Clunn stinks at rivers?? Elite baits, Drew Benton’s bait massage technique

Coverin’ 2 trails in-depth this year is a little hectic so pls bear with me as I figure this out. Have a lot from the first Elite, probly can’t get it all in this’n — and baits followup from the first MLF BPT…and both trails have another derby this week! All good — never too much bassin’ yo!

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Today’s Top 5

Rick Clunn rides again and…stinks at fishing rivers??

Wow how ’bout that guy! Lemme ‘splain that rivers thing since his last 2 B.A.S.S. wins (of 16 total!) were on the St. Johns River. Quick story, totally true:

I’m down at the Elite, talkin’ to Rick before the blastoff I think on day 1, and he told me he wasn’t that good at fishing rivers. He didn’t like it, and was more of a reservoir guy. I said to him — for real — “Rick, I feel like I need to remind you about a couple of your Classic wins.”

He looked at me and said, “You know I won a Classic on the James River” (or something like that). I was like, “Yeah I know!” But I think maybe he was more talkin’ to himself?

Was gonna point out that he won at this exact river 3 years prior, but I ended up at the Classic wins — thought it was a more powerful example.

Crazy ain’t it! Even crazier cuz then he goes out and wins yet another RIVER derby! lol, love it!

Okay one more story. You know how Rick is a dead serious fisherman, doesn’t smile even holding a blue trophy. Well, got to thinkin’ if I’ve ever seen him really smile, and came up with once — when he was making fun of me (a little) in front of his son years ago at an ICAST show. All good, loved it — just fyi he DOES have a sense of humor!

Haven’t gotten to Rick’s winning pattern and baits yet, will run him down soon.

High-finishin’ Elitist baits.

Workin’ on gettin’ Chris Johnston’s info — he’s Canadian so there’s a little language barrier there (lol). Here’s the rest of the top 5:

3rd: Mark Menendez

> Strike King Rage Craw (Falcon Lake craw) with 5/16-oz Tour Grade Tungsten Weight (gp) and 5/0 Gammy hook. 7′ 6″ Lew’s Custom Speed Stick Magnum Heavy Cover Rod, Lew’s Hypermag Reel (7.5), 20-lb Seaguar InvizX fluoro. Fished in 3-6′, isolated submerged pilings located with Garmin Livescope.
> 3/8-oz Strike King Premier Plus Spinnerbait (black/brown/green/purple skirt with chartreuse plastic threaded on hook shank for added flash. Rapid Fishing Solutions replacement disc added to hold trailer hook in place. 7′ 3″ Lew’s Custom Speed Stick Football Jig Rod [“great spinnerbait rod”], Team Lew’s Lite Reel (6.8), 17-lb Seaguar InvizX. Fished in dollar pads and laydown trees.
> “HydroWave was extremely important. Used ‘shallow finesse’ with volume level low.”

4th: Patrick Walters

> 3/8-oz Zorro Bango Blade spinnerbait (chart/white, #3 silver IN, #4 gold willow) with a 3″ Storm Coastal GT Swimbait (white), 7’4″ MH Daiwa Tatula Elite Cranking Rod, Daiwa Tatula SV TWS Reel (6.3), 17-lb Sufix Invisiline fluoro.
> Zoom Magnum Trick Worm (watermelon red), 5/0 VMC Heavy Duty EWG Hook, 3/16-oz VMC Tungsten Worm Weight, 7′ 4″ H Daiwa Tatula Elite Frog Rod, Daiwa Tatula SV TWS Reel (8.1), 20-lb Sufix fluoro.
> Zoom Magnum Finesse Worm (junebug and black), 4/0 VMC Flippin Hook, 3/8-oz VMC tungsten weight, 7’6″ H Daiwa KAGE Rod, Daiwa Tatula 100 Reel (7.1), 20-lb Sufix fluoro.

> “Fished the north end of Lake George…spawning areas where the fish were continuing to pull up to isolated buggy whips and sawgrass patches in about 1-2′.

> “…making blind casts and flips to areas where I believed there would be a bed or any piece of isolated structure.

> “Main key was finding areas where fish were coming to and not where they were at in practice, and finding clean water.”

5th: John Crews

> Missile Baits 48 (junebug), 4/0 Gamakatsu Heavy Cover Worm Hook, 3/16-oz weight. 7′ 6″ MH Cashion flipping stick, high-speed reel, 20-lb Sunline Shooter fluorocarbon.

> Fished it around shallow grass and lily pads. Looked like places they would be spawning.

The Elites are mostly the same.

Would it be different? Would it feel different? That’s what I was thinking when I got to the St Johns Elite last week. Where I come out is:

> It’s mostly the same. Everyone at the Elites is the same, except for about half the field, which is also smaller. That’s the biggest difference — maybe the only difference. Trip, Mercer, Sanders, Zona, all the B.A.S.S. folks — they’re all doing their thing like the well-oiled thing it is. Don’t take it for granted cuz it’s really good….

> BUT it’s different. Think it was a little weird for everyone not seeing some familiar pros, and it was way more relaxed…or at least it was the first 2 days when I was there. Mellower, more happy-happy, more positive, guys way less stressed.

That more-positive, more-chill feeling was JUST LIKE at the MLF Bass Pro Tour #1…and the comments of the anglers at both tours were similar too, as you’ll read below. (The Elites — you can read the BPTers’ comments here.)

Innerestin’ ain’t it. If it matters, glad to see/feel it at both places. Feels like the whole pro bassin’ thang’s gotten some kinda medicine that maybe it didn’t know it needed.

Just one knucklehead’s 2c….

How the Elitists FELT.

Asked them the same thing I asked the MLF/BPTers — Does it FEEL different? Didn’t get to everybody but did get most of ’em. Too many to include here, so gotcha the vets — click here for all the guys:

> Bernie Schultz — “It’s a smaller field so there’s more water. Suddenly the lake is more expansive. The feeling’s not different. Still anxious…still losing sleep. When that stops you might as well quit.”

> Mark Menendez — “It’s definitely different. The attitude, the camaraderie, the excitement level are different. This group of fishermen is supremely talented. Only the names have changed.”

> Cliff Pirch — “I haven’t been this excited in a long time…. It’s a new field and they’re really making an effort to make things better for the fishermen. It’s not as stressful.”

> Hank Cherry — “All my buddies are gone…but I’m still going fishing. You still just gotta catch ’em.”

> Bill Lowen — “It doesn’t feel different. It looks different but it doesn’t feel different. I feel like I’m gonna puke right now.” [He was rigging up in the boat pre-launch day 1.]

> Matt Herren — “It’s no different. It’s the Bassmaster Elite Series. The odds may be more in your favor in terms of opportunity but you’ve still got to go out and catch ’em. Doesn’t matter about the field size or who’s here.”

> Chad Pipkens – “Fishing’s fishing — I’m ready to go. I’m so excited to get started.”

> Chris Zaldain — “Absolutely. At the [pre-tournament] meeting normally it’d be like the first day back at school and I’d be looking [around the room at the big-name, longer-term pros]. We have a new group of kids looking at me that way, shaking my hand saying, ‘Thank you, let’s have a great season.’ That doesn’t mean they don’t have talent. In the next couple weeks you’ll know who they are.”

> Cliff Prince — “It’s fishing. It’s kind of strange when you run down the river and don’t see as many guys out there.”

> Seth Feider — “I don’t think so. It’s a fishing tournament man. I’ve just been waiting a long time to go fishing.”

> Keith Combs — “I’ve got my mind on how I’m going to catch fish. It’s felt different up til now, but now it’s gametime.”

> Drew Benton — “Absolutely. We have something to prove as a group and organization. But we still have to go get the 5 biggest.”

> Brandon Lester — “Nope. It looks different but it doesn’t feel any different.”

> Rick Clunn — “No. It’s just a tournament. You have to go out there, get current and let things naturally unfold.”

> Rick Morris — “It feels better. I’d say the energy is higher. It’s not the same old group and it’s not the same old plan. Everyone’s lifting each other up and getting along better.”

> Yusuke Miyazaki –“It feels really good. I really want to fish here. The Elite Series is elite still. You still have to catch them.”

> Jason Williamson — “Today I’m more relaxed [than prior years]. The whole atmosphere, from the meeting to the takeoff, is more relaxed. It’s not so tense.”

> Micah Frazier — “It’s definitely a lot different…less boats and we’re missing a lot of guys you’re used to seeing. I think it’ll be good…changes we’ve already seen come to the sport are good.”

> John Crews — “The biggest difference was the fishing. It’s never fished like this before. To me it’s thrown the whole week off.”

> Steve Kennedy — “It’s different. At the campground there’s a lot of new faces.”

> Kelley Jaye — “I was a little nervous this morning…not as comfortable. With a new field you don’t know what to expect. The past couple years I wasn’t nervous at all.”

> Brian Snowden — “It did feel different…excitement, but I also grew up fishing with a lot of guys who are no longer here. But if felt good…electric atmosphere.”

> Brandon Card — “It definitely feels different. …nerves just as much as previous years, but it’s a smaller field…didn’t see as many guys in practice. Not having Kevin VanDam here is just weird. But it’s cool I’m getting to fish with some of the guys I looked up to, like Jay Yelas. He’s my angling hero.”

> Paul Mueller — “No because at the end of the day you have to catch fish. So when you have a tough practice it feels about the same. Different [field] but these guys can catch ’em.”

To see what the “previous Elites/newer Elites” and fo sho “new guys said, click here.

Highlights from the Elite.

Some behind the scenes-ish stuff:

Dave Mercer’s high-energy personal sendoff of each angler at the blastoffs is great. Guess I always just took it for granted. Seeing how much the pros and crowd enjoyed it made me realize how much fun it is. Good job Mercer:

Here’s the crew that takes care of the beloved critters we all know as “fish.” Judging by how angry and lively those fish were at the tanks, pretty sure they all survived just fine. If one didn’t, maybe it was just his time man, NO BIG DEAL:

Was at a hotel parkin’ lot barbecue cooked up solid by B.A.S.S. media dude Thomas Allen and this guy showed up. Said he won a Classic and I was like, Here we go, whatever man…. Lol! Davy would NEVER brag:

Shoutout to the bassin’ pastor Chris Wells (the guy over my left shoulder — sorry Chris!) and his crew for an awesome Fellowship of Christian Anglers gatherin’ after the pre-tourney meetin’…under a disco ball…. New-ish B.A.S.S. owner Chase Anderson opened us in prayer, which I think is a good sign:

Props to Palatka, FL Mayor Terrill Hill for callin’ his town “the bass capital of the world.” Gotta love a mayor who loves our favorite fish — and has a giant bass statue at the ramp:

Can’t believe Gary Clouse is running a Phoenix this year?? (lol) Btw Gary’s boat might be the best-treated inanimate object in the history of bass fishin’ — gets the royal treatment every day in the boat yard even though it doesn’t need it….

Asked Gary whether fishing this much was written in his job description at Phoenix (he runs the place). He said, “Absolutely — if it wasn’t I’d get another job.” So there you go….

Guess who Mercer’s interviewin’ here:

That’s Lynn Johnston, Canadian bassin’ legend who raised his two hammer boys — Chris (2nd at the St Johns) and Cory (8th) — in a bassin’ boat. Cory said, “He won everything there was to win in Canada,” by which I think he means a plaque, some cheese curds and half-season tickets for the Winnipeg Jets. HAHAHA! Just messin’, I’m sure Lynn’s STILL a stick.

Steve Kennedy still has BY FAR the best boat wrap in pro bassin’:


1. Vid: President Bush welcomed the BPT to TX.

That a big deal? I think so:

2. Elitist Matt Arey threw his rod in the river…

…cuz he was used to having a net on the FLWs…or something like that:

Vid by marshal and BassBlaster-head Gary Cooper, who was rollin’ with his BB gear: #stout

3. BPTer Michael Neal, Elitist Patrick Walters get Lure Lock boxes.

Michael info, Patrick info.

4. Why Elite Chad Morgenthaler is on the Elites.

Little background for ya.

5. 3 Elitists get Hayabusa hooks.

Bill Lowen, Shane Lineberger, Greg Dipalma.

6. 6 Elites get Gator Guards.

Brandon Card, Skylar Hamilton, Chris Groh, Hunter Shryock, Matt Arey, Brett Preuett.

7. FL: Buddy Gross won the Toho FLW.

Congrats to him, more comin’ Thurs:

8. MLF/BPT gets Rapala and EconoLodge.

Couldn’t find links on the MLF site, but here’s one on the Rapala announcement. Rapala marketing honcho Matty Jensen talkin’:

> “We also sponsor many of the greatest anglers in the world who are now a part of this historic inaugural MLF season and the Bass Pro Tour. It is our goal to support all our pros as well as align with the top trends in the fishing industry, and our new and exciting partnership with Major League Fishing certainly does that.”

9. WA: Bass limits might be opened up to protect salmon.

10. TN: International yak tourney will be at Center Hill.

Pan-American Kayak Bass Championship May 28-31.

11. New Garmin college bassin’ team.

12. MO DNR offering grants to HS bass clubs.

13. DC: Congress reintros bill for better E15 labeling.

#ethanolsux — don’t believe me, check out the fuel line on a boat Opens angler Jamey Caldwell is restoring:

Tip of the Day

Few feeshn observations from the St Johns Elite.

Some stuff for ya:

1. You see Drew Benton working his rod with his other hand, about 2 feet up from the butt? (Can barely see it in this vid.) Was doing it to give his soft-plastics action without actually moving the worm. He calls the technique “Massaging.”

2. Look at Rick Clunn’s hookset — at 72 yrs old he doesn’t have a hammer hookset and doesn’t NEED one…so do we need one?

3. Asked Hank Cherry if he fished a jerkbait in this one (by far his fave bait) and he said…yep. A Berkley Cutter (chameleon pearl), caught 15 fish on it — in FL! Bottom line to me on that was never be afraid to try something different. He also said on day 2 he lost 3 giants, 2 of which pulled the split ring off the bait…so when in FL, gear UP!

4. Somethin’ different…how ’bout this jig color one pro had tied on:

Raise your hand if you’ve ever fished a jig with those colors…didn’t think so….

Quote of the Day

“When I was 3 I dressed up for Halloween as a pro fisherman and everyone thought I was weird.”

– Rookie Elitist Drew Cook tellin’ me a little of his bassin’ story. I can totally get how the folks reacted IF he dressed up all yeller like Skeeter Reese…hahaha Skeet! Drew, no worries now bassin’ bro, we think you’re NORMAL.

Drew had another $$$ quote. Said he’s been “dreaming about fishing the Elites for 24 years.” Asked him how old he was and he said…”24.” So I was like, “So you were in your mom and dreaming about pro fishing?”

Right then was an awkward moment for both of us for some reason….

Shot of the Day

Gary Klein caught a teener!

A FAT 13.79 caught on a “private TPWD research lake.” He was dropshotting in 30′ with a 6″ Berkley Maxscent D-Worm (gp) on a #1 Berkley Fusion19 dropshot hook. More gear: Duckett White Ice signature spinning rod, 10-lb Berkley white X9 braid to 6-lb green Berkley 100% Fluoro.

Gotta point out in the Insta vid of this fish Gary takes the fish outta a…livewell! Hahaha gotcha Gary! Just messin’….

Ya got me
Jay Kumar’s BassBlaster is a daily-ish roundup

of the best, worst and funniest in bassin’, as curated by me — Jay Kumar. I started, co-hosted Loudmouth Bass with Zona, was a B.A.S.S. senior writer and a bunch more in bassin’. The Blaster is the #2 daily read on any given day in the wide world o’ bass so thanks for readin’!

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