This report on final pattern is a little late, but oh well.
The bass in deep, clear and relatively cool Lake Amistad never turned the corner that was the spawn. Sure, a few bed-fish were found here and there, but nearly everyone in the final Top 12 targeted staging fish inside or immediately adjacent to spawning coves.
Winner Derek Remitz, a rookie, took a little different tack. Of the three options available – spawning fish, staging fish, and early pre-spawn fish – he chose the latter. His fish were just coming out of their winter pattern and beginning to stage out deep in the main lake.
Photo: ESPN Outdoors
It was the right choice. Across 4 days, when others in the field struggled to stay consistent, he continued to improve. On day 4, he whacked 31-06 – his biggest sack of the tournament – and spanked 2nd-place Mike Iaconelli by nearly 8 pounds. Not bad for a MN Sod Farmer
And he beat 12th-place finisher John Murray by a massive 33 1/2-pound margin. He threw a jig deep all 4 days, and never traveled more than 5 miles from the launch.
Remitz who hails from Minnesota but now lives in Alabama, had fished Amistad only once before, in a Stren Series event the season before. At that previous event, he ran a pattern that involved ledges. It was a good one, but he decided to start shallow on the first day of practice last week. He didn’t find much, which convinced him he needed to concentrate on deep water instead. So he went out on the second practice day and did exactly what he did the year before.
“It turns out this year it held up,” he said of the pattern. “What I was doing was sitting on ledges in creeks, or the main river channel. (The ledges would) be in either the mouth of a spawning cove, or the little pockets they spawn in, or (next to) main-lake flats. But you had to find the underwater bluffs.”
He tried to find as many bluffs as he could, and on pretty much each one, there’d be a 10- to 15-yard stretch where he could catch one or two fish every day. He wasn’t looking for many bites – just seven or eight a day – because nearly every bluff-fish he caught was 5 to 6 pounds.
“I never did make it to any spots I fished last year – I fished really close,” he noted. “I caught right at 30 pounds on Tuesday (day 2 of practice). Then I went out Wednesday and found about six or seven more deep spots, on top of what I already had. I figured I’d go shallow if I had to, but I’d live or die by the deep fish. And I didn’t have a whole lot of pressure to deal with out there.” Derek even checked the shallows late on Wednesday afternoon before practice was over, and there was not much happening. That solidified his decision to fish his pre-staging bass.
Competition was straight-up, and pretty much a repeat of practice. He fished close – within 5 miles of the launch – and bounced around from bluff spot to bluff spot. He made a huge stride on day 3 when he caught an 8-pounder and moved into the lead. He caught a 9-pounder on day 4 to close it, which was a Purolator Big Bass.
Winning Pattern Notes
He fished the tops of straight bluff walls. The top (where it became a flat) was usually 25 to 35 feet deep, and the bluff plummeted to anywhere from 50 to 80 or 90 feet.
He parked his boat right on top or just off the edge of the sheer bluff – above where it dropped off – and made semi-parallel casts with a football-head jig along the top of the bluff. He followed the bottom with his jig, and tried to get it to fall on a ledge just over the deep side of the bluff.
“Some (bluffs) had little stair steps down at 35 or 40 feet, and I’d catch a few on that too,” he said. “I really had to fish slow – almost dead-stick it. They’d pick it up while it was on bottom. I think the fish were pinned to the bottom, and I tried to keep it right on the edge.”
He felt his fish were staging for the spawn, but weren’t as far along as the wood-fish nearer the bank. “It was kind of a winter or early pre-spawn pattern. I suppose when they were cruising, they’d stop there. They might be there for a day or a week while staging, then move right up on the flats to spawn.”
Winning Gear Notes
> Jig gear: 7′ medium-action St. Croix rod, Shimano Curado casting reel, 16-pound unnamed fluorocarbon, 3/4-ounce Omega Custom Tackle football-head jig (Ozark special, which is brown with green flashabou), 5″ Yamamoto Hula grub (green-pumpkin/candy).
> Main factor in his success – “I think just having the patience to stick it out – only getting eight to 10 bites a day, but not getting too nervous or worried. I’d make a milk run. If I didn’t get bit, I’d turn around and run it opposite on the way back and pick off one or two fish here and there.”
2nd: Mike Iaconelli, Reigning BASS Angler of the Year Mike “Ike” Iaconelli was the most consistent angler of those in the Top 5. He caught a 26-pound average and never weighed a light bag. His undoing was he never weighed a heavy one either, and couldn’t match Remitz with 30-pounds-plus on days 3 and 4.
Ike fished pockets off the main lake, they weren’t creeks necessarily – they were big, main-lake pockets and giant coves., most of his time was spent in the Blackbrush & San Pedro areas. The key to it was they all had points leading into them. And on the points were submerged bushes and trees, if you could see the trees sticking out the top of the water, they were not as productive.
He noted the fish would stop and park on the trees and bushes before moving further back into the cove to spawn, and he “intercepted” them as they staged. Most of his prime bushes and trees were in 8 to 15 feet of water – “the classic pre-spawn zone” – although he did catch a few shallower and a few deeper. Conditions determined which technique he used.
“When the light was low, which was generally in the morning, I’d throw baits that would fish the outsides of those bushes,” he said. “The two baits I used to do that were a swimbait and a jerkbait. The swimbait was a California SwimBabes Baby “E” in a bluegill color, and the jerkbait was a Berkley Frenzy Diving Minnow.
Most pros fished the hearts of the bushes to get their fish, pitching the edges just did not draw the quality strikes. For that Ike said he used a 5-inch Berkley Beast in green-pumpkin and a 1oz Tru-Tungsten weight. Although on TV coverage, it looked a lot more like a Sweet Beaver then a Beast…..
> Swimbait gear: 7’6″ Team Daiwa LT flipping stick, Team Daiwa Millionaire casting reel, 20-pound Berkley Trilene Sensation line, California SwimBabes Baby “E” swimbait (bluegill).
> Jerkbait gear: 6’3″ medium-action Team Daiwa-S topwater rod, Daiwa Millionaire, 15-pound Trilene XT fluorocarbon (prototype), Berkley Frenzy Diving Minnow (shad).
> Beast gear: 7’6″ Team Daiwa Cielo flipping stick, Team Daiwa Zillion casting reel (7.1:1), 1oz Tru-Tungsten Denny Brauer Flippin’ weight (black), 4/0 heavy wire Tru-Tungsten flipping hook (prototype), 5″ Berkley Beast (green-pumpkin, with orange Spike-It dye on the outside of one claw, chartreuse Spike-It dye on outside of the other claw).
> On why he dyed his Beast claws – “I used the Spike-It markers, and I was trying to imitate a tilapia or bluegill. That’s what I feel the big fish feed on here.”
> On his reel – “The high-speed reel was critical because the bait was falling quickly and they’d hit it halfway down, so you needed to recover a lot of line.”
> Main factor in his success – “Having confidence in my areas, and having patience enough to wait as these fish kept funneling in. Some made it past me and spawned – I picked up a few bedders here and there – but I intercepted the vast majority.”
3rd: Steve Kennedy caught the biggest bag of the tournament on day 1, and he still led after a disappointing day 2, but he never passed the 30-pound mark again.
He ran two patterns. The first involved a swimbait, the second, flipping.
“Going into practice, I didn’t really know how to throw a swimbait, so I just started throwing it everywhere,” he said. “I threw it shallow and caught a big one, then got out on the tip of a point, counted it down to like 30 feet, and caught an 8-pounder.”
When competition began, he caught an 8-pound striper on his first cast, then an 8-pound black on the next. So in three consecutive casts on that one point, he caught two 8-pound largemouths and an 8-pound striper.
“I was targeting isolated trees in deeper water, and also the ends of points,” he noted. “Those big fish are suspended out there. I can’t imagine how you could catch them, other than with a swimbait. None of the standard baits are made to fish like that – big jerkbaits don’t get deep enough. That slow fall, and slow reel, gives them time to come up and eat them.”
When he targeted isolated trees, he threw the swimbait to the side of the tree first, then moved in and flipped. “It was something I noticed last year – there’d be one tree out of 50 they were on. There would be maybe two or three twigs sticking out, and (the fish would be) 15 or 20 feet down. But you’d never get a bite in any other tree.”
> Swimbait gear: Kistler Helium 2 LTX flipping stick, Shimano Curado casting reel, 30-pound P-Line Fluoroclear line, unnamed out-of-production swimbait (brown/red, but he colored it blue/chartreuse, “So whatever color that makes.”)
> Flipping gear: 7’11” Kistler Helium 2 LTX flipping stick, same reel, same line, 3/4-ounce tungsten weight, 4/0 straight-shank hook, Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver (Spanish fly).
> Main factor in his success – “Taking advantage of that big bite the first day with the swimbait. The bite was really on. I took a chance on the swimbait and caught them and caught them and caught them. I caught the biggest bag of the tournament, which is an extra $8,000. That’s a big payday for what we’re doing.”
4th: Todd Faircloth made the most memorable climb of the event, when he caught the second-best bag of the tournament and moved from 39th to 4th on day 3.
“I caught all my fish during the tournament on a 6-inch Yamamoto Senko, except for six fish on a swimbait the final two days,” he said.
“I caught them all on submerged trees. I was making long casts, because in the clear water, you need to keep your distance. But (day 4) was windy and cloudy and I was right on top of the trees before I could see them.”
He noted his trees were in water from 6 to 20 feet deep, but most of his big fish came out of the 10- to 15-foot depths. Also, the trees were on main-lake flats.
> Senko gear: 7′ medium-action Castaway rod, unnamed casting reel, 20-pound unnamed fluorocarbon, 1/4- and 3/8 oz tungsten weights (unpegged), 5/0 Owner offset hook, 6″ Gary Yamamoto Senko (watermelon/green and watermelon/candy).
> Swimbait gear: 7’6″ medium-heavy Castaway flipping stick, same reel and line, 8″ Osprey swimbait (green with blue vein and clear belly).
> He eventually tore up the Osprey and borrowed a swimbait from Kevin VanDam prior to day 4. “It wasn’t the (King Shad),” Faircloth said. “I believe it was a discontinued Bass Pro Shops model. It was 6 inches with a green back and pearl belly. It was pretty close to what I was throwing the day before.”
> Main factor in his success – “I think it was keying in on the offshore stuff and visible cover. You really have to pay attention to detail when fishing those trees. Being around a big flat area off the main lake – I think they replenish better than in a small pocket of creek. Each day more fish would move in.”
> Performance edge – “I’d have to say it was the Senko. I caught the bulk of my fish on it, and it’s what I found the fish on in practice. I have a lot of confidence in it.” According to my father who fished with Todd on Day 2, he flipped that Senko all day and the green flake seemed to make a difference for the fish that they were fishing.
5th: Kevin VanDam moved fast and threw a reaction bait. What’s interesting is he threw a swimbait, albeit is downsized version. He changed slightly on the final day and caught several spinnerbait fish, but for the most part, he relied on a Strike King King Shad hard-plastic swimbait.
“The King Shad was my primary bait all week,” he said. “I was basically fishing spawning areas and spawning flats -trying to target the fish just moving in. I was fishing the ditches leading into the areas, lots of bushes and trees – things like that. I went everywhere.” All the fish caught on the final day showed during the weigh-in were on a Strike King spinnerbait, I also talked to his first day non-boater. He did use the King Shad, but the spinnerbait, Strike King Zeros, Wild Shiners and other baits played into his daily totals as well
> Swimbait gear: 6’10” Quantum PT Kevin VanDam spinnerbait rod, Quantum PT 1160 casting reel, 25-pound Bass Pro Shops XPS mono, Strike King King Shad (clear body, which he painted into a natural shad pattern).
> He also said his Biosonix BSX unit was key. “The fish I was targeting were keying on bait. I’d never seen bait here before – just tilapia and bluegill – but I saw a lot of shad this year, especially on the first and last days. I was fishing fast with the wind blowing and I was running a really aggressive shad sound pattern on the unit. I have a lot of confidence in it.”
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> Performance edge – “My depthfinder on the bow, just because I was able to keep the front of my boat right over that edge, and know where to throw. And I think they ate that jig pretty good too. I think they’d eat just about anything, but I had a lot of confidence throwing that football-head.”