The 2018 tournament season is gearing up, but there’s still time to prepare. One of the simplest ways to get ready is to review the winning baits from 2017 tournaments to see what products you might want to stock in your tackle box for upcoming events.
Winning baits covered a wide range of categories in FLW’s tournament circuits last season, from homemade jigs to some of the hottest new products available on Tackle Warehouse.
Here’s a recap that might give you some new ideas for 2018, or at least reassure you that your go-to baits are still catching fish.
Lake Guntersville, Feb. 2-5: In the first event of the season Mark Rose’s last cast kicker (Watch here) helped him edge Bryan Thrift for the win on Lake Guntersville. Throughout the weekend Rose threw a green pumpkin Strike King Tour Grade Finesse Football Jig in both 3/8- and 1/4-ounce sizes, along with a flat-sided crankbait. He also used a Strike King Red Eye Shad Tungsten 2 Tap, while a couple of other baits produced a fish or two during the week.
Lake Travis, Feb. 16-19: Two weeks after his first win of the season Mark Rose went back-to-back by winning on Lake Travis. Rose used several baits during his historic victory, including a 3/4-ounce Strike King Tour Grade Football Jig, a Strike King Rage Bug in blue craw and a 1-ounce Strike King Squadron Head with a shad-colored swimbait.
Harris Chain, March 9-12: Rookie pro Bradley Dortch had his full arsenal of baits out at the Harris Chain in March. He rolled to his first-place victory on a pad-dragging and hydrilla-winding pattern. His baits of choice were a chrome XCalibur XR50 One Knocker, a Tennessee blush shad-colored BOOYAH One Knocker, a NetBait Big Bopper with a 3/16-ounce Picasso tungsten weight (gunmetal finish) and a NetBait Salt Lick with a 5/16-ounce weight.
Lake Cumberland, April 6-9: Scott Martin notched his eighth FLW Tour win on Lake Cumberland. The Florida pro caught most of his winning bag on an unspecified jerkbait and a Bomber Long A wake bait.
Beaver Lake, April 27-30: Johnny McCombs battled through harsh weather at Beaver Lake to grab his first FLW Tour victory. He was one of the few anglers who doggedly stuck to one thing throughout the tournament, and it paid off in a big way. The majority of McCombs’ fish came on a modified white War Eagle buzzbait with a Zoom Horny Toad. He pitched a jig back to fish that missed the buzzbait.
Mississippi River (Pools 7, 8 and 9), May 18-21: Bryan Schmitt only needed a few baits to win on the Mississippi River once he found an area that was holding fish. Schmitt leaned heavily on a sexy shad-colored 1/2-ounce Riot Baits Recon vibrating jig. Schmitt also used a 3/8-ounce black and blue swim jig with a craw trailer.
Potomac River, June 15-18: It’s no surprise that Tom Monsoor won his first FLW Tour event with a homemade bait tied on the end of his line. The Wisconsin veteran says he used one of his signature custom-made 1/2-ounce swim jigs in black and blue with a 3 3/4-inch Yamamoto Flappin' Hog as a trailer. After running out of Flappin’ Hogs, he switched to a Strike King Menace Grub in the same color.
Forrest Wood Cup, Aug. 11-13: We wrapped up the 2017 Tour season with Justin Atkins winning the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Murray. The Alabama rookie targeted herring-eating bass and caught all 15 of his weigh-in keepers on one bait: a chrome ima Little Stik 135. On day three, he actually lost the Little Stik that he’d used on days one and two, and he unwrapped a new one to finish out his title run.
Lake Okeechobee, Jan. 26-28: The 2017 Costa FLW Series opened up on Lake Okeechobee in late January. For the win, Taylor Ashley used two 3/8-ounce Dirty Jigs No-Jack Swim Jigs – one white and one green pumpkin. He trailered them with Zoom Super Speed Craws in matching colors and fished them on 65-pound-test PowerPro braid.
Lake Havasu, Feb. 9-11: The second event of the 2017 Costa FLW Series was held out west at Lake Havasu. Earning his second FLW Series win at Havasu, Joe Uribe Jr. threw a custom 7-inch swimbait on a swim jig (similar to what is pictured) and a Ned rig with a cut-down 4-inch Yamamoto Senko.
Sam Rayburn, Feb. 23-25: Todd Castledine won the first Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division event at Sam Rayburn with a combination of his favorite Strike King baits. Castledine cranked shallow grass with a Strike King KVD square-bill, sight-fished with a Strike King Rage Bug and caught his biggest fish in 18 feet of water with a Strike King Rage Tail Anaconda.
Lake Seminole, March 2-4: Georgia pro Buddy Gross leaned heavily on a combination of swimbaits to win on Lake Seminole. A 3/4-ounce Owner Beast Flashy Swimmer paired with a 5-inch Zoom Swimmer and a 3/4- or 1-ounce Tennessee River Tremor Head matched with a Zoom Magnum Fluke did most of the work. Gross also flipped grass sporadically throughout the tournament with a Zoom Z-Craw Jr. on a 1 1/4-ounce tungsten weight. An assortment of Hammer Rods teamed with Daiwa Tatula CT Type-R reels made sure fish got in the boat.
Lake Dardanelle, March 30-April 1: Quincy Houchin went all in on a flipping pattern to grab the win on Lake Dardanelle. He caught almost all of his fish flipping a green pumpkin/red flake Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver to submerged wood in depths of 2 to 3 feet and 8 to 9 feet.
Grand Lake, April 20-22: Nick Prvonozac earned his first Costa FLW Series win on Grand Lake by relying on a few key baits. The Ohio pro mainly pitched a YUM Vibra King Tube and twitched a Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogue jerkbait.
Lake Chickamauga, May 4-6: Working a jig was the ticket on Lake Chickamauga in early May for William Weidler. To win his $48,000 check, Weidler’s go-to bait was a 1/2-ounce Dirty Jigs No-Jack Swim Jig with an H&H Swamp Frog trailer. But there was a catch. Weidler says the feet on the frog only come in white, so he dyed them blue one-by-one to match the jig.
California Delta, May 11-13: California pro Hunter Schlander grabbed his first tournament win on the California Delta by using a handful of baits. He caught one solid keeper on a Jackall Iobee Frog fished on a “cheese” mat, but the bulk of his catch came on a bluegill-colored Ladies Man swim jig with a Zoom Horny Toad trailer and a Jackall MC 60 crankbait. He fished the latter two on “troughs” between riprap levees and inside grass lines.
Kentucky Lake, June 8-10: Jason Lambert crushed schools of Kentucky Lake ledge fish to win the second event of the Costa FLW Series Central Division. The Tennessee pro caught a lot of his fish on a Hog Farmer Baits Hog Wobbler head with a 7-inch Castaic Jerky J and a 6th Sense Lures Cloud 9 C25.
Lake Champlain, June 22-24: Ron Nelson caught a mixed bag of fish to seal the deal on Lake Champlain. In order to tempt both green and brown fish he used a Poor Boy’s Erie Darter and a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver on small stand-up jigheads as well as a wacky-rigged 4-inch Yamamoto Senko.
1000 Islands, July 27-29: Matt Becker kept it simple on 1000 Islands by sticking to a single bait. For the win, Becker relied on a watermelon/white laminate Yamamoto Shad Shape Worm on the good ol’ drop-shot.
Potomac River, Aug. 24-26: It took a variety of baits for Mike Hicks to lock up the Costa FLW Series Northern Division finale on the Potomac River. Hicks tended to mix it up all week, but swapping topwaters and adding a swim jig on the final day keyed his win. He threw a Lobina Rio Rico the first two days and then switched to a perch-colored Team Daiwa TD Pencil in calmer conditions the final day. His swim jig of choice was from Lil’ Hustler, and he trailered it with a Reaction Innovations Skinny Dipper. Hicks caught a few on a split-shot rig at the end of day two, and also added fish on a vibrating jig from Lil’ Hustler and a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver.
Lake Texoma, Sept. 21-23: Jeff Reynolds used two main baits to win on Lake Texoma. He caught smallmouths feeding up shallow around shad schools with a Heddon One Knocker Spook and then worked a Texas-rigged Zoom Trick Worm around brush piles for largemouths.
Clear Lake, Sept. 28-30: For the win at Clear Lake, Bryant Smith committed his entire event to pitching a wacky-rigged Yamamoto Senko around docks on a 3/0 Decoy Cover Finesse HD Worm 220 hook with a 3/32-ounce nail weight.
Lake of the Ozarks, Oct. 12-14: In Missouri, Andre Dickneite mainly targeted docks with a black and blue V&M Adrenaline Flippin Jig trailered with a Strike King Rage Craw. On the final day, Dickneite added in a red bug-colored Zoom Magnum Trick Worm on a 1/4-ounce Texas rig for a different look as he re-fished his areas.
Kentucky Lake, Nov. 2-4: Bradford Beavers primarily played the topwater game to lock up the Costa FLW Series Championship on Kentucky Lake. Beavers used a Heddon Zara Spook, Heddon Rattlin’ Spook and River2Sea Whopper Plopper in bone and silver colors. He says the walking baits were most productive. On the last day, he struggled early but salvaged his day by switching to a Zoom Magnum Super Fluke. Then, once the wind started blowing later in the day, he was able to catch three more on topwater.
Pickwick Lake, June 1-3: All it took was a single bait for Marshall Deakins to win the 2017 BFL All-American on Pickwick Lake. Deakins threw a 3/4-ounce Profound Outdoors Swampers Lures Football Jig. His color of choice was rootbeer, and he trailered it with a matching Zoom Fat Albert Twin Tail.
Wheeler Lake, May 31-June 2: A few key baits helped the K-State team of Travis Blenn and Kyle Alsop lock up the National Championship on Wheeler Lake. The team fished green pumpkin Zoom Brush Hogs on Carolina rigs or Big Bite Baits Swing Head Jigs around brush and ledges. Around docks, Blenn and Alsop switched to Texas rigs with the same bait. A “big shaky head” rigged with a Big Bite Baits Super Stick (green pumpkin) also saw some work.
Kentucky Lake, April 7-8: Dylan True and Matthew Lamastus of University of Tennessee at Martin won the Open with two primary programs. The first was cranking steep rocky banks outside spawning pockets with a Strike King Series 5 in citrus shad and a Strike King KVD 2.5 in black back/chartreuse. Cranking produced most of their mammoth day-one bag of 25 pounds, 15 ounces. On day two, a Carolina-rigged Strike King Rage Lizard duped several critical kickers. True and Matthews mixed in a 4 1/2-inch Strike King Shadalicious swimbait fished on a jighead made by True and his father.