Nine bass, 16 states, 5,000 miles and one reel

Once we finished up at Lake Champlain last month, some of my Bassmaster Elite Series colleagues had time to spend with their families or to catch up on chores or fun fishing, but I spent the majority of the “break” participating in one of the most innovative sponsor promotions I’ve seen – Shimano’s Curado Bass Slam. In order to promote the newest version of the longstanding workhorse of Shimano’s reel lineup, we set out to catch nine different species of bass with a single reel on a single trip.

We gave ourselves 15 days to accomplish the task, and it started with me flying to Minnesota to meet up with Shimano’s Kurt Mazurek. We quickly came to an agreement – he’d do most of the driving, and as he piloted us toward the next destination I’d try to figure out where our best chances would be to add another species to our list. Catching a Florida largemouth might not be tough, but finding biting shoal bass or redeyes or Suwannees was going to test our resourcefulness.

We were fortunate that our reel was predetermined because Mother Nature threw plenty of variables at us. We figured that there wouldn’t be a lot of rain or flooding in August, but on three occasions we had to quickly pivot to a backup plan when our primary fishery got washed out. We also weren’t able to fish out of a fiberglass bass boat everywhere we went. Twice we accomplished our task out of a jet boat, and once we caught our quarry out of a kayak.

Fortunately, we managed to catch all nine species on our list. I thought the redeye bass was going to be the toughest, and it was one that required some flexibility. Through my research I had been led to believe that a number of small streams and rivers near Talladega, Ala., would be the sweet spot for redeyes, but when we go there the river we’d targeted was muddy and 5 feet high. We pushed on to Logan Martin to catch an Alabama Spot, but I’d learned that there was one creek feeding into the lake that had redeyes. It was a longshot, but when we got up there we landed two in our first 30 minutes.

Suwannee bass was another species that concerned me, simply because there’s not a lot of information out there on them. If you were trying to catch a largemouth, smallmouth or spot for the first time, you’d have no trouble getting a roadmap from the internet, but those lesser-known species are a bit of a challenge. In addition to a lack of information and some atypical weather, the other thing that occasionally messed us up was wrong turns, especially when combined with dirt roads. We learned about a trophy largemouth lake in Florida and planned out our route to the ramp through Google Maps, but when we got most of the way down a pockmarked dirt road, we came to a locked gate. We had to backtrack, go back around and find a different route to the ramp, and when we got there we couldn’t find it at first because the whole canal leading out to the lake was choked solid with hyacinths.

While there were some obstacles on this trip, the one variable we could control was our equipment, and the new Curado proved to be a game-changer. Whether you’re a weekend angler or a touring pro, the Curado has been an industry standard for as long as I’ve been fishing, and at a suggested price of under $180 this one is the best deal yet. I was a little concerned heading into this trip whether baitcasting gear would be right for little 10- and 11-inch redeyes, but this reel proved capable of launching 1/8 ounce shakey heads a long distance. I’ve always used Curados for casting and winding big baits offshore, and this one will handle that task with ease with its Micro Module gearing, but it also handles little finesse baits equally well. I fished it with everything from 8-pound test fluorocarbon up to 60-pound braid, and this one reel handled it all perfectly. It comes in three different gear ratios – 6.2:1, 7.4:1 and 8.5:1 – and on this trip I used the 7.4:1 exclusively. It really made that part of the effort simple, so simple that we needed only 12 of our allotted 15 days on the road.

Now it’s back to the Elite Series tour, starting with St. Clair, and you can be sure that I’ll have at least one Curado on the deck at all times. If you’re serious about fishing, you should do the same.