If anyone knows how to catch fish at any given time, it would be an Elite Series angler. With the Elite Series tournaments trail in full swing, a timely question would be, "What are they doing to get fish right now?"
Here's what four of the top Elite Series pros are doing to catch fish and win tournaments.
Mike McClelland's Jig Tricks
Sitting at the top of the Angler of the Year standings is Mike McClelland. Scoring a win at the Sunshine Showdown and three Top 25 finishes have made him the most consistent angler this season. While all anglers use myriad of different techniques, McClelland has had much of his success with a jig. He's used one successfully in every event this season, but more so in the last two events at Clarks Hill and Lake Murray.
McClelland favors either a 3/8- or 1/2-ounce Jewel football jig in Peanut Butter and Jelly or Peanut Butter and Jelly Smoke trailed with a Zoom Super Chunk on a 6-foot, 10-inch Falcon jig rod. He has worked it most successfully on offshore humps and long, extended points near and along breaklines, from 4- to 15-feet deep.
"The jig has worked for me all season. It's definitely my top producer this time of year," he says. "Once I find the underwater structure I want to fish, I toss it down there and work it slow and methodical, always keeping it in contact with the bottom. The things to key in on within these points and breaks are stumps, rocks and brushpiles."
Todd Faircloth's Kut-Tail Worm
Just 10 points behind McClelland is Todd Faircloth, who is finding a lot of success by using a 5-inch Yamamoto Kut-Tail worm rigged wacky style with a finishing nail stuck in the head for weight. He's caught a lot of fish by working it over submerged roadbeds, around docks and over bream beds. Faircloth's casting outfit consists of a 6-foot, 8-inch spinning rod and 8-pound-test line, using long casts for everything except docks, which he pitches to. Faircloth finds that the wacky worm, when worked slowly, is deadly on suspended bass.
"I find that 75 percent of the hits will come on the initial fall. But when they don't, just work it slowly back to you, pausing occasionally to wait for the strike," he says. "When the fish have seen fast-moving power presentations all day, I find that something more subtle gets the reaction bites when they're over pressured and spookier. The fish are also typically lazier in May, since they've just finished spawning."
Get Cranking with Kevin VanDam
Fourth in this year's AOY standings is The Kalamazoo Kid, Kevin VanDam. He placed third in the Classic, won this year's Citrus Slam and has two Top 10 finishes, making him a strong contender for Angler of the Year. The lures that have paid off for Kevin most thus far have been his crankbaits.
"When it heats up, the fish move out of the creeks and into the main lakes, and they hang around that 7- to 12-foot range. Crankbaits are best suited to get these in-between fish," he says. "Another reason is because the main forage has moved from bluegill and bream to shad, and the shad are spawning, making them easy pickings for prowling bass."
When working crankbaits, VanDam moves them fast to get them on the bottom and bangs them off of cover around rockpiles or secondary points. Kevin VanDam is notorious for covering water very quickly, so crankbaits lend themselves to his fishing style. His casting outfit of choice for cranking is a Quantum PT Series rod mated to a Quantum Energy 750 PT reel spooled with 12-pound Bass Pro Shops XPS fluorocarbon. His go to lure is a Strike King Series 5 in Sexy Shad.
Swimbaits with Dean Rojas
Sitting in the fifth position is Dean Rojas. Finishing in the Top 25 more often than not, swimbaits have been his go-to lure this season. Rojas credits the lakes on the trail as the reason for the swimbait's popularity and success this year.
"They've really worked everywhere," he says. "Most of the lakes have been clear, and I've thrown them from 4 feet to 15 feet deep with success. Since these baits appeal to fish in the 3- to 5-pound class, they've helped me get consistent limits everywhere."
Rojas fishes these baits with a steady retrieve once they reach the optimum depth. The specific brands he has fished include 3:16 Lure Company, various Berkley Hollow Belly PowerBait swimbaits, and several Basstrix paddle-tail baits.
Rojas says that the big swimbaits aren't just for deep fish. They can be used to catch keeper bass in the shallows first thing in the morning, and the lighter Hollow Bellies can be used with some weight to get deep suspending fish. His preferred casting outfit consists of a 7-foot medium-heavy Quantum Dean Rojas Signature Tour Edition frog rod and a Quantum baitcaster spooled with 15 or 20-pound Izorline monofilament.
Take it from the top pros — if these patterns are putting bass in their boats and cash in their pockets, they'll work for you, too!