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Marks Wins FLW Tour Open Convincingly

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Phil Marks of Dallas, Texas, marked his spot in the FLW record books by catching a 32-pound, 12-ounce sack on the final day of competition at the Walmart FLW Tour on Sam Rayburn Reservoir presented by Mercury giving him a 16-pound, 5-ounce margin of victory, the third largest in FLW Tour Open history. EverStart pro Randall Tharp of Gardendale, Ala., holds the current record for largest margin of victory, 23-9, which he set at the 2012 season opener on Lake Okeechobee.

Marks’ five-bass limit Sunday gave him a total weight of 82 pounds to win the tournament and $125,000. The catch gave him the win in impressive fashion over Keith Combs of Huntington, Texas, who caught a total of 20 bass weighing 65-11 and earned him $25,710.

Marks started the day with a mere 14-ounce lead over Combs, and he knew he needed a monster bag to claim victory. He believed the tournament would be won offshore and knew the early-morning bite was his most prolific all week, so he was confident all he needed was some wind and rain to turn on his fish, and Mother Nature obliged.

“The old man had a couple of tricks left,” said Marks. “I knew the wind and rain would fire up my bite, and it did. I had four or five spots in a 1-mile circle, and that’s where all my fish came from today. I could see all the activity on my Lowrance unit, and this morning it was on fire.

“I was fishing a pattern all week,” Marks went on to say. “I was targeting ditches with main-lake flats, looking for subtle changes within the flats. During practice I discovered a high spot in the middle of the drain, and yesterday I caught a 5- and 7-pounder in back-to-back casts. This morning I caught four bass in 20 minutes in that same area.

“I have had a couple of dream days like this in the past, but none of this magnitude. After I caught my third fish, I knew I had about 20 pounds and thought I probably had a good chance of winning and could relax a little. But then I started to think about it and realized that days like this just don’t come very often, so I kept fishing. I had what I weighed today by about 10 or 10:30 a.m.

“My key baits this week have been the Strike King 6XD and a prototype Strike King 10XD. The 10XD has the frame design of the 5XD and is designed to give off a lot of rattle and displace a lot of water. It’s a big bait designed to catch big bass. Four of my 20 bass were caught with the 10XD. Today I caught three bass on the Strike King crankbaits and two on the Strike King 1-ounce football (head) jig. My 8-pounder came on the 10XD.”

Marks referred to Sam Rayburn as a gem and said he has been fishing the lake for more than 20 years. Despite the high pressure the lake gets year after year, he said that his sack today was more typical of what Rayburn is capable of giving up on a regular basis. He also added that the 10XD is scheduled to be out in stores, including Walmart, in February.

Final top-10 pros standings:

            1st:        Phil Marks, Dallas, Texas, 20 bass, 82-0, $125,000

             2nd:       Keith Combs, Huntington, Texas, 20 bass, 65-11, $25,210

            3rd:        Fatheadz pro Jacob Wheeler, Indianapolis, Ind., 20 bass, 53-13, $21,543

            4th:        Landan Ware, Jewett, Texas, 20 bass, 52-14, $17,877

            5th:        Goodwill pro Chad Grigsby, Maple Grove, Minn., 20 bass, 52-8, $14,210

            6th:        Matt Herren, Trussville, Ala., 19 bass, 50-9, $12,010

            7th:        Jason Wells, Center, Texas, 19 bass, 48-4, $11,277

            8th:        EverStart pro Randall Tharp, Gardendale, Ala., 20 bass, 47-9, $10,543

            9th:        Darrell Davis, Dover, Fla., 19 bass, 46-15, $9,810                      

            10th:      Ray Hanselman, Del Rio, Texas, 20 bass, 46-5, $9,077

A complete list of results can be found at FLWOutdoors.com.