Jason Williamson, first, 55-12
The path to Williamson's success has been paved with swimbaits and Senkos. The Aiken, S.C., pro has started each day on a flat with a well-defined ditch about 20 to 22 feet deep, casting a Senko with a 1/8-ounce weight on 17-pound-test Berkley fluorocarbon line. "The fish are funneling out in that ditch from a spawning flat," Williamson said. "But that bite's over about 9 a.m." From there, Williamson has been moving to channel-swing points. He said they have to be points with trees right next to 50 feet of water. There, he's throwing two swimbaits: the Baby E from California Swimbaits and a 5-inch Berkley Hollow Belly swimbait. He's throwing both on 25-pound-test Berkley fluorocarbon.
Clark Reehm, second, 54-10
The rookie from Russellville, Ark., has concentrated on a point with a channel swing. The top of it is 20 feet deep and it drops to 40 feet. It has hardwood trees in front of it, bushes on top and hydrilla around it. Reehm is catching both pre- and post-spawn fish there by Texas-rigging a big watermelon/red plastic worm and Carolina-rigging a Kicker Fish Wacky Worm. He expects that he'll also throw a jig today. "I'm just going to mix it up," Reehm said. "The fish need to see something different at times." He's also throwing a bluegill-colored swimbait at times. "I saw a big one come up and bust a bluegill yesterday," Reehm said.
Mike McClelland, tied for third, 53-3
The three-time Elite Series tournament champion from Bella Vista, Ark., has been using four different types of lures this week:
- an Osprey California Light Hitch swimbait and a California Swimbaits Baby E
- a 3/4ths-ounce Jewel football jig with a Zoom Baby Brush Hawg trailer
- a Carolina-rigged Zoom Brush Hawg; and
a SPRO stickbait McClelland designed but isn't on the market yet.
The key to McClelland's success has been catching a couple of 7- or 8-pounders in the first 30 minutes each day on a swimbait. In his soft plastics, the colors he's favored are green-pumpkin with different colored flakes, mostly purple or red.
Kevin Short, tied for third, 53-3
Short made a key change Saturday that led to his five-bass bag of 31-6. He switched from a Jewel football jig to a Texas-rigged Zoom Ol' Monster 10 1/2-inch plastic worm (watermelon candy). He also slowed down his presentation and ended up culling all but one 6-pounder in what was already a 25-pound bag. "Part of it was slowing down, and part of it was the bait," Short said. The bass weren't hitting the jig as well Saturday as they had on Friday. He tried Carolina-rigging the plastic worm, but then put on a 3/8-ounce slip sinker and Texas-rigged it. "I've got 12 to 15 points," Short said. "Some of those points aren't as big as the front of the (boat) deck. They'll run out in 20 feet of water, and I'm sitting in 70."
Edwin Evers, fifth, 50-2
The Oklahoma pro is targeting flats with sharp drops in front of spawning pockets. Trees on the flats are another important feature. "Some of the fish are pre-spawn, some are post-spawn, and some are spawning right now," Evers said. "You can see beds down there next to some of the trees, but some of the fish are just relating to the trees and not spawning there." Evers threw a 6-inch YUM Dinger in watermelon red color on the first day, using a 1/4-ounce or 5/16-ounce sinker. Most of his Day Two fish came on YUM Money Minnow. He's throwing the YUM Dinger on 14- to 17-pound XPS fluorocarbon, and the Money Minnow on 50-pound Bass Pro Shops Magibraid.
Billy Brewer, sixth, 49-13
The Bruceville, Texas, pro and former Major League Baseball player made the first top 12 of his rookie season by fishing a Gambler swimbait and a Gambler Ace. He's throwing them in 10 to 12 feet of water on Amistad's San Pedro flats, targeting fish either moving up to spawn or moving back out. A prominent feature of the flat is deep trees. The swimbait is a shad pattern, and he's using the watermelon candy Ace on a Texas rig with a 3/16-ounce weight. He's presenting both bait types on Berkley 20-pound fluorocarbon.
Greg Hackney, seventh, 48-9
The Gonzales, La., pro cranked his way to the final, but said that's likely out of the picture for Sunday's final. "I'm actually looking forward to doing something different," Hackney said. "I've cranked so much the first two days it feels like my hands are coming off." He's been ripping Strike King Series 5 and Series 6 crankbaits over the top of grass in 15 to 20 feet of water. But Hackney said he expects that pattern to diminish because of light winds on Sunday. So after throwing the crankbaits for a short time in the morning, he'll start working various soft plastic baits in the same grassy areas. The key features of the grass, Hackney said, are ditches running beneath it. "I think it's going to get tougher with the wind down," he said. "So I'll just have to slow down and grub."
Gary Klein, eighth, 48-0
It's no surprise the venerable Texas pro fished his way into the final with a jig. But that hasn't been his only fish producer on Amistad: Klein has also used a big swimbait and an 8-inch sinking worm. He's throwing them on 17- to 20-pound Berkley fluorocarbon. But perhaps the biggest key to his success has been location, and not just one — Klein has been enriching the oil companies this week, burning 30 to 35 gallons of gas a day, as he keeps exploring the entire lake in search of specific off-shore structure. "I haven't really settled on anything yet, nothing where I'm just going to sit down there and stay there," he said. "I'll make three or four key casts, then I'm on to the next one." The key feature he targets is a vertical break in front of a spawning flat.
Todd Faircloth, ninth, 47-1
The Jasper, Texas, pro cruised into the final on three baits: A Texas-rigged 6-inch Yamamoto Senko with a 1/4- to 3/8-ounce weight, an 8-inch swimbait and a Sebile Magic Swimmer. The Senko was the key lure on Day One, while the big swimbaits produced more fish on Day Two. He's fishing main-lake flats and one flat in the back of a creek, targeting bass in 10 to 20 feet of water. Isolated trees have produced most of his fish this week.
Kotaro Kiriyama, 10th, 45-5
The Japanese pro who now resides in Moody, Ala., worked his way into the final on a new Jackal swimbait that hasn't even hit tackle stores yet. Kiriyama is throwing the Jackal Swimming Ninja on 16-pound Gamma fluorocarbon, targeting bass in 10 to 20 feet of water on flats with sharp edges. Kiriyama ran out of the baits on the second day of practice and had Jackal owner Seiji Kato send a special delivery from Japan, just in time for the Battle on the Border.
Kurt Dove, tied for 11th, 44-10
The Virginia pro is fishing a 3/4-ounce Vertical Lures jig in the Cayuga Craw color on 15-pound Berkley fluorocarbon. A Texas-rigged YUM Dinger in watermelon red with a 1/8-ounce weight has also produced fish. He's fishing the Yum Dinger on 17-pound Berkley fluorocarbon. Dove is concentrating on the edges and sides of deep points near spawning flats and is also working deep bluffs leading into spawning flats. His target depth has been 25 to 35 feet. He's caught other fish near bushes in 18 to 20 feet of water.
Denny Brauer, tied for 11th, 44-10
The 1998 Bassmaster Classic champion is using — you guessed it — a jig. He's targeting off-shore structure in the form of flats with extremely deep drainages running through and around them. "Some of these drains are over 100 feet deep," Brauer said. "I'm staying on the edges and that's where I'm catching my fish." Brauer said he's positioning the boat in 18 to 22 feet of water and making long casts into 18 to 25 feet. "It's a vertical presentation," Brauer said. "It's really like deep-water flipping." He's fishing a 3/4-ounce Strike King Football Head jig in green pumpkin and brown, tying it on 15-pound fluorocarbon line. Another key, Brauer said, is the new Strike King Rage Tail Craw trailer on the jig. "I think the action of that Rage Craw is what's triggering the bite," Brauer said. "The strikes are coming on the drop or the first hop after it hits bottom. If the fish isn't there after I pick it up once, I'm bringing it back and throwing it again."