February 15, 2009 by Rob Newell
GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. - Tums pro David Fritts of Lexington, N.C., and crankbaits go together like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and restrictor plates.
In all of professional fishing, there is none better with a "cranking plug" than David Fritts.
In fact, Fritts even has a moniker to describe his signature cranking technique - the Fritts Blitz - a patented named given to his dominating crankbait bite when he won his first Bassmaster Classic on a cranking plug in 1993.
And for the last four months, the Fritts Blitz has resurfaced to dominate FLW Outdoors events. Fritts won the Walmart FLW Series event on Clarks Hill back in October. Then he went to the FLW Series East-West Fish-Off and finished third.
Today, the Blitz continued as Fritts added yet another win to his impressive resume of cranking wins by winning the Chevy Open on Lake Guntersville.
After catching three bass for 14 pounds, 4 ounces on day three, Fritts returned fire today with five bass weighing 23 pounds, 13 ounces to come from sixth place to win.
This week set up perfectly for Fritts in that there was a dominant bite in the grass that kept a vast majority of the field occupied with rattling lipless crankbaits in shallow water.
And while most pros used a wind-and-grind technique in the grass, Fritts snuck off to his favorite riprap and road bed on one of the bridges crossing Guntersville and cranked rock with Rapala DT-10 crankbaits.
The DT-10 and rock combination was his go-to pattern, but he also had it supported solidly with a secondary pattern that involved dragging a football jig on a main-river ledge.
"Most of my fish came off the rocks and riprap on the DT-10, especially the last two days," he said. "But over the first two days, I caught five really big bass, dragging a ¾-ounce Fat Ratz football-head jig with a Zoom Speed Craw on a little honeyhole along the main river channel. It's a little high spot that comes up to about 7 feet on top, and it's got some good rock all around it. But for some reason that place did not pay off yesterday or today."
As for his DT-10s, Fritts primarily used two colors: chartreuse-and-brown and plain shad. Both were tied to 10-pound-test Suffix line.
"Yesterday, I just could not get in the zone - I couldn't get lined up right and hit my targets like I needed to," Fritts said. "But today, buddy, I got in the zone - I mean I was in my element. Most people cannot sit there and cast to a single rock under the water and hit it 30 or 40 times in row. But that's what it took to get those fish to eat that crankbait. I had to hit the spot over and over again, without missing it, until one finally bit.
"And overall, I think the fish just bit a lot better today," he added. "I went though probably three or four limits of fish today. And when you're getting that many bites, it really helps tell you what the fish want."
As for his $200,000 win, Fritts remained true to why he loves to fish crankbaits.
"I don't do this for the money," he added. "I do this to win. And that's why I fish the way I do and why I love crankbaits so much - they are winning lures, and this is another Rapala win."
Berkley pro Sam Newby of Pocola, Okla., finished second with a two-day total of 37 pounds.
What makes Newby's runner-up finish such a heartbreaker is that he only weighed in four fish both yesterday and today. And with a deficit of just 1 pound, 1 ounce, another single Guntersville keeper would have given him a $200,000 win.
"I've been on the winning side of close calls several times when things went my way, so I'm not complaining," Newby said of his $55,000 finish.
Newby may have won the unofficial award of least number of miles traveled by a pro in the top 10 for his finish. He was fishing in the Siebold Creek area, where he had located a "little drain" off a flat that connected to the main river.
Newby's bites were not numerous, but they were certainly quality bites, as his four-fish catches weighed in at 18-1 and 18-15, respectively.
And he did note that each of the last two days he lost fish that would have won the event for him.
His key lure was a red ¾-ounce rattling lipless crankbait fished on 30-pound-test Spiderwire braid, tied to a 5-foot length of 17-pound-test fluorocarbon leader.
Newby liked the enhanced sensitivity of the braid, but noted that sometimes the braid would catch the hooks of his lure and foul up his casts - the fluorocarbon leader eliminated that problem.
Castrol pro David Dudley of Lynchburg, Va., finished third with a two-day total of 34 pounds, 11 ounces worth $45,000.
Dudley spent the week fishing out on the main river channel, targeting a mixture of rock and grass.
He used a 1/2-ounce rattling lipless crankbait in a "baby bass" color and fished the lure on 17-pound-test Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon line with an Elite Tech Riggin' Stik.
"This type of fishing is all about covering miles of water and finding the little sweet spots by feeling what your bait is doing," Dudley explained. "That Berkley fluorocarbon allowed me to feel the difference between rock and grass, and that's so critical. You can cover miles of pure grass and then feel just a rock or two in there, and that's where you're going to get bit. But if you never feel that difference in what your bait is hitting, you'll never know that sweet spot is there."
National Guard pro Ramie Colson Jr. of Cadiz, Ky., finished fourth with a two-day total of 34 pounds, 3 ounces worth $35,000.
Colson used a 1/2-ounce Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap all week, targeting milfoil.
"The whole key where I was fishing was a mix of milfoil in hydrilla," Colson said. "There was some green hydrilla on the bottom, but interspersed in the hydrilla were tufts of milfoil that stood up above the hydrilla. And when you hit one of those clumps of milfoil with the Trap - you better hang on. I could tell when I was about to get a bite because I'd feel the bait run across one of those milfoil tops, and it would change the vibration of the bait."
Tom Mann Jr. of Buford, Ga., finished fifth with a two-day total of 29 pounds, 13 ounces for $30,000.
Mann spent most of the week fishing a Rapala Rattlin' Rap in areas just above the BB Comer bridge the first two days and then retreated to Town Creek today and twitched a Rapala X-rap over grass lines in 3 to 5 feet of water.
"The whole key to that place I was fishing earlier in the week was a good mix of green hydrilla and milfoil," Mann said. "Most of the grass out here now is dormant and has that slimy, mucky look to it. But wherever there were strips of good, green grass, that's where the fish were."
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros in the Walmart FLW Tour Chevy Open on Lake Guntersville:
6th: David Walker of Sevierville, Tenn., two-day total of 28-12, $28,000
7th: John Tanner of Quitman, Texas, 27-12, $26,000
8th: Scott Canterbury of Springville, Ala., 24-14, $24,000
9th: Mike Surman of Boca Raton, Fla., 22-8, $22,000
10th: Craig Dowling of Grant, Ala., 19-8, $20,000
Catch a video recap from each day's action at the Lake Guntersville event with FLW Outdoors On-Demand video. To access the video, click here."
The next FLW Tour event will take place March 12-15 on Table Rock Lake in Branson, Mo.