Most professional athletes probably have to deal with injuries at some point during their careers, and Elite Series anglers are no exception. Many bass fishing-related injuries are the result of years of casting, flipping and reeling, with carpal tunnel syndrome, rotator cuff tears and “tennis elbow” (epicondylitis) being especially common. Florida pro Jesse Tacoronte’s most career-threatening injury occurred on the first day of his first Elite Series event at Cherokee Lake, Tennessee. “I slipped on the ice while getting out of my truck, fell like a ton of bricks and slammed my neck and shoulder on the pavement. It hurt like hell, but I managed to make it through the tournament.” As the weeks wore on and Tacoronte continued competing on the 2017 Elite schedule, the pain grew progressively worse. “It reached a point where my injury was severely limiting my range of motion, and driving my boat was sheer misery. I managed to complete the 2017 season, but my doctors said I needed surgery and recovery time, so I requested, and was granted, a medical leave from the 2018 season.” It took two surgeries and a bucket full of hardware to repair the damage to Tacoronte’s neck and shoulder. “The docs removed four discs from my neck and put me back together using cadaver bone, four plates and 12 screws. Now, I’m finally back fishing the 2019 Elites and feeling fine. Dude, enough interviewing; let’s get this boat in the water! I’m ready to whack some bass!” If you’re ready to do the same, hop aboard with Tacoronte as he attacks Lake R on a frosty spring morning.
6:48 a.m. It’s 30 degrees when we arrive at Lake R’s deserted launch ramp. Tacoronte pulls a selection of Enigma rods and reels from storage. “My son and I started Enigma Fishing in 2014. We manufacture top-quality, pro-level bass tackle and sell it direct to consumers via our website [enigmafishing.com] without the 40 to 60% markup typical of retail tackle outlets.”
7 HOURS LEFT 7 a.m. We launch the Blazer. Tacoronte checks the lake temp: 51 degrees. “This region has had an extremely cold, rainy spring; I’m betting most of the bass here are still offshore. The water’s murky and we’re in a cold front, so the bite may be slow, especially this morning. Challenging conditions to be sure, but not impossible!” 7:08 a.m. Tacoronte moves to a sloping bank near the ramp and makes his first casts of the day with a chartreuse/brown Rapala DT6 diving crankbait. 7:10 a.m. He switches to a red craw Strike King One Knocker lipless crankbait and yo-yos it back to the boat. “In cold water, they’ll hit a lipless bait when it’s falling.” 7:13 a.m. Tacoronte tries a shad-colored Megabass Vision 110 jerkbait off the sloping bank. “My reel is icing up. Why didn’t I schedule this #*%+ article for May?” 7:17 a.m. Tacoronte tries a red craw Core Strike 2.5 squarebill crankbait on the sloping bank.
Photo: Don Wirth
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7:20 a.m. We move to Lake R’s dam, where Tacoronte cranks the Core Strike around riprap. 7:26 a.m. Tacoronte tries a 6-inch green pumpkin Zoom Trick Worm on a drop-shot rig and drags it in 18 feet of water off the dam. “I’m seeing a wad of fish down there on my electronics. Don’t know if they’re bass, however.” 7:34 a.m. Tacoronte ties on a 3/4-ounce Picasso football jig, green pumpkin with matching Zoom trailer, and drags it across the bottom. 7:37 a.m. He slice-casts the DT6 to the riprap but hauls water. “I’ve read all your articles about how much bass love rock cover in early spring. I think you’re a liar.” 7:46 a.m. The riprap transitions into a clay bank as Tacoronte cranks the DT6.
Photo: Don Wirth
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7:51 a.m. We move to a nearby bank littered with wood cover where Tacoronte cranks the squarebill. 7:55 a.m. Tacoronte drags the football jig past a big fish he’s spotted on his graph. “If that’s a bass, it’s an absolute stud!”
6 HOURS LEFT 8:01 a.m. Tacoronte resumes cranking the squarebill to shoreline wood. 8:14 a.m. Adjusting to cold-front conditions, Tacoronte downsizes his Core Strike squarebill to a 1.5, then continues cranking shallow wood cover.
Photo: Don Wirth
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8:34 a.m. Tacoronte flips a series of laydowns with a black and blue 1/2-ounce Picasso jig. 8:40 a.m. He switches squarebill crankbaits to a chartreuse Strike King 1.5 and roots it around wood cover on a shallow point. 8:53 a.m. Tacoronte enters a cove off the main lake and cranks a steep bank. “You notice how quiet it is? No birds chirping, no squirrels scurrying around — no bass moving, either! There was a full moon last night; in spring, the full moon often shuts everything down until the afternoon.”
5 HOURS LEFT 9 a.m. Tacoronte bangs the chartreuse 1.5 off shallow stumps in the back of the cove. “They’ll spawn back here if it ever warms up.” 9:10 a.m. Tacoronte runs across the lake and spots an offshore ledge loaded with fish on his electronics. He drags the drop-shot worm and football jig around the structure.
Photo: Don Wirth
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9:27 a.m. He ties on a big Bass Munitions swimbait rigged with an underspin blade and slow rolls it around the ledge. 9:31 a.m. Tacoronte retrieves a 3/4-ounce shad-pattern Yo-Zuri Rattl’n Vibe lipless crankbait across the ledge. “Bass are suspended everywhere out here!” 9:42 a.m. Unable to score a fish off the ledge, Tacoronte moves 100 yards to a rocky point and cranks the chartreuse 1.5. He dredges up a wad of old fishing line and stashes it in his cooler. 9:50 a.m. He drags a black and blue Trick Worm on a Carolina rig across the point.
4 HOURS LEFT 10 a.m. Tacoronte moves back to the ledge and drags a generic smoke-colored Ned-rig worm around a school of fish. No takers. “When they won’t hit a Ned rig, you know they’ve got a serious case of lockjaw.”
Photo: Don Wirth
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10:10 a.m. Tacoronte vacates the ledge and cranks a nearby boathouse with the chartreuse 1.5. “Hopefully, this’ll catch that one big, stupid 9-pounder that’s moved up shallow.” 10:16 a.m. He cranks a chunk rock bank with the 1.5. No luck here, either. 10:21 a.m. Tacoronte ties on a white 1/2-ounce Norris bladed jig with a matching swimbait trailer. “I picked up several of these baits in Japan a few years ago and have caught a ton of bass on them. You can’t find them here in the U.S.” He retrieves the vibrating bait parallel to a seawall. 10:30 a.m. Tacoronte has fished his way into a shallow cove with the bladed jig. What’s his take on the day so far? “Cold-front conditions and that big old March moon [are] keeping the bass offshore and inactive. It’s warming up a bit, however, and I’m expecting the bite to improve this afternoon, hopefully before my time runs out. I’m not giving up yet on throwing moving baits to shallow cover because the first fish to move to the banks in early spring are often the biggest, and I could tie into a giant. Another iffy factor is the sunlight: These fish have gotten accustomed to week after week of cloudy, rainy weather, and this bright sun may actually be knocking them down rather than perking them up.” 10:36 a.m. Tacoronte catches his first bass of the day, a 10-inch largemouth, off a seawall on the bladed jig. “At last! Some feedback!” 10:55 a.m. Tacoronte has fished his way toward the mouth of the cove with the bladed jig. He cranks his outboard and idles toward a long rock point while downing a sandwich.
3 HOURS LEFT 11 a.m. Tacoronte hops and drags the Ned worm across the point. “Same deal here as on that ledge — I’m seeing scores of bass suspended in deep water.” 11:08 a.m. He tries the big swimbait on the point. Again, no takers. 11:14 a.m. Tacoronte moves to a rocky shoreline and tries the bladed jig. 11:16 a.m. The bladed jig wedges between deep rocks. Tacoronte struggles to free it but finally breaks off the lure. “Crap, I’ve only got a couple of those left and I’d have to fly back to Japan to find some more!” He replaces it with a white Bass Pro Shops bladed jig/trailer. “This’ll have to do for now.” 11:25 a.m. Tacoronte continues down the rocky bank. An east wind is now compounding the bass’ inactivity. “I really hate fishing a shaky head worm, but I may have to.” 11:33 a.m. Tacoronte races uplake to a long mud point and drags the football jig across the structure.
Photo: Don Wirth
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11:40 a.m. Tacoronte catches his first keeper of the day, 1 pound, off the point on the Strike King 1.5. “Yes! A keeper! At least I didn’t get skunked!” 11:44 a.m. Tacoronte drenches a 3/4-ounce black and blue Picasso football jig and its matching Zoom trailer with Megastrike fish attractant, then flings it across the point. “I’m feeling both rock and brush down there. What’s not to like?”
Photo: Don Wirth
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11:56 a.m. Tacoronte cranks up his second keeper, 2 pounds, 2 ounces, off the point on the 1.5. “I felt it tick a little piece of brush and he nailed it.”
2 HOURS LEFT 12:01 p.m. Tacoronte casts the Ned rig worm to the point and catches keeper No. 3, 1 pound, 5 ounces. “They’re waking up! I swear I just heard a bird chirp!” 12:20 p.m. No more love on the point, so Tacoronte runs to a shaded bank and cranks the Core Strike squarebill. “Too shallow here.” 12:35 p.m. Tacoronte races to a sloping bank with laydowns and cranks a root beer/chartreuse Bomber 200 diver. 12:41 p.m. He moves back to the point where he bagged three keepers and bumps the Bandit across the structure. 12:43 p.m. Tacoronte reverts to the chartreuse 1.5 and catches his fourth keeper, 1 pound, 1 ounce. “They can’t all be the same size in this lake. Surely there’s a big one out there somewhere!” 12:50 p.m. Tacoronte whacks his fifth keeper, 1 pound, 6 ounces, on the 1.5. “If this were an MLF tournament, I’d be leading the pack!” 12:52 p.m. Tacoronte cranks a parrot-pattern Bandit 200 around a nearby rockpile.
1 HOUR LEFT 1:03 p.m. Tacoronte runs to a ledge that drops quickly from 5 to 17 feet. He cranks the structure with the Bandit. 1:08 p.m. He roots the chartreuse 1.5 around a shallow flat. “You’d think a few fish might have moved up shallow, but you’d be wrong.” 1:16 p.m. Tacoronte races into a small cove downlake and cranks the chartreuse 1.5 around shoreline laydowns. 1:35 p.m. He tries the 1.5 on a steep channel bank. “Screw this; I’m spending the rest of my time on that mud point.” 1:40 p.m. Back on the point, Tacoronte jerks the Megabass 110 and bags his sixth keeper, 1-4. “I be cullin’ now!” 1:44 p.m. Keeper No. 7, 2-1, succumbs to the 110 on the point. “I’m jerking it twice, then making a long pause. They’re hitting it on a slack line.” 1:45 p.m. Tacoronte catches keeper No. 8, 1-1, on his next cast with the jerkbait.
1:46 p.m. A better fish whacks the jerkbait; Tacoronte goes to swing it aboard, but it comes unbuttoned. “Dang it, that was a 3-pounder.” 1:50 p.m. With 10 minutes remaining, Tacoronte catches keeper No. 9, 1 pound, on the jerkbait.
Photo: Don Wirth
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1:54 p.m. Tacoronte’s line tightens and he sticks his 10th keeper and biggest fish of the day, 3 pounds, 1 ounce, on the jerkbait. “I could probably sit here all afternoon catching them like this, but it’s time to go!” 2 p.m. Time’s up. Tacoronte had a slow start to his day on Lake R, but it ended with a flurry of 10 keeper bass; the five biggest weigh 9 pounds, 15 ounces.
THE DAY IN PERSPECTIVE
“This cold front had the fish in a stupor all morning, but like I predicted, they woke up after noon,” Tacoronte told Bassmaster. “There are tons of bass sitting offshore in this lake just waiting to move shallow, but it’s going to take a few warm days to raise that water temp. If I were to fish here tomorrow under these same conditions, I’d sleep in till 9 a.m., go get a big breakfast, then hit the water about noon and fish till dark!”
WHERE AND WHEN JESSE TACORONTECAUGHT HIS FIVE BIGGEST BASS
2 pounds, 2 ounces; main-lake point; chartreuse Strike King 1.5 crankbait; 11:56 a.m.
1 pound, 5 ounces; same place as No. 1; generic Ned worm; 12:01 p.m.
1 pound, 6 ounces; same place No. 1; same lure as No. 1; 12:50 p.m.
2 pounds, 1 ounce; same place as No. 1; Megabass Vision 110 jerkbait; 1:44 p.m.
3 pounds, 1 ounce; same place as No. 1; same lure as No. 4; 1:54 p.m. TOTAL: 9 POUNDS, 15 OUNCES