If you think crankbaiting is a matter of casting and winding, you haven't studied the results from the SpongeTech Tennessee Triumph on massive Kentucky Lake. The three top finishers, along with Fred Roumbanis who caught the biggest bass of the tournament, mixed baits, tackle, colors and techniques to bag their winning weights.
Here's how they did it:
(1st Place — 97 pounds, 9 ounces)
"I've been looking for that spot for the past five years," said the jubilant Lakeland, Fla., winner. "And I found it on the first day of practice."
Lane is referring to a series of ledges along the channel swings at the south end of Kentucky Lake. He was fishing on Monday morning, looking for a concentration of keepers, when he saw a massive school of bass surface. He immediately marked the spot, made a couple of successful casts and moved along without really knowing the extent of what he had discovered.
"I went back on Wednesday morning and couldn't believe what I'd found. I fished a spot about 20 yards long and caught a limit in a few minutes. In fact, all my fish for the first three days came from that spot. And even on the last day with over 100 boats watching, I caught several good ones off it.
"It was a typical Kentucky Lake summer spot. Every cast had to be precise — hit the sweet spot and you'd boat a 5-pounder, miss it left or right by as little as 10 feet and you'd boat a 12-incher. What made that short ledge so much more productive than the surrounding ones is a mystery to me. You'll have to ask the fish. "
Lane caught nearly 30 pounds the first day throwing Dorado and watermelon seed finished Norman DD22 crankbaits. He switched to a soft plastic swimbait — a Berkley PowerBait Mullet — on Thursday and Friday and boated another 50 pounds plus.
Then, on the final day, he was forced to "finesse" his bass with a 10-inch Berkley Power Worm and a 3/4-ounce Tru-Tungsten worm weight.
"My bait selection was important, but the real key to my win was finding the sweet spot and managing my bass.
"I found the spot on the spot because I was in the right place at the right time. But I also knew that the best bass would be concentrated on a tiny portion of it. I didn't waste time throwing anywhere else.
"And, I only took what I needed every day. In a four-day tournament you need fish for four days. Not wearing it out let me put three heavy bags together and still catch some weight off it the final day.
"Of course, the other thing was protecting my spot. That's a part of managing your fish. The spot was small. I knew if anyone else got on it my win was history. So, I sat on it all day after I was finished fishing it."
Lane threw his DD 22 with an All Star 7-foot, 4-inch rod (medium-heavy action), a high-quality 5.4:1 reel and Berkley Trilene 12-pound-test 100% Fluorocarbon line. He used a 7-foot, 9-inch Fenwick rod (heavy action) for his PowerBait Mullet, a high-quality 6.4:1 reel and 17-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon line.
(2nd Place — 92 pounds, 1 ounce)
"The only thing I did different than the other guys — besides fishing with the new Strike King Pro-Model Series 6 XD crankbait — was fishing a little deeper," said the bass fishing legend from Kalamazoo, Mich. "But that's not what mattered. My new lure was the thing.
"We (Strike King) have been working on that lure for a long time. It's a deep-diver, but the thing that really makes it different is what it does when it gets down to its running depth. It doesn't just scoot or wiggle along the bottom. It has a searching, wandering and hunting action to it.
"I mean, this thing really provokes strikes. I was throwing it a long ways and then cranking it back along the bottom. The bass couldn't help themselves. They simply went crazy.
"It'll be commercially available by this fall. I think — actually I know — it's going to be one of our best. There's no doubt about it. It's destined for greatness."
VanDam threw his Series 6 crankbait on a 7-foot, 10-inch Quantum Tour KVD Casting Rod (medium-heavy), a Quantum Energy PT reel (5.1:1 gear ratio) and 12-pound-test Bass Pro Shops XPS Signature Series Fluorocarbon line.
"That outfit let me make long casts and get the bait down to where I was fishing — between 15 and 20 feet. And, in case you're wondering, you don't need a high-gear ratio reel to get a bait down to its natural running depth. The 5.1:1 I used was plenty fast. I simply cranked my Series 6 XD along and let it work its way down."
(3rd Place — 90 pounds, 9 ounces)
Russ Lane combined three crankbaits — a Bomber Tim Horton Signature Series Fat Free Shad, a Lucky Craft RC 3.5 DD and Strike King Pro-Model Series 5 crankbait on his way to a third place finish.
"I was fishing an area with mussel shell ridges along the main river channel," said the Prattville, Ala., professional angler. "Most of the other guys were fishing the ones closest to the main channel. I fished the ones closest to the bank. And I only fished the very ends of them where I could find small ditches and plenty of hydrilla. Basically, that was the first stopping point from the bank.
"The trick was to run the crankbaits very fast into the shells. The fish were heavily pressured. When that happens you either go with finesse baits or you go with a strong reaction bite. I chose the reaction bite.
"The thing that really made the difference, though, was my line choice. I wanted my baits to run at exactly 9 feet. The Series 5 did that on 12-pound-test Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon. But, I had to upsize to 15-pound-test to make the Fat Free Shad and the RC 3.5 DD run at that depth."
Lane threw his crankbaits on an American Rodsmiths Davit Fritts Crankbait Rod and brought them back with a Pflueger Patriarch reel (6.4:1 gear ratio).