Top 10 baits from the Harris Chain - Major League Fishing

Top 10 baits from the Harris Chain

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Standard Florida stuff worked well for the field at the Harris Chain. Photo by Rob Matsuura.
March 23, 2024 • Jody White, Rob Matsuura • Toyota Series

LEESBURG, Fla. – The Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats event on the Harris Chain of Lakes turned out to be a good event for the Southern Division pros and Strike King co-anglers. With fairly low weights across the board, everyone was in it until the end, which made for a dramatic finish.

Throughout the week, almost every lake on the chain played, though Griffin followed by the Dora and Beauclair realm were probably the best places to be. For the most part, pros fished offshore or near shore, as they so often do on the Harris Chain.

1. Keyso does Florida stuff for the win

Earning the win while fishing in Griffin, Dora and Eustis, Mikey Keyso put together an incredibly complete tournament.

The first two days, Keyso fished offshore grass with a Reaction Innovations Machete Worm in tramp stamp and junebug on either a 3/16- or 1/4-ounce weight. The final day, he hit up a shad spawn to start and caught most of his weight on a golden shiner-colored Z-Man/Evergreen ChatterBait Jack Hammer trailered with a Reaction Innovations Little Dipper in Houdini.

2. DiMauro ‘Scopes in the southern lakes

Fishing in or around Beauclair most of the time, Conner DiMauro very nearly won the event with a mostly offshore pattern.

For a shad spawn, he kept a Crock-O-Gator X-Bite Skirtless Buzzbait on deck, which he trailered with a Zoom Horny Toad in hambone. He also used a Zoom Magnum Shakey Head Worm in junebug on both a drop-shot and a Carolina rig. For his drop-shot leader, he used 12-pound Yo-Zuri T-7 fluoro, and he used it in 16-pound test for his C-rig.

“It was incredibly, incredibly tough this week,” he said. “I’ve fished out here a decent amount, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen it this hard to get bites. I never culled on the last day.”

In practice, DiMauro found a solid shad spawn pattern, and he started in those areas, but the cold weather turned that pattern off. 

“I backed off the banks and just started picking it apart,” explained DiMauro. “I was dragging a worm on a Carolina rig and dragging that in the grass. Then, I started noticing all these fish that were crawling on the bottom off the edge of the grass. Pretty much, the whole first and second day, that’s how I weighed every fish. I’d be dragging that Carolina rig on the edge of the grass, and looking around with my LiveScope. When I’d see one, I would wind in my Carolina rig and flick a drop-shot out at it.”

3. Griffin is good to Hoinig

Fishing in Griffin all week, Nicholas Hoinig did his damage in offshore grass.

“I was in Griffin all week on that one stretch of grass,” he said. “I burned it down. I was sharing water with James Ford, so that made it a little difficult. I think if I had it to myself, it could have been a different outcome, but you know how it is.”

His best bait was a 6-inch Gambler Burner Worm in junebug, which he rigged with a 1/4-ounce Ark tungsten weight and a 5/0 Gamakatsu SuperLine Offset EWG. He also used an XCalibur XRK50. He used Ark Invoker Tour Series rods and Ark Gravity 7 reels.

“I’ve been using those Ark reels ever since they came out,” he said. “They’ve held up great. I could get new ones, but I haven’t had to. They’re light, and you can throw it a mile.”

4. Camp moves to Griffin to move up

Weighing big bags the last two days, Robert Camp did his damage with a West Volusia Custom Baits prop bait and a weightless Zoom Magnum UltraVibe Speed Worm for the most part. He used Ark rods and Ark Gravity 8 reels.

His pet prop bait has been key in back-to-back events now.

“This one was in a bream color,” he said. “They’re custom-made wood baits. They float different, they make a loud sound, a little louder than your normal prop bait. I think, personally, that helps a lot.”

Early on, things looked dire for Camp.

“I fished Harris the first day and got burnt, and then I went to Griffin the last two days,” he said. “Typically on Harris, when it is cold, I can get 12 to 15 pounds, no problem. But this cold front, I don’t know what happened, all the fish that are typically there in a cold front situation, they weren’t. On the first day, I had no fish at 12:30.”

5. Bakewell struggles to follow up Day 1

Bobby Bakewell blasted into the lead on Day 1, hammering out 27-14 to get things going. Then, things got a lot worse. On Day 2, he only caught four keepers. On Day 3, he caught five keepers and accidentally left one in the livewell, which may have cost him the runner-up spot and roughly $7,000.

Doing most of his work with LiveScope in the southern lakes, Bakewell caught his big ones on a Bruiser Baits Da Big Nasty Worm, a massive, 14.25-inch offering. He used a 1/4-ounce Flat Out Tungsten weight and threw it on 25-pound Yo-Zuri T-7 fluoro. He also fished a Yo-Zuri 3DB Series SP Deep jerkbait.

“It was so much fun the first day,” said Bakewell. “I think the front was everything. The first day, the front was coming in, the wind was blowing like crazy. They were chewing for me – I couldn’t ‘Scope as well as I could on the flat calm days, but I would just see a shimmy on my screen and fire the big worm over there and it’d be swimming off. The next two days, with it being flat calm and the front was in, I think they got lockjaw. And they’re so smart, they don’t handle pressure well.”

6. Sheppard relies on Dora

Wrapping up a Top 10 with a big bag on the last day, Tyler Sheppard fished similarly to many others.

“I fished Dora, and it doesn’t have a lot of grass down there,” he said. “Any offshore grass you can find, with some hard spots around it, that is the key for me down there. And the bluegill are starting to spawn, and if you could find some bream beds around that stuff, that was key for me this week.”

His primary baits were a 1/2-ounce golden shiner-colored Z-Man/Evergreen ChatterBait Jack Hammer trailered with a Yamamoto Zako and a 6th Sense The Judge Swimming Worm with a 1/4-ounce weight. He used 16-pound Gamma Edge for all his presentations.

7. Weston gets it done in Griffin

Heading to Lake Griffin to fish offshore every day, Hunter Weston caught almost all his fish off one spot.

For baits, he used a 1/2-ounce Z-Man/Evergreen ChatterBait Jack Hammer with a Gambler Komodo, a 1/8-ounce Scottsboro Tackle Hellfire Finesse Swimbait Head with a Gambler EZ Swimmer and a Gambler Fat Ace with a 1/8-ounce Gambler Brass Rattling Weight.

Though he did very well, Weston left a little on the bone this week.

“It was a pretty good week, but the big females went to the bank on the third day and left me,” he said. “And I was only able to boat one of the three big fish that bit me this week. They were eating it right at the trolling motor. I was in Griffin the whole time. I found one magic spot at the end of Day 1 – it was a little hump in a huge field of hydrilla, and I just Power-Poled down there the next two days.”

8. The Apopka plan works for Warren

Coming into the event, the chatter was that Apopka was the best lake to fish. Unfortunately, the logistics involved made it quite risky. Casey Warren ended up doing the best there, making use of the lake on Day 1 and Day 3.

“Tuesday and Thursday, those two days I went to Apopka,” he said. “It was basically just a ChatterBait and a jig those two days. It was bad — the first day, I didn’t get long at all. By the time I got through, it was 10:40 or so. I had to be back at 4 o’clock, so we had 2 hours to fish the first day. The final day, there were only three of us that went, and we had about 3 hours to fish.”

In Apopka, he used a 1/2-ounce bruised green pumpkin Z-Man/Evergreen ChatterBait Jack Hammer with a Zoom Z Craw Jr. in black sapphire and a 1/2-ounce homemade jig with a Zoom Z Craw Jr. in junebug red. With both baits, he flipped or cast around pencil reeds. On Day 2, Warren stayed in Eustis and fished a chartreuse and white Z-Man/Evergreen ChatterBait Jack Hammer with matching a Gambler Komodo around offshore grass.

9. Beauclair does it for Myers Jr.

Heading down to Beauclair, Britt Myers Jr. did his damage on a few offshore spots he re-learned in practice.

“There’s two areas of Beauclair where I’ve caught them in grass really good, and there was no grass in those areas,” he said. “So, I idled, and on the same stretches where I caught them, there was shell. One was a shell bar, and one was a section with hard bottom and bluegill beds. I didn’t see much life on the bluegill beds until the tournament. I picked the crankbait up and just beat the snot out of the areas. Every 15 or 20 minutes, you’d run into a little pod of them, and I got lucky the first and second day and caught a big one.”

His primary bait was a Strike King Hybrid Hunter Jr., and he also used a 6-inch Roboworm Straight Tail Worm in Margarita mutilator on a 1/4-ounce drop-shot. He used Suffix Advance Fluorocarbon and Duckett rods.

10. Mizell sticks with Florida staples

The winner of the first Southern Division event at Okeechobee, Jessie Mizell followed it up with a Top 10.

On the week, Mizell rolled with traditional Florida baits, including a golden-shiner colored Z-Man/Evergreen ChatterBait Jack Hammer trailered with a Yamamoto Zako, a Gambler Fat Ace and a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver.