TOP 10 BAITS: How They Caught Smallies on Sturgeon Bay - Major League Fishing

TOP 10 BAITS: How They Caught Smallies on Sturgeon Bay

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Justin Lucas took the event title with the help of the Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flat Worm. Photo by Phoenix Moore
July 17, 2020 • Dave Landahl • Bass Pro Tour

STURGEON BAY, Wis. – Change can be a good thing. In the case of the MLF Bass Pro Tour Sturgeon Bay event, it was amazingly good.

RELATED: Full Results

The need to switch the tournament to Sturgeon Bay with a very short lead time sure didn’t have a negative impact on the anglers. The winner of Stage Five, Justin Lucas, weighed over 300 pounds of Great Lakes smallmouth over the three days he competed. Several anglers in the field pulled in hundreds of pounds of Wisconsin smallies as well.

Here’s what the Top 10 used to get the job done:

Justin Lucas

Justin Lucas was one of many Berkley pros to rely on the PowerBait MaxScent Flat Worm. Photo by Garrick Dixon

Lucas fished a drop-shot rig with a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flat Worm in a variety of colors. On the final day, Lucas caught all of his fish using black Flat Worms.

His setup consisted of Abu Garcia reels and 7-foot medium action Abu Garcia Fantasista rods. The reels were spooled with 8-pound Berkley X5 Braid in the Crystal color and an 8-pound Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon leader. He tied that to a Number 2 drop-shot hook and used a 3/8-ounce weight.

Lucas fished isolated grass patches and a couple of small rocky points in deeper water outside an expansive spawning flat, anywhere from 12 to 20 feet deep, with deeper water being the key to his success during the Championship round.

Mark Daniels Jr.

Daniels used the Z-Man Finesse TRD to claim a second-place finish. Photo by Garrick Dixon

Daniels fished a Ned rig with a Z-Man TRD in both green pumpkin and Green Pumpkin Goby, and a 4-inch Z-Man Finesse WormZ on a drop shot.

He fished offshore shoals where there were groups of fish roaming around. Not huge schools, but pods of bass.

Josh Bertrand

Bertrand was another avid Berkley Flat Worm user on Sturgeon Bay. Photo by Garrick Dixon

Bertrand utilized a drop-shot rig and a green pumpkin Berkley Flat Worm to attack Sturgeon Bay. His rig consisted of a 7-foot medium-action Abu Garcia Premier rod with a Revo Premier size 30 reel, loaded with 8-pound Berkley X5 Braid and an 8-pound Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon leader tied to a size 1 Fusion 19 drop-shot hook and 1/2-ounce Bass Pro Shops tungsten weight.

He was targeting areas around Sister Island where bass were actively feeding on bait, and targeting larger cover, since single rocks would only hold a fish or two. 

“A big key to my success was using my Garmin Livescope,” says Bertrand. “I used it to find the structure with baitfish.”

Jordan Lee

Jordan Lee hopped on the PowerBait Flat Worm train to earn a fourth-place finish. Photo by Garrick Dixon

Lee used a drop-shot with a size 1 Berkley Fusion hook, a 3/8-ounce tungsten teardrop weight, and a Berkley Flat Worm. Color wasn’t important to him.

“I must’ve gone through 40 or 50 bags of Berkley Flat Worms,” Lee said. “Black, green pumpkin, smoke and purple, color didn’t really matter. There were massive schools of bass. I’ve never experienced anything like it. They’d just move every day. One day they’re in shallows around 6 feet deep, the next day they’re in deeper water up to 20 feet down.

“When they were up shallow one day, the wind pushed a giant school up shallow. I could throw the drop-shot in any direction and catch them. You just had to keep moving until you found them. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Lee fished the same three-mile stretch toward Sister Bay each day. 

Alton Jones

Alton Jones took home fifth place during Stage Five. Photo by Garrick Dixon

“A drop-shot and tube were my weapons of choice, imagine that on a smallmouth fishery,” Jones joked. “The key for me was my Garmin Livescope. I fished in 8 to 15 feet of water and saw every fish I threw at. Every day, my fish moved. I had to catch them in totally different areas. One spot I went back to and saw nothing on the Livescope, but fished for 30 minutes and caught nothing. I’m now learning to trust the Livescope more each day.”

Jones focused on transition spots of spawning areas. A mix of rock, sand, and grass were what made his spots work.

“Another important thing for me was my Kistler Rods,” says Jones. “The older I get, the more I appreciate how really light, sensitive, and strong these rods are. It’s the finest rod on the market, in my opinion.” 

Jones spooled his reels with 15-pound braid and 8-pound fluorocarbon for both the drop-shot and the tube.

Andy Morgan

Andy Morgan relied on the Zoom Baits Beatdown. Photo by Phoenix Moore

A Zoom Beatdown in green pumpkin fished on a drop-shot or Ned rig produced all of Morgan’s bass. He fished in 10-to 17-foot depths.

“I kept looking for them until I found ‘em,” Morgan said.

Mike Iaconelli

Mike Iaconelli was the fourth and final Top 10 pro to use the Berkley Flat Worm to earn a top spot. Photo by Garrick Dixon

Ike used a one-two punch of a drop-shot and a Ned rig. He used Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flat Worm in the brown back color for the drop-shot and a black 4-inch Berkley General with a piece bitten off for his Ned rig.

“The brown back color is one of the best goby imitators I’ve ever seen,” said Iaconelli.”It’s a green pumpkin flake top and a pearl bottom, looks like a goby.”

His rigs included a 6-foot, 10-inch medium-light Ike Finesse Rod with a size 20 Abu reel spooled with 10-pound Berkley X5 Braid and a 20- to 30-foot leader of 6-pound Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon for the drop-shot and the same setup except for a 7-4 rod for the Ned rig.

Drop-shot rigs were either 3/16- or 1/4-ounce weight, depending on the wind, and a Number 1 VMC Ike Approved drop-shot hook (heavier weight when there was more wind). His Ned rig jig was 1/8- or 3/16-ounce, depending again on the wind strength.

“This was as simple as I’ve ever kept it,” Iaconelli said. “I can’t remember the last time I had only four rods on the deck. Two drop-shots and two Ned rigs. The only reason for two of each was in case the line tangled or got frayed by zebra mussels. The shorter rod for drop-shot was so I’d work the bait slower. It’s an old Larry Nixon theory. The longer rod for the Ned rig was so I could make longer casts in the shallows and not get up on the fish.”

Cliff Pace

Cliff Pace utilized the V&M Drop Shad and Jackall Cross Tail Shad to place eighth on the week. Photo by Phoenix Moore

Drop-shotting was Pace’s technique at Sturgeon. He used a V&M Drop Shad in green pumpkin watermelon laminate and a Jackall Cross Tail Shad in the black weenie color. Pace fished main-lake humps.

Bradley Roy

Bradley Roy wrapped up the event in ninth place. Photo by Garrick Dixon

Shallower flats with drop-offs from 4-to 8-feet deep with scattered rocks, sand and grass were where Roy had his success.

He drop-shot a green pumpkin minnow style bait and used a 3/8-ounce weight. Roy also caught smallies with a 3.3-inch swimbait rigged on a 3/8-ounce swimbait jighead.

Ish Monroe

Ish Monroe
Ish Monroe used Gamakatsu Shin Flick Shake jig on Sturgeon Bay. Photo by Phoenix Moore

“Big Fish” Ish used a Gamakatsu Shin Flick Shake jig in 1/16- and 3/32-ounce and wacky-rigged a Missile 38 or a 4-inch Senko, both in black, to hook his smallies.

He utilized his Lowrance C Maps+ to find the flats and what to target on the sloping points and flats with rock, and spawning areas in 6 foot or less of water.

“I fished for bass in spawning areas and some cruisers as well,” he said.