Every season, I dissect the winning patterns of the major bass tours in an attempt to clue us all in on what’s hot. While this year will go down as one of the strangest in terms of scheduling and chosen venues, it can still be a great learning experience.
This week, we’ll dive right in with the FLW Pro Circuit. I’ve always felt that FLW’s format lends itself to a true sampling of the best techniques, as field sizes are larger than any other professional league and the players represent the broadest range of anglers.
Now, when performing our mathematical analyses in the past, I mainly stuck with winning methods – 1st place or nothing. However, in light of all the 2020 turmoil, I thought it might be best to uncover the methods used to place 1st through 3rd, giving us a broader sample.
Similar investigations in the past have keyed us in to trending patterns among the pros. At times, frog fishing was a key player, regardless of season or location. We’ve seen finesse fishing come and go, and come back again. And, as I’ve noted several times, shallow cranking just plain wins.
Diving in to 2020, here’s what I came up with on the FLW side. You’ll see more win credits than events, as numerous lures often played a role in a single victory.
> Dropshot (2)
> All else one each, including: square-bill crankbait, ChatterBait, buzzworm, swimbait on jighead, punching plastic, weightless worm, deep crankbait, Texas-rig worm, hair jig, swim jig, standard jig, football jig, Scrounger.
This is astounding, and serves as the first time since I’ve been keeping records that a single technique or two has not dominated pro fishing. Fourteen separate techniques were used to win seven events. Incredible!
> Dropshot (6), bladed jig (2), jig (2), Carolina-rig (2) swimjig (2)
> All others one each, including: jerkbait, square-bill crankbait, lipless knocking bait, swimbait on jig, Texas-rig worm, deep crankbait, spoon, Senko, Neko-rig, frog, buzz frog, Ned rig.
Now this may not seem like a big deal to the casual observer, but, in terms of pure bass analytics, it’s far from normal. To sum up, nearly any and every technique was a big-money winner this year. We saw a shortage of short-line techniques like pitching and flipping, but everything else was in play.
First glance has me noticing the lack of real trendy tactics like Whopper Ploppers and Spybaits. Next, I contemplate the mediocre placement of bladed jigs, despite being on all the competitors’ decks. And what happened to standard lipless crankbaits, really all the rage in pro fishing a decade ago? Rayburn and the Harris Chain were both on the schedule, yet no Rat-L-Traps or Red Eyes showed up.
I’ve occasionally heard the sport of bass fishing compared to other art forms, where the outcome depends on the artist. In short, there’s more than one way to approach a given scenario and solve the puzzle. On the same day that bass are smashing a swim jig, a fair number can be caught flipping, for example.
In that sense, professional bass fishing is a truly a blank canvas. The best in the world often do things their own way, regardless of venue or season. This year’s Chickamauga event comes to mind, where most pros utilized standard offshore techniques combining deep cranks, worms and jigs. Exceptions included Jason Reyes, who did the ultra-slow Senko thing, and Cody Meyer, who practiced West Coast finesse with a Neko.
In any case, it seems we get further away from hard and fast rules each year. In this day and age, an upcoming angler can be good at nearly anything and have a shot at winning every week. Keeping an open mind appears to be just as important as a well-stocked tacklebox.
(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)