Whether the fish move shallow or remain around offshore cover and structure this week, Bassmaster Classic competitors will catch many big bass on Rapala DT-series crankbaits, Rapala pros agree. Other go-to baits will include Rapala and Storm lipless crankbaits.
“A lot of those baits that will be key this week are your standard, classic springtime baits,” said Rapala Pro Seth Feider, a three-time Classic qualifier from Minnesota. “I don’t know if that will change, even with changing conditions. The colors you tie on might change if the water gets real dirty. But I can guarantee some fish are going to get caught on a DT-6, no matter what.”
First-time Classic qualifier Patrick Walters agreed.
“DT-6, of course,” said Walters, a second-year Elite Series Rapala pro from South Carolina. “Some DT-10 too. I think your key baits are going to be shallow- to mid-diving crankbaits and lipless crankbaits. I think we’ll be getting reaction strikes on something moving fast with trebles on it.”
DT stands for “dives to.” A DT-6 dives to a max depth of six feet; a DT-10 to 10 feet. Built of balsa wood, Rapala’s signature material, DT-series cranks wobble while swimming and deflect off cover to trigger bites from big bass around both grass and rock.
If stable or falling water positions Guntersville’s bass this week in offshore, submerged vegetation, Classic competitors will swim DT’s over the top of it, making occasional contact and ripping free. If rising water draws bass to the bank, the pros will cast them around hard-bottom shorelines, making constant bottom contact on the retrieve and caroming off wood and rock cover.
The lipless crankbaits you’ll see Rapala pros slinging in the Classic are Rapala Rippin’ Raps and Storm Arashi Vibes. Those baits, along with DT-6’s, are “pretty traditional, Guntersville-type baits,” said Cody Huff, a collegiate Rapala pro-staffer competing in his first Bassmaster Classic. “You’re going to catch ‘em on those.”
A Storm Arashi Vibe helped Rapala Pro Ott DeFoe win last year’s Bassmaster Classic on Fort Loudon Lake, another Tennessee River reservoir. On the 2019 Classic’s first day, four bass in DeFoe’s 20-pound limit came on a Vibe, including a 6-pounder that was the biggest bass caught that day by any competitor. A 4-pound, 7-ounce bass he caught in the championship round on a Vibe allowed him to cull a smaller fish, solidifying his win.
Lipless crankbaits like the Vibe excel in the spring when bass are first pulling up from deeper water and moving close to shallow spawning areas. Vibes start swimming at slower speeds than do other lipless crankbaits. They fall slower too, allowing you to fish them in shallower water at a slower speed. Featuring a soft-knock rattle, Vibes emit a unique single-cadence, low-pitch sound that attracts attention without alarming tentative fish. Storm is a Rapala Respected Brand.
First-time Classic competitor Bob Downey said he will be among the pros slinging DT-6’s and Arashi Vibes this week. “The DT-6 I don’t think will be a surprise to many people,” said the first-year Elite Series pro, a Minnesota native. “I’ve been catching some pretty good fish on it – good quality keepers and some that are above average.”
[bold sub-head]Offshore grass or shallow banks?
Tournament rules allowed Classic competitors to practice on Guntersville for eight hours yesterday and all day last Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Competition does not begin until tomorrow morning. Today, the anglers are participating in Media Day and making appearances at sponsor events. This atypical schedule makes it challenging to settle on a gameplan. Especially in the spring, when weather and water conditions can change quickly, bass tend to move a lot.
“The more the water level drops, the more fish are going to be caught around deep water, with deeper-running crankbaits, towards the main river,” Walters predicted. “The more it comes up, the more they’ll be caught in pockets and up on the bank.”
Rapala pros interviewed on Monday said they were expecting higher water by Friday, because a lot of rain had been forecasted. And higher water, they said, would likely pull bass away from offshore grass in which many were found last weekend in practice. Although not all the Rapala pros want that to happen.
Feider, for one, said he hoped water levels wouldn’t rise because that would keep offshore grass in play.
“I’d rather fish in the grass versus around the bridges or the riprap,” he said.
Huff expressed similar wishes.
“What I’m really hoping for is that we don’t have too much rain,” he said. “I hope the river continues to drop, and not rise. If the river continues to drop, they’ll start to group up really good on some of those good offshore places in the grass, where you don’t have to just catch one here, one there. It’s a lot more fun when you can pull up, make one cast to get the school fired up, and then catch ‘em one after another.”
Walters, on the other hand, will be happy if water levels rise and pull bass to the bank.
“That’s what I’m hoping for,” he said Monday. “I’m a bank-beater by heart.”
If the bass move shallow late today or early Friday, Walters said, those fish could be relatively unpressured – a rarity on a popular tournament and recreational-fishing reservoir like Guntersville. “They’ll be up there and we’ll kind of get the first stab at them,” he said.
Interviewed Wednesday evening after his final practice round, Downey said water levels and conditions had not changed dramatically in his areas.
“I caught most of my fish today similar to how I caught them last weekend,” he said. “So it didn’t really change a lot for me yet.”
Late Wednesday evening, more rain rolled through the area and rain is expected to continue through mid-afternoon today. Clear, sunny skies are currently forecasted for Friday and Saturday with clouds returning on Sunday.
No matter how the weather ends up positioning the fish, Rapala pros agreed they will need to tailor their gameplans to prevailing conditions.
“All I can do is start where they were and then just kind of let the day unfold,” Feider explained. “I’m just going to have to keep an open mind and adjust.”
“I enjoy fishing pretty shallow,” Downey said. “If they pushed shallow – more towards the banks – I wouldn’t mind that at all. But I would have to make some adjustments.”