2008 Elite Series Bluegrass Brawl: Top 12 techniques

With $100,000 on the line, the 12 pros advancing to the final round of the Bluegrass Brawl were quizzed about their lures and techniques.

GILBERTSVILLE, Ky. — With $100,000 on the line this Father’s Day, not to mention a BASS championship trophy, the 12 Bassmaster Elite Series pros advancing to the final round of the Bluegrass Brawl presented by DieHard Platinum Marine Batteries® were quizzed about the lures and techniques they have used this week on Kentucky Lake.

1st, Kevin VanDam, 68-4

Yes, the crankbait specialist is catching many of his fish this week on a Strike King chartruese Sexy Shad Series 6 crankbait. But VanDam may be mixing up his lure patterns more than most might imagine. Strike King football head jigs in ¾- and ½-ounce sizes with a Rage Craw trailer have also been important lures for him, as well as a Strike King Sexy Shad spoon. VanDam has also caught fish on a 10-inch Strike King Anaconda worm and a Shadalicious swimbait. “But the crankbait, the spoon and the jig have been the main lures,” VanDam said.

2nd, Rick Clunn, 61-7

The four-time Bassmaster Classic champion and noted crankbait specialist has been quite open all week about his primary lure – a Lucky Craft RC 3.5 DD crankbait in a white shad color pattern. Clunn had only one of those crankbaits left in that color pattern Sunday morning, but planned to use “purple shad” and possibly other patterns in the same lure because he didn’t think color was critical. He’s fishing 8- to 12-foot rock ledges. Clunn has also caught some key fish by following up with a jig when the crankbait bite slows. He’s using a ¼-oz. pumpkin/chartruese jig with a big Brush Hawg-style soft plastic trailer.

3rd, Timmy Horton, 59-1

The Muscle Shoals, Ala., pro has caught all his fish on a Bomber BD7 Fat Free Shad crankbait, but it’s not like the one you’ll find in stores. For the last five years, Horton has been filing down the corners on the crankbait’s hard-plastic bill. “It makes it a softer running crankbait,” said Horton. “It doesn’t give you that real hard bump. It’s just a more natural-running bait.” Citrus has been his main color pattern, which has a blue back, chartruese sides and a white belly. He is targeting 10- to 12-foot main river rock ledges with the crankbait.

4th, Paul Elias, 58-14

There are a lot of crankbait specialists in this Elite Series final 12, and Elias is another on the list. The Laurel, Miss., pro is using a Mann’s 20-plus crankbait in the Old Homer color pattern that he worked so successfully at Texas’ Falcon Lake, when he set a new BASS record four-day weight of 132-8. Elias has also caught fish on a silver spoon and a couple of plastic worms – a Mann’s Jelly Worm and a Mann’s Hard-Nosed Worm in tequila-green color patterns.

5th, Wade Grooms, 57-0

This South Carolina pro is using a ¾ oz. football head style Ray’s Jig in the peanut butter/jelly color, while tipping it with a green pumpkin Super Speed Craw. Since those baits are hard to find in the Kentucky Lake area, Grooms has “bummed a few from Peter (Thliveros)” and another angler. When not using the jig, Grooms is fishing a Poe’s 400 Series chartreuse/blue-back crankbait. Grooms has found a main underwater point breaking the current of the main river channel, allowing fish to stack up in a hole right off the channel where a hump on a ledge forms a secondary point. At that location, Grooms is making repeated casts to the inside face of the upriver side of the secondary ledge in 10 to 18 feet of water. Most of his big bass are coming when he cranks the bait into the 18-foot range.

6th, Terry Butcher, 55-8

Butcher, who hails from Talala, Okla., is typically fishing a Bomber BD7 Fat Free Shad crankbait in either chartreuse sparkle or foxy shad colors. At other times, Butcher – the brother-in-law of Edwin Evers, who is also fishing in today’s Elite 12 championship round – is working an 11″ YUM Big Show Paddle Worm in red shad coupled with a 3/8 oz. sinker. Butcher is working key spots on the ledges, milking sweet spots for all they are worth. While he is using a slow speed reel on his self-replenishing spots, he is cranking as hard and fast as he can, finding that digging the bottom is a key to triggering bites.

7th, Mike McClelland, 55-6

The Bella Vista, Ark., pro said he “missed the crankbait pattern in practice,” so he’s primarily focused on a ¾-oz. Jewell football head jig trailed with a full-size Zoom Brush Hawg. “That’s produced 90 percent of my fish,” McClelland said. He’s alternating the color pattern on the Brush Hawg, depending on the amount of sunlight, using either green pumpkin or watermelon candy. McClelland has also caught fish on a Carolina rig and a spoon this week, but the Jewel jig is his main bait.

8th, Bradley Hallman, 53-5

The Oklahoma Elite Series pro is almost exclusively cranking a Sexy Shad hued medium diving crankbait on top of Kentucky Lake ledges where he is finding schooling bass that are “wadded up.”

9th, Kenyon Hill, 53-2

Another Elite 12 pro from the four-angler Oklahoma contingent fishing today is Kenyon Hill. The Norman, Okla., angler, who won the 2008 Elite Series Pride of Georgia event last month, is primarily using a 1 oz. homemade jig tipped with a Zoom Super Speed Craw trailer. Other times, Hill is throwing a Texas rigged 10″ Zoom Old Monster Worm coupled with a ¾ oz. Tru Tungsten weight. Zeroed in on a few key spots along Kentucky Lake’s countless ledges, Hill says that he is looking for each location’s sweet spot. “Once I identify it, then it is a matter of being patient and waiting for them to bite,” he said. “Sometimes, I’m having to get them worked up to get the bite started.”

10th, Edwin Evers, 53-1

Oklahoma’s Edwin Evers is most often fishing a Booyah football jig in the peanut butter/jelly color, tipped with a green pumpkin YUM Grande Grub trailer. A secondary bait that Easy E is tossing is a Bomber Fat Free Shad BD7 crankbait in a citrus shad color pattern. Evers, a four-time BASS winner, says that like most anglers, he is fishing ledges that he discovered in practice with his electronics, looking for “little shell beds, rocks, and high spots.”

11th, Jami Fralick, 52-10

This South Dakota Elite Series pro is fishing a Strike King Series 6 Sexy Shad crankbait fished at about 8 to 10 foot depths on top of Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake ledges. Other times, Fralick is using a V&M Bayou Giant 14″ tequila-green plastic worm bitten down to 10 or 11 inches and fished with a 5/16 oz. weight. “I’m looking for a turn in the ledge, a point off the ledge, or some type of small difference on the ledge like rocks or brush,” Fralik said. “When I’ve found those, they are stacked up and I can catch them one after the other.”

12th, Terry Scroggins, 52-1

Big Show is fishing shad-colored Bomber Fat Free Shad crankbaits. A few times, Scroggins will switch to a Booyah Pigskin football head jig in brown with a green pumpkin Yum Chunk trailer. “I’m fishing ledges in about 15 feet of water,” Scroggins said of his crankbait pattern, noting that he is trying to steer clear of the local anglers inundating some spots. When fishing the jig, Scroggins is “pretty much crawling it” although there are times when he will “stroke it” through a school to try and get the bite fired up.

Visit Bassmaster.com for full coverage of the Elite Series Bluegrass Brawl with weigh-in host Keith Alan, June 12–15, 2008. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, daily weigh-ins with live streaming video and real-time leaderboards start at 6:00 p.m. ET. On Saturday, catch “Bassmaster University” at 5:30 p.m. ET before the weigh-in. Then on Sunday, get “Hooked Up” with hosts Tommy Sanders and Mark Zona at 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. ET, with the final day weigh-in and real-time leaderboard content starting at 6:00 p.m. ET.