It's no secret. Every Bassmaster Classic qualifier has a "go-to" bait, and I'm no exception. A go-to bait is the one we throw when the going gets tough — something we know will catch bass. This year's Classic on Lake Hartwell in South Carolina will likely have some cold water, and the bass will probably be deep.
Those conditions may or may not be tough. We'll have to see what the bass have to say about that next week. But whatever they are, I want to catch fish. I want five big bass in my livewell every day. None of us will be holding anything back. This is the time to give it everything you've got.
With that in mind, I won't be leaving the dock without at least one Bomber Fat Fee Shad rigged and ready to go. My preference is a BD6F Jr. or a BD7F original. The No. 6 weighs 1/2 ounce and run 10-14 feet deep. I'll be using it around some of the standing timber that should be holding some big bass.
The No. 7 is called the "granddaddy of all Fat Free Shads" and weighs 3/4-ounce. It runs in the 14-18 foot range. I'll fish deep timber and drops with it. It's the same model Mark Davis used to win the 1995 Bassmaster Classic on High Rock Lake in North Carolina.
Shad colors will probably be my first choice, but that's mostly because of the prevailing forage. If the forage base was something else, I'd throw another color.
No matter my size or color choice, however, I won't fish either one of these crankbaits right out of the box. They'll catch fish that way, but I think they work better in cold water with a slight modification. I shave 1/32 of an inch off the corners of the lips. This gives the bait a slightly better roll and a more subtle action. That's what cold water bass want.
Now, if you do this with your baits remember that 1/32 of an inch isn't very much. A little trimming goes a long ways. The idea is to fine tune your lure, not rework it.
Finally, tackle matters. I always use an All Star 7-foot medium action rod with a Pflueger Summit casting reel mounted on it. I spool my reel with 12-pound-test Bass Pro Shops XPS Signature Series fluorocarbon line.
Every angler needs a go-to bait. A modified Bomber Fat Free Shad is mine.