Nolan Minor of Virginia was not entirely in his element at the 2022 Hobie Bass Open Series Tournament of Champions on Caddo Lake, 26,000 mostly shallow acres covered in grass and littered with countless cypress trees.
He made adjustments and placed 4th in the talented field of 50 with daily totals of 92.75 inches, 90.00 and 90.25 for a total of 273-even over 3 days of competition.
“I would say it was better than what I expected after practice because I’m not a very good grass fisherman and I don’t know how to determine how many fish I’m on with grass because fishing grass is way different than fishing any other type of stuff because there can be so many fish living in a small area and the only real way to determine how many fish are there is to catch them. You have to catch them in practice on purpose.
“I found more fish than I realized.”
What Minor found was a large hydrilla flat that would host 4 of the final Top 5 and perhaps 8 of the Top 10 anglers in the TOC.
“I knew that the winning area was really good. It was (Grand Champion Brain Nelli’s) time. He got the win and he deserved it. It was clearly his time. I can tell you that from sitting side-by-side with him. The last day, he flagged me over, said ‘come sit next to me’. I congratulated him on his win because at that point it was pretty much impossible for anyone to catch him.
“We’d be sitting there, he’d make a cast and catch a 20-incher. I’d make a cast and catch a 17. He’d hang out for 10 minutes, not even make a cast and then be like ‘I think I’ll make another cast’ – bam – another 20-incher. What do I catch? A 15-incher. An 18-incher.
“It didn’t even make me upset because I’ve won a tournament before and I know how it is. When you’re supposed to win, that’s just how it goes.”
Minor and Nelli fished near one another the entire tournament, but there was one small spot that was very special. Because Minor arrived to find Nelli already there the first morning, he agreed to take the 2nd shift on that tiny spot. “Basically, there was a 100-yard stretch and they would come up schooling on baitfish. I was kind of hanging on the less promising area of this vast stretch. I was making sure to let Brian have his primary water first thing in the morning. Once he got comfortable with what he had he’d say, ‘come on’. Usually by that time I had fish, but the average size was way better (in the small, specific spot that Minor and Nelli shared).
“I kind of had to change up baits because there were a lot of fish in there, but they were pretty smart and I think showing them something different every now and then helped. When they were really committing well to the topwater early in the morning in that area I had a lot of big bites. Later in the morning they would start missing it or you’d see them come up and chase shad and throw a lure over there and they wouldn’t even pay attention to it. It was definitely key to get right in a hurry in the morning while the fish were active.
“They would really start to wise up as time went on and the 2nd and 3rd day, by 12 o’clock, you couldn’t catch a thing on that spot. I think once they got done schooling and chasing shad there, they would disperse and spread out around the flat.
“Super cool area. Amazing that there could be that many fish on one spot and that it would hold up like that.”
While Minor and other high finishers made it look easy, he said the spots that held better quality fish were small and easy to miss and that other nearby competitors did not catch them so well. “They were easy to miss. It’s not like they were all over. Very, very specific. There were a couple of places where me and Brian were fishing, I swear they were little hard spots in the grass about the size of a kayak. We’d be fan casting, throwing topwaters, all of a sudden run your bait over that same little spot and – bam, one blows up! And every time we’d get a blow up it was in the exact same spot. The exact same spot. No depth change. Four feet of water everywhere. Just a harder bottom.”
Minor’s swimming worm setup was a 7’4” medium heavy Abu Garcia Veritas PLX fast action with a Revo SX 7:1 gear ratio and 17lb Trilene fluorocarbon. Worm weights were 1/8 and 3/16oz, sometimes pegged, sometimes free sliding.
Minor’s glide bait was a Fish Everything Paper Weight. “My buddy makes those by hand. I used a 5-inch model. They swim so nice on 20lb line even though they’re small.” He fished it on a 7’6” medium heavy Veritas PLX rod and a Revo STX reel spooled with 20lb Trilene fluoro.
Topwater rod was a 7’2” medium fast Veritas PLX paired with a Revo SX LP spooled with 30lb braid and 17lb Trilene monofilament leader. He threw 2 sizes of the Evergreen Shower Blows and the original Zara Spook but had the best luck on a lure he borrowed from Nelli, the Bomber Badonk-A-Donk.
Minor used the leader because “the schooling fish, when they get to knocking your bait, a lot of times the braid will wrap in your hooks but that mono is a little stiffer. It’ll keep that from happening. It’s not like those fish hang around forever. You have to be able to immediately put it back out there in front of them. I’m a big proponent of using a monofilament leader on my walking baits, not because I think the fish can see my braided line. It’s so my bait doesn’t get all wrapped up in my line.”
In addition to a Top 5 placement in the TOC, Minor’s high finish earned him 3rd place in the season-long BOS Angler of the Year race.
To see video of Minor’s tournament exploits, check out his Youtube channel – it’s under his name, Nolan Minor. “I videoed the tournament. I should have footage up in the next week or two.”
I personally enjoyed watching Minor’s video from his big win in the Hobie BOS event from the Susquehanna River this past summer. Check it out!