Andy Morgan started each morning cranking a Red Eye Shad over shallow points on the way to claiming the title on Lake Chickamauga. Photo by Garrick Dixon
By Dave Landahl - April 19, 2019
The Top 10 pros at the Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour Econo Lodge Stage Four Presented by Winn Grips on Lake Chickamauga all had something pretty similar going on: catching bass shallow. That’s not a big shock in the spring, and during the phases of the spawn.
If you watched the MLF NOW! live stream, you saw a lot of pitching and flipping, with a few bladed jigs and crankbaits thrown in. And yes, if you were pitching soft plastics, it better be a green pumpkin color scheme.
1. Andy Morgan
The Dayton local worked his way to Championship Sunday by throwing a 1/4-ounce Strike King Red Eye Shad in the morning, targeting shallow (1- to 3-foot) points on the upper end of Chickamauga.
He would rack up “10 to 15 pounds” and then move on to docks, rock and laydowns, where he’d alternate between a Strike King Thunder Cricket with a small swimbait trailer, and a 1/4-ounce Strike King Tour Grade Tungsten weight, a 5/0 Owner 4x Jungle Hook and a Zoom Super Salt Plus Z Craw.
2. Jared Lintner
Lintner targeted creek channels, pockets, laydowns, and rocks with three specific set-ups to catch all of his fish.
His top setup was a power-shot rig on a 7-foot-5 Ritual Angling medium heavy baitcast rod, a Shimano Metanium HG reel with 14-pound Sunline Shooter fluorocarbon; a 1/4-ounce full contact Eco Pro Drop-shot weight, 3/0 straight shank Trokar Hook; and a 6-inch Fat Roboworm in Aaron’s Magic and Morning Dawn colors.
Lintner’s spinning setup was 7-1 Ritual Angling medium action spinning rod, a Shimano Exsence 3000 spinning reel with Sunline SX1 12-pound braid and an 8-pound Shooter Fluorocarbon leader, a new Trokar NedHead 1/8 OZ with Aaron’s Magic and Robo Ned colors. Lintner used the same combo with a 1/0 Trokar straight shank finesse hook and a wacky rigged Zoom Trick worm, too.
His casting combo consisted of a 7-5 Ritual Angling medium action rod, a Shimano Metanium HG reel with 12-pound Sunline Shooter, the new Trokar TK 137 Pro V Bend hook, and a Neko-rigged 5.8 Jackall Neko Flick green pumpkin worm with a 1/32-ounce Eco Pro nail weight.
3. Todd Faircloth
“I caught most of my fish on a Strike King Rage Bug in green pumpkin,” said Faircloth.
The Rage Bug rig included a ⅜-ounce Strike King tungsten weight, a 3/0 Gamakatsu heavy cover worm hook, 22-pound Sunline Shooter line, and a Denali lithium 7-4 heavy action worm-jig rod.
Faircloth also caught a few on a wacky-rigged Strike King trick worm in green pumpkin and some on a Strike King 1.5 square bill in Tennessee shad color. Faircloth’s primary cover was shallow wood laydowns in 1 to 3 feet of water.
“The ones I caught on the squarebill came off of rock,” said Faircloth. “I intentionally targeted the more stained water on the last two days up the river. There’s not as much pressure.”
4. Jacob Powroznik
“My choices were simple,” claimed Powroznik. “A wacky-rigged worm and a topwater bait.”
Powroznik’s worm-fishing gear included a 7-foot Quantum Prism spinning rod, a Quantum Smoke reel loaded with 20-pound braid and a 15-pound fluorocarbon leader, a V&M Trickster worm in green pumpkin/violet, and a Mustad size 1 Neko hook. For his topwater fish, Powroznik used a Livingston Walk N Pop.
5. Mike Iaconelli
Ike ran up the Hiwasse River and looked for dirtier and warmer water.
“Up that river, the water was 3-to-5 degrees warmer than anywhere else I looked,” stated Iaconelli. “Because of that, I could power fish. I think 90 percent of those fish were legit post-spawn, bloody tails, etc.”
His primary areas were staging locations: ditches or channels on the way in and out of spawning grounds that would touch flat rock or rip rap.
“I can’t tell you how important my Lowrance C-Maps were for finding those spots. Thanks to them, I could find those subtle ditches and channels.”
Iaconelli’s fish came primarily on a shad-colored Rapala Brat or a squarebill crankbait fished to deflect off the rocks. The cranks were fished with a 6-6 Abu Garcia Ike Series Delay Rod and a Revo Ike reel spooled with 14-pound Berkley Sensation monofilament.
A ½-ounce Molix Water Slash spinnerbait was used to catch fish near docks. And when Iaconelli pitched, he used a 4-inch Berkley Pit Boss in Okeechobee Craw.
6. Luke Clausen
Clausen fished areas where fish would try to spawn, and since the water was down, he targeted stair-stepping bluffs and gravel banks. He used three methods to weigh bass.
His primary bait was a Z-Man Finesse worm in EZ money color and other straight-tail worms on a ⅛-ounce Dirty Jigs Luke Clausen shakey head, 8-pound Yo Zuri Top Knot fluorocarbon leader with a 10-pound Yo Zuri super braid, all on a G. Loomis 822 SYR NRX rod and Shimano Stradic CI4 spinning reel.
Clausen also threw a Z-Man Jackhammer 3/4-ounce Clearwater Shad, a Smokey Shad Razor Shad trailer, and 16-pound Yo-Zuri Top Knot fluorocarbon on a G. Loomis IMX Pro SBR 813 rod with a Shimano Curado K 7.4:1 reel.
Finally, a Zman FattyZ in green pumpkin on a 3/16-ounce shaky head, with 12-pound Yo-Zuri Top Knot fluorocarbon, a G. Loomis GLX MBR 843 rod and a Shimano Curado K 6.2:1 reel.
7. Edwin Evers
“All but three fish were caught on a dropshot rig,” said Evers. “I kept it very simple.”
The drop-shot rig included a 6-9 Bass Pro Shops Platinum spinning rod, a Platinum spinning reel spooled with XVS Hyper Braid, and a 10-pound fluorocarbon leader tied to a 1/0 hook, with a 4.75-inch Berkley Bottom Hopper worm in green pumpkin, and weights ranging from 3/16-to 3/8-ounce, depending on conditions.
“A huge factor for me at Chickamauga were my Wiley X sunglasses,” Evers stated. “I used the yellow lenses on cloudy days and the Silver Blue Mirrors on sunny days. They helped me spot stumps in the 1 to 4 feet of water I was fishing. I used my Lowrance Side Imaging to find the rest.”
8. Keith Poche
Poche had a one-two punch approach. When fishing docks, he’d fish a 5/16-ounce shaky head rigged with a 5-inch Berkley General in green pumpkin. He primarily pitched and flipped around posts and brush in the marinas with the General. He paired a 7-3 Abu Garcia Fantasista rod and an Abu Garcia Revo MGX Extreme 8.1:1 gear ratio reel spooled with 15-pound Berkley Trilene fluorocarbon.
A black-and-blue Berkley MaxScent lizard Texas rigged on a 5/0 Berkley Fusion hook was effective when fished in brush, laydowns and any wood.
9. Brandon Palaniuk
Palaniuk used three lures to make it into the Top 10.
First, a discontinued bladed jig in white with a Zoom Z-Swim 3.8 trailer. He used an Alpha Angler Rebound rod paired with a Daiwa Steez A 7.1:1 spooled with 15-pound Seaguar InvisX Fluorocarbon line.
Second, a Storm Arashi Cover Pop in bluegill color with an Alpha Angler Slasher rod and Daiwa Steez A 7.1:1 loaded with 40-pound Seaguar braid and 20-pound Seaguar Rippin Mono leader.
For his third option, Palaniuk used a VMC Tokyo Rig with a 4/0 hook and a ⅜-ounce tungsten weight with either a Zoom Z-Hog in California 420 or a Zoom Z-Craw in Green Pumpkin Flash, all on an Alpha Angler Hitter rod and Daiwa Steez A 7.1:1 reel with 25-pound Seaguar Tatsu line.
Palaniuk fished around natural rock and stumps.
“The big difference was that I spent 90 percent of my time in one creek and just let the fish keep coming to me rather than running around and chasing the fish,” said Palaniuk. “I never saw another MLF angler all week.”
10. Michael Neal
Neal stuck with two baits on his home lake.
First was a Big Bite 8-inch Finesse Worm in green pumpkin or tilapia on a 3/16-ounce Luke Clausen Dirty Jigs Shakey Head. He rigged it on a 7-foot medium action Denali N3 rod with a Daiwa Tatula LT 2500 reel loaded with 10-pound Sunline SX1 braid and a 10-pound Sunline Sniper leader.
The second lure was the Big Bite Yo Mama with a 5/16-ounce weight and a 5/0 Gamakatsu Superline EWG hook. Neal used a 7-4 Heavy action Denali N3 rod with a Daiwa Tatula 100 reel spooled with 18-pound Sunline Shooter Fluorocarbon for the Yo Mama.
“I relied on both of these baits to target transition areas fish use while going to spawn and coming back from spawning in 3-to-8 feet of water,” said Neal. “The key seemed to be able to fish the bait as slowly as possible, taking up to two minutes for one cast.”