3 Fall Topwaters with John Murray

We sat down with John Murray to discuss one of the most heart pounding ways to catch bass in the fall. John picked his three top choices and then explained them.

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2019 Keith Combs Sam Rayburn Slam

Bassmaster Elite Series Pro Keith Combs is excited to announce the 4th Annual Keith Combs Sam Rayburn Slam Tournament, dinner, raffle, and live auction. The tournament will be held October 26, 2019 at Umphrey Pavilion on Lake Sam Rayburn. It is an open team tournament with over 100 % payout. The tournament will feature additional youth and co-ed team prizes as well as a free-to-enter kids casting contest.

On Friday, October 25th, there will be a steak dinner and live auction at The Event Center in Jasper, TX. Auction items include guns, knives, exclusive hunting trips, guided freshwater and saltwater fishing trips, custom woodwork, iron pieces, and many more one-of-kind items. Raffle prizes include a Minn Kota Ultrex, GoPro Camera, and 72-quart cooler filled with Strike King baits, Owner Hooks, and Seaguar Line. For those that cannot attend, there will be a watch party through Facebook on the Warrior’s Weekend Page which will allow online bidders. Be sure to follow Keith’s Facebook in the days leading up to and after the event as there will also be a few items auctioned on his page.

The main objective of the tournament and auction is to bring awareness and to raise funds for Warrior’s Weekend. Warrior’s Weekend is a non-profit organization dedicated to the support of veterans of the United States with an emphasis on those wounded in the Global War on terrorism. Visit their site at

100% of proceeds from the auction and raffle items will benefit Warrior’s Weekend.
Sign up for the tournament and purchase dinner tickets at or in store at Tackle Addict.
Visit Keith’s Facebook for more details

Targeting Fall Smallmouth with Mark Zona

Autumn is fully upon us, and that means one thing — smallmouth bass with big shoulders are on the chew. Bass-fishing celebrity Mark Zona is all about the bronzebacks.

Here are his top three tactics to dial ’em in this fall.

“First, the main thing is to know that you can never, ever fish shallow enough,” Zona says. “Everybody thinks smallmouth are going deeper to winter over, which is true. But for about a 30-day stretch in the fall, they go back to the shallow bed areas they spawned in. I mean, I put my PowerPole down in three feet of water, it’s that shallow. This is when we see the biggest fish of the year, and they are all in feeding mode.”

Going shallow is one facet, but structure also plays a big part.

“Second, and this is critical — find areas where there are intersections of cover,” Zona notes. “Look for where rock meets sand, or sand meets reeds, and so on — anywhere you find that combination of where two covers meet is where they will stage.”

You’ve got shallow water and cover. Now Zona addresses the end game.

“Lastly, do not be scared to upsize your baits and tactics,” Zona adds. “Fall is not about finesse fishing. At this time of year, smallmouth want to eat a meal and not a snack; they want the whole turkey and not just a chicken wing. I go as big and gawdy as I can get. Usually, I throw a big Sexy Dawg or a Thunder Cricket, and work big swimbaits over those cover spots in the shallows.”

“I’m telling you, put all three of these facets together, and you will dial in big fall smallmouth,” Zona says. “I’m actually going out right now to use these exact tactics I just mentioned.”

3 Things Every Lake St. Clair Rookie Should Know

Don’t be fooled by the fact Bassmaster Elite Series pro Tyler Rivet is smiling on a sunny afternoon in this photo. The day before it was taken, the Southern Louisiana rookie had his finger on the “man overboard” button of his Lowrance units, scared to death his boat might sink 20 miles from the Metro Park ramp on Lake St. Clair.

Rivet was on St. Clair trying to earn his first trip to the Bassmaster Classic when two or three big waves rolled over his back deck, and filled his battery compartment with water in seconds. Then, when he hit the manual bilge pump, nothing happened, and within seconds the failed bilge pump allowed at least 4” of water to flood the floor of his boat.

“I tried to leave, and realized I had so much water weight in the boat that I couldn’t get it on pad,” recalls Rivet, still emotionally shaken by the incident.

He asked his ride along B.A.S.S. Marshall, who happened to be a pretty big guy, to sit on the front deck, shifting enough weight forward in order to limp 20 miles back to the Bassmaster check-in at Metro Park. Once safely on the trailer, Rivet says water drained from the boat for more than an hour.

Rivet certainly won’t be the only first-timer to take on the big waves of St. Clair in search of world-class smallmouth, so he graciously lends the following advice to help others avoid a rookie catastrophe.

Buy an extra bilge

Obviously, make sure your automatic bilge pumps are working before you head to St. Clair. But make sure you take an extra step and carry an additional portable bilge easily purchased from your local marine dealer! This can’t be stressed enough.

Most experienced big water anglers simply lay the additional bilge on the floor behind their feet at the driver’s console. They run the corrugated pump-out hose over the gunwale on the driver’s side, and zip tie the hose to a cleat to keep it in place. It’s also necessary to add alligator clamps to a few feet of additional wire you’ll want to tie-on to the wires that come rigged on it out of the package. That way you’ll have plenty of wire length to quickly clamp the portable bilge power wires to your battery posts in a time of need, without worrying that it’s a constant drain on your batteries when things are dry.

Don’t go alone

Nobody should fish huge waters like St. Clair alone if possible, and certainly not rookies. Furthermore, adding a companion to the back of deck of your rookie adventure adds false security. The best idea is to take on such waters with another boat of buddies nearby.

“Don’t go to a place like St. Clair alone. Run in packs. Form a small armada. The expansive flats and open water allow you to drift within sight of one another easily without crowding. In practice, Brock Mosley and Luke Palmer and I all sort of raked an area together, it will help you find fish faster, and it’s a whole lot safer than being out there alone,” says Rivet.

What to throw

Preparing your boat for safety is more important than stressing about tackle. Mother nature can be uncertain and cruel, but the fishing on St. Clair is actually relatively simple. Three or four lures will help you catch a huge percentage of the super sized smallmouth that swim there.

“You need a tube, a jerkbait, a drop shot, and a crankbait that will run about 16 feet deep,” says Rivet. “I like a ½ ounce weight in my tubes most days, but a ¾ if it’s super windy. I throw ¼ and 3/8 ounce weights on my dropshots, and a lot of guys throw a Strike King 6XD or a Rapala DT10, but my favorite is a deep diver from Blackjack Lures,” says Rivet.

“I can’t stress enough how you need to take a little extra time to add a bilge pump, and make sure you’re auto bilge pumps are working. I missed my chance to fish in my first Bassmaster Classic. An extra bilge pump may have saved that chance, but mostly, I just feel so fortunate that I lived to fish another day,” concludes Rivet in deeply grateful fashion.

How the MLF Acquisition will Affect YOU!

The Thursday announcement of Major League Fishing’s acquisition of FLW signifies a historic shift in the landscape of competitive bass fishing.

Read official release here

As tournament anglers from the ranks of FLW High School Fishing to the FLW Tour begin to decipher how the acquisition directly affects them (and the nearly 300 tournaments that FLW currently operates), MLF co-founder Boyd Duckett refers back to his own tournament-fishing roots for a hint at both immediate and long-term plans for FLW competitions.

“Most of us grew up and came up through FLW,” Duckett says. “Their culture has always been pro-angler, and that’s our culture [at MLF] as well. We started MLF to make competitive bass fishing better for competitive anglers. That’s the driving structure of all we do at MLF, and that same driving force will exist [with FLW]. We’re angler owned. We’re fishing guys. We’re tournament guys. We’re working daily to make it better, and I couldn’t think of a better opportunity for FLW anglers at all levels.”

Here’s an overview of how the competitive circuits of FLW will operate:


2019 FLW schedule continues

All remaining 2019 events on the FLW tournament schedule will be contested as previously organized, with no changes to competition days/times, venues, payouts, etc.

That includes the Costa FLW Series Central Division event on Lake of the Ozarks and the 2019 Costa FLW Series Championship on Lake Cumberland; five remaining T-H Marine Bass Fishing League (BFL) Regionals that range from the Potomac River to Grand Lake; the Nov. 8 BFL Wild Card; and a handful of High School Fishing and College Fishing events scheduled for October and November.


Looking ahead to 2020 FLW circuits

FLW High School Fishing, YETI FLW College Fishing, T-H Marine BFL and Costa FLW Series circuits will continue in 2020 and beyond, with the addition of three regions in the Costa FLW Series and reduced entry fees for both BFL and FLW Series boaters and co-anglers. The most significant alteration will occur at the top of the FLW professional tournament ladder.


Bryan Thrift

The new FLW Pro Circuit

The 2020 season will see the birth of the FLW Pro Circuit, replacing the 24-year-old FLW Tour. The Pro Circuit will feature a 150-angler field, and will be contested over a seven-event regular season that leads to the FLW Angler of the Year Championship event. All anglers who qualified for the 2020 FLW Tour will be eligible to compete in the Pro Circuit.

The Pro Circuit will operate on a six-day competition schedule that features FLW’s traditional five-fish-limit format on days one through three, transitioning to the MLF catch, weigh, immediate-release/every-scoreable-bass-counts format on days four through six (which include two 10-angler Knockout Rounds and a final 10-angler Championship Round). As is the case in all rounds of the MLF Bass Pro Tour, MLF-appointed in-boat officials will manage the competition and weighing of fish on the final three days of the FLW Pro Circuit.

Payouts for the Pro Circuit will extend down to 75th place, representing a payday for half the field (a 12-percent increase in the number of anglers earning a check).

The new Angler of the Year Championship will serve as the signature final event of the FLW Pro Circuit, taking the place of the FLW Cup.

The most successful anglers (based on competition results) in the FLW Pro Circuit will qualify to compete in the MLF Bass Pro Tour. Details on qualification standards will be released in the coming weeks.


Jason Borofka

FLW Series expands 

Costa FLW Series anglers will see an expansion of regions from five to eight in 2020, to make the Series geographically available to more anglers. The schedule will include three events per region, and an FLW Series Championship.

Entry fees for both boaters and co-anglers will be reduced: Boaters will pay $1,700, and co-anglers will pay $550 (down from $1,900 and $650 in 2019).


Brennon McCord

BFL reduces entry fees

The BFL competition structure will continue as-is in 2020, with the same number of regions, tournaments and Super Tournaments as in 2019, all competing under the traditional five-fish-limit format. Entry fees will be reduced to $200 for boaters and $100 for co-anglers for single-day events, and $300/$150 for the two-day Super Tournaments.

The same group of BFL tournament directors will continue to manage BFL competitions.


High School Fishing and College Fishing

FLW’s High School Fishing and YETI FLW College Fishing schedules will continue without change for the remainder of 2019 and beyond. Anglers and teams that qualified for 2020 events in 2019 can expect to proceed as planned.

“As time goes on, we’ll accomplish a lot for those FLW anglers. They should be assured that times are continuing to get better,” Duckett says. “Not that it wasn’t good already. FLW has done a great job in building a pro-angler culture that’s the strongest I’ve ever participated in, but if there is anything that MLF can do, we intend to make it better. That’s what I get up for every day – to make it better for the anglers.”

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