55 teams fished and 6 places were paid.
Day 2 Big Bass – Joe Bray and Brandon Bray – 8.27 lbs $250
Texas Tournament Zone partnered with the Central Texas Water Coalition, Clear Channel and AM1300 The Zone to host the first annual Highland Lakes Fishing Tournament with a guaranteed $10,000 first place prize! CTWC is an umbrella 501(c)4 non-profit organization with plans to unite the 2 million people who live in Central Texas in accordance with their mission:
Advocate for the preservation and conservation of the Highland Lakes’ water supply and water levels for the benefit of human health, safety and recreation and tourism, and to preserve the Highland Lakes’ role as an irreplaceable ecominc engine for the state of Texas.
The fundraising tournament was a unique two day team format with an entry fee of $150 per team. On Day 1 competitors fished their choice of Lake Buchanan, LBJ, Travis or Austin with the top 50% of the field qualifying for the Championship Round on Day 2. The weights were zeroed and all qualified teams fished Lake LBJ on Day 2 for the $10,000 first place prize.
The first day saw the majority of the field fishing on Lake Buchanan; it was no surprise that 21 teams decided on Buchanan as the lake is primarily known for it’s white, hybrid and striped bass fishing but is also considered a “sleeper” lake for good numbers of big black bass. Although Lake Austin is considered the jewel of Central Texas when it comes to trophy sized largemouths, which was proved by the lake giving up the largest qualifying weight of 25.91 pounds and overall Day 1 Big Bass, Buchanan gave Austin a run for its money with the second largest qualifying weight at 24.42 pounds and also won three of the four Interstate Batteries Hourly Big Bass awards.
Robby Payne won the first and second hour Interstate Big Bass batteries with a 9.10 and 6.31 pound fish from Lake Buchanan.
James Aboud kept the Buchanan streak going in the third hour with his 8.13 pound fish.
But when all four scales on each lake were closed on Day 1, Lake Austin reigned supreme as Steve Magnelia and Flint Fisher qualified in first place with nearly a 26 pound limit anchored by the fourth hour Interstate Batteries Big Bass and overall Day 1 Big Bass winner of 9.46 pounds.
29 teams from Day 1 survived the 9.83 pound cut and moved on to fish Lake LBJ on Sunday. With the Highland Lake levels at near record lows and public ramps out of the water on many of the lakes, Lake LBJ has seen increased pressure from bass tournaments since January 2012. Most of the anglers were struggling to find a consistent pattern on this constant level lake, but with $10,000 on the line they were all eager to get back on the water and try their luck.
Taking top honors and the big prize was the team of Anthony Ferdinando and Shane Logan. They brought a heavy five fish bag good for 19.73 pounds to the scales, and Shane was able to tell us how they got it done.
“When we first decided to fish this tournament, Tony and I both wanted to fish Buch on Day 1, because three months ago we had found some good stuff that we felt would be underwater with the recent lake level increase. So I was able to pre-fish and found six or seven of those areas that were holding good fish in the 4 to 5 pound range, and was able to catch those on a swim jig and a light Carolina Rig. But when we saw how many boats and which boats were fishing Buch, we started to worry a little bit! There were some big sticks that were going to be out there with us.”
Not to worry though, as the team was able to qualify and get that pattern to hold, even culling a few times. Shane shared with us that Tony was very proficient on LBJ, so he felt pretty good about their Day 2 chances even though they hadn’t done very well lately on that lake.
“On LBJ we fished main lake and secondary points really hard. In the morning they were hitting a topwater pretty good, and as the day went on we backed out to more mainlake points and shallow ledges and caught them on Carolina Rigs with a Power Worm on it.”
The team reported breaking off no “big” fish, but each had one come off in the 3 pound range.
“But when Tony caught that 6.5 with 30 minutes to go, we forgot about those fish. When our bag held up, just barely, we were pretty excited. We had a great time fishing this thing!”
The team was pretty consistent with nine keepers and three shorts on Day 1, and eight keepers and three shorts on Day 2. Congratulations Anthony and Shane, well done gentlemen!
Taking second with an agonizing 2 ounce deficit was the team of Kenneth Cummins and Tim Dixon with a 19.52 limit good for $600. We spoke to Tim about their eventful day after the weigh-in.
“We really hadn’t pre-fished LBJ at all. We thought we could qualify on Buch if anywhere, and we just figured we’d fish areas we’d had success in the past on LBJ if we were fortunate enough to qualify on Day 1.”
Qualify they did, and their confidence water for the final round was on the lower end.
“We stayed in Horseshoe Bay all day and never left. We threw Flukes under docks and a jig occasionally. We struggled early on, but later in the morning Kenneth caught a 4 to 4.5 pounder and we thought maybe we were on to something.”
Then Tim shared a story that surprised us a bit.
“We actually spent some time on a bedding fish believe it or not. We thought that deal was over for the year! But we saw a buck bass around a pound and a half swimming in open water to the back of a canal; we followed him back and saw a 3.5 pounder sitting on a bed. We messed with her for 30 minutes or so, but she wasn’t having it. Ken did get her to bite once, but she let go when he set the hook on her.”
Kenneth was able to hook up with a 6.55 pound fatty that anchored their bag, and Tim told us about it.
“Ken hooked that big fish and she went straight under a pontoon boat motor with a broken jagged skeg and she wrapped up tight man. She was way back under there and we kinda sat there helplessly waiting for her to break off. But she didn’t, and Kenneth just played her perfect and kept tension and she came unwrapped and we got her in. That fished really changed things for us!”
The team fished pretty clean all day and really didn’t lose any fish to speak of, considering their pattern was the back of some pretty gnarly docks. Tim lost one around 2 pounds maybe, and Kenneth popped one off that they never saw. Things were going great until they hit the key to head to one last spot with about an hour and a half to go.
“Nothin’ at all, it wouldn’t even try to start. We kinda panicked, but were able to move our cables over to a trolling battery and get it to turn over, but just barely. We decided we better get back to the scales. Ended up being a bad cell and never started again for us. We second guessed ourselves a bit, only losing by a few ounces; but that’s tournament fishing and it makes it exciting. We really congratulate Tony and Shane. We also want to thank our wives for letting us play this crazy game, and TTZ for putting on an awesome show!”
Congrats to Kenneth and Tim, great fishermen and class acts for sure!
Coming in third, and winning a check for $500, was the father and son team of Joe and Brandon Bray. Their limit weighed 18.25 pounds and contained the Big Bass for Day 2, which won them an additional $250, at 8.27 pounds!
Joe elaborated on their tournament.
“We really didn’t pre-fish Buch, where we qualified on Day 1. We just knew some quality bites were there and we didn’t want to pressure our LBJ water too bad. But Sunday on LBJ we were able to get lucky and catch some size. We had a hump with some fish and some minor point fish that we were able to catch riggin’ a Brush Hog mostly.”
The team had a hard time in the morning, much like our 2nd place finishers, but things turned around as the day pressed on.
“Caught a 3.5 pounder on a grass bed in about a foot of water, and that settled us down a bit, we also caught some smaller keepers right after that. But there was no real pattern to the depth, which was a head scratcher for us. The better fish we caught were literally in 1 foot, 8 foot and 12 foot of water! So we ran a lot of water, but really didn’t catch a lot of fish. We caught the 8 pounder on a little hump with some chunky rock in about 8 foot of water, and believe it or not we think that’s a place where they spawn; just doing it in a little deeper water is all.”
Joe spent some time talking with us about what is really important.
“I really appreciate my family, and I am thankful to have the time to spend with my son on the water. He is equally as competitive, but we try to not let that competition override our relationship and the time together. I am really honored to have a talented son to fish with. He really has patience I don’t have sometimes, and keeps me grounded. Knowledge of a lake makes you wanna run to the next thing too much sometimes, but he has good instincts and timing and talks me down. He is a very good angler, and I’m really proud of him!”
Good stuff Joe. Congrats to you and Brandon, and for a lot more than fishing!
Here are the remaining teams in the money:
Thank you to all the anglers and supporters for taking the time out of your busy weekend to be a part of this tournament. We really appreciate everyone coming out and fishing, buying raffle tickets and donating your hard earned money to the Central Texas Water Coalition. We’d also like to recognize the following businesses for their support and generous donations to the raffle, all of you made this weekend a success!
The water we have in the lakes is precious, limited and must be protected; there is no new water. Please keep this in mind every time you launch your boat on any of the Highland Lakes and take a minute to thank the ones who are behind the scene fighting for our water, your support can help protect our water and our future. You may learn more about the Central Texas Water Coalition by visiting their website at www.ourwater-ourfuture.com.