UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2020 - James River

Top 10 Patterns from the Harris Chain

Top 10 Patterns from the Harris Chain
Glenn Browne

Giant spawning bass kept popping up in the weigh-in bags of some of the FLW Tour’s heavy hitters during the first two days of the Harris Chain event, which was presented by Lowrance. And after Friday’s weigh-in it looked like spawners might produce the kind of mega-bag that it takes to win in Florida.

They didn’t. Whether the biggest spawners were just fished out or the spawning wave was finished, that program dried up to a trickle on Saturday, and only three pros made the top 10 by leaning on spawning bass. They were Glenn Browne, Jared McMillan and Anthony Gagliardi, who only had one good day of bed-fishing. The rest of the top 10, including four of the top five, were camped out offshore where they caught prespawn and postspawn bass and capitalized on a shad spawn.

Browne fished Apopka all week, and McMillan went to Denham. John Hunter fished Little Harris. The other seven top-10 finishers spent the majority of their time in Lake Harris, where the tournament’s takeoff and weigh-in were based.

Canadian pro Chris Johnston played the offshore game best and earned his first career FLW Tour win with a four-day total of 79 pounds, 6 ounces. Here’s how the rest of the top 10 handled stop No. 2 of the 2018 Tour.

 

2. Jeff Gustafson – Keewatin, Ontario – 77-0

Jeff Gustafson is a fan favorite among Canadian bass anglers. He’s a television star in his home country, an outdoor communicator and a successful guide. Most importantly, he’s a friendly, approachable fishing celebrity, which is why he’s so popular back home and throughout the Upper Midwest. And he can also flat out get it done in tournament competition.

“Gussy,” as he’s known, has a successful tournament resume in Canada and is showing each season on the FLW Tour that he can get it done on U.S. waters, too. This week, he came closer than ever to winning a Tour event, finishing runner-up to Johnston by less than 3 pounds for his third career top-10 finish.

All week Gussy combed the hydrilla beds of Lake Harris with a 1/2-ounce Z-Man/Evergreen Jack Hammer ChatterBait with a Z-Man RaZor ShadZ swimbait trailer.

“You put one on and it’ll last you, like, 40 fish,” he says of the RaZor ShadZ.

On the final day, Gussy hammered away at fish after fish. By lunchtime he didn’t have a keeper smaller than 3 pounds in the box, with a 6-plus kicker to go with them.

“I probably had eight or 10 spots. Most were a hole or edge,” he says. “I had one or two places it was matted on top. If you’d catch them there they seemed to be schooled up better. But I didn’t catch any on those spots today [Sunday].

“You had to fish to find the spots,” Gussy adds. “It was very easy to go an hour or two without a bite, and I think that’s what discouraged a lot of people from doing it.”

Gussy’s best spots were 8 to 12 feet deep.

“I was fishing the ChatterBait like a ‘trap’ [Rat-L-Trap],” he says. “On top of the stuff I was reeling it like normal. On the ‘edgy’ stuff I’d fire it out, let it sink and just rip it up off the bottom. I was popping it. A few of these spots I think you could’ve caught them on a trap, but on a lot of them it [the grass] was too thick.”

An important key to Gussy’s presentation was his rod selection – a G.Loomis NRX 894 7-foot, 5-inch, 4-power (heavy). The stiffer rod helped with ripping the bait through grass and with setting the hook at the end of a long cast. He paired it with 20-pound-test fluorocarbon.

 

3. John Hunter – Shelbyville, Ky. – 75-13

Pre-weigh-in estimates for John Hunter’s final limit ranged from 20 pounds to nearly 24 pounds, which gave him a lot of buzz on the FLW Live show and social media leading up to Sunday’s weigh-in. Unfortunately, even if he had weighed 24 pounds, Hunter still would have had too much of a deficit to make up to come from 10th place and catch Johnston. He finished with 21-11 and a four-day total of 75-13.

Hunter was consistently around the 20-pound mark every day except day one, when he weighed in only 13-6.

He targeted offshore hydrilla in 5 to 8 feet of water on large flat in Little Harris.

“I did the same thing every day of the tournament,” he says. “I didn’t fish my primary area the first day until midday. I caught them pretty good, and that’s what clued me in that I was doing the right thing.”

The right thing was throwing a 6th Sense Provoke jerkbait in a solid shad pattern in low-light conditions and a translucent Megabass Vision 110 in the afternoons when the sun got high. He also fished a Z-Man/Evergreen Jack Hammer ChatterBait in shallower areas.

“These fish would gang up on the little holes in the grass,” he says. “There’d be a sand spot, and they’d group up really tight there. It wasn’t a great big spot; it’d be the size of your boat. As soon as I’d catch one, I’d pole down, because if you’d catch one, you’d catch five. There wasn’t much action in between. Sometimes I’d go one or two hours in between flurries.”

Hunter located one or two of the key sand spots in practice and gradually expanded on them during the tournament. He wound up catching about half of his fish on the deeper end of his depth range and half shallower, though he says the bulk of the fish were gradually moving out throughout the event.

The only other keeper Hunter weighed in was a 5-pounder he caught on a prop bait in the early hours of day four.

“I went up shallow because I was struggling to get bit in the mornings,” he adds.  

The highlight of the week for him was the 7-pounder that hammered the ChatterBait in front of one of FLW’s cameramen on the final day. That fish hit the tournament blog in the afternoon and eventually fired up a packed weigh-in crowd when Hunter was the first to weigh in and showed off the Harris hawg for the Leesburg bass heads.

 

4. Glenn Browne – Ocala, Fla. – 73-15

A lot of folks believed that if anyone was going to catch Chris Johnston on the final day, it’d be Florida’s own Glenn Browne, who was dialed in on a bed-fishing pattern about 90 minutes away from takeoff in Lake Apopka.

Unfortunately for Browne, the quality bites seemed to taper off during the weekend, and he came up shy.

“I don’t know what happened,” Browne says. “I ran a lot of new water. I don’t know if they’re just finishing up on this wave or what.”

Apopka used to be one of Florida’s best lakes until poor agricultural practices around the lake degraded the water quality. The state has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to improve the habitat and stock bass. It’s once again a quality fishery, but the time commitment to get there kept most pros from making the run to Apopka. Only six pros made the trip down on day one, but three of them – Browne, Zack Birge and Jordan Osborne – reached the top-30 cut.

“I generally like Griffin. I live 20 minutes from Griffin,” Browne says. “I went down there [to Apopka] before it went off-limits and got a lot of bites. I got bites several places, but the better quality was down there. Plus I knew there wouldn’t be many other people down there.”

Apopka’s murky water left Browne unable to sight-fish for the spawners he was catching. Instead, he flipped a Copperfield-colored Gambler Ugly Otter on a 1/2-ounce Texas rig to holes and other spots among arrowhead plants and reeds where he assumed bass might be spawning.

“That lake has a real mucky bottom,” Browne says. “They [arrowheads] have a harder root system. They’ll spawn on the roots.”

Most fish ate the bait on the initial fall. When Browne spotted any type of movement or swirl in the water, he’d lock down with his Power-Poles, pitch in and treat the situation as if he was sight-fishing.

Browne’s flipping tackle included a 7-foot, 6-inch Team Lew’s Custom Pro Speed Stick Series Magnum Heavy Cover rod, a Lew’s SuperDuty G Speed Spool LFS Series XHL reel with the Flipping Speed Switch and 65-pound-test braided line.

 

5. Buddy Gross – Chickamauga, Ga. – 69-15

Buddy Gross didn’t spend every minute of his four-day tournament at one hydrilla flat on Lake Harris, but he might as well have. That’s where he caught the bulk of his 69-15 tournament total.

“I found some holes [in the hydrilla], and I was keying on the holes,” Gross says. “I wasn’t using the edges. It was about 8 feet deep, and the grass came up about 4 feet above the bottom.

“I found an area with about six or seven holes together. It was great until today [Sunday]. I think we just caught ’em all. I was sharing with Bryan Thrift [13th place].”

Gross says every big fish he caught was a postspawn fish, but the spot included a mix. One 2-pounder he caught the last day was dropping eggs.

His go-to baits were a Profound Outdoors Azuma Shaker Z Mime lipless crankbait (chrome), a Texas-rigged Zoom Trick Worm (junebug) and a Z-Man ChatterBait (white). Whenever he found a patch of grass to flip, Gross used a Zoom Z Craw.

 

6. Matt Greenblatt – Port St Lucie, Fla. – 69-1

Had he not had to share his offshore spot in Harris with several other top-30 pros who, combined, weighed in eight 20-pound-plus stringers over four days, Matt Greenblatt might well have pressed Johnston for the win.

Unfortunately, early limits of 19-11 and 22-1 gave way to 13-4 and 14-1 on the weekend, and Greenblatt simply couldn’t keep pace.

“The big girls left the building,” he says. “I beat up that area pretty bad, but so did many others. And they were there, but they were on the move.”

Greenblatt thinks his offshore spot was so productive because it was close to shore, which meant bass that were staging there to spawn or leaving the nests didn’t have to travel too far to reach the hydrilla he was fishing.

His best areas ranged from 5 to 9 feet deep, with scattered grass on the edges and thicker grass in the middle. The grass was formed into three rows, with two bare areas in between that appeared to form an equal sign.

“I was running the lanes,” Greenblatt says. “They were kind of holding where the void met the grass.”

There were tons of small buck bass in the area, he recalls. Greenblatt says the best way to target a bigger bite was to go big and go fast, so he gradually stepped up his black and blue Yamamoto Senko from a 5-incher to a 6-incher to a 7-incher on the final day. Similarly, he fished his junebug Zoom UV Speed Worm with a fast retrieve.

 

7. Tony Dumitras – Winston, Ga. – 68-8

In his hunt for his first career win as a pro, Tony Dumitras saw everything go just as planned, right up until the final day. He fell out of contention on Sunday with just two fish for 7-6.

“I got five bites and only caught two,” Dumitras says. “I broke off one good one, set the hook too quick on another.”

All week Dumitras frequented four offshore areas in Harris and Little Harris that were located very close to spawning flats. He fished a Texas-rigged black Zoom Magnum Trick Worm at a painfully slow pace, only occasionally working in a gold Strike King Red Eye Shad, Keitech swimbait and Zoom Fluke rigged on a lead-head.

His best area was 8 to 10 feet deep. Shad were spawning in hydrilla, providing a good morning bite that on the final day produced a 6-pounder right after takeoff. The flurry just didn’t last.

“They moved up,” Dumitras says. “I believe they did. But the thing about it is I couldn’t trim my motor to go up and get them. It went out.”

 

8. Kurt Dove – Del Rio, Texas – 67-0

Texan Kurt Dove was in the offshore camp as well. He exclusively fished hydrilla flats in Lake Harris.

Dove fished two primary areas that were very close to one another. His best spot was one he shared with Anthony Gagliardi. It was 11 to 12 feet deep.

“I started off really good. I had 19-4 on day one fishing outside hydrilla,” Dove says. “Anthony and I fished real close all day. It was an all-day bite.

“Day two the morning bite was slower. I had 16-5. I got a limit real quick for about 13 pounds and then had to go middepth – about 8 feet.”

On the shallower spot, Dove targeted “barren ground,” or open holes in the grass where bass were grouped up.

He worked the combo approach again on day three and landed 14 pounds early offshore, then upgraded later with a few better fish, including a 6-pounder, to get to 19-6. The final day went slowly all around, and Dove finished up with just 12-1.

“Whether it was deep plastics or jerkbaits, I had a hard time getting bit,” he adds. “I couldn’t get any quality bites.”

Dove fished an ima Flit 120 jerkbait in chartreuse shad on his shallower areas. He found the deep spot while punching some thicker patches of hydrilla, but in the tournament he wound up catching the deeper fish on a Yamamoto Senko in black blue fleck.

“Whenever it was high and sunny, the deep bite stayed good all day,” he says. “When it was cloudy I switched to a jerkbait.”

Key changes included upgrading hooks. He added Hayabusa TBL930 treble hooks to the jerkbait and used a Hayabusa WRM959 wide-gap hook with the Senko.

 

9. Jared McMillan – Belle Glade, Fla. – 66-5

Only Jared McMillan and Harry Moore made the long idle trip into Lake Denham, which is located just west of Lake Harris. To most observers, there wasn’t much to like about Denham, but that’s what McMillan liked about it: There wasn’t much fishing pressure. His strategy earned him a top-10 finish and landed him in second place behind Chris Johnston in the Angler of the Year race after two events.

“There’s a lot of slime,” McMillan says of Denham. “In practice I found a bunch of beds there, but just no fish on most of them.”

Although bedding fish weren’t prevalent, in practice McMillan did spot a 10-pounder and a 5-pounder on beds, and several good fish cruising. And he picked up a couple 4-pounders while burning a ChatterBait. That was enough to convince him to give it a shot.

“I figured if I got a bite in there it’d be better quality,” he says. “And I figured there wouldn’t be much pressure because of the slime.”

McMillan wound up catching a couple of keepers on the ChatterBait every day except day three, when he caught his entire limit sight-fishing. The rest of his keepers on the other three days were also sight-fished.

“There weren’t anymore [fish] moving up, and there was tons of fry,” he says of the final day, when he weighed his smallest limit – 11-1. “They’d already done their deal. I just got lucky and found a couple good ones.”

McMillan used the Z-Man/Evergreen Jack Hammer ChatterBait in green pumpkin with a Bruiser Baits Super Swimmer trailer. If he felt the fish were lethargic, he swapped the Super Swimmer for a Yamamoto Zako. He sight-fished with a Bruiser Baits Crazy Craw and Big Stick.

 

10. Anthony Gagliardi – Prosperity, S.C. – 65-1

Former Forrest Wood Cup champ Anthony Gagliardi loves to sight-fish. Yet, for the first two days of the tournament, his primary pattern was fishing slowly in offshore hydrilla in Lake Harris. That’s how he caught his limits of 22-7 and 10-9 on days one and two, respectively.

After the struggle of day two, Gagliardi decided he’d been too stubborn. So on Saturday, he started deep, sacked about 13 pounds and left before he crashed and burned again.

He went sight-fishing and blind-casting for bedding fish in some canals located off the southwest corner of Lake Beauclair and upgraded to 24-13 to make the top-10 cut.

That’s when his luck ran out.

“Today [Sunday] I started deep,” he says. “It reminded me of day two, where it just seemed like it wasn’t going to happen.”

He abandoned the offshore pattern with less than a limit and ran back to the canals. Overcast skies that lasted late into the morning hurt him, as did dingy water in the canals. But better sight-fishing conditions likely wouldn’t have helped. Gagliardi’s fish just never moved onto the beds. 

“Yesterday [Saturday] gave me a false sense of hope with those spawners up there,” he says. “I knew I wasn’t going to catch 24 pounds offshore, so I had to try. It was terrible. I didn’t actually see a bedding fish at all.”

Gagliardi picked up a few fish by blind-casting in the canals and then struck out at the end of the day on the offshore grass in Harris. A last-ditch effort to find a spawner on the bank at Harris was also fruitless. He assembled a limit of 7-4 for the day.

Gagliardi’s best offshore spot featured what he called “scattered, clumpy grass.” He caught fish there using a Carolina-rigged Black Flagg Grande Worm. In the shallows, he used a Buckeye Lures J-Will Swim Jig, but switched to a white-colored Black Flagg Slikk Shadd on a drop-shot for sight-fishing. A wacky worm produced a few bites on the final day.

Tags: curtis-niedermier  post-tournament  2018-02-22-harris-chain-of-lakes 

Top 10 Patterns from the Mississippi River

Top 10 Patterns from the Mississippi River

Instead of limits coming in bunches, the top pros were often scrambling to get five keeper bites a day at the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Super Tournament presented by OPTIMA Batteries event. READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from Wheeler Lake

Top 10 Patterns from Wheeler Lake

As promised, Wheeler Lake turned out to be the stingiest of the two stops on the Toyota Series Southeastern Division so far this season. The dog days of summer put the kibosh on the main-lake bite, leaving Wheeler’s many shallow creeks and tributaries to supply the pounds and ounces at weigh-in. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Wheeler Lake

Top 10 Baits from Wheeler Lake

The Toyota Series Southeastern Division event on Wheeler Lake was a shallow-water power-fishing showdown in tough summertime conditions. Almost all the fish the top 10 pros caught came from 5 feet of water or less, and a fair amount of those were caught in 3 feet or less. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from the Mississippi River

Top 10 Baits from the Mississippi River

The top pros in the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Super Tournament presented by OPTIMA Batteries on the Mississippi River ended up using fairly similar tactics to attack the river, but with slight variations throughout. Tom Monsoor won with a variety of unique jigs, but many of the other top finishers used more standard fare. READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Erie

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Erie

Lee Rogers mixed smallmouths from the nearby islands with a good largemouth day near Sandusky to win the Toyota Series Northern Division event on Lake Erie. Outside of Rogers, the top 10 was filled with folks making substantial runs eastward or to Michigan. It also proved helpful to actually get something going around Sandusky, both during days one and two and on the wind-hampered final day. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Lake Erie

Top 10 Baits from Lake Erie

The Toyota Series Northern Division event on Lake Erie featured pretty tough fishing overall. On the first two days, many of the top pros ran to the Detroit River or St. Clair for their fish, and others plied the waters nearer Sandusky. On the final day, the entire field was confined to the waters in and around Sandusky Bay due to wind, and everyone switched to targeting largemouths. READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from Chickamauga

Top 10 Patterns from Chickamauga

When you put one of the largest and most talented fields of bass anglers on one of the best bass fishing lakes in the country, big things are bound to happen. The Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Super Tournament on Lake Chickamauga became a battle between shallow and deep, with pros on either side catching big stringers of giant bass. Here's how they did it. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Chickamauga

Top 10 Baits from Chickamauga

When so many anglers are throwing similar baits and running similar patterns, doing something a little different can be quite the advantage. Sure enough, the pros who made the top 10 at the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Super Tournament on Lake Chickamauga all had techniques or tactics of their own to set themselves apart. READ MORE »

Several Patterns in Play at Ouachita BFL

Several Patterns in Play at Ouachita BFL

FLW has a long history of hosting multiple-day summertime tournaments on Lake Ouachita, where pros have to grind it out for three days in what are usually tough conditions. On June 27, when the Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine Arkie Division takes to Ouachita, the Natural State’s best bass anglers will need to game plan a little differently. With only one day to fish and a three-bass limit, they’ll have to swing for the fences with big-bass patterns to have a shot at winning. READ MORE »

HS Championship Will be a Frog-Fest

HS Championship Will be a Frog-Fest

If you wanted to design the perfect frog-fishing tournament, you might host it at Guntersville or the Cal Delta, but you could also copy the agenda for the Student Angler Federation High School Fishing National Championship on the Mississippi River out of La Crosse, Wis. READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Eufaula

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Eufaula

Josh Stracner won the 2020 Toyota Series Southeastern Division event on Lake Eufaula by fishing offshore. He targeted deep ledges in the mid-lake area for two days before switching to brush piles in 12 to 15 feet on the final day when a front moved through and replaced still, sunny conditions with wind and overcast skies. The rest of the top 10, with one exception, also fished offshore in what turned out to be a pretty typical June ledge-fishing tournament.  READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Lake Eufaula

Top 10 Baits from Lake Eufaula

June on Eufaula is ledge season. Well, mostly. Nine of the top 10 in the Toyota Series Southeastern Division event at Eufaula fished offshore, but targets included ledges, brush piles, standing timber and some “in-between” offshore structure where bass stopped in transition from the bank to out deep. One pro even fished exclusively shallow. Here are the baits they used to make the cut. READ MORE »

Co-angler Lewis Wins at Eufaula

Co-angler Lewis Wins at Eufaula

Co-angler Blake Lewis followed the lead of pro Josh Stracner at Lake Eufaula today, coming from behind to earn the Toyota Series Southeastern Division tournament win. Lewis, of Pace, Fla., caught a three-day total weight of 44 pounds, 4 ounces to win by just 11 ounces. He came into the final day in fourth place. READ MORE »

Stracner Shifts to Brush for Eufaula Win

Stracner Shifts to Brush for Eufaula Win

What started as Michael Smith’s week turned into Josh Stracner’s day today, as Stracner came back from third place to win the Toyota Series Southeastern Division season opener at Lake Eufaula. READ MORE »

Lake Eufaula Midday Update – Day 3

Lake Eufaula Midday Update – Day 3

For the first two days of the Toyota Series Southeastern Division event at Lake Eufaula, the early morning bite was key for many of the top pros. It was almost common to hear comments from the top 10 anglers about catching 15 to 20 pounds within the first hour. Today, that’s changed. The first two hours of the day were actually pretty tough. There were some limits caught, but nobody lit up the leaderboard. READ MORE »

Lake Eufaula Top 5 Patterns – Day 2

Lake Eufaula Top 5 Patterns – Day 2

It’s not like we didn’t already know it, but today the top 10 anglers drove home the point: To win at Lake Eufaula right now, you have to be fishing offshore. Among the ledge anglers this week is Michael Smith, who maintains his lead at the Toyota Series Southeastern Division event with a two-day total of 50 pounds. Here’s how the rest of the top performers made it to Saturday. READ MORE »

Smith Leads at Eufaula with 50 Pounds

Smith Leads at Eufaula with 50 Pounds

Competing in the Toyota Series Southeastern Division event at Lake Eufaula this week, Michael Smith weighed in 25 pounds, 7 ounces yesterday to take the lead and backed it up with 24-9 today. His 50-pound two-day total has Smith ahead of second-place pro Scott Montgomery by 5 pounds, 9 ounces.  READ MORE »

Lake Eufaula Midday Update – Day 2

Lake Eufaula Midday Update – Day 2

Fishing is good, but it’s not easy today at Lake Eufaula on the second day of the Toyota Series Southeastern Division event. Well, that’s only part of the story. READ MORE »

Lake Eufaula Top 5 Patterns – Day 1

Lake Eufaula Top 5 Patterns – Day 1

Michael Smith established the pace at the Toyota Series Southeastern Division event on Lake Eufaula with a five-bass first-day limit that weighed 25 pounds, 7 ounces. He leads a crew of mostly offshore sticks that are mining Eufaula’s brush piles and ledges for some seriously big bass. Though, it’s worth pointing out that several in the top 10 did catch some or all of their keepers up shallow today. Here’s a rundown of the top five after one day of fishing. READ MORE »

Smith Smacks 25-7 at Eufaula

Smith Smacks 25-7 at Eufaula

It’s a 90-minute drive from Michael Smith’s Andalusia, Ala., home to Lakepoint Resort State Park where the Toyota Series Southeastern Division kicked off its season today on Lake Eufaula. That’s just close enough, says Smith, that he fishes here more than anywhere else. His understanding of how Eufaula’s bass transition from the bank to postspawn ares to the main lake really showed today while Smith put together an impressive 25-pound, 7-ounce limit to gain the day-one tournament lead. READ MORE »