2011 Elite Series - Diamond Drive Arkansas River - Little Rock, AR, Jun 9 - 12, 2011

Lunker Lessons: JVD on the Arkansas River

A big jig and stout tackle were just the ticket to the best bass taken all week on the river.

JVD with 2011 Arkansas River lunker
James Overstreet
Five pounds is not often the biggest bass in an Elite Series tournament, but it was enough to give Jonathon VanDam big bass honors at the Arkansas River in 2011.

She came out of a brush pile about the size of my boat on top of a point in about 6 feet of water. It was around 11:30 in the morning. I was fishing that spot because I’d lost a couple of good ones on the first day of the tournament from the same brush. I was definitely looking for a bigger fish. I knew this was the place to get one.

My bait was a hand-tied Mop-style jig — 1/2-ounce — in brown. My trailer was a Strike King Perfect Plastic KVD Senior Chunk in peanut butter and jelly. I fished it on a G. Loomis NRX 7 foot, 5 inch Jig and Worm Rod with a Shimano Core 50 reel (7.1:1 gear ratio) spooled with 20-pound-test fluorocarbon line.

The water was stained, so I wasn’t worried about the sun or the shade positioning my fish. (I caught several from that brush pile.) I did fish the brush from several different angles, however. Sometimes I’d come across the top of it, but other times I worked the sides parallel to the highest part of it. I don’t think that’s what made the difference, though.

To get them to bite you needed to drag the bait up on the brush and then shake it around. My idea was to work it into every nook and cranny of the brush while moving it slow enough that anything around there was able to find it and eat it. Nothing was hurried about my presentation.

To be honest, I’m not sure if the big fish was in the brush or cruising around the outside. I do know that the bite was fairly hard. She wasn’t playing around. She wanted it, that’s for sure.

Catching her with that combination reinforced my belief that big baits — especially jigs — catch big bass. I selected that lure and trailer because it made a big profile in the water and because the little ones — 12-14 inches — left it alone.

There’s a time in tournaments when you need the big bite. The best way to get it is to use a big bite bait like a heavy jig and sizeable trailer. I know some guys will disagree with me when I say that — and plenty of big bass have been caught on tiny lures — but in my mind, it’s about as close to an absolute rule as there is in fishing.

Another thing is to fish with the right tackle. If you notice my rod, reel and line were all fairly heavy for the Arkansas River. I needed that heavy stuff because I was in brush and looking for weight. Light tackle would not have helped me get her into the boat. If fact, it might have resulted in me losing her because I’d never have gotten her away from the brush.

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