Like many Bassmaster Elite Series pros, Robbie Latuso grew up fishing for bass. “My dad, who never fished, let my brother and me use his boat, and we’d take off on our own,” he recalls. “It was a great learning experience, figuring out where bass hung out and how to catch ’em.” After graduating high school, Latuso played baseball for Southeast Louisiana University, but bassin’ remained his true passion. “Once my coach asked me, ‘Latuso, what would you rather do, hit a home run or catch a 6-pound bass?’ I don’t think he was too thrilled with my answer.” After college, Latuso gained notoriety competing successfully in local tournaments and B.A.S.S. Nation club events and even won the 2009 Bassmaster Central Open at Toledo Bend as a co-angler. After winning the B.A.S.S. Nation state championship in 2013, he moved to the Central and Southern Opens, where one of his strongest competitors was his son, Logan. The elder Latuso finally qualified for the Elite Series in 2016 via the Central Opens. “The top five in Angler of the Year points at the end of the season earned an invitation to fish the Elites,” Latuso said. “I ended up fifth and Logan came in sixth. I hated him not making the Elite cut when I did, but he’s so good, it’s just a matter of time.” Stay tuned as Robbie Latuso takes on a challenge of a different sort: Piecing together a viable pattern on a “mystery” lake during an early fall frontal passage.
6:48 a.m. It’s foggy, breaking daylight and 50 degrees when we arrive at Lake E’s deserted boat launch. Latuso arranges a stash of Fitzgerald rods and reels on his rig’s front deck. “It’s going to be an interesting day,” he says. “This region has had record high temperatures and almost no rain since August, then two nights ago it poured rain, and now this massive cold front has moved in. Early fall frontal passages can either fire up the bass or bury them down in the mud.”
7 HOURS LEFT 7 a.m. We launch the Bass Cat. Latuso checks the water: It’s 72 degrees and tannic. “I’ll start off with topwater before I start dragging jigs and spinnerbaits around.” 7:06 a.m. Latuso idles 50 yards uplake and makes his first casts of the morning with a homemade black 1/2-ounce buzzbait to a main-lake point. “I make these buzzers with extra-heavy ‘gator-proof’ wire for fishing the bayous back home!” 7:10 a.m. Latuso switches to a 3/8-ounce copper/green pumpkin Delta Lures (vibrating) Thunder Jig and bags a nonkeeper off a shallow stump. 7:12 a.m. He retrieves a Rapala Skitter Walk topwater plug across the stump. 7:15 a.m. Latuso casts a white 3/8-ounce Delta Lures buzzbait rigged with a matching Zoom Horny Toad to a seawall.
Photo: Don Wirth
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7:21 a.m. Latuso tries the white buzzbait around a series of docks. 7:25 a.m. Latuso catches a 10-inch largemouth off a dock on the bladed jig. 7:28 a.m. Latuso pitches a 1/2-ounce black/blue Fitzgerald Mega Tungsten flipping jig with a blue Zoom Super Chunk trailer to a laydown. 7:30 a.m. He tries a bone River2Sea Whopper Plopper surface crawler around the seawall. 7:38 a.m. Back to the black buzzer. A fish swirls on it but doesn’t hook up. 7:47 a.m. Latuso moves to a chunk rock point and tries the Whopper Plopper. 7:51 a.m. He hops a 1/2-ounce black/blue Missile Baits Flip Out jig with a matching V&M J-Bug trailer around a nearby offshore hump. “There’s some scattered brush on this spot.”
6 HOURS LEFT 8 a.m. Latuso cranks a shad-pattern Rapala DT-10 across the hump. 8:12 a.m. Latuso drags a 6-inch green pumpkin Zoom lizard on a Carolina rig around the structure. 8:19 a.m. He switches to a white 3/4-ounce Delta Lures spinnerbait with a single Colorado blade, slow rolling it around the deep brushy cover. “I like a [rounded and heavily cupped] Colorado blade in tannic water; it puts out a hellacious thump.” No action on the hump, however. “I’m not seeing any fish down there yet on my electronics, but I’ll check this spot out again once the sun gets higher.” 8:26 a.m. Latuso moves to a long point at the mouth of a creek arm. No luck here on the lizard or the crankbait. 8:30 a.m. Latuso motors to a rocky secondary point and tries the white buzzbait. A light breeze is blowing out of the north. 8:33 a.m. He tries the Colorado spinnerbait around the point but hauls water. 8:40 a.m. Latuso makes a high-speed run uplake to a long slow-tapering point, where he cranks a white Delta Lures Thunder Jig. “The water’s a lot dirtier up here. No worries; I’m used to dirty water where I come from.” 8:46 a.m. Latuso moves to a steep channel bank and casts a white 3/8-ounce Delta Lures spinnerbait with tandem Indiana (teardrop-shaped) blades around shoreline laydowns. “This blade configuration is a great shad mimic.”
Photo: Don Wirth
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8:49 a.m. Reverting to the Colorado spinnerbait, Latuso gets a savage strike on a laydown! The lunker surges for open water; Robbie works it closer and grabs his first keeper of the day, a beautiful 4-pound, 12-ounce largemouth. “That fish crushed it! She was holding tight to that shallow log.”
5 HOURS LEFT 9 a.m. Latuso continues along the laydown-studded bank, alternating between the Colorado spinnerbait and the Flip Out jig. 9:14 a.m. He bags a shorty on the Colorado spinner. 9:20 a.m. Latuso moves to a nearby shaded bank and continues probing shallow wood with the same lure arsenal. The wind has picked up and it’s downright cold on the water. 9:23 a.m. Latuso retrieves the black buzzbait across a submerged stump; he jumps when I holler, “KA-BOOSH!” 9:26 a.m. Latuso bags his second keeper, 2 pounds, 3 ounces, on the Colorado spinnerbait off a laydown tree extending out from a secondary point. “That fish was holding right at the tip of that laydown. I bet there are more fish there; that tree is sitting in a perfect spot on that little point.”
Photo: Don Wirth
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9:28 a.m. Latuso’s theory proves correct as he bags a 2-1 largemouth off the tree on the Flip Out jig. 9:40 a.m. Latuso flips a series of boathouses without success. 9:48 a.m. He races back to the bank where he bagged his 4-12 and probes multiple laydowns with the Flip Out jig. It’s beginning to cloud up.
Photo: Don Wirth
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4 HOURS LEFT 10 a.m. Lake E has become shrouded in thick clouds as Latuso moves downlake to a cove loaded with gnarly wood cover. Here he tries the flipping jig and Colorado spinner. “What a weird day; it starts off with bluebird skies and suddenly it looks like it’s going to rain!” 10:13 a.m. Latuso Texas rigs a super bug (black/blue/green) Missile Baits D Bomb creature and flips it around laydown logs. “I may have to go back to a moving [horizontal retrieve] bait now that it’s clouded up.” 10:19 a.m. Latuso combs more laydowns with the Colorado spinner. “There’s tons of wood in this lake but not a ton of bass around it.” 10:24 a.m. He returns to the slow-tapering point he fished earlier and strikes out with the flipping jig and both spinnerbaits. 10:26 a.m. Latuso slow rolls the Colorado spinnerbait across a shallow sandbar. 10:27 a.m. He drops the jig on a submerged stump, gets a tap, swings and misses. What’s his take on the day so far? “The three keepers I’ve caught were all relating to shallow laydowns, but these thick clouds have slowed that bite way down. Hopefully the skies will clear and they’ll move back tight to wood cover.” 10:32 a.m. Latuso’s wish is granted as patches of blue begin peeking through the dark clouds. He probes a series of laydowns on a main-lake flat with the creature. 10:39 a.m. Latuso is alternating between the Colorado spinnerbait, the copper-bladed Thunder Jig and the Missile flipping jig on the big flat. 10:48 a.m. A good fish pops the spinnerbait on a submerged stump but doesn’t hook up. “Sucker knocked 2 feet of slack in my line!” Latuso immediately flips the jig to the stump, but the bass has departed.
3 HOURS LEFT 11 a.m. The flat terminates in a shallow cove. Here Latuso spots a lone stickup, bumps his spinnerbait off the cover, and a big bass nails it! He slams back his rod and the fish comes unbuttoned. “Aww man, that was a good one!” 11:09 a.m. Latuso’s trolling motor is churning up mud as he probes the shallowest reaches of the cove with the thumper-blade spinnerbait. 11:20 a.m. Latuso’s supershallow explorations prove fruitless, so he races downlake to a point with a tangle of laydowns. Here he alternates between the Colorado spinner and the flipping jig. 11:26 a.m. Latuso Texas rigs a green pumpkin D Bomb with a 1-ounce sinker for punching cover. “You can often get a reaction bite during a cold front by dropping a bait with a heavy weight straight down through thick cover. You want it to fall real fast so they grab it instinctively.” He flips the creature to a logjam, then shakes it repeatedly once it hits bottom.
11:39 a.m. Latuso runs back to the laydown where he bagged his twin 2-pounders and punches the creature through its network of limbs. No more luck here. 11:52 a.m. Latuso moves to a submerged rockpile he’d spotted on his electronics earlier in the day and drags the Carolina-rigged lizard. A bass grabs the lure; Latuso sets the hook, swings the fish toward his boat, and it shakes free in midair! 11:55 a.m. Another bass taps his lizard; Latuso swings and misses. “Could they possibly be biting any lighter?”
2 HOURS LEFT 12:01 p.m. Shad are breaking the surface around the rockpile. Latuso ties on a 1/2-ounce blue/chrome Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap lipless crankbait and burns it across the structure. 12:14 p.m. Latuso switches Zoom lizards to a red 8-inch Magnum and drags it around the rockpile. “Might as well go for the big bite!” 12:18 p.m. Latuso is a profoundly patient angler who knows how to execute a painfully slow dragging retrieve. A bass finally picks up the lizard, but instantly drops it. “They are really spooky today!” 12:35 p.m. Latuso finally abandons the rockpile, moves to a channel bank with laydowns and flips a D Bomb in the hematoma (black/blue/red) color pattern to the cover. 12:46 p.m. Still flipping shallow laydowns. “You’d think there might be one or two more big fish holding around all this cover, but you’d be wrong.” It seems Latuso’s patience is finally wearing thin. He stows the trolling motor for a move.
1 HOUR LEFT 1:06 p.m. Latuso runs straight across the lake to a shallow point, flips the D Bomb to a log and bags keeper number four, 1 pound, 4 ounces.
Photo: Don Wirth
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1:11 p.m. He flips a nearby boathouse with the D Bomb. “These boathouse and docks haven’t paid off at all today, which surprises me.” 1:16 p.m. Latuso tries the black buzzer and the D Bomb in a shallow pocket. 1:30 p.m. He bags his fifth keeper, 1 pound even, off a shallow laydown on the D Bomb. “I finally got my limit, but they’re getting smaller instead of bigger!” 1:36 p.m. Latuso has raced back to the brushy hump he tried earlier. He Texas rigs a blue fleck 10 1/2-inch Zoom Ol’ Monster worm and bumps it slowly along the structure. 1:39 p.m. He switches to the red lizard on the hump. 1:41 p.m. Latuso detects a strike, sets the hook, and a huge bass surges into a deep brushpile, breaking off his hook. “Oh no! That was a giant!” 1:48 p.m. Latuso quickly replaces the Carolina rig’s hook and lizard, recasts to the hump and gets another strike! This fish races toward the boat and pulls off.
Photo: Don Wirth
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1:59 p.m. With one minute remaining, Latuso bags his sixth keeper, 3 pounds, 8 ounces, off the hump on the Carolina-rigged lizard; it culls the pounder he caught earlier and bumps his weight total up to 13 pounds, 12 ounces.
THE DAY IN PERSPECTIVE
“That cold front made the bite pretty slow, but I managed to scratch out some decent fish,” Latuso told Bassmaster. “The shallow laydown bite tapered off by midmorning, and the boathouse/dock pattern never did materialize. While there are some quality fish up shallow, I believe the biggest bass are still offshore, and if I were to fish here tomorrow, I’d definitely spend more time probing deeper structure.”
WHERE AND WHEN ROBBIE LATUSO CAUGHT HIS FIVE BIGGEST BASS
4 pounds, 12 ounces; white 3/4-ounce Delta Lures spinnerbait; shallow laydown; 8:49 a.m.
2 pounds, 3 ounces; same lure as #1; laydown on secondary point; 9:26 a.m.
2 pounds, 1 ounce; black/blue 1/2-ounce Missile Flip Out jig with matching V&M J-Bug trailer; same place as #2; 9:28 a.m.
1 pound, 4 ounces; hematoma (black/blue/red) Missile Baits D Bomb creature Texas-rigged with 1/2-ounce sinker; laydown on main-lake point; 1:06 p.m.
3 pounds, 8 ounces; red Zoom Magnum lizard on Carolina rig; offshore hump; 1:59 p.m. TOTAL: 13 POUNDS, 12 OUNCES