What were the odds?


Dalton Tumblin

It’s no secret that Bassmaster Elite Tournaments are often won by specialists: guys who flip, crank or drop shot or guys who fish shallow or guys who are ledge fishermen.

Buddy Gross proved that when he won the DEWALT Bassmaster Elite on Lake Eufaula recently.

Now, the fact he won on the ledges is no shock. But the manner in which he was able to come out of 10th place exemplifies why he’s arguably the best ledge fisherman on the planet.

Is he phenomenal with graphs? Of course.

Is he knowledgeable about how ledge fish move? Absolutely.

But this guy grew up fishing Tennessee River lakes that have the smartest fish with fins. He has an intimate knowledge of how to catch oversized bass that have been pressured and conditioned to the same lures.

And that’s what he did on Eufaula, a lake that had been throttled by big crankbaits and 10-inch worms over the last 30 days.

He made a change when most guys in the finals were fishing the same tactics that put them there.

Now, I can’t lie. Initially, I didn’t figure on Buddy being in the hunt going into the last day when I made my phone calls the night before. I always call the top five guys to get insight into what they are doing for my Bassmaster LIVE and ESPN broadcasts on the final day.

But I had a feeling. I’ve known Buddy for a long time; although he was mired in 10th place, my gut said I needed to check in on him.

Thankfully, I did.

In our conversation, he made the comment, “I found the bait they will eat.” It was a 3/4-ounce homemade jig that will go into production soon.

Like most of the field fishing ledges, Buddy had been fishing his schools all week with the crankbaits and worms and catching them pretty good. He moved up the standings each day, but he knew he had to find something the big bass would eat to have a chance.

He told me that late on the third day, he switched to a jig and began catching them aimlessly everywhere he went. I could tell by the sound of his voice he had unlocked the secret.

He proved it on the final day with 27 pounds, 11 ounces to overcome the pack ahead of him.

Again, that’s what makes Buddy so darn good on ledges. He understands conditioned bass. He knows the bass are there, and he needs to find something they aren’t conditioned to seeing.

I’ve covered a lot of final days of Bassmaster events, but what he did that day was a model of perfection.

It’s a lesson to all of us fishing those pressured lakes this time of year. When the usual baits and presentations aren’t working on your local hotspot, step out of your comfort zone.

Maybe the bass are there but have grown leery of the barrage of same ol’ lures.

A change could get them fired up again — and improve your entire season.

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