Texas Fish & Game - Home Andy Gaia and Stephen Johnston give winner’s eye-view accounts of what it takes to compete and succeed in a high-profile bass tournament like the FLW series.
  Two Anglers, One Lure, Two Wins

By Don Zaidle

Published April 2007

  Andy Gaia, left, and Stephen Johnston are helping Patrick Sebile, center, introduce Sebile’s French- designed lures to Texas and U.S. anglers. Winning back to back FLW events is not a bad marketing ploy.
PHOTO BY Jim Olive
Two pro anglers, both Texans, two tournaments, same lake, same lure, two wins. That is a fair summary of affairs concerning FLW tournament pros Stephen Johnston of Hemphill and Andy Gaia of Tomball earlier this year. Each won an FLW tour event on Sam Rayburn Reservoir using the same lure, a Sebile Flat Shad.

Johnston won the Stren Series victory at the Texas Division event presented by Evinrude on Sam Rayburn in February with an astonishing four-day weight of 70 pounds, 2 ounces. He annihilated the competition, ultimately taking the victory by 11 pounds, 11 ounces after leading three of the four tournament days. His worst day was when he brought in 14 pounds on a day that was tough for everyone.

The Sebile Flat Shad that wrought victory for two tournament anglers.

“I’ve been doing this a long time,” said Johnston, who before the win had five FLW Outdoors Top 10 finishes on Sam Rayburn, and another three on his home lake of Toledo Bend without a victory. “Over the years, I’ve had guys tell me that once you get that first win, they come easy. I had a terrible practice, and then everything just came together. I just felt that I was going to win this tournament.

“Right off the bat, with that northeast wind and high pressure, I talked myself into slowing down. I pulled up on my first place and slow-fished it with a Texas rig, and I didn’t catch a thing. In 30 minutes, I had one keeper.”

On a good day at Sam Rayburn, a solid limit can be had in 30 minutes, but Johnston didn’t let the tough bite get to him. Rather, he buckled down and fished harder.

“I just started covering water,” he said. “I knew I was able to catch 10 to 15 keepers a day, and today wasn’t a moving-bait day. With them pulling water out of the lake, it pulled fish out of the bushes and into what I was doing.”

Johnston reported fishing a Sebile crankbait early, and then moving on to a Texas-rigged lizard.

“I was fishing a Sebile Flat Shad, and with the water falling, the fish quit chasing,” he said. “I took a Texas-rigged lizard and slow-fished the bushes, and was able to catch them.”

With his recent Top 10 performance at the Wal-Mart Texas Tournament Trail event on Lake Amistad, he has kicked his career back into high gear. Johnston fished the Stren Series and the TTT in the past, but about three years ago, he decided to back off and spend more time on local circuits with his sons, now ages 16 and 17. After discussing it with his family, Johnston decided this year to re-enter Stren and TTT events, and without a doubt, he is off to a phenomenal start.

In January, Gaia won the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League Cowboy Division tournament on Rayburn with a five-bass catch weighing 26 pounds, 7 ounces. The victory earned Gaia $4471 and placed him one step closer to qualifying for the Wright-Patman Lake Regional Championship in Texarkana October 25-27, where he could ultimately win a new 519VX Ranger boat and a Chevy truck.

Gaia, too, was throwing Sebile crankbaits in shallow grass to catch his quality-sized tournament limit of bass.

The Cowboy division’s fourth event will be held April 14 on Toledo Bend, and the final event of the regular season will be a two-day Super Tournament held September 29-30 back on Sam Rayburn.

Following the end of regular-season competition, the top 40 boaters and 40 co-anglers based on year-end points standings in the division will advance to the no-entry-fee Wright-Patman Lake Regional Championship where, they will compete against top qualifiers from three other BFL divisions.

At the Regional Championship, anglers will fish for a new Ranger boat and Chevy truck, and co-anglers will fish for a new Ranger boat. The top six boaters and top six co-anglers at the Regional Championship will also advance to the 2008 All-American, presented by Chevy. With a total purse of $1 million, a potential $140,000 cash prize going to the winning angler, and as much as $70,000 going to the winning co-angler, the All-American is one of the most prestigious and lucrative events in bass fishing. The winning boater and winning co-angler at the All-American also advance to the no-entry-fee $2 million 2008 Forrest Wood Cup. This event, featuring a top award of $1 million, is the sport’s biggest championship.

The $8.8 million Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League features 28 divisions nationwide. In BFL competition, boaters and co-anglers are randomly paired. Anglers supply the boat and fish from the front deck against other anglers, while co-anglers compete from the back deck against other co-anglers.

For more information about FLW Outdoors and its tournaments, visit www.flwoutdoors.com or call 270-252-1000. —Staff Report

E-mail Don Zaidle at editor@fishgame.com.