At Florida’s Harris Chain, in late winter, it’s a good bet the same handful of baits are going to produce more than any others, from Lake Harris down to Apopka. During the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit event on the Harris Chain, presented by Bad Boy Mowers, it was Texas rigs with black and blue plastics, jerkbaits, Carolina rigs and a few other moving baits that most often got the call.
Anglers targeting submerged grass favored moving baits such as lipless crankbaits and vibrating jigs. Flipping lily pads and reeds meant a heavy dose of Texas rigs of various sizes and colors. A couple pros in the top 10 leaned hard on jerkbaits to elicit reaction strikes in open water.
Here’s a full rundown of what each pro in the top 10 used to catch fish on a finnicky, fickle Harris Chain.
1. Strickland employed just two baits to notch the win: a Reaction Innovations Spicy Beaver and a Reaction Innovations Machete Worm. He rigged the Spicy Beaver with either a 1- or 2-ounce weight on 70-pound-test Fitzgerald Vursa braid, spooled on a Shimano reel attached to a 7-foot, 6-inch, heavy Fitzgerald Flippin’ hydrilla rod. For the worm, he used a 7-foot, 6-inch, medium-heavy Fitzgerald and 17-pound-test Fitzgerald Vursa fluorocarbon with a pegged 1/16-ounce weight.
2. To catch his fish, Jimmy Washam used just one bait: a Megabass Ito Shiner jerkbait in a golden shiner color, rigged on a 6-foot, 9-inch, medium-power rod with a high-speed reel spooled with 16-pound-test Sunline Super FC Sniperfluorocarbon.
3. Hunter Freeman relied on a Carolina rig tipped with a Zee Bait Co. Rib Tail Worm in junebug to weigh in 54-6 over three days. He used a 2-foot leader with a 1-ounce Swagger Tungsten weight on a Falcon Expert rod. He also caught a few fish on a sexy shad Salmo square-bill crankbait and a discontinued XCalibur One Knocker lipless crankbait (the BOOYAH One Knocker is a similar bait), but most of Freeman’s damage was done with the Carolina rig.
4. Kyle Gelles’ most productive baits were two jerkbaits – a Lucky Craft Pointer 100 and a Megabass Ito Vision 110 – which he fished on a 7-foot, medium-power Cashion rod and a Quantum Smoke (8.1:1 gear ratio) reel spooled with 10-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100 Percent Fluorocarbon. He also used Keitech Swing Impact FAT swimbaits (3.8 and 5.8) in light hitch on a 3/4-ounce Dirty Jigs Matt Allen Tactical Bassin head, and a 1/2-ounce Z-Man ChatterBait Jack Hammer in clearwater shad with a Keitech trailer. Gelles threw the swimbaits on a 7-foot, 6-inch Alpha Angler flipping stick for long casts and hard hooksets and the ChatterBait on a fiberglass Alpha Angler rod. Both were paired with Shimano Curado reels (7.4:1 gear ratio) spooled with 20-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100 Percent Fluorocarbon.
5. Matt Stefan relied on an unpegged Texas rig with a 1/4-ounce weight and a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent The General in junebug. He threw that on an MHX 874 rod with an Abu Garcia Revo AL-F (8.0:1) spooled with 15-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100 Percent Fluorocarbon. Stefan also caught some key fish on a discontinued XCalibur XR50 lipless crankbait (ghost).
6. Miles Burghoff primarily employed the Z-Man Palmetto BugZ in a couple colors (bama bug and California craw) with either a 1/2- or 3/4-ounce weight and a Hayabusa 959WRM hook. He threw that on a 7-foot, 6-inch, heavy Fitzgerald All Purpose rod and a Fitzgerald Stunner reel spooled with 65-pound-test Seaguar Smackdown braid. He also caught his day-one kicker – a 7-11 giant – sight-fishing a bed with a Z-Man Boar HogZ.
7. Jared McMillan rotated between a Texas-rigged Strike King KVD Perfect Plastic Ocho with a 5/8-ounce weight and a Strike King Rage Tail Craw with a 3/4-ounce weight, both in black and blue. He rigged both on 7-foot, 4-inch Team Lew’s Pro-Ti Speed Stick rods paired with Team Lew’s Pro-Ti Speed Spool SLP reels (7.5:1) spooled with 65-pound-test Strike King Tour Grade braid.
8. Chad Warren used a swim jig to catch his 50 pounds for the tournament: a Bayou Bug Jigs 1/2-ounce swim jig in watermelon green with a Reaction Innovations Skinny Dipper (Houdini) trailer on Berkley X5 65-pound-test braid. He spooled that on an Abu Garcia Revo MGX (8.0:1 gear ratio) on a Falcon Cara Lizard Dragger II rod.
9. While Casey Scanlon caught a couple fish on a Carolina rig on “one-cast deals” at certain locations, he primarily used a black and blue Bass Pro Shops Stik-O on a 4/0 Hayabusa WRM114HD hook all three days. He rigged it on a 7-foot, 6-inch, heavy Johnny Morris Signature Series rod paired with a Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris Platinum Signature reel (8.3:1) spooled with 20-pound-test Bass Pro Shops fluorocarbon line.
10. Brandon McMillan alternated between a few different weight sizes on his Texas rig (1/2-, 3/4- and 1-ounce Flat Out Tungsten) with a 4/0 Mustad hook threaded with several different colors of Bruiser Baits MacDaddy Craws. He flipped with a 7-foot, 5-inch G. Loomis GLX rod with a Shimano Metanium (8.5:1) reel and 60-pound-test Gamma Torque braid.