Put the world’s top bass anglers on the same lake and you throw away the textbook of bass fishing. That sums up what happened at the 2021 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk. Initial predictions of a textbook, summertime offshore bite went away after Lake Ray Roberts rose four feet from heavy rains before the event.
The water stabilized and remained high all week. The variant was water temperature. Like the water, it shot up the mercury, beginning at around 71 degrees the week prior to the competition, and rising to 87 by Championship Sunday. The hotter it got, the slower the fishing. Fishing flooded shoreline cover became the name of the game.
Perseverance paid off. Hank Cherry became only the fourth angler to win back-to-back Classics. A familiar pattern will emerge as you view the lures of the Top 10. From bottom to top, baits for flipping and pitching were the top choices.
Patrick Walters (10th; 38 pounds, 1 ounce) found most of his success on the western shoreline of Ray Roberts. Flooded shoreline cover provided ambush points for largemouth feeding on shad.Walters never put down his flipping stick. Tied on was a bait package ideal for the conditions. Walters flipped a Zoom Z-Craw, paired with a 1/2-ounce weight and a VMC 3/0 Flipping Hook.
Drew Cook (9th; 38 pounds, 7 ounces) targeted a major creek arm of Ray Roberts, filled with standing timber and abundant shoreline cover. A jig and soft plastic frog did the damage for Cook. Cook also used a 1/2-ounce Nichols Lures Impact flipping jig, with a 3-inch Big Bite Baits Fighting Frog for a trailer.
Chris Johnston (8th; 40 pounds, 2 ounces) targeted unique features of shoreline cover and habitat, including a pond located within a creek. Johnston needed stout tackle and bait designed for fishing the heavy cover. He used a Strike King Rage Bug, rigged on a 4/0 Gamakatsu Super Heavy Cover Hook, with a 1/2-ounce WOO! Tungsten Weight.
Matt Robertson (7th; 40 pounds, 3 ounces) Matt Robertson alternated between a swim jig and creature bait. That choice was a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Creature Hawg, with a 4/0 hook and 3/8-ounce weight. Robertson also used a 3/8-ounce Outkast Tackle Pro Swim Jig, with a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Chigger Craw trailer.
Scott Canterbury (6th; 41 pounds, 6 ounces) flipped and pitched baits along key stretches of inundated cover. Canterbury went to battle using namesake jigs and a favorite technique, which is flipping and pitching to heavy cover. The choices were a 1/2-ounce Dirty Jigs Scott Canterbury Flippin’ Jig, with a chunk-style trailer. He used the same model and weight jig, with a Netbait Kickin B Creature Bait. To a 5/8-ounce model of the Canterbury Flippin’ Jig, he used a NetBait Paca Chunk
Brock Mosley (5th; 42 pounds) flipped bushes covered by water due to the high-water conditions. He used a Gary Yamamoto Flappin’ Hog. He rigged it on a Vector Hooks straight shank flipping hook, with a 3/4-ounce weight.
Justin Kerr (4th; 45 pounds, 2 ounces) like most of the field, found his bass lurking in the shade of flooded cover. Kerr used a bladed jig and unusual wake bait for his top finish. That choice was a custom made, hand-carved rat. Kerr also used a 1/2-ounce Z-Man Evergreen Chatterbait Jack Hammer Stealth Blade, with a Zoom Speed Craw for a trailer.
Chris Jones (3rd; 45 pounds, 9 ounces) fished flooded shoreline cover with a jig and creature bait. Jones relied on this lineup for the entire tournament. A prototype, personally designed jig headed the lineup. That choice was a 1/22-ounce BOOYAH Monster Swim Jig, with a YUM Spine Craw trailer. Jones also used a YUM Christie Critter, rigged on a 4/0 Owner Jungle Hook, with a 1/2-ounce Pro Tungsten Weight.
Matt Arey (2nd; 49 pounds, 1 ounce) flipped flooded brushpiles, mostly on the western shore of the lake. Arey rotated through a lineup of lures that were ideal for the heavy cover he encountered on Ray Roberts. A top choice was a prototype, soon-to-be-released, 1/2-ounce Titan Tungsten Custom Jig, featuring a 3/0 Gamakatsu Hook. He also used a Lunker Hunt Compact Frog.
Hank Cherry (1st; 50 pounds, 15 ounces) caught the bulk of his weight during the week flipping flooded bushes along the shoreline and throwing a jerkbait around riprap along the dam. A Berkley Stunna Jerkbait was a top choice. Cherry designed the bait that will be available in July. So was a 1/2-ounce Picasso Straight Shooter Jig, with a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Chigger Craw for a trailer.