Marshal says thanks

Just wanted to thank everyone on the B.A.S.S. crew in Palatka ,Fla., where I  was a Bassmaster Marshal for the first time. Everyone was so helpful and appreciative. I got very lucky being with Patrick Walters Day 1 and Chris Johnston Day 2.

Anyone who has never been a Marshal before I can tell you it was a blast and like being at a bass fishing college class. Both anglers were very generous  with their knowledge and fun to be with on the water. Look forward to future events best of luck to all.

Thanks again,
Mark Easton

Game time with Weidler

Lake Lanier is deep and clear, and during the winter months the spotted bass focus on deep structure. That makes electronics critical to success.

Alabama pro Bill Weidler is a fantastic spotted bass angler, having grown up fishing the Coosa River lakes like Lay and Logan Martin.

He understands the vertical game.

In fact, the slang term for this technique is called “gaming.” This week you’ll see most of the pros with a spinning rod in their hands, and heads down studying they’re graphs.

It may seem monotonous or slow, but come weigh-in time, the results will speak for themselves.

Weidler is still looking for his first bass of the event—soon.

Rick Clunn: Forever young

A week before this tournament began, I talked to Rick Clunn about his state of mind as he approached another season on the Bassmaster Elite Series tour. The lead of the story was as follows:

Rick Clunn is 72 years old, yet he remains as exhilarated as a teenager about tournament bass fishing. That paradox of age and excitement begs the question made famous by pitching legend Satchel Paige, who at age 42 became the oldest rookie in Major League Baseball history: “How old would you be, if you didn’t know how old you was?”

Clunns’ answer: “Twenty-eight or twenty-nine. That’s not just because I love to fish, and I love what I’m doing. It’s life in general.”

 After catching not one, but now two bass in the 10-pound range this afternoon, putting him in contention for what would be his second Elite Series win on the St. Johns River, I wonder how young Clunn is feeling now.

 

 

Clunn lands a giant

Rick Clunn has zoomed into second place, according to BASSTrakk, with a 9-pound, 13-ounce bass. Unofficially, he has 27-11 for the day and 91-11 for the tournament.

Apparently the afternoon window of opportunity is opening. John Crews just caught another St. Johns River lunker.

"I've got four good ones and one 3-pounder," said Crews, who is approaching the 30-pound mark for the day. "These fish have Mick Jagger lips and Shaquille O'Neal bodies."

Clunn's retro confidence bait

Between 1983 and 1984 B.A.S.S. visited the St. Johns River and Palatka three times. As it goes with B.A.S.S. history the anglers went searching for, and found, yet another hidden lure treasure. It was the Gator Tail Worm, made by Bobby Ditto in nearby San Mateo. The wide ribbed worm featured an equally as wide flat ribbon tail. The worm produced impressive catches at the St. Johns events and the pros took note. Soon, Gator Tail Worms were being used elsewhere to win or place high in B.A.S.S. events. You know where this story is going.

 I know firsthand because in those days I worked for Ranger Boats and Forrest Wood, who dispatched me to Ditto Manufacturing to build a stash of the prized worms for his use. They were everywhere and I can remember filing boxes of the worms to take back to Arkansas for my boss.

 Fast forward to today. What Gator Tail Worms remain hidden away in stashes of anglers still see use when the occasion calls for them. In play this week is the stash of Gator Tail Worms hoarded by Rick Clunn.

 “I have a few hundred bags left but my supply is dwindling,” he said. “I don’t use them anywhere else but when we come here.”

 For sure this week, as Clunn is using a 7-inch Gator Tail rigged with a 5/0 hook and 1/2-ounce weight, pitching the Texas rig around boat docks, just as he likely did right here in the 1980s.

 “It’s really a confidence bait that I used with great success in those tournaments,” he explained. “What’s funny is what’s stuck in my mind was how bass don’t like gators.”

 Or vise versa. Clunn happened upon a small alligator lounging on a laydown log that slipped into the brackish water as he approached. A flip to the log produced a 5 pounder on Thursday that helped paved the way for where he is today.

 

 

 

Crews' lure lineup

This morning before takeoff I recorded the lure details for the gallery to be shot later today by Shane Durrance.

 John Crews is rotating through a lineup of his Missile Baits but with unexpected results.

 “I intended to just catch a limit on a lightweight Neko rig.” Instead on Thursday he caught a heavyweight largemouth weighing 11-2. He made the rig with a Missile Baits Fuse 4.4 on a No. 1 Gamakatsu Octopus Hook and nail weight. 

Alternatively, he is rigging the slender June Bug crawfish bait to a 4/0 Gamakatsu Heavy Cover Flippin’ Hook and 1/8-ounce sinker.

"Flipping a straight bait seems to be a huge deal during the spawn in Florida,” he explained.

 He also is using a 7-inch Missile Baits Destroyer, green pumpkin flash, on 5/0 Gamakatsu Hook and 3/16-ounce tungsten weight.

Retro Menendez

Mark Menendez is at it again. First let’s cover two lures that he’s using that aren’t so old. The first is a 3/8-ounce Strike King Premier Spinnerbait. The consummate lure tinkerer is adding a less-than-an inch piece of chartreuse worm to make the lure stand out in the brackish water. He's also using a 4-inch Strike King Rage Tail Craw with 5/0 hook and 5/16-ounce sinker.

Those details I got from Menendez this morning. What’s peculiar though is he’s also using a homemade, custom spinnerbait. Ironically, Menendez followed this same throwback path last year at the Elite Series event on Lake Martin, where he went really retro with a spinnerbait. And nearly won that tournament. 

Menendez first used the throwback at the 1997 B.A.S.S. MegaBucks tournament on Richland Chambers Reservoir in Texas. Using the lure he caught a largemouth weighing 13 pounds, 9 ounces, to become the heaviest bass ever caught in B.A.S.S. competition at the time. After weighing the epic catch he recalled what happened after leaving the weigh-in scales. None other than Rick Clunn recognized the spinnerbait’s peculiar skirt color as something special. Menendez described the skirt color as cantaloupe, including some red that he added for extra strike appeal in the dirty water. 

Now, we don’t know if he’s using that color today, but it’s significant to this story that relates to Clunn, also fishing today. 

“That’s an Elroy color,” proclaimed Clunn.

Menendez was clueless about the “Elroy” significance and even more curious of Clunn’s excitement. Then he received a history lesson from Clunn, who informed him Elroy Kreuger first used the skirt color in the 1970s. The four-time world champion then explained he regarded Krueger as the greatest spinnerbait fisherman of all time.

“He took me from being a chunk and wind spinnerbait angler to understanding the art and science of using the lure, including its versatility,” Clunn told Menendez.

Kreuger, a native Texan like Clunn, fished the 1974 and 1975 Bassmaster Classic. He mentored Clunn and even allowed the young pro to share a motel room at B.A.S.S. tournaments. Kreuger was highly regarded in Texas for his intuitive fishing skills, wisdom and experience until his death in 2015. Krueger taught Clunn about super-sizing willowleaf blades to create more torque, about increasing water displacement using large Indiana and Colorado blades for dirty water, and many more intricate details of using the lure.

“It was typical Clunn, deep diving into a topic beyond the surface of how a lure was designed to be used,” said Menendez. “That’s what made him one of the greatest anglers of all time.”

Whether or not this is among the same lineage of retro spinnerbaits being used today, you can bet that Menendez will share what he used with Clunn.

Crews' ugliest hookset in history

John Crews called it "the ugliest hook-set in history," but it worked out just fine when he boated a 7-pound, 2-ounce bass, which put him over 20 pounds for the day.

"It was almost like I set the hook on a tarpon," said Crews, after the rod was almost yanked from his hands. "I don't know what my heart rate is right now but it's about a thousand beats a minute."

Is the window opening?

John Crews landed a 6-pounder at 10:31, followed by Mark Menendez putting an 8-pounder in the boat at 10:34. There have been two-hour periods in the morning and also in the afternoon each day when the bite really turned on this week. Maybe today's first window of opportunity is opening now.

"Once you find the big ones, you've got to stay there until that window of time opens when they're going to bite," said Rick Clunn on Friday. "It was a different time today than it was yesterday. If you're running around, they may start to bite when you run off, and you may miss it."

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