Jacob Powroznik Wins BASS Toledo Bend
Jacob Powroznik's Winning Pattern, Baits & Gear
When Jacob Powroznik closes his eyes he can still see Fish Fishburne leaping up onto the top of his outboard to fight a fish during his Georgia Top 100 win at Lake Seminole in 1995. Powroznik said watching that sequence on television was what got him hooked on fishing shallow, more specifically sight-fishing.
"I sat there watching with my dad and I said, 'I want to learn how to do that,'" he said. "Not long after, my dad and I fished a tournament Lake Gaston and the fish were spawning. I found two 6-pounders on the bed and we got there and I ended up catching both of them and I fell in love with it after that. I must've been 10 years old, but I felt like King Ding-a-Ling. We had a pond at home and it just went from there."
Powroznik had his eyes wide open last week at the Toledo Bend Bassmaster Elite Series as he took advantage of the drawn-out spring that had fish still moving into their spawning areas during the event. An early-morning jerkbait pattern around a shad spawn got him through the first 2 days, but when it mattered most - on the weekend, Sunday especially - his eyes were his most important tool as he spied spawners in pockets around the southern end of the lake.
While he caught fish several other ways throughout the event, his decision to make sight-fishing part of his game plan ultimately carried him to his first Elite Series win at a venue he'd never competed at before.
"It helped that the good Lord blessed me with a great pair of eyes and sometimes I can see things that maybe 95 percent of other people can't," he said. "I've been with some of the best sight-fishermen in the world and seen some they haven't been able to see.
"If it'll sit there, I'll catch it. The thing about sight-fishing is you have to know when to flip it there and when to leave it alone. I've done it a long time and I enjoy it. If I go into a tournament and they're on beds, I'm going to do well. It's just one of my strengths."
He caught massive bags each of the first 2 days to take the lead at the halfway point before stumbling on day 3 with less than 12 pounds. His two best fish on the final day came off the bed and anchored his 19-11 bag, which was more than enough to overcome a 2 1/2-pound deficit.
"Everything just fell into place with the weather and the wind calming down," he said. "I had that little hiccup on day 3, but I made up for it (Sunday)."
His 79-12 total was nearly 2 1/2 pounds more than runner-up Chad Morgenthaler.
Powroznik said his practice period was "pretty good," but it was difficult for most everyone to get a feel for how the lake would fish later in the week because the wind was unforgiving all through the 2 1/2 days of practice.
It didn't take Powroznik long to discover that fish were scattered from the bank out to the grass lines, but it was Tuesday when he put most of his eggs in the sight-fishing basket.
"I knew on Tuesday that's what I was going to do," he said. "I never made a cast all day. I had one bite off a bed and it was a 5-pounder that I went back and caught on day 2 of the event. I looked all day from 30 minutes after daylight to almost dark."
On Wednesday, he stumbled on a morning shad spawn and was able to generate a high volume of bites on a jerkbait (he had removed the hooks) and a spinnerbait made by a friend of his in Virginia.
"Once I found a couple of those places, I put it on the trailer around 10 a.m.," he said. "I just got sick of the wind so I went in and got my stuff ready."
As practice wound down, the forecast for the tournament days showed little in the way of wind and a couple cooler nights. That had Powroznik licking his chops because he knew the bedding fish would probably stay put and more were likely on their way.
"Those cooler night hurt the shad deal, but it kept the bass up there and still coming," he said. "I could tell new waves of fish have moved in on day 2."
Powroznik had most of his weight before 11 a.m. each of the first 2 days as he had field days with the jerkbait and finished his limits sight-fishing.
He was one of 13 anglers with 20-plus pounds on day 1 and his 24-14 had him in 3rd right off the bat. He followed that up with 23-06 on day 2, again feasting on the schooling fish that were keying on shad and finishing off his bag with bedding fish.
As the tournament wore one, he was confident more fish would continue to move onto beds.
"I'd go back into the same pockets and even though I'd been through it, I'd 100 yards and find a new one had moved up," he said. "It wasn't a dying pattern because more fish kept coming."
The early-morning jerkbait bite, however, started to fizzle on day 3. He also wasn't able to lure any big ones off their nests and his 11-13 stringer dropped him to 2nd, about 2 1/2 pounds behind Dean Rojas entering the final day.
He caught one on the jerkbait early on Sunday and then moved around to some areas with deeper grass that he flipped with a jig.
"The jerkbait thing I knew was like beating a dead horse," he said. "I knew it was going away, but when you catch two 7s and a 5 doing it, it's hard not to at least try it. Plus, it was so close to the ramp."
He caught two on the jig, added another on a wacky-rigged worm, but five of his keepers came off beds, including the 7-13 brute that started his afternoon rally and the 5-pounder that sealed the win on his final flip of the day.
As the final day wore on and he didn't have a big fish in the boat, he said his mind started to wander.
"I wasn't giving up, but I started to think I was letting it slip through my finger," he said. "So I sat down for a minute and got my wits and ate a Snickers. I went another 20 minutes and found that big one. (Catching her) was a real high. After I caught that, I was fired up."
Sight-fishing gear: 8' heavy-action Abu Garcia Villain casting rod and 7'11" heavy-action Abu Garcia Veritas casting rod, Abu Garcia Revo MGX casting reel (7.1:1 gear ratio), 20- and 25-pound Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon line, 1/2-oz. Elite Tungsten flipping weight, 4/0 Mustad Denny Brauer Grip Pin Max Flippin' Hook, Berkley PowerBait Power Hawg (green-pumpkin and redbug).
Jerkbait gear: 7' medium-action Abu Garcia Veritas casting rod, same reel, 10- and 12-pound Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon line, unnamed jerkbait (shad patterns).
The spinnerbait he threw during practice was made by Mr. Sooperbass Tackle Company based in Church Road, Va.
Main factor: "Making the right decisions and knowing when to bag it on the shad spawn and decide to go sight-fighting. Some guys stayed out and jerked around for a lot longer, but once I sensed it was time to move in, I said, 'Heck with it I'm going to go sight-fishing.' In the end, it turned out to be the right move."
Performance edge: "My PowerPoles. If not for them, I wouldn't have been able to catch what I caught during the tournament. Also, my Amphibia sunglasses were key for me. They're the best glasses I've ever put on."
Toledo Bend Winning Pattern Bassfan 5/6/14 (Todd Ceisner)
Chad Morgenthaler's Pattern, Baits & Gear
With the windy conditions in practice, Chad Morgenthaler made up his mind that he'd narrow his focus down to one area of Toledo Bend.
"I knew it'd be a popular area, but it's typically where a lot of big fish and tournaments weights come from," he said.
Despite a wicked thunderstorm that forced him off the water for a while on the first practice day, he figured he caught a 27-pound stringer, including an 11-pounder on a frog.
"I caught the rest on a jig and by then I'd already seen the hay grass was holding a lot of nice fish," he added. "I was keyed in on that and knew I needed to expand on it quickly. I knew I could sight-fish because I'd found some on beds so I felt like I had enough going with the weather coming to get me through."
Most of his fish came off secondary points in the hay grass in 3 to 4 feet of water.
"The key was the stretches of milfoil," he said. "There was a little lane between the hay grass and milfoil and the fish were in there to spawn a little deeper or for the shad spawn. I think they were set up on the hay grass line because of the sunshine and it was a great ambush points for shad and bluegill.
"I didn't put gas in the boat the first 3 days. I just stayed in those areas and it looked good," he said, "I didn't try to run all over the lake and that was the biggest key. I fished real clean and stayed on the same pattern."
He did have key windows were the bites would come fast and furious on one area. He caught most of his weight on the first 2 days by being there at the right time.
"It was odd that the bite started at 10 and went to 1 or 2," he said. "Everyone else's bite was early or real late."
Flipping gear: 7'11" heavy-action Denali Jadewood flipping rod, Lew's Super Duty Speed Spool casting reel (7.1:1 gear ratio), Shimano Core Mg casting reel (7.0:1 gear ratio), 55-pound Toray Bawo Finesse braided line, 3/4-oz. Lunker Lure jig (black/blue), Zoom Big Salty Chunk trailer (black/blue).
He also caught some fish on a Senko, a Zoom Horny Toad, a SPRO frog and sight-fished with a Missile Baits D-Bomb, but would ultimately cull everything out with the jig. He did weigh in one bed fish on day 3.
Main factor: "Maximizing my time and not getting caught up in making a big run. I find that I fish my best when I can go into an area and stay there and just put my trolling motor down and just go fishing. It can be frustrating at times with the long dry spells and it can be very difficult to stick to my guns, but it was like Lake Okeechobee where one big fish can change things quickly. I would have 10-minute spans where I'd catch two or three big ones, then go for a while without a bite, then catch another big one."
Performance edge: "I'd stand on my Minn Kota trolling motor all day long. Another key was that Denali flipping stick. It allowed me to fish very clean throughout the whole tournament."
Toledo Bend 2-5 Patterns Bassfan 5/7/14 (Todd Ceisner)
Randall Tharp's Pattern, Baits & Gear
Randall Tharp was simply blown away by how well Toledo Bend matched up with his strengths as a grass fisherman.
Other than the first part of day 1 when he ran north, but eventually was turned away by a fog bank, he fished his entire tournament in Lowe's Creek. In practice, he'd found some decent areas up north around some docks and sea walls.
"I knew it would go away, but it felt safe to me," he said. "The way I practice now, I don't know what I'm on until the tournament starts. I wasted the first half of the first day up the river because I ran into some fog. I came back down and caught 16 pounds and that may have cost me a shot at winning. I really thought I could go down the bank and catch them everywhere up there."
He noted, however, the fish on the southern end were in much better shape.
"The fish that came out of the grass the fish I was catching shallow were two different kinds of fish," he said. "The fish in the grass were healthier and heavier while the shallow fish were beat up and skinny."
Once he settled into Lowe's Creek, it was all about keep his bait in the water as much as possible.
"It was about making as many flips as I could and covering as much water as I could," he said. "I probably hit every blade of milfoil in there over the 4 days."
His presentation was crucial to maximizing his fishing time.
"When I'd flip in there, I'd hop it once if the bite was slow," he added. "If not, I'd let go to the bottom, then reel up and flip again. I feel like I've perfected that technique and that's how I did it this week.
"It was good enough for third and this was one of the best tournaments I've fished this year without a doubt. I never got fuel the whole time I was there. We get 8 hours to fish each day. I must've fished 7 hours, 50 minutes each day then."
The key sections of grass for him were the clumps that were about the "size of the hood of a car," he said. "There was very little of it topped out and I think that's why guys didn't find it or overlooked it. It was mostly 6 to 12 inches from the surface and it was growing in 2 to 8 feet of water."
He got most of his bites on the fall in 5 to 8 feet and felt like the weather was a key factor in his success.
"If it would've been cloudy and wind, I wouldn't have caught what I caught," he noted. "I was really blessed with the conditions we had."
Flipping gear: 7'11" heavy-action Halo Fishing Twilite casting rod, Shimano Core Mg casting reel (7.0:1 gear ratio), 60-pound Gamma Torque braided line, 3/4-oz. Reins Tungsten flipping weight, 4/0 VMC heavy duty flipping hook, unnamed punch skirt (green-pumpkin), 4" Trigger X prototype craw bait (green-pumpkin).
Main factor: "Being pretty stubborn. Fishing the way I was, I was convinced I was going to win that way. I'm just really confident fishing that way. I'd go through some dry spells, but I'm glad I stuck with it because when they started biting I was there doing the right thing."
Performance edge: "Every piece of my set up was extremely critical - the rod, reel, line - every piece I have I feel is the very best you can get. I'm 100-percent confident in all of it. One is just as important as the other."
Toledo Bend 2-5 Patterns Bassfan 5/7/14 (Todd Ceisner)
Mark Davis' Pattern, Baits & Gear
For the second tournament in a row, Mark Davis did something a little different than the rest of the field and it helped garner him another Top-4 finish. Not that a Carolina rig at Toledo Bend is considered foreign, but it wasn't among the popular presentations during the Elite Series event.
Davis stuck with it all tournament long and despite running low on areas with quality fish, he managed to climb the leaderboard each day.
"My practice was great," he said. "You never know, though. I thought I had enough fish for three tournaments, but really you can never have enough fish found."
As it turned out, the fish in the areas he was targeting were not replenishing so he was hunting for new areas every day.
"I thought I could catch them off these areas for more than one day," he said "You use up everything pretty quick in a 4-day event when that happens."
He was focused on inside grass lines in 4 to 6 feet of water where he felt some fish were spawning and other were coming to after spawning.
"The fish were leaving me, actually," he said. "There were a lot of fish still shallow and I know a lot of them were sight-fishing and flipping, but a lot of the fish were being depleted by me and because they were heading out deeper."
On the final day, he had to fish water he hadn't even practiced on, which made it difficult.
"I had to piece it together and that's even harder to do with a Carolina rig because you're fishing so slow," he added. "If I had been fishing a crankbait, it would've easier to cover more water."
Carolina rig gear: 7' heavy-action Team Lew's casting rod, Team Lew's Pro Speed Spool casting reel (7.1:1 gear ratio), 20-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line, 3/4-oz. unnamed barrel sinker, 3/0 Gamakatsu EWG worm hook, 4" Strike King Caffeine Shad (watermelon red).
He weighed in one fish on the final caught on a Strike King KVD jerkbait. Other than that, everything he weighed came on the Carolina rig.
Main factor: "Quickly identifying key hard spots that were void of grass that were holding both spawning and post-spawn fish. It's hard to do that on this lake because there's not a lot of it."
Performance edge: "My Lowrance units. I have the HDS-12 and it allowed me to idle around and look for those hard spots. It was without a doubt my most valuable tool this week."
Toledo Bend 2-5 Patterns Bassfan 5/7/14 (Todd Ceisner)
Casey Ashley's Pattern, Baits & Gear
Casey Ashley had a tough practice mainly because of the wind as he was trying to get an offshore pattern figured out.
"For one, you couldn't really fish," he said. "I tried to find fish out and knew it would be with them in between. The wind blew hard every day and that made it hard to stay out there and fish effectively. You'd drift across a place, but it was hard to tell if it was any good."
Eventually, he got dialed in on an offshore cranking pattern with a secondary game plan of flipping deep hydrilla, which is how he caught some of his bigger fish.
On day 1, he caught everything dragging a football jig around and then went mostly cranking and flipping the rest of the event.
"The first 2 days, I culled a good many times," he said. "I was just trying to get to the 15-pound mark because I thought all that was there was 3-pounders. I probably screwed up on day 1. Maybe I left too early."
Each day, he had 15 pounds before 10 a.m., which allowed him the rest of the day to hunt for kicker bites.
"I figured I could catch 15 off my starting place, but I had no idea it would hold up for 4 straight days," he said.
His key area was a big flat in the mouth of a spawning bay.
"There wasn't much to it," he said. "It was just a little flat point with a ditch that went from 8 to 12 feet. They were loaded up there. Those fish were in transition. I'd catch them there one day and the next day they'd be pulled our further."
Cranking gear: 7'4" medium-heavy Quantum Tour KVD cranking rod, Quantum EXO casting reel (6:6.1 gear ratio), 10-pound Hi-Seas fluorocarbon line, Lucky Craft LC Deep Diver RT 2.5 crankbait (chartreuse shad), Strike King Series 5 crankbait (sexy shad, chartreuse sexy shad).
Jig gear: 7'6" heavy-action Quantum EXO Tour PT casting rod, Quantum EXO casting reel (7.3.1 gear ratio), 20-pound Hi-Seas fluorocarbon line, 3/4-oz. Jewel football jig (green-pumpkin orange, Zoom Super Chunk trailer (green-pumpkin).
Flipping gear: 7'10" heavy-action Quantum EXO casting rod, same reel as cranking, 65-pound Hi Seas braided line, 3/0 Gamakatsu flipping hook, Zoom Ultra Vibe Speed Craw (green-pumpkin, black/blue).
Main factor: "Looooong practice days. It took a lot of hours just to figure it out. I'd already found the deal I caught them on the last time we were here, but that grass deal, it takes a lot of time to find that stuff. You can't see it with your eyes so you're constantly watching your graph and trying to find points and indentations in the grass line. That was very time consuming."
Performance edge: "My Triton and Mercury were great. I was burning 30 gallons of gas every day and I never had a problem."
Toledo Bend 2-5 Patterns Bassfan 5/7/14 (Todd Ceisner)