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 XXXVI – 2006
Lake Tohopekaliga near Kissimmee, Florida, saw Luke Clausen’s consistent performance win with a record 3-day total of 56 pounds, two ounces. Clausen primarily fished a Mann’s HardNose 6-inch junebug worm to land his lunkers. Clausen’s ability to use a lightweight plastic in the 40-mile-per-hour winds that swept across central Florida on the last day required changes to his technique. “I kept my rod tip on the water pretty much, reeling extremely slowly and dragging the worm across the bottom,” Clausen says.
Classic XXXVII – 2007
Boyd Duckett won this Lay Lake Classic near Birmingham, Alabama, with a 3-day total of 48 pounds, 10 ounces using a lipless crankbait – the Rat-L-Trap, and flipped a Berkley PowerBait Chigger Craw into the grass. Duckett explains that, “The lake didn’t fish the way it should for this time of year because of the sudden change in weather patterns. I had prepared myself mentally for that, which helped me to deal with it.” Duckett planned to fish for aggressive bass around secondary points in the morning and then use a flipping rod to probe grass beds for giant largemouths the rest of the days, and that’s what he did.
Classic XXXVIII – 2008
On Lake Hartwell near Greenville, South Carolina, Alton Jones of Waco, Texas, came back from 10th place on Day One to claim the $500,000 top prize in this Classic. His 3-day total was 49 pounds, 7 ounces, which he caught with prototype jigs made by Booyah – the Pigskin Jig and an AJ’s Go To Jig – and a Cotton Cordell CC spoon.
Classic XXXIX – 2009
Skeet Reese won this Classic on the Red River near Shreveport, Louisiana, 2 years after losing the Bassmaster Classic by 6 ounces. With a last-hour big fish, Reese outslugged 2003 Classic champion Mike Iaconelli by 11 ounces to fill the only glaring hole in his bass-fishing resume – a Classic win. With a total of 54 pounds, 2 ounces, Reese fished for these bass without running far, not pushing his boat up small ditches and not jostling much with the crowds. He fished lily pad stems with a 3/8-ounce Lucky Craft Redemption spinner bait and a Berkley Crazy Legs Chigger Craw.
Classic XXXX – 2010
Kevin VanDam won his third Classic with 51 pounds, 6 ounces of Lay Lake bass, caught outside Birmingham, Alabama. He knew Beeswax Creek well, having fished it before. The only major Lay Lake creek with grass in it, the area holds a lot of food, along with two feeder creeks with channels, stumps, coontail grass, slime and shell bed points, all good habitat for bass. VanDam had success with a lipless crankbait and a 1/2-ounce Strike King Red Eye Shad in plain gold and a gold Sexy Shad color.
Classic XXXXI – 2011
Kevin VanDam won his 4th Classic near New Orleans, Louisiana, with a 3-day total of 69 pounds, 11 ounces, reminding everyone how much he loves competition and competes to win. VanDam made a transition from a spinner bait to a crankbait and found stumps by fan-casting the crankbait and then repeatedly targeting the stumps for numerous bites.
Classic XXXXII – 2012
Chris Lane won on the Red River near Shreveport-Bossier City, Louisiana, with 51 pounds and 6 ounces, primarily fishing backwaters. Lane was on the verge of leaving one area to see if his second stop upriver in Pool 5 might hold better bass, but his instincts told him to stick around a few more minutes. Listening to his instincts paid off with what proved to be a 6-pound, 10-ounce bass. Lane says, “I’ll never again second-guess a decision I make when fishing.” He named two lures for helping him to victory – the Luck “E” Strike G4, a tube with a new inner laminate of a contrasting chartreuse color, and a Gambler Ugly Otter, a three-paddle soft plastic.
Classic XXXXIII – 2013
This Classic at the Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees near Tulsa, Oklahoma, saw Cliff Pace of Petal, Mississippi, winning with a 3-day catch of 54 pounds, 12 ounces. His winning lures were Jackall jerkbaits – a Squad Minnow and a Soul Shad – plus a Jackall DD Cherry crankbait in a crawdad color. He also used a 1/2-ounce B&M Football Jig with a V&M Twin Tail trailer in green pumpkin, dipping the plastic trailer’s tails in orange dye for a greater visibility in Grand Lake’s stained water.
Classic XXXXIV – 2014
Randy Howell won this Lake Guntersville Classic near Birmingham, Alabama, with a total of 67 pounds, 8 ounces of bass. He fished the rocks (riprap) up against a causeway bridge on Spring Creek and released eight, 4-pounders there. He moved only once, going farther back into the creek to a grassy area, which yielded a 6-pounder and allowed him to cull a 4-pounder. A Livingston Lures model being developed within the Pro Series, a
Rapala DT6 crankbait in the demon” crawfish color and a Yamamoto bladed jig caught Howell’s bass.
Rick Clunn’s Conclusions:
Having won four Bassmaster Classics, two of them back-to-back, Clunn of Ava, Missouri, has the authority to speak about what baits will catch the most big fish and win big bucks. “I know that three lures have won more bass tournaments and caught more bass than any other lures in competitive fishing – the spinner bait, the crankbait and the jig-and-pig,” Clunn reports. “Although other lures have caught big bass and lots of them, these three lures have been the most-consistent producers.” As you’ve read the information on the Classic wins, you’ll see the truth of Clunn’s statement. Two other lures stand out as backups for the top three – the plastic worm and the spoon. This interesting fact means that although the locations of the Classics have given the anglers the opportunity to fish for bass at different times of the year on various lakes around the nation under different water and weather conditions, the spinner bait, the jig and the crankbait have dominated the Classic wins.
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.