JASPER, Texas — Sticking with a mobile strategy allowed Masayuki Matsushita to sack up a massive limit of 27 pounds, 10 ounces to lead Thursday’s opening round of the Basspro.com Central Open on Sam Rayburn Reservoir.
Hailing from Tokoname Aichi, Japan, Matsushita admits his English is minimal, but he clearly conveyed a few key points about his day. First, he focused on the lake’s north end, where he caught his bass between 20 and 30 feet.
As for targets, he fished Rayburn’s usual mix of brushpiles, wood and bottom breaks and found his bites consistently throughout his day.
“I was using Humminbird 360 and Garmin (Panoptix LiveScope),” Matsushita said. “I kept my boat 100 feet from the structure.”
Matsushita relied on the former to locate attractive structure and then used the LiveScope to take a closer look and identify fish, aiding in accurate casting and time management.
To that point, Matsushita said he moved around a lot. That makes sense, because September on Rayburn can be a disjointed time, and bouncing around to hit multiple spots typically ends up being the common strategy.
Finally, the morning’s dimmer skies proved more productive than the second half of the day, which brought hot, sunny conditions.
“The clouds were very good, but the sun was no good,” Matsushita said. “I think the clouds made the fish move around more.”
Matsushita was politely guarded with some of the details of his day. However, he noted that two key baits produced his weight. Reading between the lines, it’s likely he’s splitting his time between a reaction bait and some form of slower, bottom-contact bait.
Brian Schott of Longview, Texas, is in second place with 27-2. Describing a game plan similar to Matsushita’s, he said he’s rotating between a set of 50 different spots comprising offshore cover and occasionally grass.
“I’m running and gunning; I’m pulling that trolling motor 40 to 50 times a day,” he said. “I had five big bites today and put four in the boat. I lost one big one. I caught probably a dozen keepers.
“I have three patterns going. I ran one today because I caught a couple of big fish early, and I tried to stay on the big-fish stuff all day.”
Schott caught his fish on a mix of jigs, big worms and crankbaits. The key, he said, was dialing in the bite windows and being on the right spots when the big fish were active.
Shaine Campbell of Brookeland, Texas, is in third with 24-8. Fishing the midlake region, targeting bass that were holding about midway in the water column, proved to be his top strategy.
“There are a lot of suspended fish on Rayburn right now, and they can be tricky to catch,” he said. “I’m targeting fish that are suspending in timber. I’m staying in 22 to 26 feet, but those fish are staying in the top half of the water column.
“This is Sam Rayburn and there are some giant fish, so I’m throwing nothing but big stuff — big worms, big jigs, big crankbaits. I’m not getting a lot of bites; I only got seven bites today, but they were all solid bites.”
Campbell is in the lead for Phoenix Boats Big Bass honors with a 9-6 largemouth that anchored his limit.
Dusty Frank of West Point, Texas, leads the co-angler division with 15-5. Making a key adjustment late in the day delivered two key bites, including a kicker that went 8-2.
“At 1:30, I only had one small fish, and at 1:45, I started throwing a 3/4-ounce jig with (a) chunk-style trailer in 15 to 20 feet and caught two big ones within 10 minutes of each other,” Frank said.
William Young of Livingston, Texas, holds the Phoenix Boats Big Bass lead among co-anglers with a 9-0 largemouth.
Friday’s takeoff is scheduled for 6:45 a.m. CT from Umphrey Family Pavilion. The weigh-in will be held at the Pavilion at 2:45 p.m.
The giant field of 214 boats will be trimmed to only the Top 12 after Friday’s semifinal round.
The tournament is being hosted by the Jasper-Lake Sam Rayburn Chamber of Commerce.