By David A. Brown
- Turning in a wire-to-wire performance, Ken Mah caught a 3-day winning total of 61.54 pounds by a Bill Lewis SB-57 squarebill in Ozark craw and punching heavy cover with a Big Bite Baits Yo Mama in the confusion color and a Big Bite Baits College Craw in spicy purple on 4/0 and 3/0 Gamakatsu hooks with G-Money punch skirts and a 1- to 1 1/4-ounce weight.
Difference Maker: Mah trusted his presentations to Sunline’s dependable strength.
He threw his squarebill on a G. Loomis NRX 893 rod with a 6.2:1 Shimano Curado carrying 16-pound Sunline FC Crank fluorocarbon. His punching setup was a 7-11 G. Loomis GLX 954 and a Shimano Chronarch MGL 150 with 80-pound Sunline braid.
- Beau Joudrey devoted his days to finding bed fish — the visible ones and the unseen fish. He caught his fish on a Neko-rigged Zoom Trick Worm with the tail dyed chartreuse to mimic bream.
Difference Maker: Joudrey varied his Neko weight, based on the scenario. He threw a 1/8-ounce nail weight for targeting beds, while a 1/16-ounce delivered the slow fall necessary for blind casting.
- Finishing third, Kyle Grover caught fish winding a 1/2-ounce Ladies Man Tackle bladed jig with a Yamamoto Zako trailer and a Berkley Frittside crankbait. He also did well with Texas-rigged 5-inch Yamamoto Senko.
Difference Maker: Grover kept two bladed jigs rigged and ready — a 1/2-ounce for higher tides and a 3/8 for navigating lower water.
4 Fourth-place pro Luke Johns targeted his reaction bites with a Picasso Inviz Wire spinnerbait with tandem gold/silver willow-leaf blades and a Picasso Shock Blade (bladed jig) with a Hog Farmer Spunk Shad trailer. Johns caught his bed fish on the Yamamoto Yama Craw.
Difference Maker: Johns rigged his Yama Craw with a short leader below the bobber stopped weight. This maximized the proprietary Mega Floater Formula, which made the bait stand up like a live craw in defense mode.
- Mark Lassagne caught most of his fish by targeting riprap banks with an unweighted 5-inch Yamamoto Senko in the green pumpkin watermelon color.
Difference Maker: Lassagne enhanced his bait’s appeal by applying generous amounts of Liquid Mayhem scent attractant.
- John Pearl caught his sixth-place fish on a 1/2-ounce War Eagle spinnerbait with double willow-leaf blades (gold and silver). Switching from the 1/2-ounce size to a 3/8-ounce provided what he termed a “night-and-day” difference in his ability to slow roll the spinnerbait and tempt lethargic fish.
Difference Maker: Pearl fished his bait on a Douglas Rods DXC 745 with a 7.2:1 Shimano Tranx reel spooled with 20-pound Seaguar InvisX fluorocarbon.
- Seventh place Alex Klein used a one-two punch comprising a 1/2-ounce Heavy Hitter vibrating jig (alternating white, green pumpkin and black/blue) with a Yamamoto Zako trailer and a punch rig comprising a 1 1/2-ounce weight and a Big Bite Baits College Craw with a Boss Skirt on a 4/0 hook.
Difference Maker: Klein said he got the action and fish-fighting strength he needed from his St. Croix Legend Glass rod (vibrating jig) and his St. Croix Tournament Bass rod.
- Earl Dalton III said he found such consistent success flipping and pitching a green pumpkin Berkley Pit Boss with a 1 1/2-ounce weight that he was recycling torn baits when he rain out.
Difference Maker: Often working in heavy cover, Dalton trusted his performance to a G. Loomis rod, a Daiwa Tatula reel and 20-pound Seaguar Tatsu line.
- Finishing ninth, Colby Pearson caught a lot of his fish by feathering a 1/2-ounce chartreuse/white OSP High Pitcher Spinnerbait through the water column and cover. He also weighed in key fish on a Little Creeper Trash Fish.
Difference Maker: Pearson relied on Shimano reels and trusted his Garmin mapping to find key river bends and quickly replicate a pattern, while staying on top of the tides real time.
- Joe Uribe, Jr., devoted much of his time looking for bedding bass and caught his weight on a power shot rig comprising a 6-inch Roboworm Fat in margarita mutilator Texas-rigged on a 3/0 Roboworm Rebarb Hook with a 5/16-ounce Voss tungsten weight.
Difference Maker: Uribe delivered his power shot on a 7-2 Performance Tackle Custom Powershot rod with a Daiwa Tatula 100 reel carrying 30-pound Sunline Siglon PE-8 braid and a 12-pound Sunline FC Sniper fluorocarbon leader.