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 XVIII – 1988
Guido Hibdon of Gravois Mills, Missouri, won the 1988 Classic with a 3/16-ounce Stanley Jig and a plastic, crawfish trailer known as the Guido Bug. Using the flipping technique and this more-modern version of the jig-and-pig, Hibdon once again brought the bass-fishing world’s attention back to the jig-fishing technique. The James River, near the city of Richmond, Virginia, hosted the 1988 tournament where Hibdon caught 28 pounds, 8 ounces of bass.
Classic XIX – 1989
Hank Parker, who had moved to Denver, North Carolina, won this Classic once more held on the James River with a 3/4-ounce Hawg Caller spinner bait that he had modified with tandem gold blades. That spinner bait caught 31 pounds, 6 ounces of bass and won Parker the $50,000, first-place prize.
Classic XX – 1990
You never can count Rick Clunn, who then lived in Montgomery, Texas, out of any Classic. Clunn had proved his mastery of the crankbait for many years, at many tournaments. In the 1990 Classic on the James River, Clunn introduced a new crankbait, the RC 1 cedar crankbait produced by Poe’s Lure Company, to catch 34 pounds, 5 ounces of bass and claim the title of Bassmaster Classic champion for the third time.
Classic XXI – 1991
Storm’s Short Wart crankbait and Hart Tackle Company’s Hart Throb spinner bait proved that Ken Cook, a fisheries biologist from Meers, Oklahoma, knew how to pick baits that would catch big bass. Fishing on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, Cook won the tournament with 33 pounds, 2 ounces of bass.
Classic XXII – 1992
Throwing just about everything in his tackle box, Robert Hamilton, Jr., of Brandon, Mississippi, produced a huge stringer of bass that weighed 59 pounds, 6 ounces to win this Classic held on Lake Logan Martin near Birmingham, Alabama. Hamilton first chose to fish with deep-diving crankbaits like the 9A Bomber, the Cordell Super Spot and Norman’s DD-22. A 3/4-ounce Stanley spinner bait also helped Hamilton put together the winning stringer, as did a 7/16-ounce Stanley jig with a Berkley Power Craw trailer, a Hale’s Craw Worm and a Lucky “E” Strike Razor Worm.
Classic XXIII – 1993
David Fritts, IV, of Lexington, North Carolina, signaled a new day of crankbait fishing by winning Classic XXIII at Logan Martin Lake, close to Birmingham, Alabama. Fritts took 48 pounds, 6 ounces of bass while fishing a Poe’s crankbait in deep water.
Classic XXIV – 1994
In 1994, a 23-year-old Newton, Connecticut, young man named Bryan Kerchal stunned pro fishermen by coming from the amateur ranks and beating the best bass anglers in the nation. Kerchal brought his winning catch of 36 pounds, 7 ounces into a packed auditorium with 23,000 screaming fans in Greenville, North Carolina’s coliseum. He had fished a red-shad Culprit worm.
Classic XXV – 1995
After losing a tremendous amount of weight, Mount Ida, Arkansas, Classic contender Mark Davis proved that fat-free foods and fat-free crankbaits could help you live longer and have more money to spend. Using Bomber’s Fat Free Shad and the 1-ounce Strike King Pro Model spinnerbait, Davis put together a winning 3-day catch of 48 pounds, 14 ounces at the High Rock Lake Classic near Lexington, North Carolina.
Classic XXVI – 1996
To prove that he hadn’t won the 1987 Classic only through luck, George Cochran won his 2nd Bassmaster Classic on Alabama’s Lay Lake near Birmingham, Alabama, by slow-rolling a Strike King Premier Pro Model spinner bait through shallow stumps in an embayment well off the main river channel. He also took some of his bass on Riverside’s Pro Rib worms, a 1/4-ounce buzzbait and Cordell’s Little O crankbait and flipped a tube jig.
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.