For the second time this season, Rapala® Pro Ott DeFoe made a big splash for a big finish with a hush-hush new-bait. On Championship Sunday of the Bassmaster Classic on Texas lunker factory Lake Conroe, he caught and landed a 9 lb. 9 oz. bass that exploded on a Storm® Arashi® Cover Pop, a new topwater bait scheduled to be unveiled publicly in July.
“That bait is designed to walk in place without moving a great distance,” says DeFoe, who finished 5th in the tournament known as the “Super Bowl” of bass fishing. “So you can throw it up to a piece of cover – a target – and twitch the rod tip really hard and make the bait walk back and forth without covering a lot of distance coming to you.”
In what’s become a trend this season, DeFoe let the cat out of the bag on another previously top-secret fish-catcher in the Classic as well – VMC®’s new Weedless Neko Hook. He rigged it wacky-style with a soft-plastic stickbait.
In February, DeFoe placed runner-up in a Bassmaster tournament on Florida’s Lake Okeechobee, blowing the cover of Terminator®’s previously top-secret new topwater bait, the Walking Frog Jr. Storm, VMC and Terminator are all in the Rapala family of brands. All the new baits DeFoe is catching bass with are scheduled to be unveiled in July at ICAST, the sportfishing industry’s biggest trade show.
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“We’ve got a lot of great baits coming out at ICAST this year – stuff that should have a lot of momentum – really, just some killer baits,” says DeFoe, who is leading the 2017 Bassmaster Angler of the Year Race. “I’ve been fortunate to be in on the development of a lot of these baits – especially the Arashi® Cover Pop. It’s one that I feel I understand what you need to do with that bait well. And I put it to work here.”
DeFoe caught his 9-pound, 9-ouncer on the Arashi Cover Pop, as well as all the fish he weighed on the first of the tournaments three days. Bassmaster anglers can weigh in a limit of five bass a day. All the fish DeFoe brought to the scales weighed a combined 48 lbs. 12 oz.
A popper-style bait, the Cover Pop measures about 3 1/8 inches long and weighs just over a half ounce. “That is a bait style that I have used for a long time,” says DeFoe, who lives outside Knoxville, Tenn. “Where I live in East Tennessee, we fish big popper-style baits really tight to cover, especially when fish are spawning or are post-spawn. And that’s what a lot of these bass at Lake Conroe were.”
DeFoe’s wacky-rigged Weedless Neko Hook bass came out of woody brush as well. “When you’re around all those stick-ups and stuff, you’ve got to have some kind of weedguard, otherwise you’ll just stay hung all the time,” DeFoe explains. “That Neko Hook is just such the perfect hook for wacky rigging. Now we’ve got it in a weedless version. It’s killer for that technique.”
DeFoe dressed his No.1 size Weedless Neko Hook with a green-pumpkin-colored soft-plastic stickworm.
Iaconelli Places 6th
Rapala Pro Michael “Ike” Iaconelli made a splash in the Classic as well, having put himself into contention to win early on Championship Sunday with an 8- to 9-pound-class bass he caught dragging a Carolina Rig.
Ike’s Carolina Rig set-up comprised a ½ oz. VMC Tungsten barrel weight, a 12- to 14-inch leader, and a 3-0 VMC offset hook dressed with a soft-plastic lizard. But Ike’s school of fish pulled a disappearing act throughout most of the afternoon, and the lunker he caught early proved the day’s highlight, and he ended up finishing 6th with a combined weight of 48 lbs. 12 oz.
“It was a good week,” Ike says. “Any time you make it into the top 10, it’s a good a good week.”
Especially on a waterbody as notoriously stingy as Lake Conroe. The flip-side of Conroe’s reputation as a lunker factory, is it’s infamy as a lake in which fish are here today, but gone tomorrow.
“It’s a difficult lake,” Ike says. “You don’t catch 30, 40 fish in a sitting, like in other places. It’s notorious for very few bites. … This was a wacky event, for sure.”
Fishing conditions Ike described as “tough” included 30 mph winds on Day 1 followed by post-frontal conditions on Days 2 and 3. “If you end up in the top 10, you can’t second-guess yourself.”
All of Ike’s Carolina Rig fish came in 8 to 10 feet of water on the lake’s lower end, and most of them in the morning. Later in the day, he’d run up-lake to flip shallow brush with a Shakey Head set-up comprising a 3/16 oz. VMC Rugby Head Jig dressed with a soft-plastic finesse worm.
Rapala Pros Dave LeFebre and Randall Tharp rounded out the top 20, finishing 14th with 43 pounds, and 17th with 40-14, respectively.
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