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During his highly successful Carhartt Bassmaster College Series days at Auburn, Matt Lee once dressed as country music star Brad Paisley for Halloween.

 “I had a plaid button-up shirt and carried a guitar around all night – mostly because chicks were into Brad Paisley at the time, and I cold grow a goatee in four days,” laughed Matt, as he reflected back to his campus days.

 Speed ahead half-a-dozen years, and Lee is now a full-time Bassmaster Elite Series pro, fresh off five very impressive Top 12 finishes during the 2017 season. And this Halloween, he’s costuming as an old lady, and choosing a topwater frog as his single favorite lure for late October.

 “People think of a frog as being a lure for aquatic vegetation, and it’s definitely great for that, but it’s also an awesome bait to throw around isolated laydowns and docks -- especially if you’ve got shade present,” says Matt.

 

Don’t Be Afraid of Braid – “For whatever reason, a lot of beginning anglers are afraid to throw braided line. But with a frog, braid is a ‘must-have’ for better hooksets, and to land the fish that blow up on it,” says Matt. He favors 50 or 65 pound Seaguar Smackdown, and spools it to a Quantum Speed Freak reel with a blazing 8.1:1 gear ratio that’s crucial to picking up line really fast following topwater explosions.

 A jig around docks for Jordan -- Matt’s younger brother, and Bassmaster Classic Champion, Jordan jumps on a jig for his pick of one lure he can count on in mid-autumn.

 “I’m looking to pitch at any isolated piece of wood on the shoreline, but docks are also super key in late October, and it’s hard to beat a 3/8 ounce Strike King finesse jig for laydowns or docks,” says Jordan.

 Haunted Docks?

 Okay, maybe not haunted, but old, somewhat dilapidated docks are famous for attracting more bass than new, well-maintained docks.

 “Yep, the best docks are kinda crusty, and covered in spider webs, with an old aluminum boat parked in the middle of ‘em,” grins the younger Lee brother. “Ideally I like a dock with about 15-feet of water on the front posts, and 5-feet of water near the back of it.”

 Jordan trims his jig with a Strike King Menace and spools up with 15-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon, but cautions anglers to not go too big with their rod selection.

 “I like a 7-footer versus a 7’ 6” or a 7’ 10” when I’m fishing docks, because a lot of times you’re in tight spaces, plus you make more accurate pitches with a slightly shorter rod,” he explains.  Jordan’s current dock fishing pitchin’ stick of choice is the new Quantum Smoke S3 model #SMC707XF.

 Given their phenomenal success during their short tenure as full-time pros, perhaps avid angler and country music star Brad Paisley might consider dressing as one of the Lee Brothers this Halloween - and if he’s wise - he’ll tie on a frog and a finesse jig.

 

 

  Alan McGuckin

 

Posted in Resources By Lisa Adams

 When you serve up 72 free pizzas, and former Carhartt Bassmaster College Series studs Matt and Jordan Lee are in the house, even an approaching rain-soaked autumn cold front can’t dampen 78 high school and college fishing teams from showing-up for the first ever Quantum Next Generation Open on Grand Lake, Oklahoma.

In fact, the young anglers traveled from as far away as nine states to launch and weigh-in at the same top-notch facility in Grove, Oklahoma that hosted the 2013 and 2016 Bassmaster Classics.

More than a dozen Zebco employees, parent company of Quantum, traveled from headquarters in Tulsa to volunteer and assure the anglers a quality experience at the No Entry Fee tournament.

And while ample smiles were evident of a great time by all in attendance, the high school team of Landon Edwards and Dalton Greene of Springdale and Siloam Springs, Arkansas caught the biggest bag of the event with 16.44 impressive pounds on a Rick Clunn squarebill from structure between docks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 The top finishing college team was Cameron Simmons and Dexter Flick of Oklahoma State with 12.97 pounds. Simmons an aviation major from Owasso, OK, and Flick an accounting major from Olathe, Colorado anchored their win with a 5-pound beast that bit a ½ ounce Pepper Custom Lures spinnerbait featuring willowleaf blades.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 Each winning team walked away with an impressive amount of product valued at $5,000 in a No Entry Fee tournament thanks to the very generous contributions of Carhartt, Costa, Garmin, Lowrance, Quantum, Stormr, Strike King, and Yamaha.

 Beyond just prizes to the top finishing teams, Quantum gave away a total of $16,000 in product through random drawings, and the City of Grove, and the Grove Rotary Club helped immensely to make sure the tournament ran smoothly.

 “In five years of being around high school and college tournaments, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a rich product pay-out in a No Entry Fee event. Not to mention, it was really well attended and run in a first class way,” says Matt Lee. 

 

  Alan McGuckin

 

Posted in Resources By Lisa Adams

Kevin VanDam’s Three Favorite Lures for Fall

October 2, 2017 12:00:00 AM EDT

Kevin VanDam loves football, archery season for whitetail deer, and thoughts of bass binging on baitfish. And those are just three good reasons the 7-time Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year calls autumn his favorite time of year.

 “Oh yea, there’s no doubt life is good this time of year,” says VanDam. And football is a large part of October’s goodness for he and his treasured family. 

 “Of course I love my home state Detroit Lions, but I maintain a friendship with Willie Young, an avid angler and pass rush specialist for the Chicago Bears, who used to play for Detroit,” he says.

 “Plus, my twin sons Jackson and Nicholas are in college at Grand Valley State University. Their football team owns the highest winning percentage in college football history, and we were recently on campus for Family Weekend when the Lakers won 49 to 0,” says the ever-competitive VanDam.

 But fall is certainly not only about football for the VanDams. They have long had a healthy appetite for whitetail deer hunting, and October 1st kicks off the start of Michigan’s archery season that they treasure in much the same way bass covet baitfish during the calendar’s fourth quarter.

 “Fall is all about the bait, and in a lot of reservoirs that’s going to involve bass keying on shad in major creek arms of the reservoir,” says VanDam. “That pattern is talked about constantly, and it’s true, but not every quality bass follows bait to the back of a creek -- there’s still plenty of good fish eating bait on flat, shallow, points along the main lake too.”

 No surprise then, all three lures pro bass fishing’s greatest angler chose as his favorites for fall are shad imitators.

 His starting line-up includes a squarebill crankbait, a topwater walking bait, and a jerkbait. And just as importantly as what lures he specified … is knowing where and when to use them … and what equipment he matches them to.

 Squarebill crankbait – He chooses his namesake KVD 1.5 from Strike King and says, “It’s just such an efficient bait because the bass are moving shallow, and they’ll bite it in just about any color of water,” says VanDam.

 “The dream scenario for a squarebill at this time of year is a rocky creek channel swing in the back of a major tributary, with shad active near the surface of the water,” he adds.

 While some pros speed up to faster gear ratio reels in autumn, VanDam remains faithful to the same 5.3:1 ratio from Quantum that he cranked up Bassmaster Classic and Angler of the Year titles with during his illustrious career.

 “With the larger spool and line capacity on the new Smoke HD reel, I’m still picking up plenty of line to maintain a good speed,” explains VanDam, who pairs it with a forgiving 7’ 0” TourKVD cranking rod.

 Topwater Walking Lure – If ever there was a prime time for topwater lures – it’s now, and VanDam says lures like Strike King’s Sexy Dawg have magnetic qualities.

“A topwater like the 4.5” Sexy Dawg has incredible drawing power. You can attract bass from far away to come bite it in clear to stained water, as long as there’s not too much wave action on the surface,” says VanDam.

 VanDam uses a higher speed 7.3:1 reel for this lure, and prefers 50-pound braided line. “Braid is so much easier to get the lure to walk, plus you get better hook-ups when they bite,” he explains.

 Jerkbait – Kevin VanDam and jerkbaits go together like October and falling leaves, and he says that few lures search-out bass on shallow, flat, main lake, secondary points like this one.

 “Again, not every bass in the lake swims to the back of a creek in search of shad at this time of year,” emphasizes the 4-time Bassmaster Classic Champion. “There are plenty of quality fish to be caught on the shallower flat points on the main lake too. And by keeping your boat in about 10-feet of water, and casting up there to four or five feet of water on those types of points, can be an awesome way to catch ‘em at this time of the year,” emphasizes the 4-time Bassmaster Classic Champion.

 VanDam emphasizes the need for a quality reel capable of making long smooth casts for jerkbaits, and currently relies on Quantum’s new Smoke S3 in a 6.1:1 spooled with 12-pound fluorocarbon.

 From first downs to falling leaves, autumn is indeed an awesome time of the year to catch bass chomping on baitfish, especially with three lures chosen by Kevin VanDam arrowed squarely into your bass fishing knowledge base.

 

  Alan McGuckin

 

Posted in Resources By Lisa Adams

VanDam’s 18 pounds of disappointment

September 15, 2017 12:00:00 AM EDT

Be honest, if a genie in a bottle offered you an 18-pound limit of bass every time you went fishing, you’d jump on it like a 5-pound smallmouth on a soft shell crawdad.

 So would I.

 But for the greatest bass angler of all time, bringing an 18-pound limit of smallmouth to the scales on Day 1 of the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship on Lake Mille Lacs felt like Christmas without presents. Or, maybe a good old fashioned kick in the fishin’ shorts.

 “Yea, absolutely I’d call it disappointing,” said Kevin VanDam in the predawn light just before heading out in search of a bigger sack of bronze bombers on Day 2.

 “I actually caught more bass than I expected to yesterday, but so many of my bites yesterday were 2 or 2 ½ pound fish. I just never got a real big bite,” he explained.

 Ironically, even though 29 of the 50 competitors caught at least a 20-pound limit on Day 1, nearly all of them still insist that Mille Lacs is fishing stingy.

 “You look at that leaderboard, and you’re thinking we just went out there and blasted ‘em yesterday – but trust me, that ain’t the deal. It’s a grind. Even a lot of the guys who caught ‘em really good yesterday only got seven or eight bites all day long,” explains the career long Quantum pro.

 “In my opinion, the population structure here is different than most northern smallmouth fisheries we compete on,” says VanDam. “Instead of tons of three and four pounders like you might see at a place like St. Clair or the St. Lawrence River, it seems like there are fewer fish here, but there’s some really old fish here that grow to be giants – there’s just not tons of them.”

 But today is a brand new day. And boy is it different. Instead of calm winds and bright sunny skies, clouds are heavy grey and the winds are blowing steady out of the North-Northeast at 10 mph.

 “You watch the leaderboard today,” warns VanDam. “This weather change is gonna shake things up big time. All that finesse fishing guys were doing yesterday, is going to be tougher to do today.”

 Faster moving lures like jerkbaits, crankbaits and spinnerbaits will be much bigger players. And if VanDam had a genie in a bottle – that’s exactly what he’d wish for.

 So keep an eye on the leaderboard. And don’t be shocked if the 7-time Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year makes a jump toward the top like a 5-pound smallie. 

 

  Alan McGuckin

 

Posted in Resources By Lisa Adams

One year ago, the pressure Gerald and LeAnn Swindle felt during Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship week on Mille Lacs was on par with a Crimson Tide pass rush.

 The couple persevered, they prayed, they leaned on each other, and they limped out of the pocket to score Gerald’s second career Toyota Angler of the Year title.

 This week on Mille Lacs, the pressure is gone. So much so that LeAnn had to step through a line of fans and media at Day 1 launch to jokingly remind Gerald of their rule: “No talk of deer hunting on tournament day.”

 Now don’t get the wrong idea, “Lulu” loves to hunt. But as she kindly explains, “He gets distracted easily, especially when deer season gets close to tournament season, so sometimes I have to step in and remind him of our rule, especially when I see him showing-off trail camera pictures five minutes before tournament blast-off.”

 The couple has shared 13 great years of marriage, and time in the deer woods together is a treasured part of their matrimony. In fact, they stopped at the 200-acre hunting property they lease in Illinois as they traveled from home in Alabama to Mille Lacs.

 “Yep, I spent all last Thursday afternoon, and all day Friday, planting ‘green fields’ with my son-in-law Zach to get us ready for deer season, before we came on up to Mille Lacs,” says Swindle with a joyful grin.

 “I was telling Dan Quinn from Rapala this morning not to get too concerned about not seeing a lot of deer on trail cameras right now in September, because this time of year they’re still eating natural food sources, and they don’t come to food you put out in front of a camera near as much as they will later in the fall. They’re like smallmouth on a sonar screen. Sometimes they hug the bottom so close you can’t see ‘em – but that don’t mean they aren’t there,” explains the Quantum pro.

 A couple weeks from now Swindle will kick off the hunting season with a Montana elk hunting trip, followed by time in a treestand for Illinois whitetail. 

 “The thing I’m looking forward to most this year in hunting season is not walking with a bad limp. I feel healthy. Heck, last year I had to kill a 140” buck with one crutch under my arm,” says Swindle.

 But first, there is a bass tournament taking place in Central Minnesota. And this year, it’s a tournament the Swindles are enjoying far more.

 “This week last year was the single most stressful week of our married life,” admits LeAnn. “There were tears, there were prayers, and there was stress like we’d never experienced.”

 But this week the Swindles are relaxed, just jockeying for a few more Angler of the Year points, sharing life off the water with their old buddy Skeet Reese, and showing-off big buck pictures on a cell phone – well, at least until “Lulu” reminded “G” of their rule.

 

  Alan McGuckin

 

Posted in Resources By Lisa Adams

Swindle talks AOY, knees, guitars, and Mille Lacs

September 13, 2017 12:00:00 AM EDT

One year ago in mid-September, Gerald Swindle became only the 11th professional bass angler in history to win more than one Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title when he hauled home the coveted trophy to Alabama from Lake Mille Lacs, Minnesota.

 He’s back at Mille Lacs this week for the same event, and he sits solidly near the top of the year-end points race in 14th place. He graciously took time at the end of a long practice day, on a mosquito laden boat ramp, to reflect on memories of Mille Lacs last year, as well as the challenges and triumphs he’s experienced since.

 

 

When you reflect back on Mille Lacs a year ago, what do you remember most?

 “There are a couple things that stand out. First, was just physically touching that trophy, and all the emotion tied to finally knowing it was mine, but also how much pressure “Lulu” and I dealt with that week, and the toll it took on her and me,” he reflects. “I think she wore out two pair of blue jeans that week praying. There was definitely a serious feeling of relief when that week was finally over.”

 Soon after winning the AOY title, and being at the sport’s pinnacle, you found yourself in a hospital bed facing deeply concerning and unexpected complications from what was expected to be a fairly routine knee surgery – how are your knees doing now?

 “They’re pretty good. I’d say they’re at 85% compared to about 40% and a whole lot of Advil this time last year,” grinned the Quantum pro.

 What’s the coolest thing that’s happened to your life as a direct result of being the reigning Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year?

 “No huge changes, really. The big things have never really jumped out at me – it’s the smaller but hugely meaningful things that go a long way with me, like kids writing me letters, or the custom guitar made for me by Duane Calkins’ woodshop class that I love the most,” says Swindle.

 You’ve had another awesome season this year, what’s been the biggest key to keeping you atop your game?

 “I think we’ve focused even more on fishing this year. I mean, we’ve worked hard for our sponsors off the water, but we’ve tried even harder to keep our eye on the ball, and focused on the game itself,” says the Lake Guntersville resident.

 Let’s talk about this week. Give us the unfiltered “G-Man” pregame analysis of what fans can expect this week on Mille Lacs.

 “I think you’ll see a lot of decent weights again. But like an Alabama football score, just because the numbers on the scoreboard indicate a big win, doesn’t mean the game itself won’t be a grind,” says Swindle. “You’ll see a few 25-pound bags, but not as many as last year. There seems to be an algae bloom that’s making the water a bit cloudier, and with smallmouth being such sight-oriented feeders, I think it’s slowed the bite down just a little. I think a 23-pound per day average can win this week.”

 Knee health to algae blooms. Custom guitars to college football. Life’s always in proper perspective for Gerald Swindle. 

 

  Alan McGuckin

 

Posted in Resources By Lisa Adams

Jordan Lee and Casey Ashley Preview AOY Championship

September 13, 2017 12:00:00 AM EDT

Jordan Lee and Casey Ashley both sit inside the Top 10 of the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points race, and the two Quantum pros graciously offered their input on everything from fried catfish to sturgeon, and of course smallmouth bass, on the eve of competition at Lake Mille Lacs.

 

   

 

Last year was a slugfest here at Mille Lacs. How do conditions compare this year?

Jordan Lee: The weather is a lot warmer. Last year we were wearing Carhartt beanies on our heads to stay warm, and the lake does seem to be fishing tougher.

Casey Ashley: It’s so much tougher this year. It’s like these fish got a good education between last year and now. There aren’t any dumb ones left swimming here now.

 

 The Northern U.S. is rich with a wide variety of freshwater fish species. What’s your most noteworthy catch amid all the Elite Series events you’ve fished ‘up north’ this summer?

Jordan Lee: Oh, for sure the 60-pound sturgeon I fought for 71 minutes on Zona Live at Lake St. Clair!

Casey Ashley: I hooked a northern pike so big that I wasn’t about to wrestle him for my jerkbait. I just let him take it with him.

 

 Speaking of lures, name three lures that pros will use most this week on Mille Lacs:

Jordan Lee: Jerkbait, drop shot, and a tube.

Casey Ashley: A crankbait that will run 10 to 12-feet deep, a jerkbait, and a drop shot.

 

 How much weight will you have to average each day to finish in the Top 12 here?

Jordan Lee: 20 pounds

Casey Ashley: 20 pounds

 

 People in this part of the country love to eat walleye, yellow perch and crappie – what is your favorite fish to eat?

Jordan Lee: I like walleye. And I like grouper. But my go-to standard is grilled catfish at the Cracker Barrel.

Casey Ashley: Fried flathead catfish caught near home in South Carolina.

 

  Alan McGuckin

 

Posted in Resources By Lisa Adams

Matt Lee’s Jumbo Sized Drop Shot Lure

September 5, 2017 12:00:00 AM EDT

Matt Lee loves to fish a drop shot, but his decision to drop shot a 5” Strike King Z-Too on a straight shank hook for Lake St. Clair smallmouth, was the equivalent of his fiancé Abby choosing to serve 20-ounce rib eye steaks as a bridal shower appetizer. Essentially, Lee turned one of bass fishing’s dainty finesse techniques into a full-fledged food fest en route to yet another Top 12 finish on the Bassmaster Elite Series tour.

 “I’m a drop shot fanatic. I threw it on spawning beds at Okeechobee, at stumps on Ross Barnett, and at St. Clair for smallmouth. I pretty much never leave the dock without one tied on, it’s just a matter of tweaking the components a little to meet the conditions,” explains Lee.

 “My decision to use such a big bait on my drop shot at St. Clair was two-fold. First, the water was a little dingy, and I thought the bigger bait would be more visible. And secondly, I noticed that the smallmouth I hooked in practice were spitting-up 4” to 8” perch,” observed the Auburn grad.

 Lure and Lure Color choice

 If Lee knew the smallmouth were feeding on yellow and green colored perch, then why did he opt for a white, ice-colored, Z-Too?

 “I’m pretty certain they were feeding on alewife as well as the perch. And the thing is, I was never on a big school of smallmouth. I felt like I was hunting big, single fish that seemed super aggressive – so that bait was visible and offered a big meal to those lone wolves,” says Lee.

 “That Z-Too was too big for pesky perch to eat, and because it’s made of ElaZtech, it floats and never tears up. Plus, that particular lure almost shimmies like a swimbait.”

 Experimental hooks

 As much as Lee uses a drop shot, he’d never used such a big lure. So he experimented between a 1/0 and a 2/0 straight shank hook, as well as an occasional circle hook that’s more standard on a drop shot.

 “I was actually super-gluing the Z-Too on the hooks, and the one thing I figured-out, was that no matter what hook I used, by giving them an extra second to eat it, rather than set the hook too fast, was more critical than the exact hook I rigged with,” says Lee.

 Speed Freak

 While gear ratios get a lot of attention among baitcasting reels, their mechanical importance in spinning reels is too often overlooked, but not by top pros like Matt Lee and Jacob Powroznik.

 “Smallmouth move so quick that it’s critical to use a reel that can pick up a ton of slack line in a hurry, especially in one of those moments during the fight when they switch from going away from the boat, and run right at you, and you gotta get down on it like Kool & The Gang,” says Lee. “That’s why I love the Quantum Speed Freak. It picks up 3-feet of line with every turn of the handle, plus it’s got an awesome drag system for fighting those beasts.”

 Brotherly Love

 Matt shared his findings of the big lure’s success with younger brother Jordan, who was quick to heed Matt’s advice. Jordan had been fishing a smaller Strike King Dream Shot, but on Day 3 of the tournament, switched to the big Z-Too. His first fish of the day was a mammoth 6 pound 13 ounce bronze beast.

 The Lee Brothers eventually finished 4th and 5th and won a combined $30,500. Everybody went home happy, and ate well along the way, including St. Clair’s super-sized smallmouth. 

 

  Alan McGuckin

 

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Posted in Resources By Lisa Adams

Jordan Lee with Prism rod

August 28, 2017 12:00:00 AM EDT

Jordan Lee with the $99 7-foot medium heavy Quantum Prism spinning rod he caught all his pig-sized smallmouth with at the Bassmaster Elite on Lake St. Clair this past weekend. 

 Jordan and his brother Matt both notched another Top 12. 

 

  Alan McGuckin

 

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Posted in Resources By Lisa Adams

Casey Is Catching On To Smallmouth

August 25, 2017 12:00:00 AM EDT

 Casey Ashley has been saying for years that he doesn’t like smallmouth.

 But given the fact the 2015 Bassmaster Classic Champ sits soundly inside the Top 5 of a Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points race that’s tighter than the dry storage lids of his Triton, well, it’s fair to say, the soft spoken South Carolina pro is learning to live with the infamously ghost like bronze bombers that have dominated the summer portion of the Elite Series schedule.

 Fact is, he’s more than just tolerating smallmouth, he’s figuring them out – mostly by taking his own approach with a plan that involves a lot of treble hooks, fairly shallow water, and perhaps most importantly – a mindset of finally accepting the fact that smallmouth are not largemouth.

 

 “I still don’t like ‘em,” grinned the likeable Ashley minutes after dropping 18 pounds of smallmouth on the scales at Day 1 of the Advanced Auto Parts Bassmaster Elite Series on Lake St. Clair. “They’re still way too fickle to my liking. I found two spots late in practice Wednesday that were loaded with smallmouth, and today I never caught a single fish from either of those areas.”

 “A southern largemouth fisherman like myself is programmed to finding and catching fish from targets like a brushpile, a laydown tree, stumps, docks, whatever – but with smallmouth, you can forget about all that,” says Ashley. “I’ve learned that you stand just as good a chance by tossing the lure behind your shoulder at smallmouth -- especially on a massive, flat-bottomed lake like St. Clair, because they roam areas, instead of staying locked on targets,” explains Ashley.

 Jerks, Cranks, and Less than 10-feet Deep

 To explore expansive ‘areas’ Ashley has learned to lean heavily on faster moving lures like jerkbaits and crankbaits versus mega-popular drop shots and tube jigs.

 “It seems like I catch bigger smallmouth on jerkbaits and crankbaits than I do a drop shot, and those horizontal moving baits give me a better chance to cover more water too,” explains Ashley.

 “I’ve also learned to accept the fact that I’m way better at catching ‘em in less than 10-feet of water when at all possible. You force me to fish deeper than about 10-feet, and I feel like I’m out of my league,” admits Ashley.

 Tackle

 Ashley has no strict allegiance to a crankbait sponsor, so the ‘free agent’ mixes a blend of brands that often include Lucky Craft Staysee jerkbaits, and Strike King 5XD crankbaits, but one shared constant is the mid-range gear ratio of the reels he throws them on.

 “I use the 6.6:1 Quantum Smoke HD for cranking because it’s got a big spool with a lot of line capacity, and for the jerkbait, I use the brand new Smoke S3 in a 6.1:1, because it casts so far and smooth,” he explains.

 Ashley uses 10-pound Hi-Seas fluorocarbon line with his jerkbaits, but cranks with 12-pound Hi-Seas.

 Surprised by his success?

 When asked if he was surprised to be sitting so high in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points after a bevy of smallmouth tournaments, Ashley replied, “Maybe just a little surprised, but at the St. Lawrence River I was able to find fish in the current around structure, which makes me feel more comfortable, and at Champlain, I was able to blend a few largemouth into the mix.”

 As for St. Clair, he caught every fish he weighed-in during the Elite Series event of 2015 on a jerkbait, and finished 13th. So don’t expect him to change much. It’s a shallow-water plan he’s comfortable with, and it gets great results … even though he still doesn’t like smallmouth.  

 

  Alan McGuckin

 

Posted in Resources By Lisa Adams

Hackney Knows He Has to Spin to Win

August 24, 2017 12:00:00 AM EDT

 Lake St. Clair is one of America’s all time greatest smallmouth fisheries. But when the Bassmaster Elite Series visited the Detroit area fishery in 2013, Greg Hackney chose to fish for largemouth based on the fact smallmouth looked more like retired Pistons point guard Isaiah Thomas than current Lions left tackle Greg Robinson.

 “I don’t know what the deal was on St. Clair four years ago, but the smallmouth looked sickly, like they were starving. You’d catch a fish that should have weighed 4-pounds and he’d only weigh 3-pounds,” remembers Hackney.

 “After a couple days of practice, I finally stumbled into some healthy largemouth and decided I had a better chance to do well catching those than skinny smallmouth, so I pitched a Strike King Menace around on a ¾ ounce Texas rig and caught enough largemouth to finish 18th,” he recalls.

 “But that ain’t the case this week – these Smallmouth are healthy right now – and I’ll be fishing for them exclusively with spinning tackle,” confirmed Hackney before Day 1 launch at the Advanced Auto Parts Bassmaster Elite on Lake St. Clair.

 While he may be fishing finesse techniques this week, it won’t be with undersized spinning reels. Hackney is religious about his love of larger spinning reels – and for good reason.

 “A lot of people buy size 25 and 30 spinning reels for bass fishing, but I use a size 40 Speed Freak from Quantum because it holds more line, and leads to far less twists and tangles than a smaller spinning reel – especially if I’m using straight fluorocarbon line with no braided line,” explains Hackney.

 “Like most guys, more times than not, I’ll use braid with a 7 to 8 foot long fluorocarbon leader on my spinning reels, because braid doesn’t twist nearly as bad, especially when you’re fishing a nose-hooked drop shot bait that’s spinning downward with each vertical drop you make,” he explains.

 “But no matter what line you use, a bigger spinning reel just offers you better line management, and faster line pick-up. With that 6.2:1 gear ratio, you’re picking up about 39-inches of line with every turn of the handle,” he explains.

Known as a gritty shallow water stick, the Louisiana pro admits his favorite two ways to catch a bass are top water froggin’ and pitching to heavy cover, but what you love, verses what pays the bills are two very different things.

 “That’s the life of an Elite Series pro, if you’re not willing and able to be versatile out here, this bunch of anglers will eat you alive. And if you can’t fish all the different techniques, you’ll starve,” concludes the highly accomplished Hackney. 

 

  Alan McGuckin

 

Posted in Resources By Lisa Adams

How Matt Lee Chooses Drop Shot Weights

August 1, 2017 12:00:00 AM EDT

 

Former Carhartt Bassmaster College Bracket Champion Matt Lee racked up his very impressive third Top 12 finish of the Elite Series season at Lake Champlain. Lee’s fat limits were a blend of both smallmouth and largemouth, but his choice of lures centered on one primary technique – Drop Shotting.

 As you might expect – the holder of an engineering degree from Auburn takes a slightly analytical approach to choosing weights for his drop shots, and it’s a strategy that makes great sense for getting snagged less, feeling more bites, and catching more bass.

 “I use both tear drop and cylinder-shaped drop shot weights, but each is a tool best designed for a certain job, and the key is to know when to use each of the two styles,” says Lee.

 

Cylinders for weeds vs. Teardrops for rocks

 “When you’re fishing thick vegetation like I faced a lot of on Champlain, you’ve got to use a skinny cylinder-shaped weight, or you’re going to constantly be snagged in weeds,” explains Lee. “If you try to drag teardrop-shaped weight through those weeds, it’s nearly impossible to keep it clean, and you’re going to get really frustrated.”

 Conversely, Lee states that the rounder teardrop shaped weights tend to get through rocks a little better.

 Tungsten vs. Lead

 “The cylinder shaped weights I use in weeds are made of lead, and they’re much less expensive than tungsten, but when I’m fishing deeper where there’s no weed growth, and rocks typically come into play, I want the benefit of tungsten’s sensitivity to feel the rocks on the bottom – especially if I’m out there in 25 or 30-feet of water,” he explains.

 How heavy?

 Shape aside, anglers new to drop shotting often wonder how heavy their choice of weights should be, and Lee has a simple answer.

 “Use the lightest weight you possibly can, and still be able feel your drop shot,” says Lee. “But as a rule of thumb, if you’re fishing less than 15-feet deep, try starting with a 1/4 –ounce weight, and if you’re fishing those deep zones like 25 or 30 feet, it’s probably best to use a 3/8-ounce in most situations.”

 Rods, Reels, Line, Lure  

 Want to replicate Matt’s basic drop shot set-up? Try a 7’ 4” Quantum Tour KVD spinning rod, paired with a size 30 Quantum Speed Freak spinning reel that picks up an amazing 36” inches of line with every turn of the handle – which is especially helpful when fishing in deep water, or for catching up with torpedo-like Smallmouth when they bite.  He spools up with 10-pound braid tied to an 8-pound leader made of Seaguar Tatsu fluorocarbon line.

 As for lures, his favorite choice is Strike King Dream Shot rigged on a #1 size Owner circle hook. Lee says brown/purple is hard to beat for a worm color. And remember, teardrop weights made of tungsten for rocks, and lead cylinder-shaped weights for weeds. A mix of ¼ ounce and 3/8 ounce should cover most all your needs. 

 

  Alan McGuckin

 

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