This picture of Scott Martin depicts how much of the season played out during the Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens Series. The first event at the Kissimmee Chain happened on schedule. Then, a series of postponements shifted the remaining Central and Eastern events into late summer and fall, skipping over the spawning season, and going directly into the tough fall transition.
Martin’s picture, taken in late September at Lake Hartwell, was his own idea. For most of the altered season, piled port and starboard on his front deck, was a pile of rod-and-reel combos collectively chosen for junk fishing. If nothing else, the Championship Saturday lineup of anglers regularly demonstrated how it’s possible to dial into a pattern using the last resort for catching bass.
Junk fishing requires running and gunning. Along the way, you pick up and use a lure setup that is most likely to produce strikes based on habitat at a given spot. Some anglers narrowed the choices to a manageable pattern, although reverting to pulling out all the stops when all else failed.
Here is the proof in recaps of the winning patterns.
- Kissimmee Chain of Lakes: Bryan New applied a prespawn junk fishing strategy, using a prop bait and squarebill crankbait to score the win.
- Arkansas River: The tournament, held on schedule, was won by Oklahoman Chris Jones, who rotated through a postspawn junk fishing lineup of spinnerbaits, plastic frogs and a jig.
- Sam Rayburn Reservoir: Masayuki Matsushita ran a rotation of shallow brushpiles and deep timber with a swimbait and 10-inch Texas rigged worm for the win.
- Lake Hartwell: Running and gunning was the pattern, with topwaters emulating blueback herring used by all of the Top 12 anglers, including winner Patrick Walters.
- Neely Henry Lake: Cody Bird claimed to have made more than 100 stops on a given day, in true junk fishing/running and gunning style, using a crankbait to win with only 34 pounds, 1 ounce.
- Cherokee Lake: A tropical storm and post-front conditions prompted another on-the-run game plan, with Matt Robertson scoring the win with a drop shot and topwater.
- Lewisville Lake: The fall transition had largemouth scattered throughout the water column, and strong southerly winds blew out shoreline areas, setting up a winning spinnerbait pattern for Tommy Williams in a backwater area.
- Lay Lake: Working with the current release schedule from the Logan Martin Dam, Keith Carson used a crankbait to stay on active fish, while focusing on grasslines near step banks where the bass set up to ambush baitfish.
The breakdown of lures appearing in the top lure galleries reflected the need to cover water, and do it on the run. Crankbaits appeared 39 times in the photos, the most of any category. Crankbaits were the go-to lures when gaining ground and triggering reaction bites was a must.
Next up were Texas rigs, which showed up 37 times in the photos. For the sake of auditing the categories, we lumped worms and creature baits into the category. With exception of the Kissimmee Chain, none of the baits were used as punch rigs, instead worked around isolated shallow wood or bottom contour breaks in deeper water.
Seen 30 times in the galleries were jigs, outfitted with a variety of soft plastic trailers. Not surprisingly, swim jigs dominated the category, the reason being their ability to cover water across the water column.
Bladed jigs, a top choice for junk fishing, appeared 17 times in the galleries. Finally, topwaters were chosen 12 times by the top anglers, and mostly at Lake Hartwell, where the bass chased blueback herring.
For comparison, the drop shot appeared 39 times in the top lure galleries for the Bassmaster Elite Series, and topped all lures by categories. That high number was driven by the triple header of events in New York and Michigan, where the rig is a proven smallmouth catcher.
Ironically, the drop shot failed to make it inside the top five categories of the Opens. Geographically, that makes sense with the schedule panning out over a swath of the nation from Oklahoma to South Carolina, on lakes not ideally suited for it.