How-To

Gross’ lure lineup for Chickamauga

Bassmaster Elite Series pro Buddy Gross has a special bond with Chickamauga Lake in east Tennessee, where he grew up fishing with his father and grandfather in Chattanooga.
The Tennessee River fishery is most known for its flourishing population of Florida-strain largemouth. The lake record caught in February 2015 weighed 15.20, was estimated to be 12 years old, and was a hybrid from stockings made by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Amazingly, a one-day, five-bass limit weighed a whopping 44.31 pounds during an early spring tournament.
Those stats make Chickamauga a top trophy bass destination in springtime. “This is a Chickamauga Lake tacklebox filled with all the baits that I would use from prespawn through postspawn,” said Gross. “The baits I’ve got in this box will all be tied on my outfits every time I go to the lake.” Pack a tacklebox with his choices, and you’ll be rigged up with everything you need for a springtime trip to his home lake.
Lure details: 3/4-ounce Buddy Gross Craft Jig, Green Pumpkin, with matching Zoom Super Chunk. The jig’s bullet-head design and light weedguard make it ideal for heavy cover, and a lighter wire hook offers better penetration on longer casts. A wire keeper backs up against the ultra-sharp hook to keep plastic trailers firmly in place when the jig is worked through cover.
How to fish it: “It’s a very versatile jig meant for maximizing hook-up ratios while allowing it to shed vegetation and work through wood without hanging up,” Gross said. He gets best results by dragging it through brush and swimming it through vegetation.
Lure details: Zoom Swimmer rigged on a Ledgehead Lures The Slugger. Gross cuts a slice in the plastic to embed the head inside the plastic to make it more streamlined. The head is designed with a tapering weight system that imparts an enticing wobble, with a more natural profile. Gross opts for 1/2- or 1-ounce sizes.
How to fish it: “It’s another versatile lure that can be fished through shallow grass, in open water, and around the lake’s signature deep ledges along the river channel,” Gross said.
Lure details: 6-inch Scottsboro Tackle Swimbait, Natural Light, rigged on a either a jighead or Owner Flashy Swimmer.
The Flashy Swimmer features a spinner blade attached to a stationary weight on the hook shank. The Owner TwistLOCK Centering Pin Spring makes accurate rigging easier.
How to fish it: Gross uses the Flashy Swimmer for swimming it through grass, brush and around rocks. The jighead version is best for rocks, shell bars and bottom structure in open water.
Lure details: 6-inch Scottsboro Tackle MM26 Shad Swimbait. The jointed hard-body swimbait is equipped with two treble hooks tied to the bait with 65-pound Power Pro Braid instead of split rings, which allows the hooks to freely spin when a fish is hooked, thereby preventing it from throwing the hooks. It’s armed with Owner STX-45 Zo Wire Treble Hooks for solid hooksets. The lure is named after its designer, a former U.S. Army Ranger whose call sign was Mountain Man 26.
How to fish it: “It’s really durable and a unique bait that doesn’t get a lot of attention,” Gross said. He favors the bait throughout the spawning cycle for targeting big bass, and when extreme fishing pressure gives them a different look.
Lure details: Ledge Hog Blade Bait, by Ledge Hog Fishing Supply. Gross favors the 4- (1 3/4 ounce) and 5-inch (3 3/4 ounce) sizes, depending on depth of the strike zone. Rig the line in one of the five different holes to cover any depth.
How to fish it: Gross favors the big baits in postspawn after the bass move to the ledges in deeper water. “In spring it can also be an alternative to a lipless crankbait, when the fish are highly pressured and something different can make a big difference.” The heavier bait is ideal for reaching the strike zone faster in deep water.
Lure details: Zoom Magnum Trick Worm, Super Salty Plus, Green Pumpkin, fished on a jighead or Carolina rig.
How to fish it: “I will always have one tied on, spring through summer,” Gross said of his go-to bait. Drag it across shallow bars and spawning flats, when a slower, finesse tactic is needed for finnicky fish.
Lure details: Profound Outdoors Azuma Z Boss 24. It’s 3 inches in length and weighs 1 7/8 ounces, making it ideal for making long casts and getting it down deep, to the 22-foot maximum running depth.
How to fish it: This big bait is meant for catching the lake’s big Florida bass after they’ve ganged up on the offshore ledges bordering the Tennessee River channel.
Lure details: 3/4-ounce Big Daddy Baits Buddy Gross Signature Hair Jig. Gross helped design this hand-tied jig featuring longer bucktail that produces a fluid, natural movement that won’t clump up and lose action. A 30-degree angle Mustad Hook provides solid hook-ups.
How to fish it: “Hair jigs used to be a summer only bait on Chickamauga, but they work during the entire spawning cycle,” Gross said. “I catch fish in places most anglers miss, and especially when the fish are pressured during spring.” He fishes the dying baitfish imitator shallow and deep, as a finesse bait around prespawn staging habitat, and as an alternative to a lipless crankbait.