The majority of the bass were still in their late-summer doldrums during last week's Table Rock Bassmaster Elite Series. That meant they were hanging out at depths around – and even well below – the 30-foot mark.
Winner Todd Faircloth targeted deep-water spotted bass with a dropshot rig, and so did two of the other Top 5 finishers. Another focused on that same species and depth, but employed a Carolina rig.
One lone wolf – a rookie, no less – went up the White River in search of largemouths that had made the transition to their fall locales. He found some good ones, but not quite enough to finish on top.
2nd: Edwin Evers
> Day 1: 5, 10-05
> Day 2: 5, 11-12
> Day 3: 5, 13-04
> Day 4: 5, 10-14
> Total = 20, 46-03
Oklahoma's Edwin Evers was the only angler other than Faircloth to catch a limit on all 4 days. A lot of anglers averaged more than a dozen fish a day, but catching five that met the 15-inch minimum was problemmatic.
"I caught quite a few fish in practice," he said. "I was just looking for fish at depths from 30 to 45 feet. Most of the ones I found were relating to brushpiles."
He rotated between numerous spots throughout the tournament. He caught most of his weigh-in fish on a dropshot, but also picked up some on a jig and a jigging spoon.
> Dropshot gear: 6'6" medium-action Bass Pro Shops (BPS) Pro Qualifier rod, BPS Pro Qualifier spinning reel, 6-pound BPS XPS fluorocarbon line, 3/8-ounce BPS dropshot weight, 1/0 Owner dropshot hook, 4" BPS XPS Pro Qualifer worm (brown-purple) or 4" Gary Yamamoto Kut Tail Worm (brown/purple).
> Jig gear: 7' medium-heavy BPS Pro Qualifier rod, BPS Pro Qualifier casting reel, 12-pound XPS fluorocarbon, 3/4-ounce BPS football jig (brown/purple), Zoom Ultra Vibe Speed Craw trailer (cinnamon craw).
> Jigging spoon gear: 6'6" medium-heavy BPS Pro Qualifier rod, BPS Pro Qualifier baitcasting reel, 17-pound XPS fluorocarbon, 3/4-ounce BPS Strata jigging spoon (white).
> Main factor in his success – "Just being consistent and patient and working a whole bunch of different spots."
> Performance edge – "My spinning rod and reel. When you're fighting deep fish on 6-pound test, you need a really good drag. I never broke a fish off."
Kevin Short said the long leader on his Carolina rig was a factor in his high finish.
3rd: Kevin Short
> Day 1: 5, 14-01
> Day 2: 4, 8-02
> Day 3: 4, 10-10
> Day 4: 5, 13-01
> Total = 18, 45-14
Just about every decision Arkansas' Kevin Short has made since mid-summer has been spot-on, and going with a Carolina-rigged worm to catch deep spots at Table Rock was no different.
To be precise, his primary bait was a Zoom Ultra Vibe Speed Worm.
"I tried Senkos at first, but they were too heavy and they laid on the bottom," he said. "That little Speed Worm is made from lighter plastic and doesn't have all that salt, and it floated up off the bottom."
He used a relatively long leader – between 4 and 5 feet.
"I think that had something to do with it. If I used anything shorter I didn't seem to get as many bites, and some of my amateur partners used short leaders and they didn't get bit."
> Carolina-rig gear: 7' medium-heavy St. Croix Legend Elite rod, Shimano Curado baitcasting reel, 12-pound Triple Fish fluorocarbon (main line), barrel swivel, unnamed 1-ounce tungsten barrel weight, 8-pound Triple Fish fluorocarbon leader (4 to 5 feet long), 1/0 Gamakatsu offset-shank hook, 4" Zoom Ultra Vibe Speed Worm (green-pumpkin or watermelon red).
> Main factor in his success – "Just being persistent and knowing that I was going to get five decent bites a day, and then putting every one of them in the boat."
> Performance edge – "I'd probably have to say my line. With that fluorocarbon, I was jumping 2 1/2- to 3-pound fish right into the boat and I wasn't worried at all about breaking that 8-pound leader."
Bill Lowen's river spot was extremely productive on 3 of the 4 days.
4th: Bill Lowen
> Day 1: 5, 13-03
> Day 2: 5, 11-11
> Day 3: 2, 4-10
> Day 4: 5, 14-05
> Total = 17, 43-13
Ohio rookie Bill Lowen tried to catch deep fish in practice, but had little success. So he decided to head up the White River and fish the same way he often does back home on the Ohio.
"I was really happy with the way I executed," he said. "The only thing I would change is I wouldn't spend so much practice time out on the main lake fishing deep. I did a lot better once I found some stuff that I was more comfortable with."
He used three baits – a big worm, a jig and a spinnerbait.
"I flipped the worm and the jig to everything I could find – standing timber, stumps on creek channels, you name it. If there was a piece of wood on a flat, I'd run the spinnerbait across it five or six times, then flip the the worm four or five times.
"The whole key was making repeated casts to the same places and fishing extremely slow."
He caught three very strong bags, and might have given Faircloth a serious run for the top slot had he not been limited to just two fish on day 2.
> Worm gear: 7'6" All-Pro flipping stick, Shimano Chronarch casting reel, 15-pound Berkley Big Game line, 3/16- or 1/4-ounce unnamed bullet weight (unpegged), 3/0 Gamakatsu round-bend hook, 10-inch Berkley Power Worm (black).
> Jig gear: Same rod, reel and line as worm, 1/8-ounce homemade finesse jig (watermelon/green-pumpkin), Zoom Super Chunk trailer (green-pumpkin).
> Main factor in his success – "Just being in my comfort zone and fishing the way I know how to fish."
Performance edge – "I'd say it was my flipping stick. It's an awesome rod – extremely sensitive, but still durable. Some flipping sticks have extreme sensitivity, but that makes them brittle. This rod doesn't have that problem."
Jon Bondy had a big area to fish, and he had it all to himself.
5th: Jon Bondy
> Day 1: 4, 9-03
> Day 2: 5, 11-13
> Day 3: 4, 9-11
> Day 4: 5, 11-11
> Total = 17, 42-06
Jon Bondy was in his comfort zone too. But for the rookie from Canada, that meant a lot of his line was getting wet.
"Light line in deep water – we do that for half the year in Canada," he said. "I'm very comfortable with dropshotting, and this tournament was a phenomenal experience for me."
He found a spot in the White River about 5 miles from the takeoff and pretty much camped there all 4 days. It was a subtle point with some timber, and he had it all to himself.
He caught his fish at the 32-foot depth, but he was only a cast away from shore and a cast away from 120 feet of water. He went through all five packs of worms that he brought (100 total) during practice and the tournament.
> Dropshot gear: 6' medium-action All-Star rod, Pflueger Medalist spinning reel, prototype 8-pound Shakespeare fluorocarbon line, 3/8- or 1/2-ounce Bass Pro Shops Diamond Cut dropshot weight, No. 1 Gamakatsu dropshot hook, 4 1/4" Bass Pro Shops Stick-O (watermelon/purple flake).
> Main factor in his success – "I knew a lot of people would be fishing main-lake points, so I needed to find something off the wall. I had a big spot that nobody else was on for all 4 days."
> Performance edge – "My MotorGuide 109 (trolling motor). I guide on the Great Lakes, and that motor is perfect when things get real rough out there."