By David A. Brown
- Breaking 20 pounds on the second and third days, Justin Campbell caught most of his fish on a wacky-rigged 5-inch Yamamoto Senko in green pumpkin. He also added key fish on a 3.3 Keitech Swing Impact Fat in flash minnow.
Difference Maker: Campbell rotated between an Alpha Angler Tach Mag rod and an Alpha Angler DSR rod. For optimal bite detection and fish-fighting power, he went with 10-pound Power Pro braid and 10-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon.
- Washington pro Ronald Mace, who led days 1 and 2, caught his fish on a 2.8 Keitech Swing Impact Fat, a Texas-rigged 3.3 Keitech Swing Impact Fat and a Texas-rigged 5-inch Yamamoto Senko.
Difference Maker: Catching most of his fish around weed edges, Mace relied on a 7-foot G. Loomis spinning rod with 15-pound Power Pro braid and 15-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon to be able to horse them out of the vegetation.
- Taking third place, Travis Whitney threw a 2.8 Keitech Swing Impact Fat in a baitfish color and a dropshot with a green pumpkin Strike King KVD Dream Shot.
Difference Maker: Precise presentations to key spots was an essential element of Whitney’s plan and he made those casts with a G. Loomis 852S with a Shimano Vanguard reel, 10-pound Power Pro braid and 10-pound Seaguar Inviz-X fluorocarbon leader.
- Fourth place Jake Boomer threw a broad spectrum of baits. His lineup included a Heddon Super Spook in Okie shad, a Texas-rigged Jaboom Baits Boom Bug, a 1/2-ounce War Eagle Screamin Eagle spinnerbait in the spot remover color with a No. 2 trailer hook, a wacky-rigged 5-inch Yamamoto Senko and a Ned rig with a 3/32-ounce head and a 3-inch Yamamoto Ned Senko.
Difference Maker: Boomer found that an Alpha Angler Spy Bait Rod and 10-pound P-Line camo braid and 6-pound P-Line fluorocarbon provided the requisite strength and sensitivity he needed for his finesse baits.
- Finishing fifth, Scott Gregory caught a lot of his earlier fish on a dropshot with a Roboworm in margarita mutilator, a Zoom Super Fluke in hambone and smoke and a 3.8-inchTrophy Lures swimbait rigged weedless on a 1/8-ounce belly weighted hook. Later in the event, Gregory was more successful with a Heddon Zara Spook and the Trophy Lures swimbait.
Difference Maker: Making precise follow-ups with the swimbait proved essential for Gregory. When a fish missed his Zoom Super Fluke or his Heddon Zara Spook, Gregory dropped that Trophy Lures swimbait on them often closed the deal.
- Dustin Maraviov caught several of the sixth-place fish on a dropshot with a Berkley MaxScent Flat Worm and threw a silver Lucky Craft Gunfish at schoolers.
Difference Maker: Maraviov said he spent a lot of time looking at his Garmin Panoptix — especially between schooling periods when he needed to relocate the fish.
- Colby Pearson committed to a pair of presentations and caught his fish on a Duo Spinbait 80 and a hand-tied hair jig in 1/8 and 3/32-ounce sizes, depending on current strength.
Difference Maker: Pearson fished his baits on a 1-power spinning rod with a Shimano Stradic Ci4 4000 reel spooled with 5-pound Cortland braid and 6-pound Seaguar Tatsu fluorocarbon. Casting distance was the main goal, but the light rod distributed the tension for an efficient fight.
- For eighth-place Karl Okerman, the smallmouth liked a white 2.8 Keitech Swing Impact Fat on a 1/4-ounce Decent Weights ball head jig, a 3/8-ounce Decent Weights tube head with either a 3.75 XZone X-Tube or a Lost Baits tube and a dropshot with 4 1/2-inch Roboworm straight tail in margarita mutilator.
Difference Maker: Spotting fish on his Garmin LiveScope Okerman’s main setup was an Alpha Angler spinning outfit with 15-pound Power Pro braid and 12-pound Seaguar Tatsu fluorocarbon. For long-cast scenarios, he kept another another spinning outfit rigged with 10-pound fluorocarbon.
- Jason Hickey used a diverse lineup that included a Zoom Super Fluke in watermelon, a Heddon Super Spook in Tennessee shad and a green pumpkin tube on a 3/16-ounce EWG Owner Ned head.
Difference Maker: Hickey found that he needed to make long casts to reach smallmouth in gin clear water. His P-Line 100% Fluorocarbon enabled him to do just that.
- Gene Batey did his work with a green pumpkin Yamamoto Tube on a 3/8-ounce jig and a 4-inch Keitech Easy Shiner in smallmouth magic.
Difference Maker: Batey needed to make sure he could get solid hook sets on long casts, so he relied on a 7-1 G. Loomis rod with 15-pound Power Pro braid and 12-pound Yamamoto Sugoi fluorocarbon leader.