Ranger Z518C with a 200-hp
Evinrude outboard. In addition, they claimed $3,180 of Anglers Advantage cash. Their total payday was $50,075.

Shook and Iles second

Rayburn holds a bunch of brush piles and the second-place team of Brian Shook and John Iles tried to hit as many as they could. Doing so led them to a hefty limit that weighed 30.07 pounds.

Starting uplake and working their way down to the midlake area, Shook and Iles targeted deep drop-offs with brush in 20-28 feet. They threw 6th Sense Cloud 9 C-20 and C-25 deep diving crankbaits in citrus shad, along with a Divine Structure Jig with a Strike King Rage Craw.

“We’ve been practicing and fishing some other trails recently and that’s just a pattern where we’ve been getting bit,” Shook said. “I think it’s about water temperature. We’ve had colder weather, so we were thinking the fish would be deeper this time of year.

“There was some bait in these areas, but we were mainly just running as many brush piles as we could. We were trying to hit the brush pile with the crankbait.”

Shook and Iles earned $9,957, which included $2,332 of Anglers Advantage cash.

Mansfield and Jones third

Targeting spots near the Highway 147 Bridge where they have significant history, Grover Mansfield and Dale Jones caught a limit that went 29.62 and earned them the third-place spot.

Mostly targeting open hard spots within the grass, the anglers caught their fish in 3-8 feet of water. Rat-L-traps in crawfish patterns produced all of their bites.

“Every day is different; you just have to figure out how they want to eat it,” Mansfield said. “Today, it was just slow rolling it like a spinnerbait. They were just set up on this spot and feeding heavy.

“About 9 o’clock, the fish shut down. We had all out weight before 9.”

Mansfield and Jones earned $7,045, which included $2,120 in Anglers Advantage cash.

McGaha-Wernecke fourth, Martin-Stevens fifth

Eric McGaha and Kris Wernecke weighed five bass worth 27.98 pounds, taking fourth place and earning $5,002. Behind them was James Martin and Terry Stevens with 26.11. For fifth place, they earned $4,052.50.

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 teams at the 2017 Texas Team Trail event on Sam Rayburn:


Up next

The third event of the 2018 season for the Texas Team Trail presented by Cabela's is slated for April 14 on Lake Amistad.