As far as bass tournaments go, they don't get any bigger than the Bassmaster Classic. And I'm not just saying that because I won last year, either. But look around the industry; read the magazines and the websites and you will see that success is often measured by what happens during the Classic.
It's not just the anglers who are judged this way. The tackle companies, too, are judged by how well their products perform on professional bass fishing's biggest stage. When an angler trusts a product
enough to wager his entire tournament fortune on the bait (or line, reel, etc.), to me, that's the ultimate endorsement.
Again this year, my fellow Berkley Pro Staffers and I will enter into the Bassmaster Classic with some of the newest baits designed by Berkley, specifically designed to give us the kinds of things we will need for Lake Hartwell. But more than just Classic baits, these baits will also be applicable to the other fisheries we will compete on in 2008. Here's how I plan to make the most of them.
Probably my favorite bait for the upcoming year is a new swimbait we're coming out with called a PowerBait Hollow Belly. This 5-inch bait with its Vibratail for enhanced swimming action comes in 10 of the hottest swimbait patterns I've ever seen, including Blueback Herring, which is going to play a big role at Hartwell. You'll see this bait fished in a couple of different ways, either on a leadhead of any size or with a weighted hook for use in deeper water. I use a 3/16-ounce or a 1/4-ounce wide gap, 5/0 weighted hook. That's my favorite way to fish this new swimbait. Basically, with this bait, I just throw it out there and let it sink to the desired depth and swim it back slowly. This bait is perfect for suspended fish and can catch them regardless of their depth. If they're suspended in 10-15 feet of water, I'll run the swimbait up to 6 or 8 feet of water and the fish will come up and attack this bait as it wobbles through the water. This bait casts well, especially on 8- or 10-pound test Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon. I throw it on this line to help it sink to the desired depth.
I won the Classic last year on another one of Berkley's baits designed especially with the Classic in mind, the PowerBait Chigger Craw. This year there's going to be two additions to the Chigger Craw
lineup a 3-inch Chigger Craw and a Chigger Chunk and obviously I wanted to offer as much input as I could on these baits. I use the Chigger Craw in so many ways, but I really wanted a Chigger Craw to use with a 3/16- or ?-ounce pegged bullet weight Texas rigged and pitched to bass when they don't want to bite the bigger Chigger Craw. The other thing I had in mind was that it makes an awesome jig trailer. The Chigger Chunk is designed specifically as a jig trailer, but both of them perform just as well as the 4-inch does.
Another new bait, the PowerBait 3-inch Double Tail Grub is also designed specifically as a trailer. This bait, unlike some of the bigger Chigger Craw-style baits, falls through the water much easier making it easier to pair with smaller jigs. Normally, you will see the Twin Tail Grub when we are fishing a jig in open water, like we'll be doing a lot of at Hartwell. This isn't really for pitching and Flippin' when you need a big bait behind a standard jig. I will rig the Twin Tail Grub behind a football head jig in about 10-15 feet of water. It's not so bulky a trailer that you have to use a huge jig in deeper water, plus it has an incredible action on the fall.
Rounding out Berkley's soft baits for this year's Classic is the 5-inch PowerBait Heavy Weights Sinkworm and 5-inch Heavy Weights Fat Sinkworm. Some people might be tempted to compare these baits
to some other big-bodied baits on the market, but these are completely different. I use the regular 5-inch Sinkworm like I do a PowerBait Fat Dover Crawler, for a multitude of uses. It has a different look and is perfect for a Carolina rig or Texas rig with a lighter weight. It has a lot of sinking ability and it looks more natural when it's on the bottom as opposed to the big weight sticking the nose down every time you lift it. Wacky rigged weightless, it's got more movement than any other bait of this style because the design is not fat but thin on both ends. I throw the Fat Sinkworm Texas-rigged weightless and drag it around. Not only do these baits have an advantage because of their action, but the PowerBait scent and flavor make fish hang onto the bait longer. That's going to be a big deal this year a Hartwell, where I am expecting cooler water temperatures during the tournament, no matter what the weather has in store for us.
With all the various jig applications and the fact that big fish are caught regularly on jigs, I expect jigs could play a huge role in the Classic. Berkley wanted to be a part of that and has created a new Flippin' Jig, Football head and Finesse Jig. These will be a part of my arsenal for the Classic and the remainder of the year.
If I had to guess, I would imagine that several of the Berkley Pros will score Top-10 Classic finishes with the Hollow Belly swimbait. I plan to use it extensively, as well as the new football head jig tipped with a 3- or 4-inch Chigger Craw, depending on the size of jighead and depth I wish to fish. With these new products hitting the shelf in time for the Classic, pros and amateurs alike can make the most out of these baits throughout the entire year.