From Collegiate Bass Angler to Major League Fishing Champion...

From Collegiate Bass Angler to Major League Fishing Champion...

03/09/2021 Comments Off on From Collegiate Bass Angler to Major League Fishing Champion Day 2: Dustin Connell Fishes against the Best of the Best on Major League Fishing Bass Fishing

From Collegiate Bass Angler to Major League Fishing Champion Day 2: Dustin Connell Fishes against the Best of the Best on Major League Fishing

Editor’s Note: Dustin Connell was raised in Clanton, Alabama, and today lives in Deatsville, Ala., on the banks of Lake Jordan. I first met Dustin when he just had won his third Angler of the Year title on the fledgling University of Alabama Bass Fishing Team. He was Angler-of-the-Year there from 2010 until 2012, and after he graduated with degrees in business and marketing, he more or less fell off the radar of most bass fishermen. But on February 27, 2021, while fishing Lake Eufaula, Connell won the Red Crest Tournament and was declared the World’s Champion of Bass Fishing on Major League Fishing (MLF) (https://majorleaguefishing.com/). I wanted to know the back story of how Connell survived and thrived between graduating from Alabama to becoming a world champion bass fisherman on MLF.

In 2019, I finished in 8th place for the Points Champion of MLF. In 2020, I came in at 6th place, which qualified me for the end-of-the-season championship, known as the Red Crest Tournament. Only 40 contestants fished in the Red Crest Championship held February 22-26, 2021, on Lake Eufaula. According to the point standings for the year, these 40 anglers were the best of the best on MLF.

Like most fishermen who fished the Red Crest Tournament on Lake Eufaula, I assumed that the bass would be spawning at this time of the year. Instead, when we arrived, the weather was crazy. Either the bass hadn’t moved in to spawn yet, or if they had started spawning, they’d moved back into deeper water because of the cold weather. I began finding fish holding in 8-12 feet of water, which is often where bass hold before they go to the banks and spawn, and/or where the bass hold when they finish the spawn before moving into deep water.

At all the tournaments I’ve fished in the last few years, I’ve depended heavily on my Lowrance electronics (https://www.lowrance.com/). So, at Lake Eufaula, I once again depended on them. As I rode the lake in my boat, I’d find brush piles in that 8-12 foot water depth and could see bass holding there. The most-important feature on my Lowrance HDS LIVE with its Active Imaging feature was a forward-facing transducer mounted on my trolling motor. During the tournament, when I located brush piles and could see the bass holding there, before my boat even got close to them, I’d use a Strike King KVD Deep Jerkbait (https://www.strikeking.com/products/kvd-300-deep-jerkbait) in the crystal shad color. This jerkbait ran about 8 feet deep. I saw the most bass ever for me in a brush pile – five or six good ones. However, most of the time, I only could catch one bass off each brush pile because the other bass were too spooked to bite.

One of the advantages that the Active Imaging screen on my depth finder gave me was that I actually could see my jerkbait as it hit and ran under the water. I was able to analyze how the bass reacted to the jerkbait when I reeled it in front of them. Many times, they’d follow the jerkbait away from the brush pile. I could watch bass take the lure on my electronics, and there was no lag time from when I saw a bass take the bait, until I decided to set the hook. Throughout the tournament, I only lost one really-good bass that weighed about 5 pounds, and that was on the last day. I weighed in 36 pounds and 15 ounces for 12 fish. The closest angler to me had 5 pounds less than I had. In the end, I won $300,000 and title of World Champion on MLF.

To learn more about catching bass, check out John E. Phillips’ book, “Bass Pros: Season by Season Tactics,” at https://amzn.to/2IKUhe, available in Kindle and print versions, and Click here for the Audible link. You may have to copy and paste this click into your browser. (When you click on this book, notice on the left where Amazon says you can read 10% of the book for free and listen to 10% of the book for free).

Tomorrow: Professional Bass Angler Dustin Connell’s Career Defining Moment

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