How-To Top lures at St. Lawrence River 2021 Posted on July 20, 2021 Photo: Seigo Saito - âSmallmouth like Taku,â said the champ. Indeed, they did. For the third time in just four trips to New York, Taku Ito fished on a Championship Sunday. This time, the Japanese angler sealed the deal with a winning weight of 90 pounds at the Farmers Insurance Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River. All captons: Craig Lamb Photo: James Overstreet - Ito would not disclose the name of the âsecretâ Japanese-made solution used to marinate his soft plastics, but it obviously had strike appeal for American smallmouth. Check out Itoâs winning lineup of baits and those of the other top finishers. Photo: Andy Crawford - Austin Felix (10th; 64-0) Austin Felix finessed his way to a top finish using a Ned rig and drop-shot rig. Photo: Andy Crawford - He made the Ned rig with a 1/16- or 5/16-ounce ounce Swagger Tungsten Ned Head, and Z-Man Finesse TRD or TRD soft plastics. Sizes were alternated for the lake and river to compensate for depth and current. Photo: Andy Crawford - Felix made a drop shot with a 4-inch Berkley PowerBait MaxScent The General, using a No. 2 Ryugi Fog Shot Drop Shot Hook, with a 3/4-ounce Swagger Tungsten Drop Shot Weight. For fishing in the river, he used a 3/8-ounce weight with the same setup. Photo: Andy Crawford - Chris Groh (9th; 69-7) Chris Groh went old school with a grub, but with a new twist to the venerable soft plastic bait. The choice was a Berkley Gulp! Grub, Watermelon Vapor, with the proven scent for added strike appeal. The grub will be available this fall. Photo: Andy Crawford - Groh fished it initially on a 1/2-ounce Berkley Fusion Tube Head. When the supply was depleted, he switched to a homemade tube jig head with a 3/0 hook. Alternatively, he used a tube jig head of the same weight, and favored by Mark Zona. Photo: Andy Crawford - Bernie Schultz (8th; 80-6) Bernie Schultz used a swimbait, drop shot and Ned rig on the St. Lawrence River. Photo: Andy Crawford - He used a 3/8-ounce Hildebrandt Drum Roller Swimbait, designed by Schultz for redfish, and prerigged with a Z-Man MinnowZ swimbait. The bait is made of tin, which is two-thirds the weight of lead, thereby allowing the bait to stay higher in the water column during the retrieve. Photo: Andy Crawford - Alternatively, Schultz used a Yamamoto Shad Shape Worm, rigged on a VMC Spinshot Drop Shot Hook, with a 1/2-ounce VMC Drop Shot Cylinder Weight. Photo: Andy Crawford - Schultz also used a 1/8-ounce VMC Finesse Half Moon Jig, with a 4-inch Senko, cut down to 3 inches. Photo: Andy Crawford - David Mullins (7th; 81-11) David Mullins used a finesse approach on the upper St. Lawrence River to catch most of his weight. Photo: Andy Crawford - Mullins chose a 1/4-ounce Nichols Lures Ned Head. Photo: Andy Crawford - Alternatively, he used a 1/8-ounce hair jig. Photo: Andy Crawford - Brandon Palaniuk (6th; 82-7) A pair of soft plastic finesse rigs paid off for Brandon Palaniuk. Photo: Andy Crawford - Palaniuk used the X Zone Pro Series Finesse Slammer, Big Limit and Green Pumpkin Blue, rigged on a No. 3 VMC Spinshot Drop Shot Hook, with a 3/8-once VMC Tungsten Teardrop Drop Shot Weight. Photo: Shane Durrance - Chris Johnston (5th; 85-0) Chris Johnston returned to Lake Ontario, where he won the Elite Series event last year. Photo: Andy Crawford - He used the same tactics to perform well again on the river in 2021. Photo: Andy Crawford - Johnston made a drop shot with a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flat Worm, rigged on a No. 2 Gamakatsu Aaron Martens TGW Drop Shot Hook, with a 3/8-ounce weight. Photo: Andy Crawford - For ultra-finesse tactics, Johnston used a 1/8-ounce marabou jig. Photo: Andy Crawford - Cory Johnston (4th; 88-0) Cory Johnstonâs primary bait was a Megabass Hazedong Shad. Photo: Andy Crawford - He rigged it with a No. 2 Gamakatsu Hook and 1/4-ounce WOO! Tungsten Weight. Photo: Andy Crawford - Clark Wendlandt (3rd; 88-10) Clark Wendlandt had best success fishing in 20 feet of water, fishing on Lake Ontario. Photo: Andy Crawford - Wendlandt went to familiar territory in Lake Ontario, using a finesse approach and bait lineup made for the task. Photo: Andy Crawford - He made a Ned rig with a 3/16-ounce Owner Block Head Jig Head, rigged with a finesse worm. A 7-foot medium action Bass Pro Shops Carbonlite Rod was key to detecting strikes. Photo: Andy Crawford - Wendlandt also made a drop shot with a No. 2 Owner Mosquito Hook, 1/2 or 3/8 tour grade tungsten drop-shot weights and a finesse minnow-style bait. Photo: Andy Crawford - Justin Atkins (2nd; 88-12) Justin Atkins focused his fishing on Lake Ontario during the latter portion of the tournament, targeting a mixture of grass, rock and sand in 12 to 20 feet. Photo: Andy Crawford - His selection of baits allowed him to methodically and effectively fish a large school of smallmouth. Photo: Andy Crawford - Atkins used the Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flat Worm, Natural Shad, or Black, for sunny or cloudy conditions. He rigged it on a No. 1 Berkley Fusion Drop Shot Hook, with a 3/8-ounce tungsten weight. Photo: Andy Crawford - He also used a 3/32-ounce Marabou jig, adding a piece of a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent The General for scent appeal and casting weight. Photo: Seigo Saito - Taku Ito (1st; 90-0) âI was using many Japanese techniques,â Ito said. âI would cast and sometimes the fish would take (the bait) while it was falling." Photo: Andy Crawford - âSometimes, I kept my bait on the bottom for 10 seconds, 15 seconds, with no action,â Ito said. Photo: Andy Crawford - Ito used Japanese soft plastics that he soaked in an unnamed solution for added strike appeal. He told us the concoction was a key to his win. We also got a rare sneak peek inside his secret storage compartment of Japanese treasures. We couldnât believe our eyes. Photo: Andy Crawford - Ito made a drop shot with a 4-inch Ecogear Aqua Swim Shrimp, rigged on a 1/0 Ryugi Talisman Hook, with a 1/4-ounce Ryugi Heavy Delta TG Sinker. Photo: Andy Crawford - He made a wacky-style Neko rig with a 4.5-inch Nories Latterie straight tail worm, rigged on a 1/0 Ryugi Talisman hook, with a 3/16-ounce Neko hook.