There have only been five winners so far in the history of Major League Fishing, all of them superstars of the sport. While the history books will no doubt one day list the most recent winner, Kelly Jordon, as a member of the star brigade, he’s still in awe of his recent televised victory.
“When you’re in Major League Fishing, you’re fishing against more history than anywhere else in the sport,” he said. “There’s no practice, so it’s the purest form of competitive fishing, a real shoot from the hip format. There’s no time to make a mistake.”
During the MLF Challenge Cup in Texas, KJ met that test and came out on top by constantly adjusting. His final round dominance on Lake Ray Roberts came largely via a lipless crankbait, so it’s easy to overlook the fact that he never would have made it that far had it not been for his favorite square billed crankbait, the Lucky Craft RTO 1.5.
“It’s a plastic bait, so it’s a lot more durable than balsa,” he said. “You can fish it hard without dinging it, denting it or breaking the bill. The secret in any square bill is to find one that will hunt, and we get some of that with every one of these baits. Also, plastic baits are more buoyant, so they back up [out of cover] a little better. The 1.5 has proven itself in the trenches of battle.
“Not too many people are clinging to balsa,” he continued. “The last time someone won on it was when Takahiro won the Classic [in 2004]. He was a balsa snob, and I’m sure he still mixes it in a little, but now he’s got the TO’s and they do a lot more.”
Prior to decamping for Ray Roberts, the MLF pros fished their earlier rounds on Grapevine. It’s not far from where Jordon grew up and started his tournament and guiding careers, but it’s a body of water he doesn’t know well. “I’d only been there one time,” he recalled. “Sometime between 1988 and 1991. I remember the lake being deep and clear and this time it was low and stained. There went any advantage out the window. So I just fished it like I’d fish Lake Fork in late October, concentrating on main lake points and the backs of pockets, a one-two punch.” His chosen tool seemed obvious: the RTO 1.5.
While the likely patterns seemed obvious to KJ, the lake confounded most of the other pros. In the prior day’s elimination round, only Dean Rojas managed to cross the 20 pound threshold they were told it would take to advance. Two others made it by default. Then, in the next day’s sudden death six-man matchup Jordon cruised to an easy 21 pounds 6 ounces. The next best finisher was Skeet Reese with 10-10. The third place angler, who like Reese got to advance despite missing the 20 pound target, was Kevin VanDam. His five fish totaled 6 pounds 15 ounces, or less than KJ’s 7 pound 1 ounce kicker. Kelly also caught an 8-02 during on another day of this Texas beat down.
While the 7-plus came on a castable umbrella rig, the rest of his 21-06 was caught on the Lucky Craft shallow-diving crank.
“It was perfect for it,” Jordon said. “It was stained, but not that off color. You could see sticks 6 inches under the water and the shad were thick. Most importantly, it was post-frontal and the fish were not biting so that deflection was critical. This lure makes neutral fish bite. It’s just perfect that time of year.”
Jordon fished several shad patterned cranks at Grapevine, including Green Sexy and TO Shad. He typically throws them on 15 to 20 pound fluorocarbon and likes a 7’1” medium-heavy Duckett Rods Micro Magic. “It’s a great all-around crankbait rod,” he explained. “Not too long, so you can cast in tight spots, and it has plenty of backbone.
Jordon never leaves home without a wide selection of RTO 1.5s ready to go in his Skeeter. While he’ll turn to a swim jig or chatterbait or spinnerbait when needed, he said most weekend anglers don’t use a crankbait enough.
“It’s unbelievably weedless, especially if you keep it coming, winding it aggressively,” he advised. “Most of the people I see are reeling it too slow. They don’t fish it aggressively enough. They also don’t throw it close enough to the cover. Yes, you can get it hung, that’s why you throw it on heavy line. You won’t get nearly as many bites if you throw it to the edge of the cover instead of in it.”
With four B.A.S.S. victories under his belt, as well as an FLW Tour first place trophy and more big bass awards than anyone else in Elite Series history, you might think it would be tough for the 43 year old veteran to choose his signature career achievement, but he doesn’t hesitate to name the MLF win as his most gratifying.
“It’s probably the most awesome win I’ve had,” he said. “It was only the fifth MLF and when you think of all of the outstanding anglers there – Denny Brauer, Ike, Skeet and KVD, to name a few — everyone from older legends to newer stars, it means a lot.” He didn’t do anything particularly complex to get to the win, he just executed better than anyone else, and a longtime favorite bait gave him the confidence to stick with it.
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