Lunker: 8 pounds, 10 ounces (largemouth)
In practice, I found this place off the main river that twisted back into a big spawning bay. Most of the guys were fishing the bay, but I noticed there were fish moving in an area off the bank that was choked with cattails and reeds. The water dropped every day, so it got shallower over time, but when I caught her it was about 3 feet deep.
To my mind it was an obvious staging place that was going to be replenished several times every day as long as the water stayed up enough to keep water in the reeds.
The keepers were all in holes or on points made by the reeds. I finally found a little spot that was different. It was way back in the thick of things. It had the look of a big fish spot — all nasty and full of slime, junk and debris. Better yet, it was pitch-black. There was no light at all hitting it.
I flipped my bait back in there and she took it as soon as it hit the water. It didn't fall more than an inch or two before it started moving off. That's pretty much like they all did. They'd grab it on the fall or ignore it. I didn't do much lifting and dropping or bouncing my bait around once it was in the water. That was a waste of time.
My lure was a Texas rigged Berkley Havoc Pit Boss wrapped with a Paycheck Punch Skirt. The Pit Bass was June bug. My Punch Skirt was black and blue. This is a great big bass combination. The Pit Boss has a large body and four tentacles that give it a lot of movement on the fall. The skirt adds bulk to everything as well as giving the body of the Pit Boss some visible movement.
I rigged everything with a 3/8-ounce Vike Tungsten Flippin' Weight and a 4/0 Paycheck Punch Hook. I pegged the sinker so everything would stay together as it dropped through the heavy debris. I wanted a tight presentation.
My rod was a 775 Powell Endurance Flippin Rod. I used a Revo Premier reel (6.4:1 gear ratio) and 65-pound-test Spiderwire Ultracast Braid line.
The most important thing about catching her was the location. I had several good bites in that same spot during practice. I knew it was a matter of the fish passing through. I took my time and figured out what I needed to attract better fish, and I found the place where I thought a big one would hold. This catch was all about careful preparation.
What I'd say to other anglers is to take your time in practice. Look around. Find the best spots. Then, once you figure out what they want, let them alone until the actual tournament starts.