Previously we explored winning lures on the 2019 FLW and B.A.S.S. Elite tours in an attempt to uncover the secrets of champions. Keeping with our theme, we’ll write the final chapter with stats from the Bass Pro Tour.
Herein lies an investigation of special interest, as many bass fishing fans have complained that the BPT often resembles a dink-fest, with competitors focusing on catching numbers of small bass rather than five quality fish. But did the fishing tactics match such claims?
I must admit, at the start of the inaugural BPT season I assumed lures like small swimbaits and minuscule jerkbaits would get the most play, as these baits seem to catch buckets of bank-runners. However, my study – fueled by the super statistical powers of BassFan editors – revealed otherwise.
A total of the lures used to win the 2019 BPT events included:
(5) Shallow crankbait
(4) Vibrating jig
(4) Beaver-style plastic on Texas rig
(2) Straight worm on finesse rig/wacky/Neko
(2) Straight worm on Texas rig
(2) Shaky-head worm
(2) Ned rig
(1) Each: Finesse jig, Lipless crank, Jerkbait, Hair jig, Swimbait, Fluke
Shallow cranks, vibrating jigs and flipping baits? By God, that’s bass fishing if I ever saw it!
What happened to the sissy sticks and Rooster Tails? Well, it appears that the best way to get things done on the BPT can be thought of as a two-part equation. First, it proves to stay shallow and cover water with lures that don’t get hung up. Second, it’s incredibly important to remain versatile.
Let’s start there. In many of the events, winning pros listed four, five, even seven different lure combinations that were keys to their victories. It seems “pattern fishing” may be a thing of the past and “throwing what you know” won’t get you the winner’s purse.
Without question, the answer lies in the BPT’s new format. Competitors are out to catch every bass they can, often on a body of water with little or no history. To succeed, they have to throw everything they have at the bass and move quickly to find concentrations. It’s 10 rods on the deck with the trolling motor on high-36, and it’s a wild ride of adrenaline to not fall behind. For that reason, a specialist – say a flipper or a frogger – doesn’t stand a chance, because five bites won’t cut it. Even Dean Rojas had to put down his pet Kermit to get it done.
But what about our first factoid – that winners often stayed shallow and kept casting? Now sure, there were exceptions. The tour’s Table Rock and Winnebago events immediately come to mind, as dropshotting led the way. But for the most part, most of the bass caught in 2019 came around the shoreline.
Part of the reason here coincides with the earlier point, that pros were fishing what was in front of them. But it may also have to do with the efficiency in hooking, landing and even unhooking the bass. Every second counts, and a pro who can make short casts and swing fish in quick can run up the score. Even more, it helps to select lures that result in well-hooked fish to avoid fish-handling penalties from bass flopping on the floor.
So, with our three-part study, what have we learned? In the case of traditional five-fish limit events, specialization of specific tactics seems to prevail. As we previously stated, FLW winners utilized detailed lure modifications to separate themselves from the pack, while B.A.S.S. pros combined old-school tactics with new-wave finesse to get it done. Neither tour, as we found, did much cranking.
As we see, the BPT was just the opposite: standard tactics employed at the speed of light, with crankbaits playing a key role.
The difference, as we now see, is in the approach. When fishing a standard format, getting just one more bite can make all the difference in the world. On the BPT, bite after bite after bite is needed, regardless of size.
This new format may best reflect the approach of more recreational bass anglers than traditional tournaments, thus better helping us learn. Let’s face it, when fishing for fun, most of us just want to get bites, and lots of them. Sure, it’s enjoyable to weigh fish and try for a trophy on occasion, or tally up a “best five” in our minds, but really, numbers take precedent.
And, as the pros on the BPT showed us, proven tactics still get it done. The best, like Edwin Evers, pick up on the game the fastest, adapt the quickest and change when necessary.
What a year for bass fishing!
(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.)