Rising and falling water. Warming, stained and clearing water. Lots of rain and post frontal conditions. All were in play at the GEICO 2019 Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. From March 15 to 17, the Tennessee River system proved a formidable foe for the 52 best anglers in the sport, making getting into the Super Six the most challenging feat of them all. With the best bass lures in hand, these pros still managed to pull in their limits.
In the end it was hometown favorite Ott DeFoe who was joined by his family in the winner’s circle on Championship Sunday. The week in Knoxville turned out to be a crank-fest, with lipped and lipless lures of all kinds producing best for the top finishers. Check out the choices in this Classic gallery of classic springtime baits.
Adrian Avena (32-lbs., 10-oz.)
A 3/8-ounce Z Man/Evergreen Chatterbait Jack Hammer, Clearwater Shad, with a Berkley Powerbait Power Swimmer Swimbait, Sexy Shad, was a top producer for Adrian Avena. He also used a Berkley Frittside designed by crankbait guru David Fritts. The flat sided crankbait is designed to combine the better of two worlds. “It casts farther and better than balsa without losing the unique action.” The lure will be available in late summer, but you can find more crankbaits here.
Chris Zaldain (34-lbs., 0-oz.)
Chris Zaldain held nothing back, going for the win from the beginning. The entire week he threw 6- and 8-inch Megabass Magdraft Swimbaits, Albino Pearl Shad, featuring a big bass design that combines advanced engineering of a hardbait with smooth movements of a softbait. To prolong the bait’s time in the strike zone, he added a 1/16-ounce nail weight behind the single treble hook. He also used a personally designed 3/8-ounce Santone Lures Z-Spin Head with a 5-inch hollow belly soft plastic trailer.
Roy Hawk (34-lbs., 4-oz.)
He also used a 1/2-ounce Pepper Custom Baits Original Pepper Head, Global Warming, with a 3.75-inch Yamamoto Flappin’ Hog, Bama Bug, for a trailer.
Brandon Palaniuk (34-lbs., 15-oz.)
A trio of baits produced for Brandon Palaniuk. A Rapala Balsa Extreme BX Brat Squarebill, Bone Craw, and modified with a marker for added strike appeal, was a top choice. So was a Rapala DT6, Brown Crawdad. He also used a 6.5-inch Zoom Z3 Trick Worm, Z3 Edge, rigged on a 1/4-ounce shakey head.
Wesley Strader (39-lbs., 8-oz.)
Wesley Strader rotated through a jig, crankbait, spinnerbait and Ned head rig. To make it he used a 1/16 jighead with 6.25-inch Zoom Fluke Stick, Green Pumpkin. For more aggressive fish he used a hand-carved PH Custom Lures Lil Guy, designed for cold water and highly pressured fish. Strader also used a Zorro Bait Co. Flipping Jig with 3-inch Zoom Big Salty Chunk trailer, Flippin Blue. A white/chartreuse 3/16-ounce Zorro Wesley Strader Bango Blade Spinnerbait also produced strikes.
Brandon Lester (40-lbs., 5-oz.)
A brown 3/8-ounce unnamed flipping jig with 4-inch shortened Xzone Lures Pro Series Muscle Back Craw, Okeechobee Craw, was a top choice. So was a 1/2-ounce unnamed bladed jig with 3.25-inch XZone Lures Muscle Back Finesse Craw, Green Pumpkin Black Flake.
Mark Daniels Jr. (41-lbs., 12-oz.)
Mark Daniels Jr. rotated through three baits to earn his keep. He favored a self-designed Bill Lewis MR-6 Crankbait, Strawberry Craw, featuring flat sides and an internal weight transfer system for longer casts. For reaction strikes he used red crawfish patterned Bill Lewis Rat-L-Traps.
A 3/8-ounce Z-Man/Evergreen Chatterbait Jack Hammer, Spot Remover, produced strikes during low activity periods.
Michael Iaconelli (42-lbs., 9-oz.)
A Rapala Ike’s Custom Ink DT6, Caribbean Shad, scored big for Michael Iaconelli on a game-changing weekend raising his chances of winning a second Classic. Retrieving the lure into flat rocks produced strikes. Another game changer was a Rapala Flat 3 modified by Ott DeFoe.
A white/chartreuse 1/2-ounce Molix Water Slash Double Colorado Spinnerbait with 4-inch Berkley Powerbait Power Grub trailer, Milky Chartreuse, produced in cover too thick for the crankbait. Iaconelli also used a black 1/2-ounce Missile Jigs Ike’s Mini Flip Flipping Jig, with 3.25-inch Berkley Powerbait Power Chunk trailer, Black Blue Fleck.
Jesse Wiggins (43-lbs., 14-oz.)
Jesse Wiggins relied on a Jackall Bling 55, Crawfish, featuring a weight transfer system for longer and more balanced casts in a small profile, flat-sided crankbait.
Jacob Wheeler (45-lbs., 5-oz.)
Throughout the week, Jacob Wheeler rotated through hardbaits for a mixed bag of largemouth and smallmouth. A custom painted red craw Storm Arashi Vibe was a top choice. The lipless crankbait features a slow-speed, subtle vibration and sound, making it ideal for lethargic bass encountered in calm wind and post-front conditions. A Rapala Ike’s Custom Ink DT6, Ike’s Red Demon, was another choice.
Bassmaster Classic Champion Ott DeFoe (49-lbs., 3 oz.)
A Storm Arashi Vibe, Rusty Craw, and a Rapala DT4, Crawdad, were top cranking choices for winner Ott DeFoe. A key lure on Championship Sunday was a 3/8-ounce unnamed bladed jig, chartreuse white.