Day on the Lake: Buddy Gross

It was June 2021 and Buddy Gross’ fondest dreams were about to come true. He’d grown up in the world of competitive bass fishing, first partnering with his dad in local team tournaments as a teenager, then winning $450,000 on the FLW tour and finally moving to the B.A.S.S. Elite Series after qualifying via the Eastern Opens.

“I’d watched Bassmaster televised tournaments since I was five years old and always dreamed of one day qualifying for the Classic,” Gross says. These dreams became reality when he won the 2020 Elite tournament at Lake Eufaula and subsequently earned a berth at the 2021 Classic at Lake Ray Roberts. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is really happening! I’m actually headed to the Classic!’”

That’s when fate intervened.

Buddy and his family are avid equestrians, and the evening before heading to Texas for the Classic practice period, Buddy fell off his horse, severely spraining his ankle.

“All 250 pounds of me went down on that ankle. The pain was awful. I needed a one-wheeled scooter to get around, and my family and friends had to load up my boat and truck with my fishing gear.”

Gross missed two full Classic practice days.

“I tried to stand up and fish on the third practice day, but I was really hurting and had to quit early. I made myself stand up during two days of competition, but it was brutal. I ended up finishing 52nd, which I can’t blame entirely on my injury. It didn’t unfold exactly like I’d hoped, but hey, I did finally get to fish the Classic!”

If your summer bass outings aren’t unfolding exactly like you’d hoped, I guarantee you’ll pick up some useful pointers from Gross’ late June trip to Lake L.

6:17 a.m. We arrive at Lake L’s deserted boat launch. It’s a chilly 54 degrees with light fog. “You might know I’d schedule a late June article around a cold front!” Gross says, laughing. “But I’m guessing many of the bass here have already spawned and moved offshore. If they’re fairly deep, the front shouldn’t affect them all that much.” Gross pulls an arsenal of Fitzgerald rods with Daiwa reels from storage. “I’m ready. Let’s do this!”
6:25 a.m. We launch the Bullet. Gross checks the water: it’s 83 degrees and stained. “I’m gonna start off shallow. I noticed some bluegill beds with bream on them near the ramp, which tells me there should still be some good bass around the banks. Later I’ll spend time idling around offshore to see what structure is available.”
6:36 a.m. Gross makes his first casts of the day to a stumpy point near the boat ramp with a white 1/4-ounce Boogerman buzzbait with a matching boot-tail trailer. “This buzzer has a real small blade and makes a very subtle surface disturbance. It’s more effective than a big, noisy topwater presentation during a frontal passage.”
6:39 a.m. Gross switches to a white quarter-ounce Nichols Lures spinnerbait with two small Colorado blades on the point.
6:44 a.m. Gross rounds the point and proceeds down a shallow bank. Targets here include wood and concrete seawalls, docks and boathouses. He casts a junebug color Zoom Zlinky finesse worm rigged wacky style (weightless with a 1/0 hook through the middle) to a moored pontoon boat.
6:46 a.m. Gross immediately replaces the junebug Zlinky with the same lure in green pumpkin.
6:51 a.m. Gross progresses along the shoreline, alternating between the buzzbait, spinnerbait and wacky worm. “I’m seeing bream everywhere. Should be some bass, too.”
6:54 a.m. Gross catches his first keeper of the day, a 1-pound largemouth, off a deep dock on the wacky worm. “Not big, but it’s a start!”
6:56 a.m. Gross ties on a 3/4-ounce Nichols Lures football jig in the dinosaur color (green pumpkin, black and brown) with a green pumpkin Zoom Super Chunk trailer and casts it to a bream bed. “I won the Lake Eufaula tournament on this same jig.”
7:11 a.m. Gross’ Humminbird 360 unit displays some logs on the bottom. He crawls the jig across the cover but hauls water.

7:19 a.m. Gross casts the buzzbait to a stickup. “Come on, fish, hit it!”
7:25 a.m. Gross moves offshore and idles, marking potential bass-holding structure and cover targets on his electronics. “I’m definitely an offshore guy, and I’m seeing some good-looking stuff out here that I’ll come back and fish throughout the day. Right now a lot of fish I’m seeing are suspended, probably due to this cold front, but they should set up closer to cover later in the day.”
7:52 a.m. After taking a tour of the lake, Gross pulls out several rods rigged for offshore duty with crankbaits, swimbaits and Texas-rigged worms. He switches his jig weight from 3/4 to 1/2 ounce “because there’s a lot of snaggy cover down there and the lighter jig should hang up less.”
7:55 a.m. Gross makes his initial offshore casts to an uplake point with an Evergreen CR-13 crankbait in the ayu color pattern. “These crankbaits have an awesome weight transfer system so you can throw them a country mile. Today’s sophisticated electronics units send out powerful signals that bass can detect, so I try to keep my lure as far away from my boat as possible for a stealthier presentation.”
8:10 a.m. Gross’ electronics reveal a submerged boat in 12 feet of water. “Looks like somebody forgot their drain plug!” He casts the jig to the sunken craft and catches keeper number two,
1 pound, 1 ounce.
8:12 a.m. Gross hops the jig across the boat again. This time a big fish grabs it but immediately wraps his line around something snaggy. “I can feel the fish pulling, but it’s got me wrapped up.” He breaks out a massive homemade lure retriever. “I’ve used this bad boy to get back lures stuck in 50 feet of water.” He attaches it to his line and it plummets to the bottom.
8:14 a.m. Gross is finally forced to break off the jig. He ties on a replacement and continues probing the sunken skiff.
8:25 a.m. Gross hits a long point with the CR-13. “I’m cranking parallel to the old channel. There are about three dozen big stumps lined up along the edge of the structure.”
8:32 a.m. Gross drags the jig along the channel break. “This spot looks awesome but they may not be on it right now. When you’re fishing offshore it’s all about timing.”
8:35 a.m. Gross catches his third keeper, 2 pounds, 10 ounces, off the channel break on the jig. “I hopped it over a stump and the fish nailed it.”
8:49 a.m. Gross rigs a 5-inch pearl Zoom Swimmer swimbait on a 3/4-ounce head and retrieves it around the channel.
8:56 a.m. A bass hits the CR-13 on the channel but comes unbuttoned.
9:04 a.m. A light breeze is blowing out of the east as Gross casts a Texas-rigged plum apple Zoom Ol’ Monster worm to the channel.
9:11 a.m. Back to the CR-13. “It’s slow so far, but I’m not one to get rattled. When fishing offshore you can wreck ’em in 10 minutes and I’ve got plenty of time left.”
9:15 a.m. Gross switches to an Evergreen CR-16 crankbait, same color as the CR-13. “This one dives a little deeper.”
9:18 a.m. The channel intersects a long point, which Gross describes as a perfect place for bass to school. “But evidently somebody sunk some brushpiles down there, which can actually make a place more likely to attract solitary fish than large numbers of bass.” He cranks the CR-16 here without success.
9:25 a.m. Gross cranks the CR-16 off a clay point. A school of tiny yellow bass follows the lure to the boat. “Those are probably the fish I’ve been seeing suspending in a tower formation on my graph.”
9:46 a.m. Gross has spent the last 20 minutes hitting submerged ditches and scattered wood cover off the point with the CR-16 and jig. He cranks the Merc and moves uplake to a long point at the juncture of two tributary arms, where he drags the Texas-rigged worm.
9:54 a.m. It’s warming up quickly as Gross moves back to the sunken boat. He casts the Ol’ Monster to the skiff and catches his fourth keeper, 1 pound. “Amazing a fish this small would hit a worm this big!”
10:00 a.m. Gross continues dragging the worm around the submerged boat. What’s his take on the day so far? “I’ve found some great-looking places offshore but haven’t been able to tap into anything big yet. The spots I’ve been keying on are in the 12-foot zone; I may move out a little deeper, then if that doesn’t pan out, I’ll go back to the bank. This cold front has given ’em lockjaw and that east wind isn’t helping, either. I’m hoping the bite will pick up later this morning.”
10:04 a.m. Gross slow rolls a 1/2-ounce shad-colored Megabass Uoze Swimmer swim jig with a Scottsboro swimbait trailer across the sunken boat. No takers.
10:05 a.m. He abandons the boat and returns to the long point, which he cranks with the CR-13. “Moving baits have not worked so far today.”
10:19 a.m. Gross, having saturated the point with the crankbait, drags the structure with the jig.


10:25 a.m. Gross moves two cast lengths off the point and tries the Zoom swimbait.
10:33 a.m. Gross makes a high-speed run downlake to a cove with multiple docks. He quickly locates a brushy ledge offshore and tries the swimbait. After several casts he decides to move near the dam and do more structure searching.
10:55 a.m. Gross has idled around Lake L’s deeper lower end for 20 minutes but has failed to graph up anything with potential. “I’m not seeing hardly any sign of life below 16 feet. I hate to do it, but I’m going back to the bank with the wacky worm.”
10:58 a.m. Gross moves to a nearby shoreline and skips the wacky worm around scattered laydowns. “Pounding the bank in late June just isn’t me, but I’ll give it a shot.”
11:09 a.m. He’s alternating between the wacky worm and jig around seawalls, docks and isolated wood. A deer calmly chews grass on a nearby lawn. “That’s my kind of mower!”
11:14 a.m. Gross skips the wacky worm under a dock. A good fish grabs it; Buddy swings and misses. The lure comes back with a big scale impaled on the hook. “I could have used that one!”
11:25 a.m. Still skipping the wacky worm around docks.
11:33 a.m. Gross retrieves the swim jig parallel to a seawall.
11:37 a.m. Gross catches a short fish off a dock on the wacky worm.
11:46 a.m. Gross catches his fifth keeper, 1-2, off a dock on the wacky worm. “I’ve got my limit, but they don’t add up to much. Hopefully I can sack some better fish in my remaining time and cull those pounders.”
11:55 a.m. Gross moves to a main-lake point and tries a big Ledge Hog metal blade bait. “This is one of my favorite offshore lures. It sinks to 20 feet in just 3 seconds! It’s kinda like throwing an anvil, but it’s absolutely deadly on deep fish.” He casts the magnum lure to the point, sweeps his rod to the side and lets it sink on a slack line. “They usually hit it on the fall.” But several casts with the heavy bait fail to connect with a bass.
12:11 p.m. Gross vacates the point and moves into a shoreline pocket. A bass grabs his wacky worm and strips it off the hook.
12:17 p.m. Gross moves to a shallow point and tries the big Zoom worm.
12:25 p.m. Gross tries the wacky worm on a riprap bank. He hangs up in brush, breaks off and re-rigs.
12:41 p.m. Gross races back to a long point he fished earlier and drags the football jig around the structure.
12:50 p.m. Gross’ jig contacts a sunken brushpile. He lifts his rod to ease the lure over the cover and a good fish nails it! Gross slams back his rod and swings aboard his sixth keeper, a fine 4-pound, 4-ounce largemouth. “That’s more like it!”
1:09 p.m. Gross runs back to the sunken boat and tries the jig and Texas-rigged worm.
1:18 p.m. Gross hangs the jig, breaks off and makes his final casts of the day with the big worm.
1:25 p.m. Time’s up! A last-minute lunker has helped brighten Gross’ otherwise slow day on Lake L. He’s boated six keeper bass; his five biggest weigh 10 pounds, 1 ounce.
“As I suspected, the quality fish were offshore but they weren’t in a feeding mode,” Gross told Bassmaster. “My one big fish came after noon, which is when the offshore bite usually is best, but by then I was out of time. If I were to fish here tomorrow I’d start later and stay longer. It’s supposed to be warmer tomorrow, so I’d expect the fish to recover from their cold front funk and bite more aggressively.”
1. 1 pound, 1 ounce; 1/2 ounce green pumpkin/black and brown Nichols Lures football jig with green pumpkin Zoom Super Chunk trailer; submerged boat; 8:10 a.m.
2. 2 pounds, 10 ounces; same lure as #1; channel bank with stumps; 8:35 a.m.
3. 1 pound; plum apple Texas-rigged Zoom Ol’ Monster worm; same place as #1; 9:54 a.m.
4. 1 pound, 2 ounces; wacky-rigged green pumpkin Zoom Zlinky finesse worm; dock; 11:46 a.m.
5. 4 pounds, 4 ounces: same lure as #1; brush on point; 12:50 p.m.