Pros Preview 2014
By Mike Pehanich
What’s new and important to the men playing the high-stakes game of professional bass fishing? That’s what Fishhound wondered, and here’s what Fishhound found out! We asked five pros from the Bassmaster Elite Series to identify a facet of tackle or technique that expect to be important this 2014 season. In Part I, Boyd Duckett addresses one of the all-time favorite early season baits, and Keith Combs discusses the evolution of his “line logic.”
Rat-L-Trap: An Early Season Classic!
Boyd Duckett made history as the first “local” to win the Bassmaster Classic when he captured the 2007 Bassmaster Classic title on Alabama’s Lay Lake. He added to his legend that season by amassing the second highest single-season winnings in Bassmaster history. This past October, Duckett moved to Lake Guntersville, site of the 2014 Bassmaster Classic.
“I have fished Lake Guntersville a lot over the years, and now it is my home lake, so it hurts my feelings badly to miss the Classic here this year!
“A Rat-L-Trap will definitely be a player in the Classic. I can’t imagine someone winning without the lure being a part of the game plan. The event may even be won on a Trap!
“A lot of anglers miss just how good the bait is when the water is cold. They recognize it as a fast-moving bait, but it is extremely effective in January, even when the water temperature drops into the 30s!
“It was unseasonably cold in January 2007 when I won the Classic. My strategy was to catch a quality limit with a Rat-L-Trap and to flip (jigs) in the afternoon for one or two big bites. I caught my limit each day, but I was also able to get one or two good fish – bigger fish – on the Trap, too. Having a limit enables you to swing for the fences, but the quality fish I caught on the Rat-L-Trap made the difference!
“In fall and summer, a Trap is more of a ‘cast and retrieve’ lure. But when the water is cold, I fish it very slowly. I crawled it like a jig on Lay Lake, basically sweeping the rod and crawling the bait, pausing it on the bottom, picking up the slack…then crawling it some more.
“Another factor is that a Rat-L-Trap is perfectly suited to fishing in the grass. My catch on Lay Lake had nothing to do with grass, but at Guntersville they’ll find plenty of vegetation!
“If a lake has grass, I will lift and drop the Trap during my retrieve. When I lift it, I am pulling it free – not really ‘ripping’ it as a lot of guys say. but pulling it free, then letting it fall back. Expect to get hung up every third cast, but, if you fish it like that, the results will impress you!
“In all the lakes in Alabama and southern waters, crawfish molt into a dark brown and orange combination. That’s the time guys fish the red Traps you hear so much about. But I actually like brown and orange best this time of year. My favorite (Rat-L-Trap) is the 46R, Red Crawfish, which is really more of a brown and orange crawfish. After the spawn, craws pick up beige or beige and green hues. In summer they get darker – black or blue looking. But from January through March my choice is almost always brown and orange!
“A Rat-L-Trap will beat a jig to death in cold water! I think it will be the Go-To bait for the field at the Bassmaster Classic on Guntersville!”
2014 New Product Note: Duckett also recommends Rat-L-Trap’s “cool new colors” in the Super Nova series. Luminous inserts reflect through a transparent external body.
Evolution in Line Logic
Keith Combs fished his way to a remarkable 111.5-pound total and a 2013 Bassmaster Lake Falcon Championship over bass legend Rick Clunn last March. Understanding the impact that giant Texas bass and casting big-lipped crankbaits all day can have on fishing line derives from the “line logic” that Combs expects to serve him again in 2014.
“Six or eight years ago, I was using monofilament line for most every fishing application, but my approach to line selection has changed a lot, and it continues to change.
“Today I do a lot of my fishing with fluorocarbon, and I choose from several types of Seaguar fluorocarbon lines at that!
“For example, when I am crankbait fishing, I am not as concerned with abrasion resistance. I want a line that is very ‘castable,’ yet strong. I use 15-pound Seaguar Tatsu, a double structure fluorocarbon.
“For flipping, I feel I get more bites using fluorocarbon over a braid. Yes, I will use braid at times, but 25-pound AbrazX fluorocarbon is almost unbreakable even when I fish it in heavy cover or I am dealing with extremely big fish. I even used it flipping when I won at Falcon last season.
“But when I am dealing with really heavy cover such as matted grass, I switch to Kanzen or Smackdown Braid.
“Another thing that has changed my game is using braid in spinning applications. Seaguar introduced its new Smackdown Tournament Braid, a very thin yet very strong braid. I use 15-pound Smackdown. It casts farther than any line I have ever used. That is a huge plus, particularly in clear water and other applications. That small diameter line goes deep quickly, too, and it is so sensitive.
“Of course, I like to splice a fluorocarbon leader on my braid with a Double Uni knot.
“Another thing that has changed with these line improvements is the time I save changing line.
“I may re-spool with braid only two times a year, though with smaller test line, I may change more. But your 50- to 60-pound braid doesn’t wear like other lines. You still have to check the line portion near your bait for frays, but sometimes you can go six months before you have to change – even if you are a guy like me who fishes almost every day!
“How often I change my fluorocarbon depends on what type of fishing I am doing – and how my day went! Fluorocarbon doesn’t stretch much, but if you are really torqueing hard, such as burning a crankbait all day or catching a lot of fish, it may be a good idea to change because a lot of casts and constant strain on your line can cause it to fatigue.
“Still, I do not change line every evening even during a tournament. I look at the spool and feel the first 10 or 15 feet with my fingers to make sure nothing is wrong. Today’s fluorocarbon lines don’t get knicked up as easily and seem to handle hard fishing so much better, especially fishing with Seaguar. That’s quality stuff!”
2014 New Product Note: Smackdown is Seaguar’s new thin-diameter braid that weaves eight micro- strands into a round, thin, smooth-casting profile. Seaguar also has added new test strengths to all of its fluorocarbon lines.