John’s Note: The 2015 Bassmaster Classic takes place at Lake Hartwell in Greenville, South Carolina, this week, February 20-22. And, I know a secret that many anglers have access to but few take advantage of – which lures have produced the most dollars and the biggest bass in bass-fishing tournaments across the nation. Each year, lure designers create new series of baits that often catch more anglers than they do bass. Most lures will produce big bass under certain sets of conditions. But which lures consistently catch the most bass during Bassmaster Classics? Which lures do you need to keep in your tacklebox during this upcoming bass-fishing season? Although history doesn’t guarantee the future, we can learn from history and use the historical lures and past winning techniques to shape our bass-fishing future. Let’s look at the Classic lures that have helped anglers win past Bassmaster Classics to learn what baits you can bet on to catch big bass.
Classic X – 1980
Bo Dowden of Natchitoches, Louisiana, built his bass-fishing strategy on the flipping technique in the 1980 Bassmaster Classic held in Thousand Islands, New York. Dowden fished a heavy lead jig, tipped with frog strips (chunks of pork rind) to win the tournament. Many tournament anglers already considered fishing a jig a strong pattern at this time. But fishing the jig-and-pig really became a dominant technique after Dowden’s win.
Classic XI – 1981
A 21-year-old youngster from Fitzgerald, Georgia, named Stanley Mitchell, won the 1981 Bassmaster Classic by only a few ounces using a crankbait on Lake Montgomery near Montgomery, Alabama. The world of bass fishing started re-emphasizing the old crankbaits after this tournament, although previously soft-plastic lures had been in the forefront of bass fishing.
Classic XII – 1982
Paul Elias, of Laurel, Mississippi, added a new twist to crankbait fishing at this Classic. He fished a deep-running crankbait close to the bottom by holding his rod under the water while he kneeled down on the side of the boat. This new kneel-and-reel style of crankbait fishing proved deadly effective.
Classic XIII – 1983
On the Ohio River near Cincinnati in August, 1983, Larry Nixon, then of Hemphill, Texas, breathed new life into the popularity of the plastic worm using a black with blue tail Ditto Baby Gator Tail worm. He fished the worm fast and presented it to the target. Then Nixon hopped the worm on a slack line once or twice near cover before reeling the worm in and making his next cast. He landed a total of 18 pounds, 1 ounce to win this Classic.
Classic XIV – 1984
Rick Clunn once again proved the power of the crankbait in this Classic. He alternated between crankbaits with wide wobbles and crankbaits with short wobbles when he fished the Arkansas River at Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Clunn completely dominated the Classic by catching 75 pounds, 9 ounces of bass during the three-day event.
Classic XV – 1985
After the dominance of the crankbait in Classic XIV, Jack Chancellor of Phenix City, Alabama, proved again the power of the plastic worm. Chancellor brought in 65 pounds of bass for the 3-day tournament in 1985 while fishing the Do-Nothing worm on the Arkansas River.
Classic XVI – 1986
In the 1986 tournament held at Chickamauga and Nickajack lakes just outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee, Charlie Reed of Broken Bow, Oklahoma, once again proved the power of the plastic worm. Fishing small cover with a plum-colored worm, Reed beat the best of the best.
Classic XVII – 1987
The old spinner bait that won the first Bassmaster Classic reappeared with a new design and new bells and whistles around 1987. George Cochran, then of North Little Rock, Arkansas, who today lives in Hot Springs, Arkansas, used the Strike King Diamondback spinner bait and a 6-inch purple-and-white Mister Twister Phenom plastic worm to win with only 15 pounds, 5 ounces of bass that he caught on the Ohio River.
To learn more about bass fishing, get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks and some print books, “How to Bass Fish Like a Pro,” “How to Win a Bass Tournament,” “Catch the Most and Biggest Bass in Any Lake: 18 Pro Fishermen’s Best Tactics, “Hot Weather Bass Tactics” and “How to Become A Tournament Bass Fisherman.” Click here to get these books.