Chris McCall Wins Sam Rayburn Reservoir Rayovac

Chris McCall put in a couple days' worth of practice for last week's Sam Rayburn Reservoir Texas Rayovac FLW Series, but that was mostly just a formality. The former FLW Tour pro had competed in at least one tournament there every weekend since the first of the year. Besides, he employs only one primary tactic at "Big Sam" during the winter. "I know what I'm going to do - go out there and sling the 'Trap," he said. "I'm either going to catch them or I'm not." By "the 'Trap," of course, he's referring to a Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap. He used various colors of the flat-sided lipless crankbait throughout the event, switching them up based on water conditions. They accounted for seven of his 10 weigh-in fish in the event that was shortened to 2 days due to a major storm that dropped several inches of snow on the Jasper, Texas area Thursday night and into Friday morning. He bested a stout 112-angler field that included all of the regular east Texas stalwarts, along with luminaries such as Jay Yelas, Larry Nixon, Denny Brauer and Bassmaster Elite Series standout Keith Combs. "The local guys here at Rayburn don't get enough credit for how good they really are. The Dicky Newberrys, the Todd Castledines, the Stephen Johnstons and the Albert Collinses - there's a star-studded cast on this pond. I'm not blowing my own horn because I beat them this time, but they need to be recognized because they're a bunch of really accomplished guys." His 33-15 total surpassed runner-up Robert Case by 2-01. Following are some of the particulars. Knowing that nasty weather was headed to the region, McCall practiced on the Monday and Wednesday of tournament week. On Tuesday, he had to tend to some day-job business (he owns a payday loan operation and also co-owns a tackle shop near the lake). On the first day he explored some areas that he hadn't visited in recent local events. On the final day he looked for something to use as a backup plan if the weather negated his rattlebait action. "I did some real silly, off-the-wall stuff on Wednesday, like throwing shaky-head worms on docks," he said. "I never got a bite doing any of it. "Sometimes fronts will shut that 'Trap bite down and I was just looking for something else in case I got in a bind. Thank God I never had to go to it."

Competition:

McCall was pretty excited to have a limit in his livewell by 10 o'clock on day 1. "The deal for awhile here had been getting five bites one day, then 10 the next, then five again the day after that," he said. "I was able to cull a couple of times on that first day and I caught my last one at about 12:30." He might've had an opportunity to boost his total a bit in the afternoon, but the conditions were getting to him. The air temperature had dropped into the 30s and the wind was blowing from the northeast at 15 to 20 mph. "I had four pairs of gloves in the boat and after all of them got wet, I was pretty miserable. I'm normally real aggressive, but I fished pretty conservatively the rest of that day and from 12:30 on, I didn't catch a fish. "I should've done what I normally do, but I was really cold for that last hour and a half." He was in 8th place when competition resumed following the canceled day, a full 7 pounds behind day-1 pacesetter Ray Hanselman. However, Hanselman was one of several leaders (Yelas and Nixon included) who either blanked or caught a lone keeper on the final day, opening the door for McCall to catapult to the top. "I went out with the same philosophy I've had since the first of January - make a million casts and hope by the end of the day I've got five. I really didn't know if they'd bite that day." From a weather perspective, the day dawned chilly, but turned out relatively nice. The water temperature was 44 degrees at launch time, but quickly warmed to 48. He again did the majority of his damage with the 'Trap, but also picked up a couple of decent fish on a crankbait and a 4-pounder on a jig. "My team partner found that crankbait bank about 3 weeks ago. It's just one little area that the fish are using for some reason and I was fortunate to get a few bites off it." On his way back to the launch, he figured he'd done enough to give himself a shot at his second Rayovac victory (he also prevailed at Rayburn in 2006). "It's been getting harder to win here shallow; the deep guys are normally going to beat you. But the water was real cloudy and kind of dirty all over the lake on that last day, and I think that played into my hands. The deep guys couldn't catch them."

Winning Gear:

Rattlebait gear: Unnamed 7' heavy-action rod, unnamed casting reel (6:1 ratio), unnamed 17-pound fluorocarbon line, Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap (various colors, all with some shade of gold, white or red).

Cranking gear: Unnamed 7' medium-heavy rod, unnamed casting reel (5:1 ratio), unnamed 12-pound fluorocarbon line, 6th Sense Crush (chrome shad).

The jig he used to pull a 4-pounder from a brush pile was a 3/4-ounce Santone football-head (pinto beans and carrots) with a Gambler Flappy Daddy trailer (bluegrass).

Main factor: "The No. 1 thing was changing my philosophy from always trying to be in too much of a hurry. I made myself relax and slow down and fish thoroughly."

Performance edge: "My Legend/Evinrude. That boat runs so fast and rides so smooth and for all the running around I did, that Evinrude's a fantastic motor with a lot of power."

Rayburn Rayovac Winning Pattern Bassfan 1/28/14 (John Johnson)