Tourney Patterns

How Justin Hamner won the Grand Classic

The way Justin had been fishing – basically 3 top 10s and 4 top 20s in his last 8 Elite events, including a 3rd at the most recent one – it looked like he was about to come out on top. So I guess in that way it’s not a huge surprise he won this Classic. But this also was his first Bassmaster win, so new territory for him. Pretty cool, let’s see how this one went down.

Going in and practice

> “I had a lot going on in my mind about what I wanted to target. I had an idea about how the lake would set up. I thought it would be more of a LiveScoping deal…chasing them around with the Damiki…[fish] chasing bait, suspended fish.

> “…every lake it seems like this time of year you can still find those pre-spawn fish out there feeding on the shad and bait out in the middle. Especially at Grand, it felt like it hadn’t been the dominant thing, kinda like at Toledo Bend. You don’t really hear about it on those lakes and I felt like we were about to expose that.

> “About half a day to a day into practice, I realized that was not going to be the case. I realized that lake is the trash fish capital of the world – so many drum, carp, catfish and white bass. It’s unreal the amount of fish in that lake. To be able to decipher what was a bass and what wasn’t would waste way more time….

> “I switched gears. I knew I was going to be targeting brushpiles and docks and laydowns, and wanted clearer water to be able to utilize a jerkbait and stuff like that a little bit more.

> “I wanted to find the coldest water I could. I wanted to find as pre-spawn a fish as I could. I know everybody wants to find the warmer water, the fish moving up to spawn. But I hate the instability of that. When fish are trying to make that decision, it gets too unreliable for me. I wanted the most consistent and reliable fish and…still feeding up.”


> Day 1: “It was very calm. Kinda partly cloudy and super slick calm. I went to one of the creeks – a really deep creek, way deeper than any other creek. That’s why it had coldest water, I believe.

> “There was absolutely zero bait in there on day 1. I was literally just going down the bank throwing a jerkbait and a jig, targeting laydowns and docks, stuff like that. I was watching my jerkbait on LiveScope, seeing if anything reacted to my bait so I could tell if it was a bass or not.

> “I never was targeting specific fish – there were just too many. I cast my jerkbait to whatever looked good…if I saw any fish react to it, react like a bass in a positive way, I would have to make multiple casts to it to get it to bite.

> “What really shocked me was how many bass were actually in that creek. It was kind of nuts.

> “I love to fish fast, but I stayed in that one little creek arm that was 300 yards long from takeoff to almost 12:00.”

He said he fished the jig on laydowns and skipped it behind docks, and it accounted for 1 of his weigh fish that day.

> Day 2: “A little bit of wind was blowing right into the end of that pocket, and I thought it would just be phenomenal. It blew the bait into that creek…so much bait in there, the fish were feeding on it, even schooling. But I could not get them to bite at all. That had completely ruined it somehow. How does that makes sense?

> “I tried doing the Damiki stuff and nothing. They did not even pay attention. I caught a bunch of little ones just going down the bank, paralleling a bluff wall…I had to leave that area.

> “I went to Horse Creek at about 10-10:30 and started fishing brushpiles. The ones I was targeting were a lot shallower than I think most guys were fishing – in that 4-8′ range.

> “I couldn’t see the fish at all [on FFS]. I couldn’t see the bass. There would just be a massive wad of fish in every pile. I’d throw the jerkbait in there, and all the trash fish would scatter out. If a bass was there and kind of reacted to it, I’d make multiple casts to it.

[Many times he made a bunch of casts but the fish wouldn’t trigger.]

> “…one little pile – literally looked like 2 little twigs on LiveScope – 2 blobs were in it. My first cast over there, both of them went straight to [the jerkbait]. The first one got it – it was a 5-02. I put it in the livewell, get back up – the other one had went back to the little sticks. I threw in there and got hung. I had to get it off and felt like I messed it up.

> “I kept on going [down the bank] and was about to go but said, ‘Let me check that one fish again.’ My first cast I caught it – it was a 5-01. Whoever sank those 2 little sticks, thank you.

> “It was little things like that all week. It was so Randy Howell [his Classic win] – he was going to that other place, then turned around halfway thru his drive and went back to Spring Creek. That 2nd 5-lber…had 1 hook…99% of the time that that fish is going to come off.

> “The bigger piles – don’t know if everybody been fishing them, but I never could catch those fish. I might get a few of them to follow it, but I couldn’t get them to eat. I fished [piles] that were shallower and smaller. Where those 2 big ones were it was like 3′.”

He also fished the Yo-Zuri 3DB MR crankbait, the “autobass,” and caught a bunch of fish on it but no weigh fish.

> “The last day was probably the craziest day [it was super windy]. I tried to start at the front side of that island in Horse where I caught them on those brushpiles. But the wind was blowing directly into it and I couldn’t fish it.

> “I went to the next little pocket that was protected with a bunch of brushpiles, but apparently that’s where Adam [Rasmussen, 2nd] had been fishing…stuff I thought I was saving. So I found the only protected water I could behind the island. I’d never seen it before. I put the trolling motor down and started going through there, looking around for those brushpiles.

> “My biggest fish came on the jig in one of those piles. …got a decent limit, then decided to run back to the creek I caught them out of day 1. When I got in there, all of the bait was gone again and I started catching them pretty quick. But the size wasn’t there like it had been. I caught 2 of them I weighed in there on the jerkbait.

> “When I was coming back in, the cameraman told me I needed to pick up [Bassmaster on-air guy] Robbie Floyd at the bridge, It was so windy I gave myself a couple extra minutes. I had about 8-9 minutes before I had to check in, so I pulled over to a random stretch of docks [and started fishing]. Robbie said, ‘You only have 5 minutes….’ I kicked the trolling motor on high and threw on one of those docks…one about takes the rod outta my hand. It was one of the biggest ones I caught all day, on a ChatterBait.

> “I hadn’t caught a fish on a ChatterBait all week. It was wild. Turns out I didn’t even need that fish.”


> Jerkbait: Unnamed deep-diving jerkbait (you can tell what it was, shad color, full size) with #6 Duo Realis trebles (the ones a lot of tour pros swear by – they are a little heavier), 12- and 14-lb Yo-Zuri T7 Fluoro, Daiwa Zillion Reel, 7′ MH Halo Scott Canterbury Cranking Rod.

> He said looooong casts were key with the jerkbait, and trusting that line shallow around wood was a big deal.

> Hardcore Minnow Flat (ghost pearl shad) – Fished it in the super-shallow pockets, not around brush, with the same gear. Caught a bunch of fish but no weigh fish.

> BaitFuel Stick – “It’s almost like ChapStick. It’s made for hardbaits. That stuff is awesome. I went through 2 tubes of it. For the fish that constantly follow that jerkbait…. So many times I’ve seen it where they follow it and follow it, then I put [BaitFuel] on there and the next cast they eat it. It’s pretty crazy. It happened a lot at Fork too.”

> Jigs: 1/2-oz skipping jig (gp with a gp trailer) and a 3/8-oz finesse jig (gp with red/orange strands) with a NetBait Mini Kicking B (gp), 20-lb Yo-Zuri T7 Fluoro for the skipping jig and 16-lb for the finesse jig, 7′ 2″ MH Halo KS II Elite Rod.

> Yo-Zuri 3DB MR crankbait (real brown crawfish) – Also a bunch of fish but no weigh fish, same setup as the jerkbait.

> 1/2-oz Z-Man ChatterBait Elite EVO (bama craw) with a Netbait Mini Kicking B (watermelon red magic), 20-lb Yo-Zuri T7 Fluoro, 7′ 3″ MH Halo Lee Livesay HFX Rod.


> Garmin LiveScope – “I used FFS basically to identify the structure. I was not targeting specific fish with it, only seeing how the fish reacted to my bait to tell whether it was a bass or not. Then I would make multiple cats to that structure to see if there was a bass in it. Those drum were tricky.”

> “I side-scanned a lot in practice to find the majority of those brushpiles. Wish I’d have done it a little bit more, but I didn’t think the brushpile deal would be much of a player.

> “…using the 2D, I was riding around these areas on pad…was able to start marking bait on these areas while actually being able to cover water…to know which areas I wanted to hit.”


> “My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Trusting in Him throughout my whole journey, from my wife letting me quit my job just to chase silly green fish and having faith the whole way that everything’s going to be alright. That’s what made this so special.

> “The Bass Tank – they’re the ones who rig all my electronics. I drive all the way to OK to do it. They really are that good. He is OCD about everything being perfect and I love it.

> “X2Power Batteries – I made the switch [from AGM to lithium] this year. To be honest with you, I just didn’t trust lithiums. After talking with all [the other X2 pros, all of whom run lithiums]I switched over.

> “Yo-Zuri has been with me – all of these companies are the first ones that gave me a chance when I just got started…a nobody, and I haven’t changed sponsors this whole time. I’ve added a few along the way, but these guys have stuck with me.”

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