Day on the lake: Drew Benton

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All photos Don Wirth

Whether you are fishing late November or early December, the opportunity to load the boat is high. If water temps are in the 50s on your home lake, get off the couch and hit the water. Elite Series pro Drew Benton knows this to be true, and proves it in the pages that follow. From lure selection to water clarity and temperature, he offers a master’s class in locating and catching late fall/early winter bass. He also proves that you don’t always have to fish slow to be effective.

6:40 a.m. Benton and I arrive at Lake R. He pulls an arsenal of Phenix rods equipped with Lew’s reels from storage, then preps his boat for launching.

7 HOURS LEFT

7 a.m. We launch the Phoenix. Benton checks the lake temp: 48 degrees. “The water looks fairly clear, which is good for jerkbaits,” he says. “I plan to mainly focus on classic wintertime structure: rock cover, channel swings, humps, deeper docks. With these low-light conditions, bass shouldn’t be as tight to cover as they would be ­under sunny skies, so I’ll want to try covering plenty of water with a crankbait.”

7:10 a.m. Benton races to Lake R’s dam, where he roots a red craw Bagley Sunny B crankbait around riprap. “This is an awesome cold-water crankbait; it dives to 8 feet and bumps off cover beautifully.” The plug dredges up a snarl of old fishing line on his first cast.

7:21 a.m. He bags a short fish off the riprap on the Sunny B.

7:26 a.m. Benton idles to a steep bank and tries a pro blue Megabass Vision 110 jerkbait. “I like sunny conditions much better than cloudy for jerkbaits, but the ­water temp is perfect for this lure.”

7:34 a.m. Benton moves into a residential cove and tries his signature Nichols finesse jig (3/8-ounce Sungill with a generic green pumpkin chunk trailer) in front of a dock.

7:38 a.m. He moves to the opposite shoreline of the cove to try a generic soft swimbait on a 3/8-ounce head.

7:42 a.m. Benton pitches the jig to a weed patch, gets a bump, sets the hook, and the reel falls off his rod. “My bad! I just got all these rods and reels and should have double checked to make sure that reel seat was tight.”

7:45 a.m. He spots a submerged brushpile on his electronics and crawls the jig through it.

7:53 a.m. Benton cranks the brushpile with the Sunny B. “There should have been one there!”

7:58 a.m. Benton jerks the Vision 110 near a boathouse. A keeper bass follows it to the boat. “Two-pounder.”

6 HOURS LEFT

8:03 a.m. Benton idles around the cove. His electronics reveal a strange object on the bottom 14 feet deep. He zooms in tight and exclaims, “Darned if that doesn’t look like a trampoline! It probably blew out of somebody’s yard during a windstorm.”

8:07 a.m. He tries the jig on a nearby point. No takers.

8:15 a.m. Benton runs straight across the lake to crank a rocky point.

8:20 a.m. He crawls the jig across a 10-foot-deep rockpile near the point. “This is exactly the kind of place I’d expect to find bass in winter, but I’m not seeing any sign of life on my electronics.”

8:24 a.m. Benton rigs a generic PBJ colored finesse worm on a tiny drop-shot hook tied a foot above a 3/16-ounce sinker. It’s misting rain as he crawls the rig across the rocks.

8:30 a.m. Benton moves directly over a sunken brushpile, lowers the drop-shot worm into the cover and doodles it up and down. “I’m seeing some fish suspending around that brush, but they may be crappie.”

8:41 a.m. Benton moves 100 yards to a marina, pitches his jerkbait toward an empty boat slip and gets a monumental backlash.

8:48 a.m. He finally untangles the overrun and repositions his boat for hitting the marina slips with the jerkbait.

8:50 a.m. Benton switches to a Lucky Strike jerkbait with a shad colored back and a chartreuse belly. “I want to try something brighter that they can hopefully see better in this cloud cover.”

8:56 a.m. Benton works the jerkbait around the marina walkway, then puts the Minn Kota on high 36 to move to a nearby bank with several submerged trees. He hangs the jerkbait in a tree limb and retrieves it.

9:02 a.m. Benton cranks the Sunny B down the entire length of a submerged tree. “I’m getting absolutely no feedback from these fish!”

9:13 a.m. Benton moves into a shoreline pocket and flips his finesse jig around some stickups.