By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Lake Seminole Bassmaster Elite Series winner Brett Hite caught every fish he took to the scale last week – and every one he didn't – on a Z-Man ChatterBait Elite. Bladed jigs fished in and around grass were also effective for most his closest pursuers, even though none of the pursuers were actually close (Hite won by 13 pounds).
Here's a rundown on how the 2nd- through 5th-place finishers went about their business in the season opener.
2nd: Todd Faircloth
> Day 1: 5, 20-15
> Day 2: 5, 12-04
> Day 3: 5, 23-12
> Day 4: 5, 27-11
> Total = 20, 84-10
Faircloth, a four-time Elite Series winner who can be counted on to log several single-digit finishes each year, got the first one out of 2014 the way early with his runner-up placement. He didn't sight-fish much except on his lackluster day 2, but he believes most of the fish he caught from expansive grass flats and sloughs were bedding.
"In places like that, the majority of the fish are usually in real small areas," he said. "You can miss it real easy."
He employed a finesse worm on day 1 to score around deeper lily pads. That didn't work on day 2 and he had to resort to catching smaller males from the spawning grounds.
He locked into the bladed-jig action in the grass on day 3 and sacked more than 51 pounds over the final 2 days.
"I was fishing around the mouth of Spring Creek," he said. "The fish were in the 3- to 6-foot (depth) range. The main bank might've been a half-mile away, but there were some islands around there that were closer."
> Bladed-jig gear: 7'2" medium-heavy CastAway Todd Faircloth Signature Series Triple Threat rod, Shimano Chronarch Ci4+ casting reel (6.2:1 ratio), 20-pound Sunline Shooter fluorocarbon line, 3/8-ounce Strike King Pure Poison bladed jig, unnamed swimbait trailer (green-pumpkin).
> Worm gear: 7' medium-heavy CastAway rod, same reel (7:1 ratio), 30-pound Sunline SX1 braided line, 3/16-ounce Strike King tungsten weight, unnamed 3/0 offset-shank hook, Strike King Finesse Worm (blue fleck).
> Flipping gear: 7'6" heavy-action CastAway flipping stick, same reel as worm, 50-pound Sunline SX1 braid, 1 1/4-ounce Strike King tungsten weight, unnamed 5/0 hook, Strike King Rodent (black/blue).
Main factor in his success – "I made some key adjustments and caught them different ways each day. The main deal for me was switching gears that third day and dialing it in with the Pure Poison."
Performance edge – "The Pure Poison was definitely key on the last 2 days – it was definitely what they wanted and those fish were taking it way down their throat. I'd also have to say my Skeeter/Yamaha for getting me there and back on time, every time."
Mark Davis was able to find new ways to catch fish on each day of the event.
3rd: Mark Davis
> Day 1: 5, 21-00
> Day 2: 5, 20-13
> Day 3: 5, 20-02
> Day 4: 5, 18-10
> Total = 20, 80-09
Davis, a three-time B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year, concluded 2013 with a runner-up showing and started the new campaign just one slot lower. They're his best finishes in 6-plus years on the Elite Series.
Like Faircloth, he fished differently each day. Unlike the guy who ended up right in front of him, he never had any extremely light days, nor any truly massive sacks.
"I didn't figure out a whole lot in practice," he said. "I did find the sight-fish (he caught on day 1) and there were some good-looking banks in that area, so I just went over there and slowed down and had confidence in what I was doing.
"I tried to fish the conditions, but stay with the same water."
> Cranking gear: 7' medium-action Team Lew's HM85 Million composite cranking rod, Lew's BB1 Pro casting reel (6.4:1 ratio), 15-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line, Strike King KVD 1.5 (green crawfish or sexy chartreuse).
> Flipping gear: 7'10" Team Lew's HM85 Million flipping stick, same reel, 50-pound Seaguar SmackDown braided line, 1-ounce Strike King tungsten weight, 5/0 Mustad flipping hook, 4" Strike King rodent (black/blue).
Main factor in his success – "Picking out two or three key areas and staying with them instead of running all over the lake."
Performance edge – "That Lew's cranking rod really did a good job for me. I caught the bulk of my fish that way."
Takahiro Omori caught a lot of nice fish, but lost some good ones, too.
4th: Takahiro Omori
> Day 1: 5, 19-11
> Day 2: 5, 14-15
> Day 3: 5, 23-12
> Day 4: 5, 19-14
> Total = 20, 78-04
Takahiro Omori was pleased with his second 4th-place showing in as many regular-season events, but also disappointed because several fish that would've helped him came unbuttoned. Included were three that topped the 6-pound mark.
He stayed on the main lake and fished grass, cattails, stumps and lily pads in less than 5 feet or water.
"I had a lot of places to fish," he said. "I'd cover a lot of water going down the bank in a big area. I'd just put the trolling motor down and keep going.
"This time of year, this lake fishes a lot like Fork, Rayburn and Toledo Bend, and I'm very familiar with that kind of fishing. I'm very confident with a place that has a lot of grass and a lot of big bass in it. I like that kind of fishing."
He sight-fished two of the specimens he took to the scale. The other 18 were all fooled by a ChatterBait.
> ChatterBait gear – 7' medium-heavy Daiwa Steez rod, Daiwa Tatula casting reel (8.1:1 ratio), 20-pound Sunline Shooter fluorocarbon line, 3/8-ounce Z-Man Original ChatterBait (black/blue or brown), Zoom Speed Craw trailer (black/blue).
> Sight-fishing gear: 7'3" medium-heavy Daiwa Black Label rod, Daiwa Zillion casting reel (7.1:1 ratio), 14-pound Sunline Shooter fluorocarbon, 4/0 Gamakatsu G-Lock hook, 5" Yamamoto Senko (black).
Main factor in his success – "Even though I lost some big ones, I stayed positive and kept going forward."
Performance edge – "My Power-Poles. The wind was blowing so hard on the first day of the tournament, and then (on day 3) I was sight-fishing, and (day 4) was another windy day. The Power-Poles were very important."
Kevin Short caught most of his fish on an old-school crankbait.
5th: Kevin Short
> Day 1: 5, 25-09
> Day 2: 5, 17-10
> Day 3: 5, 17-08
> Day 4: 5, 15-11
> Total = 20, 76-06
Kevin Short popped a bulging sack on the first day, then never came close to duplicating it the rest of the way. His other three efforts were steady, however, and he drove away with his best placement in 4 years.
He did the majority of his damage with an old-school Norman Big N that he painted himself to panfish.
"I painted up a bunch the first year we went to Oneida because I'd heard or read that those fish ate a lot of perch," he said. "It turned out to be a good bluegill pattern as well. I've caught a lot of fish around home on it and I used it at Amistad one time to catch a 33-pound bag.
"They're not real popular anymore and probably haven't been since the late 1970s, but there's a time and a place for them. When they work, it's magic."
He focused on hydrilla at depths of 3 to 7 feet and rarely got more than half a dozen bites a day. He picked up a few fish here and there on a bladed jig and a couple more on a swimjig.
"On the first morning those fish were on the top or the outside edge of that grass. When the water warmed up, they moved to the edge and scattered on me. If they'd stayed on the outside edge instead of burying up, it would've been a totally different story. I'm just praying that we come back here about 2 weeks earlier on the calendar, because I'll crush them."
> Bladed jig gear: 7'4" medium-heavy Team Lew's HM85 Million rod, same reel, 50-pound Vicious braid, 1/2-ounce Strike King Pure Poison (bluegill), Zoom Super Swimming Fluke trailer (bluegill).
> Swimjig gear: Same rod, reel and line as bladed jig, 1/2-ounce Jewel Swim-It (black/blue), Zoom Swimming Super Fluke trailer (black saphire).
Main factor in his success – "I got on the crankbait bite in practice and I didn't do a lot of riding around or anything. I put the boat in the water and went fishing."
Performance edge – "I really felt like the Vicious Vision glasses made a difference. I wasn't sight-fishing, but even though the water was a little off-color, I could see the grass and visually line up the right cast on some of those edges."
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