It sounds like a dream assignment for any dedicated angler – an epic summer road trip, 15 days spent chasing nine different species of bass across North America, all in service of demonstrating the versatility and dependability of Shimano’s new Curado K baitcasting reel. On paper, our dedicated team of Elite Series pro and three-time Toyota Texas Bass Classic champion Keith Combs and Shimano Marketing Manager Kurt Mazurek made the Curado B.A.S.S. Slam look easy, knocking out 5,000 miles of windshield time and all nine species with three days to spare, broadcasting their exploits and the thrill of the chase on social media.
- They started on Pool 10 of the Upper Mississippi River near Prairie du Chien, Wisc., in order to knock out northern largemouth.
- Then they turned their Shimano-wrapped vehicle due south 700 miles, heading to the Arkansas River to land a spotted bass.
- Another 500 miles to the southeast and they were in Austin, Texas, in Keith’s home state, but they skipped the barbecue and went to the Colorado River to conquer Guadalupe bass.
- A sharp turn 700 miles northeast and they were in Alabama to catch an Alabama spot.
- Logan Martin, where they caught the Alabama spot, also had a feeder creek that holds the little-known Redeye bass, and our team managed to score there again, while barely picking up stakes.
- Stop number six was the Ocmulgee River in Georgia, one of the best places to catch a shoal bass.
- Barely stopping to regroup or retie, they turned south again, headed for the Santa Fe River in Florida to land a Suwannee bass.
- Delving even further into the Sunshine State, they went to grass-laden Kenansville Lake to catch their biggest specimen of the trip, a true Florida bass.
- And they closed it out with one last 1,000 mile hop, heading straight north from Florida to the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania for smallmouth bass.
All of these fish met the minimum size established in Bassmaster Magazine for the “B.A.S.S. Slam” and our intrepid pair also stopped off to visit at least one independent Shimano premium dealer each day, carrying tales of their trip and ready to listen to feedback from customers and retailers on the new Curado K.
The logistics were challenging, but it was the time crunch and information drought that worried Combs and Mazurek the most. Sure, Keith has Top 10 finishes on every type of major tournament venue the big trails offer, but his travels don’t take him to waters that feature lesser-known species like Redeyes, Shoal bass and Suwannees. He agreed to ride shotgun while Kurt drove, and Keith gladly accepted the job of “Research Coordinator.” The early conclusion was that there just isn’t much info out there on the “other” types of bass. It’s either that anyone who’s “serious” about bass fishing chases the mainstream species, or else there is a handful of fanatics who are keeping these diminutive battlers to themselves. Oftentimes it took a few phone calls, a few redirections and a bit of finger-crossing to get the job done.
Of course, Mother Nature threw them a knuckle ball more than once. At a time of year when the south and mid-south are supposed to be bone dry, they experienced torrential downpours that turned gently flowing creeks into raging chocolate rivers overnight. Even when rising waters weren’t a problem, the natural world did its best to deter the pair from pushing forward. On the Santa Fe River, while chasing Suwannees, Keith hung his lure in a tree and when he went to get it he was attacked by giant hornets approximately the size of hummingbirds. Nine bites later, he had his lure back, and they’d moved away from the carnage, but it was a reminder that nothing good comes easy.
Keith and Kurt were also challenged by the fact that both of them had to catch a qualifying fish, and they couldn’t leave until that happened. At the Colorado River in Texas, Keith showed off his home-state instincts and easily landed four or five Guadalupes one evening from his kayak. Kurt, who’s no slouch as an angler, had never been in a kayak before, and following some unusually strong storms had trouble at first controlling his craft and fishing effectively. When darkness set in and Kurt was still fishless, they resolved to pick up again the next morning, but early morning hovering storms thwarted that decision and they sat in the truck until 10 a.m.
“The feeder creeks were going up feet every hour,” Kurt recalled. “I pictured it like in the movies, a wall of water coming down the canyon.” In the end, however, the skies cleared, Keith gave Kurt some kayaking tips, and Kurt put one in the boat so they could push on to the next stop.
In their quest for a Florida largemouth, it wasn’t Mother Nature who came closest to derailing their efforts, but rather the state’s department of roads. They headed out to Kenansville’s noted trophy waters on a route plotted by Google Maps. It took them across pockmarked dirt roads but they were making progress … until a locked gate got in the way. They had to backtrack, adding another layer of dirt to the boat and truck, and only made it to the ramp two hours later. Once they got there, the ramp wasn’t immediately evident because it was covered with grass and hyacinths. They pushed them apart, launched the boat and motored through the heavy vegetation. The effort proved to be worth it, as it often does, as Keith flipped up the biggest fish of the trip, a gorgeous green 6-pounder.
The Curado B.A.S.S. Slam displayed the variety of America’s bass waters, as Keith and Kurt literally went from frogging in the 55-degree temperatures of northern Wisconsin one day to throwing a shaky head while sweating in 95-degree Arkansas heat the next. The variety of the terrain and the species was counterbalanced by the unifying threads of this trip: The things that make bass America’s No. 1 gamefish, and the incredible adaptability of the new Curado K.
They put it through the ringer, subjecting their reels to violent hooksets, boat rash, thick layers of grime caused by lying on the deck on dirt roads and even the occasional dunking – and whether they were finessing 10-inch Redeyes with 8-pound fluorocarbon or overpowering brutes buried in the grass with 65-pound braid, one reel did it all flawlessly. Through its various iterations, the Curado has been the workhorse of serious anglers for several decades, and whether you intend to keep them for a lifetime, or pack a lifetime’s worth of fishing into just a couple of weeks, this is the reel for you.
Now Shimano is offering up the opportunity to take on a Curado B.A.S.S. Slam of your own: Anglers bold enough to join in the challenge will have the chance to receive, if successful, varying levels of cool prizes and Shimano schwag. We recognize that not all anglers are able to take the time to chase all nine species of bass, but there will be prizes for anyone successfully conquering three of them under specified circumstances and even greater rewards for anyone who can catch all of them. Top winners can be entered in to a grand prize drawing to fish with one of our top Shimano pros.
Are you up to the challenge?