Like many Bassmaster Elite Series pros, Todd Faircloth had never been on Cayuga Lake prior to the A.R.E. Truck Caps Bassmaster Elite held there. "All I knew was it had grass in it," he said.
"I went there with full intentions of just flipping grass. That's all I did the first day of practice, and I had a ton of bites flipping a Strike King Rage Tail Shellcracker in the blue craw color with a 3/4-ounce weight. I really felt like that's what I was going to do in the tournament."
But then, on the second practice day, he found some deep fish.
"I was cranking a Strike King 5XD in gizzard green shad, and when I'd catch a fish a group of bass would follow that fish back to the boat," he said. "I found my two best spots with that bait, and in both places that happened."
One spot was a small area – "about the size of a truck," Faircloth said – with a "good, hard, plain bottom" in 19 feet with grass that topped out in 12 to 15 feet. He thought that hard bottom was key.
His other spot was one section of a nearby weedline, which ran north-south. "It had real crisp, bright green milfoil and coontail mixed in with some cabbage grass," he noted.
Because those spots were downlake, away from the crowd at the north end, he felt good about those fish and his chances in the tournament.
Sure enough, the first tournament day Faircloth ran straight to those deep fish and no one else was there.
He sacked 20-02, which put him in seventh place, and left the area pretty early after guarding it for a bit to make sure no one else had found it.
On Day 2 he went right back, and had a surprise: Eventual third-place finisher – and fellow Strike King teammate – Chris Zaldain drove up. As it happened, Zaldain had found one of the two spots Faircloth found in practiced, and had fished it Day 1, but after Faircloth left. The two never saw each other.
All of that was confirmed by Faircloth's Day 2 observer, who by chance had been Zaldain's Day 1 observer.
Both fished it and agreed to leave it early after sacking 20 pounds apiece. Faircloth ended up in second, and Zaldain moved way up to sixth.
The same scenario played out on the next two days, and even though Faircloth didn't do as well on Day 4, he held onto second overall while Zaldain finished third.
Half of Faircloth's fish were caught on the Strike King 5XD (green gizzard shad), and the other half came on a 6-inch Strike King Rage Tail Cut-R Worm (green pumpkin) rigged with a 3/8-ounce Strike King tungsten weight and 3/0 offset hook.
"The weather and conditions dictated which I threw," he said. "The first morning we had cloudy skies and a little bit of wind, and I caught most of them on the crankbait. The second day [which was sunny], I caught most of them on the worm.
"The third day I caught my two biggest cranking, and the rest on a worm. The last day it was slick, flat [conditions] and I caught them all on the worm."
He noted that he "could always go back through after cranking, fish the worm and catch more fish." He let the worm hit the bottom, then pumped it back over the top of the grass.