Denny Brauer Wins Toledo Bend EverStart
Brauer still wasn't completely settled on a gameplan when the field took to the water on day 1. The docks where he'd gotten the bites in practice were nearby the launch in Hemphill, Texas, so he opted to start there. He made a pitch to a grassy area between two rows of docks and connected with a 6-11 that took big-bass honors. That fish, combined with four average speciments, allowed him to end the day in 3rd place, slightly more than 3 pounds off of Grice's 20-02 pace. Day 2 got off to an inauspicious start, but it got better as it wore on. "I re-ran the stretch where I'd caught them the first day and didn't get any bites," he said. "When that happened, I knew I had to expand. "I eventually kept hunting and pecking on one stretch that was loaded up. I probably caught 15 keepers, and I had three big ones (in the 5- to 6-pound class) that allowed me to piece together a good bag." He went to bed with a lead of better than 2 1/2 pounds over Grice. A storm front then moved in overnight and made things a bit tougher for everybody on a windy final day. He said the fish were "tentative and hard to hook" on day 3. Nonetheless, he managed to boat nine keepers, and the five he averaged nearly 3 1/2 pounds apiece. He was pretty comfortable with what his livewell contained as he headed back to the launch for the final weigh-in. "I'd started out almost 3 pounds ahead of the guy in 2nd and about 9 over the guy in 3rd, so I really felt it was between me and one other guy. I knew he'd have to have a 20-pound bag and that's very possible on that lake, but the way the wind and the other conditions were, I thought I had a pretty good chance."
Flipping/pitching gear: 7'6" medium-heavy Ardent Denny Brauer Signature Series rod, Ardent F-700 casting reel (6:1 ratio), 25-pound Seaguar Tatsu fluorocarbon line, 1/2-ounce Stike King Denny Brauer Premier Pro Model jig (black/blue), Strike King Rage Craw trailer (black/blue fleck).
Main factor: "I was doing something that not too many other people were doing and I was also keying on the right docks. There were some that the fish were using as contact points coming into the spawning areas, and the sunny days we had pushed them up under the docks. Of the 3 days, it was sunny about 80 percent of the time."
Performance edge: "I'd say it was the new Ardent flipping stick. The bites were pretty tentative and soft all 3 days and a lot of times it was extremely hard to determine when you were even getting a bite or not. The sensitivity of that rod really did make a difference."
By John Johnson Senior BassFan Editor