Co-angler go-to lures

Ever since FLW Outdoors instituted a Co-angler Division in all of its bass tournaments, fishing from the back deck has evolved into a science. As most good co-anglers have discovered, the key to becoming a back-deck ace is to take what the pro is leaving behind and make the best of it. It's an exercise in resourcefulness and expediency. I have covered dozens of FLW Outdoors events over the last several years, and I always take a particular interest in how the winning co-angler survived the elimination rounds and excelled in the finals. What follows in this edition of Tournament Tested is a quick top-10 list of lures that continually make the co-angler headlines. 10) Finesse Jig - Small, compact jigs like the FLW Finesse Jig teamed with "junior" chunks or trailers are excellent baits to use behind pros who are pitching full-size jigs to isolated cover. "When I have to make presentations to the same targets as my pro, I usually try to go with something smaller," said co-angler David Hudson of Jasper, Ala., who has made all but one Forrest L. Wood Championship. Hudson normally employs a finesse jig with a Zoom Super Chunk Jr. tied to 12- to 15-pound-test line. "It provides a different look for fish that may have passed on the first offering by the pro," he added. Rattling lipless crankbait9) Rattling Lipless Crankbait - The industry standard in this department is the Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap, but other companies make various renditions of this proven fish catcher. Carry a couple of different sizes, namely a 1/4 ounce and a 1/2 ounce. The action between the two sizes is drastically different, and fish can get picky about which size they prefer. These lures are typically used to garner reaction bites from grass-bed bass in water temperatures less than 60 degrees. They are indispensable on places like Lake Guntersville, Seminole or Sam Rayburn during the prespawn. They come in dozens of colors, but the standby hues are red, gold and chrome with a blue back. Also, consider using braided line on a "trap." Braid is much more durable, and the diminished stretch allows for a cleaner snap out of clingy grass. Jerkbait8) Jerkbait - This entry mostly applies to open-water fishing for smallmouths on northern lakes in the summer and fall. If your pro starts catching big smallies with a suspending jerkbait, you don't want to be caught without one. The Bomber Long-A was the forerunner for this technique, but the Lucky Craft Pointers and Rapala Husky Jerks have become hot commodities for open-water smallmouth jerkbaiting. Other back-deck producers in the jerkbait category include the suspending Smithwick Rattlin' Rogue and the Rapala 13G minnow. The suspending Rogue is hard to beat on Ozark impoundments, and the floating Rapala is a staple for Florida fishing. Fluorocarbon line in the 8- to 12-pound-test class is becoming popular for the jerkbait technique because it allows the bait to get a little deeper than monofilament. Topwater walker7) Topwater Walker - Though back-deck wins solely on topwater baits are rare, many co-anglers have admitted to catching key "kicker" fish during an event on topwater walking baits such as a Zara Spook, Super Spook or Lucky Craft Sammy. The traditional time for these baits is the postspawn: late spring and early summer. Ironically, though, my records indicate that some of the key fish caught by co-anglers on topwaters came when the topwater bite was least expected: in the prespawn (usually spotted bass lakes), in the middle of the afternoon on a hot summer day or on a frigid fall morning. It might sound crazy, but think of a topwater walker as a "kamikaze" bait. Don't be afraid to wing one out in the middle of a pocket to see if a renegade fish will explode on it while your pro is sight-fishing or flipping. Fluke6) Fluke - Perhaps no other bait can wear as many different hats as a Zoom Fluke. This soft-plastic jerkbait can be Texas rigged, Carolina rigged, put on a heavy darthead for summertime ledge fishing, used as a spinnerbait trailer or just fished weightless with a 4/0 or 5/0 offset hook. A Fluke is a kind of jack-of-all-trades of the co-angler's tackle box. Drop-shot5) Drop-shot - In 2004, Stephen Tosh Jr. of Modesto, Calif., opened co-anglers' eyes to the magic of drop-shotting when he won two FLW Tour co-angler titles in a single season with the finesse technique. Tosh proved that the drop-shot catches big fish on southern impoundments where power fishing often prevails. He won on Kentucky Lake and Lake Logan Martin using his favorite setup: 6-pound-test line, a Kinami cut-tail worm and drop-shot weights ranging from 1/4 ounce to 3/8 ounce. 4) Tube - The standard 4-inch tube is a versatile soft plastic that does double duty as a dragging bait for smallmouths and a pitching bait for largemouths. Fishing a tube for smallmouths requires a supply of leadheads in various sizes that can be inserted into the tube so it can be fished like a grub or dragged along the bottom. TubeFlipping or pitching a tube calls for rigging it Texas-style with a bullet weight and an offset hook, preferably a "wide-gap" model. At the 2004 Forrest Wood Open on Lake Champlain, Jason Knapp of Uniontown, Pa., used a 4-inch Mizmo tube both ways to win the $40,000 co-angler top award. During the qualifying rounds, he caught smallmouths by dragging a tube. On the final day, he drew a pro who was flipping shallow vegetation, and Knapp simply rigged the tube with a 1/2-ounce weight on his flipping stick to catch largemouths for the win. Carolina Rig3) Carolina Rig - In FLW Outdoors' early years, the Carolina rig was the co-angler's bread and butter. Since then, co-anglers have become proficient at many other tactics, and the "rig" has sort of fallen by the wayside. But always carrying the ingredients to make a Carolina rig is like cheap insurance. When all else fails, the old Carolina rig can really come through to post a few keepers on the board and stay in the hunt for a check. Jighead worm2) Jighead Worm - A 4-inch finesse worm impaled on a tiny 1/8-ounce jighead, like a Spotsticker or Spot Remover, has put a lot of money in co-anglers' pockets. The finesse rig, often fished on a spinning rod with 6- to 10-pound line, can be a co-angler's best friend, especially on lakes where spotted bass live. The late W.D. "Hoot" Gibson of Bryant, Ark., was one of the best at the finesse-head game, and he used it all over the country to amass a total of $83,638 in his co-angling career with FLW Outdoors. Senko1) Senko - Over the last few years, the Yamamoto Senko, or Kinami Flash, has become the go-to bait for co-anglers. Some pros even admit to wincing when they see their co-angler pull out a bag of the soft stick baits that sink with a seductive wiggle. These baits have few bounds in terms of where or how they can be fished. Muddy water is just about the only condition that prohibits their use. They can be Texas rigged, Carolina rigged or flipped into heavy cover. But as many co-anglers have discovered, soft stick baits work best when they are rigged weightless with a 4/0 or 5/0 hook. Then just cast it out, let it sink and wait for a bite.

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/news/2015-05-23-brown-rallies-for-seminole-win

Brown Rallies for Seminole Win

When the Rayovac FLW Series event on Lake Seminole started on Thursday, hot, slick conditions prevailed. The air temperatures pushed into the 90’s, water temperatures hovered between 80 and 85 degrees – summertime was on. Or was it? READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-23-jeter-takes-co-angler-crown

Jeter Takes Co-Angler Crown

Call it a local’s sweep at the Rayovac FLW Series on Lake Seminole. While local pro Clint Brown of Bainbridge, Ga., won the boater Division, his Bainbridge neighbor, Greg Jeter won the Co-angler Division to make it a local twofer. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-23-lake-seminole-day-3-midday-update

Lake Seminole Day 3 Midday Update

Second place pro Clint Brown was gaining some serious ground on Reneau as Brown had boxed four solid keepers for about 11 pounds on his very first spot – all caught from protected backwaters with a topwater. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-22-reneau-grabs-lead-on-seminole

Reneau Grabs Lead On Seminole

Though Reneau has weighed in 15-1 and 20-7 over two days for a total of 35 pounds, 8 ounces, he says he is only getting about six bites per day. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-22-top-5-patterns-from-seminole-day-2

Top 5 Patterns From Seminole Day 2

A shake-up occurred on day two of the Rayovac FLW Series presented by Evinrude on Lake Seminole. Day one was all about slow, summertime fishing in the lake’s deep timber. Overnight a frontal passage dropped water and air temperatures and left a north wind howling down the lake. As a result, the timber bite cooled off and those fishing shallower waters climbed up the leaderboard. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-22-lake-seminole-day-2-midday-update

Lake Seminole Day 2 Midday Update

The hot summer at Seminole turned back into spring this morning as a cold front blew through the area dropping air temps some 10 degrees with a blustery north wind. Sweatshirts were needed again as the cold air felt more like April than May. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-21-enfinger-leads-on-seminole

Enfinger Leads On Seminole

Enfinger said he got off to a “fast start” this morning, sacking a limit by 10 a.m., but he only upgraded twice after that, catching about eight keepers on the day. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-21-top-5-patterns-from-seminole-day-1

Top 5 Patterns From Seminole Day 1

Bradley Enfinger took the day-one lead at the Rayovac FLW Series presented by Evinrude on Lake Seminole fishing suspended bass in timber. Others in the top-5 fished both wood and grass on day one. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-21-lake-seminole-midday-update

Lake Seminole Midday Update

Lake Seminole is known to be more of a quality lake than a quantity lake and that trait showed on the morning of day one as anglers who were catching fish were not necessarily getting many bites, but 3-pound pluses seemed to be the norm for the ones hauled in over the gunnel. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-21-seminole-summer

Seminole Summer

Last week, the Walmart FLW Tour plied the waters of the Chattahoochee River on Lake Eufaula. This week, the Rayovac FLW Series moves 60 miles south on the “Hooch” to Lake Seminole for the final event of the Southeast Division. Running offshore brush piles was the dominant theme on Eufaula last week, leaving some to wonder if a similar pattern could work on Seminole, since the two legendary lakes are connected by the same river. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-18-top-10-patterns-from-lake-eufaula

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Eufaula

Bryan Thrift won the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Quaker State on Lake Eufaula by keying on isolated pieces of cover – brush piles, stumps, logs, rocks, etc. – for four days and hitting as many spots as possible during competition hours. Others in the top 10 fished a very similar program, but there were a few wild cards. Here’s the rundown of Eufaula’s top finishers. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-17-thrift-by-3

Thrift by 3

The “numbers game.” It’s a term that Bryan Thrift used to describe his fishing on Lake Eufaula back in 2013 when he finished runner-up to Randy Haynes in a Walmart FLW Tour event. The method to his numbers madness was to hit as many solitary objects – stumps, brush piles, rocks, logs – on the bottom of Lake Eufaula as humanly possible in an eight-hour tournament day. When Thrift saw that Lake Eufaula was back on the 2015 Walmart FLW Tour schedule for May of this year, he grinned that patented Bryan Thrift grin because he already knew how to crunch the numbers at Eufaula. And Thrift is still grinning. After sacking up a final-day catch of 15 pounds, 5 ounces to top off 69-14 for the week, Thrift made the numbers work for his fourth FLW Tour win. He added another $125,000 to his bank account. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-15-morrow-marches-ahead

Morrow Marches Ahead

Day two at the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Quaker State at Lake Eufaula challenged anglers with tougher conditions as clouds and wind hindered much of the offshore bite. But while some of the top 10 struggled to duplicate their success from day one, Troy Morrow moved from second up into the driver's seat with a day-two catch of 18 pounds, 1 ounce. His total for the event stands at 39-09, giving him a 1-04 lead over day-one leader Clent Davis. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-15-top-5-patterns-from-lake-eufaula-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from Lake Eufaula Day 2

Troy Morrow took over the lead on the second day of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Quaker State on Lake Eufaula. Morrow did most of his damage late in the day once other pros in earlier flights had checked in. He’s working a milk run of brush piles, as are many of the top pros, but the continued fishing pressure is starting to really affect the bite. Here’s how the rest of the top five is dealing with the pressure. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-14-top-5-patterns-from-lake-eufaula-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Lake Eufaula Day 1

Clent Davis, the day-one leader of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Quaker State on Lake Eufaula, described his fishing methodology as being a “numbers game.” He’s hitting as many isolated pieces of offshore cover as possible in a single day. Some of the other leaders behind him used similar terminology to describe their fishing. Here’s how the rest of the top five got it done today. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-14-davis-leads-stacked-top-10

Davis Leads Stacked Top 10

Ordinarily, when four professional bass anglers catch more than 20 pounds on the first day of a major tournament on Lake Eufaula in early summer, no one is surprised. This week, however, Eufaula is a bit off its game due to a cocktail of challenging conditions. Pros expected this to be a low-weight event. It won’t be, if the day-one weights are any indication. Clent Davis of Montevallo, Ala., weighed in a five-bass limit that registered 22 pounds, 9 ounces to take the lead by 1-01 over Georgia pro Troy Morrow. Adrian Avena and Ramie Colson Jr. are tied for third with 20-10, while the next five in the standings all topped 18 pounds. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-28-top-10-patterns-from-beaver-lake

Top 10 Patterns from Beaver Lake

No matter what the conditions are at Beaver Lake, Matt Arey has an uncanny ability to dial up the right baits to match the appetite of the lake’s fickle bass. This year the Quaker State pro relied primarily on two baits for his win. The first was a 5-inch hand-poured swimbait teamed with a 7/0 Gamakatsu EWG Monster Worm Hook tied to 20-pound-test P-Line fluorocarbon. The second was a wacky-rigged Lunkerhunt Lunker Stick impaled on a Gamakatsu 1/0 split-shot/drop-shot hook. The power/finesse combination provided Arey with a search-and-destroy program. He would use the swimbait as a “search bait” to find fish and then follow up with the finesse of the wacky rig for bedders that would not commit to the swimbait. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-26-arey-does-it-again

Arey Does it Again

Quaker State pro Matt Arey of Shelby, N.C., wowed the crowed in Rogers, Ark., today with an incredible 17-pound, 3-ounce five-bass limit to come from behind and win the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac on Beaver Lake. This is Arey’s second consecutive Beaver Lake FLW Tour victory. Arey’s final-day surge was enough to surpass two-time reigning Angler of the Year Andy Morgan, who led yesterday but weighed in only 9-08 today and fell to third. Arey’s four-day total was 55-06, earning the pro $125,000. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-25-top-5-patterns-from-beaver-lake-day-3

Top 5 Patterns from Beaver Lake Day 3

Andy Morgan didn’t light up the world on day three of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac on Beaver Lake, but he caught what he needed to maintain the lead and put a 1-pound, 9-ounce cushion between he and Matt Arey. Most of the rest of the top 20 scrambled today, abandoning their patterns and trying new options to try and make the final-day cut. Here’s how the top five got it done. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-24-make-way-for-morgan

Make Way for Morgan

“Hidden largemouths” is quickly becoming the buzz term at the Walmart FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake presented by Rayovac, as those atop the leaderboard are using the term to refer to spawning largemouths that are so well hidden that other competitors never found them. These hidden fish are covered by thick brush, hidden so deep that they were only found during the very rare windows of sunshine during practice or located off the beaten path. The latter are not in obvious pockets or places where one would expect to find beds, but rather out on the main bluff channels where few ever look. On day one, Jacob Wheeler caught hidden largemouths to take the lead. On day two, former Beaver Lake champion Andy Morgan caught hidden largemouths to take over the pole position going into the weekend. His catch of 15 pounds, 7 ounces today gives Morgan a two-day total of 28-09 to take the lead by just 11 ounces. READ MORE »