Keys were hooksets, Power-Poles, co-anglers
Cajun Cliff Crochet won big at last weekend’s Bassmaster Central Open on the Atchafalaya Basin, beating Greg Hackney by 4 lbs on a fishery not known for big fish. Here’s how Cliff caught ’em:
Where he fished
> “The key deal was 250-yard stretch. The front of it was shallow, 18” deep. Once you got in it, it got a little deeper. My Lowrance unit read 2.5′ as the deepest water in that area, and that was that 250-yard stretch.
> “On that stretch was a mixture of hydrilla, pond scum, hyacinths, some old floating grass, isolated lilies, soft spots, really thick mats, points — all that was mixed in, and I caught ’em off everything. The deal was just fishing real slow back and forth, back and forth.
> “It was about a 20-minute ride from the ramp. I started in that area with 4 other boats [day 1]. I caught one, and at 9:30 left and went to 2 other areas. I caught nothing, and went back to that area at 12:30. I caught 11-14 between 12:30 and 3:30.
> “On day 2 I was about to start running all these history spots and make stuff happen –Â — all that silly stuff you do when you’re about to lose a tournament really bad — but then I was like, ‘Dude, you saw a 15-lb stringer [including co-angler fish on day 1] in that spot, just go back to that area.
> “I slowed way down on day 2.”
Tide and current weren’t factors.
What he used
His only bait was a Luck-E-Strike Ringmaster in black/blue, TX-rigged with a pegged 1.5-oz tungsten weight, a 6/0 Strike King Hack Attack Heavy Cover Flipping Hook and either 65-lb Seaguar Flippin’ Braid or 80-lb Seaguar Kanzen braid on a Shimano Curado with a 7′ 5″ #8 X-heavy Falcon Cara rod.
> “The bait is just a confidence deal for me. A black/blue creature bait is a mainstay anywhere.
> “The more hook, the more hook you can get in a fish and the more hook you can put in a bait. I used to throw 4/0 and 5/0 Gamakatsu extra wides, but come to find out Greg [Hackney] went to the 6/0 straight-shank Hack Attack hook. He said, ‘Why not? It fits.’ It’s the biggest hook I’ve ever seen, but why not if it fits. I guess it’s a tip from Hack Attack….
> “I normally flip 1.5-oz, and that stuff I was fishing called for 1.5. It was pretty thick. I think 1.5-oz is about as big as you can go and still get hookups. If you go bigger, when you set the hook that weight pops out and you don’t get a hook in [the fish].
> [Why 65 or 80.] “I wish I had a really cool fishing explanation for that, but I just have 4 of that same rod and it just so happened that one had 65 flipping line and the other had with 80 Kanen. If I flipped one and the bait got messed up or whatever, I’d just pick up the other one.
> [Why such a heavy rod.] “We ain’t here to make friends with the fish, we’re here to be able to get a good hookset and move ’em.
> “The most important thing I did all week was the hookset. In my mind this is the point that won me this tournament. Instead of setting the hook real hard and heavy — I like to swing like I’m crazy — what happened was…the bait would go through the mat and zero bites on the fall. So the bait went to the bottom, but when I’d pick the rod up and I’d feel a fish on it, in that shallow water and heavy cover instead of setting hook like I’m crazy, I’d have the rod at 2:00 and I’d just set the hook straight up, short and sweet.
> “I’d flip out, pick the rod up to 2:00…from there wouldn’t go down to create slack…I’d jerk from 2:00 to 1:00, real short and sweet. Bam! A compact hookset. I’d still set it hard, but no slack line and real quick.
> “Most were hooked right between the eyes. I think that was a huge deal to putting them in the boat. Because in real shallow water like that, in real heavy cover, if you crack on them real hard and slack-line ’em, those fish are coming out flying. And once that fish comes out of the water, it’s about 50/50 if you’re putting them in the boat.
> [How he figured out that hookset:] “I probably lost 8 million fish like that [jerking too hard] over time, just learning the hard way.”
> “Power-Poles were extremely important for 2 reasons: 1 is I was fishing so slow. Even when you’re on 20 on the trolling motor, the boat continues to drift once you get off the trolling motor. That’s not what I wanted. I wanted it to stop to make as many flips as I could.
> “It was one big long straight mat. I’d drop the Power-Pole along the mat, and the first flip was 1′ in. The 2nd was 2-3′ back, the 3rd was 5-6′ back. The next flip was 2′ over and 6′ back, then 4′ back, 2′ back, then on the edge. Then I’d move 2 feet to the left, then Power-Pole down…all the way down that mat. I only had 250 yards of mat, so it was real important [to be that thorough].
> “My 3 co-anglers were game on. They never pushed me, never got in the way, never complained — I had 3 really good co-anglers and that helps a bunch. I told them all thank you.. They were just some cool fellas.”