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Matt Lee loves to fish a drop shot, but his decision to drop shot a 5” Strike King Z-Too on a straight shank hook for Lake St. Clair smallmouth, was the equivalent of his fiancé Abby choosing to serve 20-ounce rib eye steaks as a bridal shower appetizer. Essentially, Lee turned one of bass fishing’s dainty finesse techniques into a full-fledged food fest en route to yet another Top 12 finish on the Bassmaster Elite Series tour.
“I’m a drop shot fanatic. I threw it on spawning beds at Okeechobee, at stumps on Ross Barnett, and at St. Clair for smallmouth. I pretty much never leave the dock without one tied on, it’s just a matter of tweaking the components a little to meet the conditions,” explains Lee.
“My decision to use such a big bait on my drop shot at St. Clair was two-fold. First, the water was a little dingy, and I thought the bigger bait would be more visible. And secondly, I noticed that the smallmouth I hooked in practice were spitting-up 4” to 8” perch,” observed the Auburn grad.
Lure and Lure Color choice
If Lee knew the smallmouth were feeding on yellow and green colored perch, then why did he opt for a white, ice-colored, Z-Too?
“I’m pretty certain they were feeding on alewife as well as the perch. And the thing is, I was never on a big school of smallmouth. I felt like I was hunting big, single fish that seemed super aggressive – so that bait was visible and offered a big meal to those lone wolves,” says Lee.
“That Z-Too was too big for pesky perch to eat, and because it’s made of ElaZtech, it floats and never tears up. Plus, that particular lure almost shimmies like a swimbait.”
As much as Lee uses a drop shot, he’d never used such a big lure. So he experimented between a 1/0 and a 2/0 straight shank hook, as well as an occasional circle hook that’s more standard on a drop shot.
“I was actually super-gluing the Z-Too on the hooks, and the one thing I figured-out, was that no matter what hook I used, by giving them an extra second to eat it, rather than set the hook too fast, was more critical than the exact hook I rigged with,” says Lee.
While gear ratios get a lot of attention among baitcasting reels, their mechanical importance in spinning reels is too often overlooked, but not by top pros like Matt Lee and Jacob Powroznik.
“Smallmouth move so quick that it’s critical to use a reel that can pick up a ton of slack line in a hurry, especially in one of those moments during the fight when they switch from going away from the boat, and run right at you, and you gotta get down on it like Kool & The Gang,” says Lee. “That’s why I love the Quantum Speed Freak. It picks up 3-feet of line with every turn of the handle, plus it’s got an awesome drag system for fighting those beasts.”
Matt shared his findings of the big lure’s success with younger brother Jordan, who was quick to heed Matt’s advice. Jordan had been fishing a smaller Strike King Dream Shot, but on Day 3 of the tournament, switched to the big Z-Too. His first fish of the day was a mammoth 6 pound 13 ounce bronze beast.
The Lee Brothers eventually finished 4th and 5th and won a combined $30,500. Everybody went home happy, and ate well along the way, including St. Clair’s super-sized smallmouth.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The 2018 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series will again include nine tournaments on prime bass fishing waters, but the series format will be markedly different from recent seasons, B.A.S.S. announced today.
“We are excited about the new Opens format,” said B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin. “It’s designed to provide opportunities for the best bass fishermen to prove their fishing skills on a variety of waters as they earn their way into the Bassmaster Classic and Elite Series.”
Instead of three divisions of three tournaments each, B.A.S.S. will conduct two divisions — Central and East — comprising four tournaments each. As was last done in 2005, a season finale Opens Championship will be held. It will determine qualifiers for the 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series and for the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.
The Opens Championship winner and the Top 5 in performance points from each division — determined by an angler’s finish in all four divisional tournaments and the Championship —will be invited to the Elites. The winner of the Championship and the Top 3 anglers in points from each division following the Championship will be invited to the Classic.
In addition, fisheries in the two new divisions are more geographically diverse, requiring a greater commitment from Opens pros who want to qualify for the championship. The Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Eastern Opens Division, for example, includes one tournament in central Florida and another in Upstate New York.
“These changes to our Opens Series are bound to qualify a very diverse and versatile group of anglers for the Elite Series and the Classic,” said Chris Bowes, Opens tournament director. “They will have to prove their abilities on a variety of fisheries and at different seasons. And, to get to the Classic, they will have to perform throughout the season, not just in one event.”
Akin expects the Opens Championship to become a marquee event for aspiring pros and other tournament anglers.
“The Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Championship will be a no-entry-fee tournament pitting some of the nation’s best bass anglers against one another,” Akin said. “The smaller, more elite field of championship qualifiers can be expected to create more excitement, attract a bigger fan base and generate more media coverage than ever before in Opens competition.”
The championship is tentatively scheduled to be held Oct. 18-20. The location will be announced later. The field will include the four winners of Opens tournaments as well as the Top 10 in points standings, not including the winners, from each division, for a total of 28. In addition, the four winning co-anglers from each division tournament and the Top 10 in points standings, not including winners, will compete alongside the pros for a share of their own prize fund.
Thanks to the “win-and-you’re-in” provision of the Opens, pros and co-anglers will have a shot at making the Championship even if they’re not at the top of the points standings toward the end of the season, Bowes noted.
The lineup includes some of the most popular and productive fisheries in the nation, including several that have hosted the Bassmaster Classic in past years. Following are details about each of the events in the 2018 Opens Series.
Eastern Opens Division
Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, Kissimmee, Fla. — Feb. 1-3, 2018
Total B.A.S.S. events hosted: 22, including 1977 and 2006 Classics
Most recent B.A.S.S. winner: Chad Morgenthaler (52-7), 2015 Bassmaster Southern Open, Jan. 15-17, 2015
Bassmaster 100 Best Bass Lakes Rank: 11th, Southeastern Division, in 2017
Lake Norman, Cornelius, N.C. — May 10-12, 2018
Total B.A.S.S. events hosted: 11
Most recent B.A.S.S. winner: 2014 Southern Open, Andy Montgomery (37-10), Oct. 2-4, 2014
Bassmaster 100 Best Bass Lakes Rank: 91st in 2013
Lake Champlain, Plattsburgh, N.Y — Aug. 2-4, 2018
Total B.A.S.S. events hosted: 20
Most recent B.A.S.S. winner: 2017 Bassmaster Elite, Aaron Martens (58-12), July 27-30, 2017
Bassmaster 100 Best Bass Lakes Rank: 5th, Northeastern Division, in 2017
Douglas Lake, Dandridge, Tenn. — Sept. 13-15, 2018
Total B.A.S.S. events hosted: 12
Most recent B.A.S.S. winner: 2016 Bassmaster Southern Open, David Mullins (62-12), May 19-21, 2016
Bassmaster 100 Best Bass Lakes Rank: 56th in 2013
Central Opens Division
Ross Barnett Reservoir, Ridgeland, Miss. — March 1-3, 2018
Total B.A.S.S. events hosted: 18, including 1978 Classic
Most recent B.A.S.S. winner: 2017 Bassmaster Elite Series, Dustin Connell (64-13), April 27-30, 2017
Bassmaster 100 Best Bass Lakes Rank: 9th, Southeastern Division, in 2016
Arkansas River, Muskogee, Okla. — April 19-21, 2018
Total B.A.S.S. events hosted: 14
Most recent B.A.S.S. winner: 2016 Bassmaster Central Open, Skylar Hamilton (45-6), June 2-4, 2016
Red River, Shreveport, La. — June 14-16, 2018
Total B.A.S.S. events hosted: 21, including 2009 and 2012 Classics
Most recent B.A.S.S. winner: 2016 Bassmaster Central Open, Alton Jones Jr. (35-14), Sept. 29-Oct. 1, 2016
Bassmaster 100 Best Bass Lakes Rank: 77th in 2015
Logan Martin, Pell City, Ala. — Sept. 6-8, 2018
Total B.A.S.S. events hosted: 7, including 1992, 1993 and 1997 Classics
Most recent B.A.S.S. winner: 2013 Bassmaster Southern Open, David Kilgore (46-8), May 16-18, 2013
Bassmaster 100 Best Bass Lakes Rank: 23rd, Southeastern Division, in 2017
(NOTE: Entries for the 2018 Opens will be accepted beginning Oct. 31, 2017. See Bassmaster.com for a full schedule of registration dates, deadlines and payouts. Entry fees are $1,500 per event for pros and $425 per event for co-anglers. Payouts are based on a full field of 200 pros and 200 co-anglers.)
2017 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Title Sponsor: Bass Pro Shops
2017 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2017 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Premier Sponsors: Triton Boats, Yamaha, Berkley, Huk, Humminbird, Mercury, Power-Pole, Shell Rotella, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Skeeter Boats
2017 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Supporting Sponsors: Lowrance, Phoenix Boats, Shimano, T-H Marine, Advance Auto Parts, Carhartt, Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels, Livingston Lures
B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), television show (The Bassmasters on ESPN2), radio show (Bassmaster Radio), social media programs and events. For more than 45 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.
The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series, Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation presented by Magellan Outdoors, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Costa Bassmaster High School Series presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.
An hour after Jason Christie was done towing a green pumpkin tube around in 19-feet of water to win the $100,000 Advanced Auto Parts Bassmaster Elite Series on Lake St. Clair, he stood next to his boat and truck at the Metropark boat ramp and talked about towing a tractor around back home in Eastern Oklahoma.
“I drive a Toyota Tundra for two reasons; for a chance to win the Bonus Bucks as a tournament fisherman, and because of their towing power,” stated Christie. “In fact, I kept the older Tundra that I used to tow my Ranger with after I bought this newer one — and now I use the older truck to hunt with, and to tow my Mahindra tractor.”
As a result of being the highest finishing registered participant, the Lake Tenkiller, Oklahoma resident got paid $3,000 from Toyota’s Bonus Bucks Program.
Christie is also loyal to Leer Truck Caps, and both his Tundras not only have a Leer truck cap, but also a Leer Locker ceiling mounted storage system. “I use the Leer Locker in my tournament truck to carry hats, fishing tackle and the trusty little fan that I’ve gotta have to sleep. In my hunting truck I carry my bow, and the kids’ hunting rifles,” says the 5-time B.A.S.S. tournament winner, and former college basketball player.
In addition to the Toyota Bonus Bucks, Christie also won a $500 bonus from the Leer Cover Cash program.
You don’t have to be a full-time pro, or even win a tournament to win the “Cover Cash” or “Bonus Bucks” – you just have to be a registered participant in any of the dozens of tournaments sanctioned by both contingency programs and be the highest-placing participant. To get signed-up, please visit http://www.toyotatrucksbonusbucks.com/ and http://leercovercash.com/ or phone Jessica or Kendell at (918) 742-6424, and they can also help you get signed-up for either program.
There are two things you can count on at Lake St. Clair – the wind will eventually blow hard enough to stir its 430 square miles of water into ocean like proportions — and the smallmouth will usually bite a 4.5” tube jig.
The second day of practice for the 2017 Advanced Auto Parts Bassmaster Elite Series on St. Clair was no exception. “A man could use a Motrin after a day like this,” said Kevin VanDam upon finally reaching calm waters near the protected harbor of a Harrison Township boat ramp.
VanDam had been riding the spine-jarring waves for more than twelve hours through gusting winds, stormy rains, and at times, a blend of blue skies. And riding with him was what he, and most veteran anglers, consider St. Clair’s All Time Greatest lure – a 4.5” soft plastic tube.
“I haven’t been on St. Clair since the Elite Series came here in 2015. But I’ve been fishing here for 32 years, since back when I was in high school competing in B.A.S.S. Federation tournaments with the Kal Valley Bass Club,” says Van Dam.
“I caught ‘em really well in the first tournament I ever fished here using a double willow leaf spinnerbait with gold blades. But if you had to choose one lure that’s dominated this lake for the past 40 years, you’d have to choose a tube,” says the 7-time Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year, who lives three hours west of St. Clair.
Even though a drop shot has become highly popular and effective the past 10 years, dragging or snapping a plastic tube across St. Clair’s notoriously shallow lake bottom still wins the vote for all time most popular smallmouth lure on St. Clair from hard core anglers. Including VanDam’s close friend, smallmouth nut, and fishing show host Mark Zona, who also lives about three hours west of St. Clair.
“The tube is 100% the most all time classic lure on St. Clair – and let me warn ya’ – it still has MUCH power,” Zona typed in a text response when asked about the plastic tube’s historic effectiveness on St. Clair.
The tube’s decades of smallmouth catching dominance is simple – it resembles so many of the things smallmouth love to eat — including, gobies, perch and crawfish. When asked to name three colors of the 4.5” soft plastic tube that no angler should be without on St. Clair, VanDam said, “Green pumpkin, melon gold, and smoke purple.”
“Most days a 3/8-ounce jig head is pretty ideal, and I fish it on 8-pound fluorocarbon line with no braid, just straight 8-pound fluorocarbon spooled to a Quantum size 40 Smoke spinning reel and 7’ 4” Tour KVD rod,” says the Kalamazoo resident.
Even though St. Clair is a big body of water, and connects the Great Lakes of Huron and Erie, it’s very shallow with an average depth of just 11-feet. So it stirs easy into big waves when the wind inevitably blows here.
And while shallow lures like willowleaf spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits catch their share of smallmouth – no lure stakes claim to the unofficial title of St. Clair’s All Time Best Lure like the simple plastic tube.