COLUMBIA, S.C. — With high water, dirty water and cool water all predicted to be on the menu for the upcoming Bassmaster Classic, Berkley Pros are busy making plans — and contingencies — for which baits will give them the best chance at winning the highest-profile event in professional bass fishing.
The 2020 Bassmaster Classic runs March 6-8 on Alabama’s famed Lake Guntersville. The lake is known for producing big bass and the fishery receives its fair share of fishing pressure throughout the year. And while a lot can change between the start of practice and the start of the tournament, the Berkley pros said they expect to find dirty, cool water — a result of the heavier-the-expected rainfall in the area over the past month.
“Going to Guntersville that time of year, a lot is going to depend on the weather,” said Berkley Pro John Cox. “Kind of cold, lots of rain — and a lot of the grass might be gone because of the current.”
Cox, who recently won a tournament on Sam Rayburn using the Berkley Frittside crankbait, said he feels extremely comfortable with the Frittside and expects to rely on it heavily. If temperatures dip lower than expected, however, Cox said he will go with a 3/4-ounce Berkley Warpig.
“The Frittside on 15-pound-test Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon line is 100 percent going to be my main bait,” Cox said. “It has the action of a balsa bait but so much more durability. These fish are likely to be slowed down some by the cooler water temperatures but the Frittside’s action is the bait to make them react.”
Berkley Pro Hank Cherry holds out hope for at least a little clear water and, should it appear, he hopes to get on a hot jerk bait bite. But, he said, the Berkley Squarebull is probably going to be his go-to bait for the Classic. Plus, he’s hopeful of being able to find a consistent jig bite and already knows what his go-to trailer will be on whatever jigs he throws.
“The PowerBait MaxScent Power Chunk is the one,” Cherry said. “It just makes them eat it better and it’s a great addition to a jig.”
Shane Lehew echoed the sentiments of his fellow Berkley Pros, and expects to be relying heavily on the Berkley Frittside and Warpig. However, he expects to find some shallower places where he can use a 6-inch Berkley PowerBait Hollow Belly swimbait.
“I definitely think the Warpig in Candy Apple Red Craw is going to be utilized around grass; if the water temperatures are cooler, a red craw pattern does really well. Plus the Warpig has great action at slower speeds,” Lehew said. “One of my favorites though is the Frittside. It has a short, flat-sided wobble that goes over cover well. I expect to be using it around eel grass, hydrilla and also over rock — especially if the sun comes out and the fish start stacking up around spawning coves.”
Like his fellow Berkley Pros, Hunter Shryock also plans to lean heavily on the lipless Warpig and the Frittside. However, Shryock has some upgrades planned for the two baits in order to make them even better suited for what he expects to encounter at this year’s Classic.
“One of the biggest players for me are going to be the Berkley Fusion19 treble hooks — I believe they are the best treble hooks I’ve ever fished,” Shryock said. “I’m going to experiment with the hooks when I get there. I’ll probably wind up with an EWG treble hook on the front and a round bend in back. This should lead to more hookups since there are going to be some sluggish bites if the weather doesn’t warm up between now and then.”
Berkley Pro Mike Huff also expects to be throwing the Berkley Squarebull a lot during the Classic, using 8-pound-test Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon line to get the bait lower in the water column. But he will be picking up a spinning rod if he finds pressured fish in and around Guntersville’s grass beds.
“The General, I like to rig it weightless, is awesome for getting down through the grass to reach pressured fish,” said Huff, who plans to throw the bait on a 7-0 medium spinning rod paired with a spinning reel spooled with braid for the mainline with a Fluorocarbon leader. “For the Classic, I think The General is Black Blue Fleck will be my go-to choice.”
For more information about the Berkley line and baits being used in the Bassmaster Classic, go to berkley-fishing.com.
2020 Bassmaster Classic Qualifiers
Hank Cherry — Lincolnton, North Carolina
John Cox — Debary, Florida
Mike Huff — Corbin, Kentucky
Shane Lehew — Catawba, North Carolina
Hunter Shryock — New Comerstown, Ohio