Before the new tournament season begins next month, we thought it would be a good idea to look back at the top baits from across the FLW circuits in 2016. There were tournaments won with a single bait, and others that required a multitude of options to be used tactically throughout the event.
This article contains the top dogs from each Top 10 Baits gallery that FLW produced in 2016, and hopefully it helps shed a little light on the baits you should add to your arsenal for 2017.
Lake Okeechobee, Feb. 4-7: Bradley Hallman kicked off the season with a blowout win on Lake Okeechobee. He relied on a neon blue-colored Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver with a matching punch skirt and a 1 1/2-ounce weight for the bulk of his winning catch. Per Hallman, one of the keys was a special 8-foot-long punching rod from Mosley RodWorks. On the final day, he switched to a Gambler BB Cricket for a slower approach that countered the effects of cooler weather on the fish.
Lake Hartwell, March 17-20: Before winning the Forrest Wood Cup, John Cox got the ball rolling with a win at Lake Hartwell. For the first three days, Cox relied on a wacky-rigged Yamamoto Senko on a 1/0 hook. He cast it around up shallow to search for bedding fish, but also used a beaver-style bait and Zoom Trick Worm. On day four, Cox called an audible and cast a 3/8-ounce Z-Man ChatterBait (black and blue) with a Strike King Menace Grub trailer in some stained water.
Beaver Lake, April 14-17: Quaker State pro Scott Canterbury earned the win on Beaver Lake with a trio of jigs. One was a 3/8-ounce Dirty Jigs Luke Clausen Signature Series Compact Pitchin' Jig (Canterbury craw) teamed with a NetBait Paca Slim (green pumpkin). The other two were 1/2- and 5/8-ounce Dirty Jigs Scott Canterbury Signature Series Flippin’ Jigs (Canterbury craw and chocolate thunder) trimmed with various chunks and trailers, including a NetBait Paca Chunk. He fished the casting jig on 15-pound-test P-Line Ultimate Fluorocarbon, and the other two on 20- and 25-pound test. For all of them, the Alabama pro used a 7-6, heavy-power Halo Twilite Series II casting rod and a 7.3:1 gear ratio Ardent Apex Grand reel.
Pickwick Lake, May 5-8: Buddy Gross took the title on Pickwick Lake in his rookie season. He used a variety of baits, including a Tennessee River Tackle Tremor Head with a Zoom Super Fluke, a Fringe Tackle Company swimbait rigged on a 5/0 Owner Flashy Swimmer and a 1/4-ounce spinnerbait. However, the main player was a 1-ounce Hog Farmer Baits hair jig worked in eelgrass. Gross fished the majority of the baits on either a 7-foot, 3-inch or 7-foot, 6-inch, extra-heavy Hammer rod with a Lew’s Tournament Pro reel (6.8:1 gear ratio) and 17-pound-test P-Line fluorocarbon.
Kentucky Lake, June 9-12: Jason Lambert set the four-day weight record for an FLW tournament at Kentucky Lake by throwing a combination of three baits. First was a Castaic Heavy Metal Spoon thrown on a 7-foot, 8-inch Duckett White Ice Series rod. Second was a V&M J-Mag Worm, which he threw on a 7-foot, 6-inch, heavy-action Duckett Micro Magic Pro rod. Lambert’s third and primary bait that he used to catch the 29-pound-plus biggest bag of the event on day four was a 1-ounce Luck-E-Strike Scrounger Head matched with a 7-inch Castaic Jerky J and fished with a 7-foot, 10-inch Duckett Micro Magic Pro rod. He fished every bait with Duckett 360 reels and 17-pound-test Vicious Pro Elite fluorocarbon.
Lake Champlain, June 23-26: Scott Martin earned his third Lake Champlain Tour victory with a combination of lures. Martin says he caught a few, including a 5-pounder on the first day, on a LIVETARGET Threadfin Shad TDD70D crankbait, but that an M-Pack Lures jig he trimmed down and tipped with a small trailer caught the numbers. For bedding smallmouths, Martin says he tossed a wide variety of creature baits and other soft plastics.
Forrest Wood Cup, Wheeler Lake, Aug. 4-7: To be crowned Forrest Wood Cup champion, John Cox went way up a creek, and his primary bait the entire time was a Jackall Iobee Frog. He also added a few fish on a Yamamoto Senko.
Lake Norman, Sept. 15-17: To no surprise, Bryan Thrift won the first FLW Tour Invitational in his backyard at Lake Norman, and he did it with a trio of baits. He threw a Damiki Anchovy Shad on a 3/16-ounce jighead, a 1/2-ounce Damiki Mamba 2 Jig and a buzzbait with a white Zoom Horny Toad for the win. He paired the jig on his signature series Fitzgerald 6-foot, 9-inch Heavy Skipping Rod and the other baits on Fitzgerald Stunner HD rods.
Norris Lake, Oct. 20-22: James Watson earned his first Tour title at the Norris Lake Invitational with a 1/2-ounce War Eagle Buzz Toad with a Luck-E-Strike Frantic Frog on the back (all black), a River2Sea Whopper Plopper (130 size; loon color), a River2Sea Bubble Walker and a 7/16-ounce jig trailed with a Luck-E-Strike Baby Guido Bug.
Lake Okeechobee, Jan. 14-16: FLW kicked off the year with a Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division event in Florida on Lake Okeechobee in January. Tennessee pro Jason Lambert brought home the hardware. To win, he fished a 1/2-ounce War Eagle Spinnerbait in sexy mouse color as well as a Z-Man Original ChatterBait with a V & M Thunder Shad trailer.
Shasta Lake, Feb. 18-20: Greg Gutierrez won the opening Western Division event on Shasta Lake and caught fish on a jig and a Carolina rig, but his bread-and-butter bait was a 1/4-ounce Frenzy Baits NAIL shaky head, made by his company and designed by him. He rigged it with a 4.95-inch Reaction Innovations Flirt Worm in either green pumpkin or watermelon and fished it on 15-pound-test braid with a 6-pound-test Gamma Edge leader and a 7-foot, 1-inch, medium-power iRod Genesis II spinning rod.
Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Feb. 25-27: Ricky Guy won the Southwestern Division event at Sam Rayburn Reservoir with a 1/2-ounce 6th Sense Snatch lipless crankbait and a black/blue Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver Texas-rigged on a 3/0 hook with either a 3/16- or 1/2-ounce weight.
Santee Cooper, March 10-12: Taking the Southeastern Division title on Santee Cooper was Bryan Thrift, who used just about every bait in his boat, which isn’t uncommon for him. However, his primary bait was the Damiki Mamba Jig with a Damiki Knock Out trailer. He skipped the combo up under cypress trees for much of his catch.
Lake Dardanelle, March 31-April 2: Jeff Fitts caught all of his bass by flipping grass with a Strike King Rage Tail Rage Bug to win the Central Division event at Lake Dardanelle. He alternated between black/blue and summer craw.
Grand Lake, April 7-9: Zack Birge earned the Southwestern Division win on Grand Lake with a 6th Sense Crush 50X and a Crush Mini 25X in bluegill colors. He cranked them with 10-pound-test Sunline Super FC Sniper fluorocarbon and a 7-foot Falcon cranking rod.
Clear Lake, April 21-23: Todd Woods found a sloping gravel bank where prespawn bass were feeding on shad for the Clear Lake W. He alternated between two moving baits to earn his first Costa FLW Series Western Division title. First was a hitch-colored Basstrix Paddle Tail Swimbait on a 3/8-ounce gold Blade Runner under-spin, which he fished in shallow water. The other was a YUM YUMbrella Flash Mob umbrella rig with 4-inch Basstrix Swimbaits on 3/8-ounce jigheads on top and 5-inch swimbaits with 1/4-ounce jigheads on bottom.
Kentucky Lake, April 28-30: Steve Floyd kept it simple with his winning flipping program at the Central Division event on Kentucky Lake. He targeted shallow bushes with a Texas-rigged green pumpkin Berkley Havoc Pit Boss with a 1/2-ounce Strike King tungsten sinker on 30-pound-test Seaguar fluorocarbon.
Wheeler Lake, May 12-14: Bradley Dortch topped the Southeastern Division field at Wheeler Lake with a 3/8-ounce Picasso Straight Shooter jig teamed with a NetBait Paca Craw in a standard green pumpkin color. He also pitched a Paca Craw on a Texas rig with a 3/8-ounce tungsten weight.
Cal Delta, May 19-21: Charley Almassey grabbed his first Costa FLW Series title in the Western Division event at the Cal Delta. He used a 3/8-ounce Bobby D’s Grinder in a bluegill pattern tipped with Assault Lures Ringer paddle-tail plastic, a 3/8-ounce custom-made swim jig paired with a 4.8-inch Keitech Swing Impact FAT and a new ABT Lures bluegill glide bait. All were thrown on a variety of Spiralite Rods, which he has helped to develop.
Potomac River, June 16-18: For his Northern Division victory on the Potomac River, Casey Smith mostly threw a 4.8-inch Keitech Swing Impact FAT in bluegill flash rigged on a 6/0 wide-gap hook with a 1/4-ounce belly weight. He also caught fish on a 7/16-ounce Gambler Southern Swim Jig with a purple Yamamoto Swim Senko and 1/2-ounce watermelon Z-Man ChatterBait with a Keitech Swing Impact FAT trailer.
1000 Islands, July 21-23: Smallmouth expert Scott Dobson won the Northern Division event at 1000 Islands with some heavy lifting from a drop-shot rigged with a 1/4-, 3/8- or 1/2-ounce weight, depending on the conditions. He paired it with one of three soft baits: a Berkley PowerBait Twitchtail Minnow, a Gulp! Fry Worm or a Gulp! Minnow. He also mixed in a Megabass Vision 110+1 jerkbait and a Duo Realis Spinbait 90 for some key bites.
Lake Oneida, Aug. 18-20: For the win on Oneida and the Northern Division AOY title, Cory Johnston threw a variety of finesse plastics, including tubes and Yamamoto Senkos, as well as a DUO Realis Spinbait 80 (ghost pearl) and a Rapala X-Rap Pop (chartreuse ghost).
Lake of the Ozarks, Oct. 6-8: At the final Costa FLW Series regular-season event at Lake of the Ozarks, Duke Jenkel got the win thanks to a trio of baits. He says that a Lunker Lure Limit Series Jig tipped with a Strike King Rage Bug was key in practice, but that a green pumpkin and blue Gambler Flipp’n Tube and a Texas-rigged Zoom Magnum Trick Worm (red bug or watermelon candy) did the trick in the tournament.
Table Rock Lake, Nov. 3-5: Costa FLW Series Championship winner Pat Fisher, a former FLW Tour pro, mainly fished shallow wood cover up the James River at Table Rock. He worked the surface with a white 1/4-ounce Boogerman buzzbait. If they wouldn’t eat the topwater, he threw a green pumpkin green Zoom Trick Worm on a shaky head.
Lake Barkley, June 9-11: All-American champ Jeremy Lawyer used a combination of soft plastics and a crankbait to win on Lake Barkley. The crankbait was a Bandit 200 that he had custom-painted in a herring pattern by Fallcreek Lures. For plastics, he used a green pumpkin Zoom Magnum Trick Worm with the tail dyed chartreuse and rigged on a homemade 3/8-ounce football head with a Gamakatsu hook. He also fished a Texas-rigged green pumpkin Zoom Brush Hog, also with the tails dyed chartreuse.
Lake Keowee, March 17-19: Lake Keowee hosted the FLW College Fishing National Championship, where Chris Blanchette and Hampton Anderson earned the University of South Carolina its second consecutive title. Blanchette and Anderson caught their fish on white Zoom Lizards Texas-rigged with 5/16-ounce weights and 5/0 hooks. They also used unweighted Yamamoto Senkos fished on 4/0 hooks.