The 2022 Bassmaster Elite Series tracked its way across all phases of the spawning cycle, stopping at a diverse lineup of fisheries along the way. None of them were similar, all posed a challenge for the pros to break down, and the sum of the whole was more bass fishing knowledge gained for the average angler.
There were notable angling lessons learned along the way. In April at Chickamauga Lake, Jason Christie taught us how being keen to a changing weather condition can lead to victory.
“The fog was why I won,” said Christie, who made an unscheduled stop while en route to his key area until fog lifted. By 8 a.m., Christie lit up the BassTrakk scoreboard with a limit, while much of the field was still navigating through the fog. Christie knew the spot held promise, but he never fished there until a fog bank forced him to decide to idle on, or stop and make a cast. It proved to be the winning area.
At the upper Mississippi River, winner Bryan Schmitt schooled us on dialing into the intricacies of finding subtle differences in vast areas of vegetation. Call it how to find the needle in a haystack.
The season was literally one for the record books, with three fisheries breaking 100-pound-plus weights to earn eight anglers B.A.S.S. Century Club entries. That included establishing a new category for smallmouth at the St. Lawrence River/Lake Ontario in July.
Here are results of our annual audit that ranks the top lure categories based on their appearance in our popular top lures galleries. Texas, Carolina and wacky rigs and stickbaits are included in the worm category for the sake of continuity. Similarly, soft plastic finesse rigs like the Ned, drop shot, Damiki and Tokyo are in the same lineup.
Popular soft plastics
The second event at the Harris Chain and the next stop at Santee Cooper Lakes had the spawn in full swing, making soft plastics the ideal choice of the pros. From start to finish, worms appeared in the galleries more than any other category at 45 times.
Just when you thought worms are just piece of round, straight plastic, technology adds diversity and specialization to them. Examples are the scent-impregnated worms with Berkley’s PowerBait and Maxscent, and Z-Man’s ElaZtech material that makes baits last longer while adding naturally buoyancy (and more action to soft plastics). John Crews, winner of the St. Johns River event, used the new Missile Baits Magic Worm to win in heavy cover. The worm is a collaboration of his company with Roboworm to manufacture an all-purpose finesse, hand-poured bait normally reserved for light line and clear water.
Finesse soft plastics came next at 30 appearances, with the majority being used at the final three events held on the smallmouth rich waters of the St. Lawrence River/Lake Ontario and Lake Oahe. Those baits are becoming more specialized in design and size as the various jig heads and weights used to rig them are made for specific applications.
Jigs and hard baits
In 2021, skirted jigs appeared 27 times in the Top 10 gallery, while this year the venerable bait was chosen 25 times. Like worms, jigs are getting updated with manufacturers making premium baits with name brand hooks and various types of pliable skirt material for different conditions. Part of that continued popularity are the soft plastics now being made specifically as jig trailers. Examples are Berkley’s PowerBait Maxscent Lil’ Super Trooper and Z-Man’s 3-inch Baby Goat, both ideal for trending lightweight finesse skirted jigs.
Crankbaits, deep diving or squarebill, made it into the galleries 20 times during the season. Brandon Lester used both for offshore summertime bass at Pickwick Lake, while other top finishers used lipped baits in the traditional manner to coax largemouth off the Tennessee River ledges.
Swimbaits, bladed jigs and topwaters
Not surprisingly, soft plastic swimbaits were a near front-runner at 17 times in the galleries. Buddy Gross used a Scottsboro Tackle Swimbaint, rigged on a 3/4-ounce swimbait head, to win at the Harris Chain.
Just as it was in 2021 (15 appearances), the bladed jig was a reliable choice for catching bass in changing conditions, when the bass moved up, down and across the water column. Bladed jigs were again used 15 times by the Top 10 anglers.
Topwater frogs are becoming more specialized for specific duties within the category. The frog leapt into the gallery a dozen times across the entire seven-month schedule. Bryan Schmitt included a Spro Flappin’ Frog 65 in his winning lure arsenal at the season finale on the upper Mississippi River.
At five and six appearances each, jerkbaits and topwaters were used in the early-season events, mainly to intercept prespawn and postspawn bass.
A surprise came as six anglers used magnum flutter spoons, namely at Pickwick Lake, where the largemouth staged on the deeper river ledges to feed on schools of roaming and suspending shad along the Tennessee River.
The venerable spinnerbait proved its worth after appearing five times in the galleries. A BOOYAH Covert Series Spinnerbait was in the winning lineup for Jason Christie at Chickamauga Lake. Spinnerbaits are also getting upgrades across the category, with stronger, laser-sharp hooks and premium components that enhance their action.
It was a mix of old blended in with a touch of new. The top lures used throughout the 2022 Elite season were used in conventional and atypical methods to win Blue trophies. We wouldn’t expect anything less from the sport’s top pros, whose full-time jobs on the water benefit us all when we spend time there as well.