Top 10 baits from Lake Chickamauga - Major League Fishing

Top 10 baits from Lake Chickamauga

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While the tail end of the spawn was very important on Chick, the emerging ledge bite was the key to the win. Photo by Rob Matsuura.
May 6, 2024 • Jody White, Rob Matsuura • Toyota Series

DAYTON, Tenn. – The Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats Central Division event on Lake Chickamauga wasn’t a tight race for the win, but it produced some interesting patterns. With fish spawning, guarding fry, eating on shad spawns and moving out to the ledges, it gave pros a lot of options. So, if you’re after variety, this is Top 10 produced in spades.

Here’s what the best used to get it done in the final Central Division event of the season.

1. Shaw banks on his knowledge of Chick

Killing it all three days, Banks Shaw fished offshore for the entire event, relying on his electronics and knowledge of where groups of fish would be setting up.

For tackle, he used a Rapala CrushCity Freeloader on a 1/8-ounce head as well as a 3/4-ounce V&M Pacemaker Football Jig. He threw everything on Joe Burns Custom Rods.

2. Bedding fish key for Campbell

Looking to go back-to-back on Chick, Brody Campbell relied on forward-facing sonar and spawning fish for his finish. His primary bait was a ¼-ounce shaky head with a Zoom Trick Worm.

Were the event a bit earlier, things may have been different, but either way, Campbell exploited the spawn and fry guarders to the max for second place.

“I ended up catching a lot of the males off the bed,” he said. “I had a 9-pounder I found, and first cast I threw up there and caught a 5-pound male and she ended up swimming off. I didn’t really want to shake that one off to try to catch her. I had some giants found, but nothing to what [Banks] was on. I was on 22 to 24 a day, and I lost a giant the last day, but it wouldn’t have mattered.”

3. Offshore game works for Anaya

Making it happen big on the first and last days, Fisher Anaya did his work deep on the ledges with a variety of baits.

“The second day was a scrambling day, but I got on them the last day and never moved the boat,” he said.

Out deep, his primary offerings were a Rapala CrushCity The Jerk on a 1/8-ounce head, as well as a flutter spoon and a few other baits. For the minnow, he used a 6-foot, 9-inch 13 Fishing Muse Black with a 13 Fishing Axum Spinning Reel, 10-pound Sufix 832 and an 8-pound Sufix Advance Fluorocarbon leader. For the spoon, the precocious pro used a 13 Fishing Muse Black with a 13 Fishing Inception G2  and 20-pound Sufix Advance Fluorocarbon.

4. Bed fish and deeper fish play for Mrazek

The reigning Toyota Series Championship champion, Chad Mrazek ran a two-pronged approach, catching spawning fish off stumps, as well as a few deep fish.

Mrazek did most of his work with a drop-shot, which he made up with a 6-inch Roboworm Straight Tail Worm, a 1/4-ounce weight and a Roboworm Rebarb Hook.  He also caught fish with a Clutch Eco glide, and more importantly, used it to fire up spawning fish.

“I would roll the glide over the bed fish a few times, and then I’d hit them with the drop-shot,” he said. “It seemed more important to have something to fire them up. I feel like you could have thrown a lot of things in the bed after the glide bait. I only caught like two on the glide, but I definitely had to have it.”

Mrazek found many of his stumps on Google Earth during a low water period. He also had a couple of deep places on channel swings that he fished – one was particularly key, producing a 4- or 5-pounder every day of the event.

5. Falardeau does work offshore and shallow

A guide on the lake, Dillon Falardeau mixed shallow fishing up around takeoff with offshore grass fishing down around Chester Frost.

Up shallow, he wacky-rigged a 5-inch Yamamoto Senko in pumpkin with green and black flake. Deeper, he used a Megabass Vision 110+1 Jr.

“The orange Senko has just always been my go-to, it’s a staple of mine. Each co-angler was freaking out about how many fish ate that thing all week. It gets 10 times more bites than any other color,” he said. “The jerkbait is how I was targeting my bigger fish, over secluded, deeper grass clumps. Just really secluded grass clumps, and I would let that jerkbait sit over top of them, sometimes 20 or 30 seconds, and they would slowly come up and suck it in.”

He threw both baits on Dobyns Champion rods, using the 703 model for the Senko and the 684cb for the jerkbait.

6. Marbut mixes and matches after a big Day 1

Hayden Marbut blasted 27-1 to take the lead on Day 1, doing his damage on an offshore community hole. Then, he had to mix and match the rest of the way.

For baits, Marbut used a True Bass FF Minnow (winner minner) on a ¼-ounce Picasso Tungsten Ball Jig Head, a 1/2-ounce Picasso Fantasy Football Jig with a Zoom Z-Craw, as well as a drop-shot with a 6-inch Roboworm Straight Tail Worm. For the football jig, he used 15-pound P-Line fluorocarbon, and he used 15-pound-test P-Line braid with a 12-pound-test P-Line fluorocarbon leader on his spinning setups. He threw everything on Hammer rods and Shimano reels.

“The first day, I caught a pretty big one on a drop-shot on a limit spot, and I rolled up to a community hole and they were set up right and I smashed them pretty fast,” he said. “The rest of the days were just slow. I was mixing in some stumps, isolated cover, I just didn’t have enough schools. I didn’t have enough schools to be efficient the whole tournament – I figured out the depth and the stuff they were using on the last day of practice.”

7. Norsetter catches spawners and fry guarders

Using his forward-facing sonar, Kyle Norsetter targeted fish in and around the spawn.

“I just had a one-two punch,” he said. “We always have 12 rods on the deck, but you really know what you’re going to use. It was pretty much a Senko and a jerkbait, fishing stumps that were anywhere from 4- to 12-feet, and the bass were bedding on them, and the fry would hatch, and you’d see them glow like a lightbulb.”

Norsetter was particularly happy with his battery setup, which he felt helped him see things better.  

“PowerHouse Lithium has a 16-volt battery, which combats voltage drop,” he said. “It carries a stronger current, and really clears up the picture on my screen.”

His jerkbait of choice was a Berkley Stunna 112+1. He used the same worm as Falardeau, a 5-inch Yamamoto Senko in pumpkin with green and black flake, rigged on a Gamakatsu G-Finesse Stinger Weedless Wacky Hook. Norsetter used 14-pound Sunline Sniper for his jerkbait, and 16-pound Sunline XPlasma Asegai braid with a 14-pound Sunline Sniper for his wacky rig.

8. Greene stays hot

Fresh off a good finish in the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals event on Kentucky Lake, Ethan Greene rolled over to Chickamauga and knocked out a Top 10 doing just about the same stuff.

Fishing brush and spawners on stumps, Greene used a Megabass Vision 110+1 in spawn cherry and a wacky rig for most of his fish. His rod for the jerkbait was a 6-foot, 9-inch, light medium heavy Kistler KLX.

“I was catching spawners and fry guarders on stumps,” Greene said. “Pretty much what I’d do with the jerkbait, is I’d run it by them and get them mad. That jerkbait would just tick them off. If they’d eat the jerkbait, that’s good, but I’d usually get them mad with the jerkbait. Then, once they started darting up, I’d throw the wacky in and they’d eat it.”

Greene also caught a few fish out of deeper brush, including his 7-pounder on Day 1 which earned him $500 for Berkely Big Bass.

9. King also plays the spawn game

Like many top finishers, Ethan King put his time in on spawning fish.

For King, the best baits were a Smithwick Perfect 10 Rogue, a drop-shot with a Zoom Magnum Shakey Head Worm and an 8-inch Zoom Lizard (tilapia) on a Texas rig with a 5/16-ounce Ark weight and a 4/0 Owner hook.

“I was catching them spawning on stumps, and fry guarding fish on stumps,” King said. “I was using the jerkbait to fire them up, but I actually caught my biggest fish on it on the second day.”

10. Williams makes the Top 10 shallow

For his last four tournaments, David Williams has been fishing without a working graph at the bow. Considering he’s made four Top 10s along the way, it doesn’t seem to be holding him back.

“I wasn’t really on a whole lot during practice, so I just kept practicing,” he said. “The first day of the tournament, I tried to find a shad spawn, but only had like one fish at 11 o’clock. I couldn’t get anything going, and then I picked up that topwater and started smashing them. Day 2, I hit the shad spawn and had 19-2 by 8 o’clock. And Day 3, it was almost like Day 1 again, I couldn’t hardly find the shad spawn – I ended up catching a few around bream beds.”

His topwater of choice was a Strike King Splash Topwater, and he used a Queen Tackle Tungsten Flipping Jig and Queen Tackle Tungsten Swim Jig in bream and shad colors, both of which he trailered with Zoom Z-Craw Jr. For tackle, he used Stik5 rods and 15-pound HI-SEAS mono for his topwater and 20-pound HI-SEAS mono for his jig.