Tournament Trends

Like it or not, trends are an integral part of modern bass fishing, especially in the crucible of professional competition.

There is not a bass fisherman worth his skip cast who wants to be described as “trendy.” The very word implies a fickle nature: someone who doesn’t stay the course, who bends with the prevailing wind.

Yet, like it or not, trends are an integral part of modern bass fishing, especially in the crucible of professional competition. It is here where the concept of “put up or shut up” is unceremoniously delivered, often in humbling fashion at weigh-ins. To stay in the spotlight, the top pros must keep abreast of the latest lures and techniques that produce bass consistently. Fortunately for the rest of us, the new tricks they learn trickle down to our fishing level, where winning a tournament isn’t nearly so important as simply catching a bass.

In many ways, professional anglers view trends with a certain degree of suspicion that is understandable. They know that the fundamentals got them to the show and will keep them there through years of competition. Plus, they are well schooled in tournament statistics that are irrefutable: The basics win — plastic worms, spinnerbaits, jigs and crankbaits. Veering too far from these four major food groups has spelled disaster for a few and provided lessons learned for everyone else.

The yin to this trendy yang, however, is also a key chapter in any professional’s survival guide. Quite simply, if you’re too opinionated, too unwilling to accept change, too often the last guy to jump on the bandwagon, you’ll pay the price. Even someone like Missouri’s Denny Brauer, an FLW (Forrest L. Wood) and BASS Masters Classic champion who has cashed more than $2 million in tournament checks, admits to having closed the door to new ideas.

“I can remember when the soft-plastic jerkbaits hit. I admit it, I was close-minded to them. And I could have been catching a lot of fish for a couple of years before anyone else knew about the deal,” says Brauer. “We have all learned those lessons. So, when a new trend comes along, you need to take a good look at it. Most important, you have to ask yourself some hard questions. How does it apply to your fishing? When will it work for you?” For the average angler, it is crucial to recognize how tournament schedules and the vagaries of weather actually control the birth of many trends. According to Gary Klein, another bass fishing superstar, you don’t need a psychic or tarot cards to see what lies ahead.

“The dominance of any technique or lure during any scheduled tournament year is really at the whim of the schedule itself. For instance, the upcoming (2000-2001) B.A.S.S. schedule will put us on two delta systems in Louisiana and Alabama. I guarantee those two events will not be won by someone using a Carolina rig or split-shotting,” notes Klein. “The point is this: If you look at the tournament schedule for any year, you can pretty much forecast the tackle trends based on the waters being fished and the species of bass.”

** Lucky for Them**
Although much of the 1999-2000 season in both the FLW (Operation Bass) and B.A.S.S. circuits involved low- and clear-water conditions that produced textbook sight-fishing conditions, there were also opportunities for hard jerkbaits to shine. Familiar names such as the Bomber Model “A” and the Rapala Husky Jerk loomed large, but a relative newcomer from Japan also scored. The Lucky Craft Pointer Minnow again put American manufacturers on notice that the Japanese penchant for detail is not at the expense of results.

Available in two sizes (the Pointer 78 measures 31/2 inches, with the Pointer 100 slightly larger at 41/4 inches), these imports began to draw attention at two smallmouth fisheries where B.A.S.S. staged tournaments last year; first at Michigan’s Lake St. Clair in August and a month later in New York and Vermont at Lake Champlain.

“In certain lakes, certain times of the year, bigger jerkbaits will work better. But the majority of the forage bass feed on will be in the two- to four-inch category,” observes California’s Skeet Reese, someone who was already familiar with the Pointer Minnow’s impact in Western impoundments. “It’s a very erratic bait that can dance a foot or so from side-to-side. But one of the problems with smaller baits is that some guys can’t cast them,” continues Reese. “One of the real advantages to the Lucky Craft Pointer Minnows is in their weight-transfer system, which prevents tumbling. I can take a Pointer Minnow with 20-pound-test SpiderWire Super Mono, tie it to a seven-foot, fiberglass Lamiglas rod and a Shimano Chronarch reel and cast it 100 feet.”

** Another Finesse Uprising?**
Unlike the slow, eastward progression of most Western finesse tactics, the latest entry into the light-line category — drop-shotting — seems poised to take the country by storm. Unveiled at the BASSMASTER Western Invitational at California’s Lake Oroville, this simple, vertical method for catching suspended fish led Aaron Martens to victory. It also helped most of the field catch spotted bass in 50 to 70 feet of water. Some anglers actually learned the technique while the event was r in August and a month later in New York and Vermont at Lake Champlain.

“In certain lakes, certain times of the year, bigger jerkbaits will work better. But the majority of the forage bass feed on will be in the two- to four-inch category,” observes California’s Skeet Reese, someone who was already familiar with the Pointer Minnow’s impact in Western impoundments. “It’s a very erratic bait that can dance a foot or so from side-to-side. But one of the problems with smaller baits is that some guys can’t cast them,” continues Reese. “One of the real advantages to the Lucky Craft Pointer Minnows is in their weight-transfer system, which prevents tumbling. I can take a Pointer Minnow with 20-pound-test SpiderWire Super Mono, tie it to a seven-foot, fiberglass Lamiglas rod and a Shimano Chronarch reel and cast it 100 feet.”

** Another Finesse Uprising?**
Unlike the slow, eastward progression of most Western finesse tactics, the latest entry into the light-line category — drop-shotting — seems poised to take the country by storm. Unveiled at the BASSMASTER Western Invitational at California’s Lake Oroville, this simple, vertical method for catching suspended fish led Aaron Martens to victory. It also helped most of the field catch spotted bass in 50 to 70 feet of water. Some anglers actually learned the technique while the event was