The Southern Challenge on Alabama's Wheeler Lake last week could have been called the One Spot, Two Lure Challenge. All three top finishers caught their bass from one place on two baits.
Here's how they did it.
(78 pounds, 10 ounces)
Jeremy Starks used a two-pronged attack to win the Southern Challenge on Wheeler Lake last week and in the process logged his first Elite Series victory.
"I found a spot in practice near where a creek mouth entered the main river channel. About 30 yards on the inside of it there was a small ditch with a ridge running alongside it. At the end of it there was a bend and a shell bed. The fish were stacked in there like cordwood," said the elated Elite angler. "Everyone found the creek channel, but no one found the spot I was fishing."
The Charleston, W.Va., professional threw just about everything in his tacklebox at them before settling on the two baits that proved to be the winning combination — a 10-inch plum Berkley Power Bait Power Worm rigged Texas-style with a 1/4-ounce Tru-Tungsten weight and a Hit Man Jig that Starks designed himself.
"The trick with both baits was a slow presentation. I never let either of the baits come off the bottom. It was a matter of inching them along as slowly as I could stand it.
"But, the real key here was slowing down in practice and finding a spot within a spot. The channel was full of fish — I caught tons of them crankin' the edge — but the big ones all came off the end of that ditch, at the swing and the shell bed.
"And I managed my fish. I didn't fish it out in the first couple of days. As a result I had good fish all four days."
Starks used the same tackle for both lures. His rod was a 7-foot, 3-inch medium-heavy action Carrot Stix; his reel a high-speed Abu Garcia Revo STX spooled with 17-pound-test Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon. "That's what I use for all my worm and jig fishing. That combination gives me good feel and enough power to handle bigger bass."
(78 pounds, 2 ounces)
Kevin VanDam caught most of his keepers from one river ledge fishing two baits.
"I found a spot in practice that held a ton of bass, and I fished it off and on all four days," said the Kalamazoo, Mich., angler. "It was about 8 feet deep on top and then dropped straight down into the main river channel. There are a hundred of those places in Wheeler, but for some reason this one held lots of bass. They moved in and out there all day, every day during the tournament.
"My best lure was a Strike King Series 5 Crankbait in Sexy Shad and a new color we call Citrus Shad. They both caught bass. The pattern that worked best for me was a real fast retrieve that made the lure bounce off the bottom in an erratic fashion.
"I also caught a few on a Strike King Sexy Spoon. I made really long casts, let it flutter down, and then brought it up real fast and let it flutter back down. Most of my keepers hit it on the fall."
VanDam used a Quantum Energy PT, 7-foot, medium-heavy action rod; a Quantum Energy PT 750 reel (5.1:1 gear ratio); and 12-pound-test Bass Pro Shops XPS Signature Series Fluorocarbon line.
(67 pounds, 1 ounce)
Like the two anglers who finished in front of him, Terry Scroggins caught his bass from one spot with two baits.
"I fished the same spot and used the same pattern all four days," said the San Mateo, Fla. native. "And, to be honest, my fishing was about as basic as it gets. I fished a river ledge, between 18 and 30 feet deep and just dragged my baits along the bottom until the bass bit them."
The baits he was dragging are basic, too. His first choice was a Booyah Pigskin Football Head Jig in brown dressed with a green pumpkin Yum Chunk. His backup weapon was a 10-inch ribbontail worm in plum rigged Texas style with a 3/8-ounce Excalibur tungsten weight.
"The key this week was to work the baits slow, the slower the better. If you moved your bait fast, it was over. They'd immediately stop biting. Once I figured that out, I was in pretty good shape.
"I'd say I caught at least 250 keepers over the four days. Heck, I caught at least 100 on Day 3 alone. It was a matter of catching every one I could and then culling to increase my weight an ounce or two at a time. It was a slow process all the way around but it worked out fairly well for me in the end."
Scroggins fished his jig with a CastAway 7-foot, medium-heavy rod, a Pflueger Patriarch reel and 12-pound-test Gamma fluorocarbon. His worm rig consisted of a 7-foot heavy action Castaway rod, a Patriarch reel and 16-pound-test Gamma fluorocarbon line.