Grand Lake Rayovac Tournament Pattern


By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor

Jonathan Henry and Matt Arey, the respective 2nd- and 3rd-place finishers at the recent Grand Lake Central Rayovac in Oklahoma, both committed themselves to sight-fishing before the event got under way. Conditions for that program weren't always perfect, but they nonetheless made it work.
Between them, they looked at 28 of their 30 weigh-in fish before catching them. Following are some of the specifics on how they went about their work.

2nd: Jonathan Henry
> Day 1: 5, 22-07
> Day 2: 5, 21-01
> Day 3: 5, 17-03
> Total = 15, 60-11

Henry, an Alabama resident, came to Grand lacking a big reputation as a sight-fisherman, but that'll change in the wake of his runner-up showing. He's best known as a Lake Guntersville ace (he guides on that impoundment), but he grew up in east Tennessee, looking at bedding fish in highly pressured bodies of water.

"This was a good confidence builder," he said. "There were a lot of hammers in the field, and to finish 2nd amongst those guys is something I'm pretty happy with."

He looked at 13 of the 15 fish he brought to the scale. The two exceptions came on rainy day 3, when he caught two solid keepers on a spinnerbait in the morning that he'd liked to have eventually culled, but then he couldn't get a solid fix on several of his biggest spawners due to their depth and the difficult viewing conditions.

He's been battling a lung infection for several weeks, which has caused him to cancel some guide trips and reschedule others. It also limited his practice time for the tournament, but he was on the water long enough to get waypoints on approximately 150 spawners that weighed 3 pounds or more, including 15 to 20 that topped 4 pounds.

"I got there on Monday (3 days before the event began) and I heard that a big tournament the day before had been dominated by sight-fishing," he said. "I practiced for 6 or 8 hours that day and marked about 40. Then I went out in the rain on Tuesday and I had a co-angler with me, and we fished (conventionally) for 3 hours and only caught two fish.
"At that point I re-evaluated and I could see that from a points perspective and also having a chance to win, but best bet was to sight-fish. I put all my rods up and went all-in on sight-fishing.

He visited what he determined were his "easiest big fish" on day 1 and caught all five that he looked at within 90 minutes. He went 7-for-7 on day 2 and was within 2 ounces of leader (and eventual winner) Bradley Hallman when the weigh-in was complete.

He still had half a dozen big ones to try for on day 3 – the ones he'd determined were the hardest to get to or most difficult to see. He was able to catch three of those despite the dark skies, but two others eluded him. He enticed and lost a 6-pound bed-fish that day and also had one that was in excess of 5 spit up his spinnerbait right at the boat.

> Sight-fishing gear: 7'3" medium-heavy Falcon Cara swimbait rod, Daiwa Tatula casting reel (7.3:1 ratio), 25-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line, 3/8-ounce Scottsboro Tackle jighead, Yum Christie Craw (green-pumpkin/purple).
> "I used a jig and a couple of bright-colored baits to make the fish mad, but when it came time to catch them I went to a small, natural-colored bait," he said.
> Spinnerbait gear: 6'10" medium-heavy Falcon Cara Head Turner rod, same reel (6.3:1 ratio), same line (20-pound), 1/2-ounce Booyah spinnerbait (chartreuse/white with tandem willow-leaf blades).

Main factor in his success – "In practice I went down a lot of straight banks looking for places where I felt like fish would spawn, but there wouldn't be a lot of fish and other people wouldn't look there. Some pockets had 30 (bedding) fish in them, but now big ones, and when the tournament started the boats were in there rub-rail to rub-rail."
Performance edge – "That 25-pound line. You usually have to go to something smaller to catch them off beds, but the first fish I went to was a double with a 4-pound buck and a 5 1/2-pound female right next to a big tree. I told my co-angler that I had to catch them on that line, even if it took me a long time, but they bit right away and for the rest of the tournament I stuck with the big rod. It made it real easy to get them in the boat."

Read more:

FLW Rayovac Tournament - Grand Lake

Jonathan finished 2nd at Grand Lake.


Henry Targets Off-Beat Areas For Second

Jonathan Henry of Grant, Ala., was the first of a number of pros in the top 10 who had very little experience on Grand Lake. Henry sight-fished his way to a total of 60 pounds, 11 ounces and was in second on day one and day two as well.

In case you were wondering, Henry did not get any help from Jason Christie, his travel partner when he fished the Walmart FLW Tour as a co-angler. What he did do, was burn up his trolling motor batteries by about 3 p.m. each day in practice in order to mark tons of beds.

"It was common knowledge they were going to be spawning," says Henry. "I looked all day the first day and marked about 40 or 50 beds. Then I fished about two hours on the second day and didn't catch any, so I put all my rods up and went all-in [searching for bedding bass]."

Henry also tried to stay off the beaten path and found many of his beds on the main channel or behind docks. He caught his bedding fish with a Yum Christie Craw Texas-rigged with a 3/8-ounce Scottsboro Tackle tungsten weight. He also added some fish on the final day with a chartreuse and white Booyah ½-ounce double willow leaf spinnerbait that he threw around spawning shad while it rained.

Day 2 Update

2nd Place – Jonathan Henry – 43 pounds, 8 ounces

You'd be hard pressed to find someone happier to be second than Grant, Ala., pro Jonathan Henry. Like many others, Henry is primarily sight-fishing, but he is making a concerted attempt at catching the fish he has marked before they see him and he is looking in some specific places.

"The only places I looked are where I thought nobody else would look," says Henry. "I've been saving some fish in places that I'm almost certain nobody else will look.

"I'm running out of big ones. I have four or five fish in the 4-pound class marked, but I caught two 5-pounders on day one and those were two of the biggest fish I had found all week.

"Fish management is the number one key to win a big tournament like this if you're sight-fishing," adds Henry. "I don't care about being the leader until tomorrow."

There's an interesting split developing between anglers who are targeting spawning bass with a wide variety of baits and those who basically have one rod on the deck. Henry falls into the latter camp and is using a Yum Christie Craw to catch his bass.

More Day 2 Photos



Day 1 Update

2nd Place – Jonathan Henry – 22 pounds, 7 ounces

Jonathan Henry of Grant, Ala., exclusively targeted bedding fish on the first day and managed to jump into second place on a lake that he has only been on once before as a co-angler on the Walmart FLW Tour in 2013.

“I was looking at some and just casting at places where I saw some big ones in practice,” says the Lake Guntersville guide. “I could have culled multiple times today, but I wasn’t sure that 10 ounces would really be worth it. I had my five by 10 o’clock, and I didn’t try to catch another fish all day.”

Henry says that he dialed in on the sight-fishing bite the first day of practice and has more than 150 fish waypointed on his graph. He seems very confident in his ability to catch more big fish tomorrow.

Henry ‘bridges’ over field for Guntersville win


Local guide conquers competition on community causeways
26.Apr.2014 by Rob Newell

GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. – When Jonathan Henry of Grant. Ala., began day three of the Rayovac FLW Series event presented by Mercury on Lake Guntersville, he sat in 9th place, nearly three pounds off the lead.

When he looked around at the other nine boats around him, he saw some major obstacles between him and the winner’s circle, namely pros like Mark Rose and Bryan Thrift. Yet, he felt a great deal of comfort because what he did not see was five or six other local pros in the top 10.

Knowing he was not going to have to share some of the lake’s most well-known community holes with a handful of other locals gave him a huge boost of confidence.

Eight hours later, Henry returned to weigh-in with the biggest bag of bass of the week – 30 pounds, 14 ounces – to span over the field into the winner’s circle by a scant 15 ounces and win the Rayovac event with a three-day total of 77 pounds, 8 ounces.

“I had kind of a rough start to this tournament with only 22 pounds the first day and that put me in a hole I had to climb out of,” Henry said. “But when I realized I was the last local standing this morning, I felt a calm come over me. I had plans to fish some community causeways first thing and when I realized there wasn’t going to be a boat race to them between me and five other locals, I was just relieved.”

 By 8:30 a.m. Henry had the winning weight in his livewell.

It may or may not surprise many to find out that Henry caught more than half of his bass this week off of the most battered and beaten community holes on Lake Guntersville, namely some of the major bridges and causeways and their associated rip rap linings.

Most of his damage was done on a 6-inch Scottsboro Tackle Company Fringe swimbait in a color called “shad # 1” tied to 20-pound test Gamma fluorocarbon line.

As a fulltime guide on Guntersville with BassWacker Guide Service, Henry’s understanding of the big schools of bass that live on Guntersville’s most obvious community holes is far beyond the norm.

“The fish on those bridge spans are fished for everyday, all day,” Henry said. “They are the smartest fish in the lake. But I have spent hundreds of hours learning how they position and reposition with changes in current, sunlight, wind, time of day and amount of fishing pressure.”

“Depending on how they are set up, the first cast is the most critical – everything has to be perfect on that first cast – the angle, the depth control, the speed of the retrieve,” he revealed. “If they detect something is not right or if they detect they are being fished for they won’t bite and it’s over. It’s almost more about hunting than fishing. If you can sneak up on them and get them to bite on the first cast and get them fired up – it’s provokes a feeding frenzy of big bass like you have never seen, and that’s what happened this morning.”

 Earlier in the week, Henry did pick a couple of fish off beds with a Zoom Z-Hog and a few off some of his more private “one-fish spots” with a Bomber BD-7 crankbait in citrus shad. As he moved around the lake he constantly monitored the fishing pressure on the bridges. When he saw a rare vacancy, he slipped in and bagged a couple on the swimbait before he could be detected.

“It was really a waiting game all week,” Henry said. “I didn’t want to fish places that already had boats on them and I didn’t want to be seen on some of those places so I had to play cat and mouse a little bit. But this morning I knew, based on who was left in the field, I was going to get the prime real estate at the right time and that’s what really excited me.”

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