Although Seth Feider says “dumb luck” led him to his best spot last week, a smart strategy helped him catch more and bigger fish in the school he found there. En route to winning a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on Michigan’s Lake St. Clair, the Rapala® Pro upsized his Sufix® Advance® Fluorocarbon line by two pounds-test in order to prevent his crankbaits from hitting bottom. The non-traditional retrieve helped him hook and land more 4-plus-pound smallmouth bass.
“I prefer to keep my crankbaits off the bottom for smallmouth,” Feider explains. “When you get a bait on the bottom, they can either nip it from behind or come down on it from the top. And it just doesn’t seem like you hook them that good. I prefer to keep my bait above them, that way they can come up on it and really get the business end of the crankbait.”
Feider executed his gameplan to perfection, winning the Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship tournament with three five-fish limits of smallmouth bass that weighed a combined 77 pounds, 15 ounces. He beat out the runner-up angler by more than five pounds.
“It was fun, I had a good time,” Feider said on the Bassmaster stage before being presented with a trophy for winning the three-day tournament.
Feider was casting a Helsinki Shad-pattern Rapala® DT®-10 on day 1, when he caught his heaviest five-fish limit of the tournament, 26 pounds, 12 ounces. Those fish came out of 11 feet of water in a community hole he had not planned to fish. The spot came into play because bad weather prevented him from fishing where he had found schools in practice.
“I got really lucky on day 1 … catching that big bag,” Feider said on the weigh-in stage. “I never practiced there. I just drove by and nobody was sitting there.”
Standard operating procedure for fishing a crankbait like a DT-10 is to retrieve it in a manner that forces it into contact with the bottom, causing its lip to carom off cover in an erratic manner that triggers bites. “DT” stands for “dives to.” The number indicates the maximum depth to which a DT bait will dive.
In most situations, you’d throw a DT-10 on 10-pound-test line in 8 to 10 feet of water to ensure bottom contact. But because Feider believed St. Clair’s smallies would hook themselves better if he kept his crankbait just above the bottom, he threw his DT-10 – and later a Japanese crankbait not available in U.S. retail stores – in 11 feet of water on 12-pound-test Sufix Advanced Flourocarbon.
“Normally, I crank with 10-pound line – that’s where you’re going to get the max running depth out of a DT,” Feider explains. “But on St. Clair, I wanted to keep my bait up in about nine feet, so upsizing to the 12-pound-test helped me keep it from hitting bottom.”
Without bottom cover causing deflections, Feider had to use retrieve speed and wrist maneuvers to provide his crankbaits with bite-triggering action.
“I was fishing more of a stop-and-go retrieve rather than a traditional winding-it-straight-in retrieve,” he explains. “I’d get the bait going really fast, then stop it. That was triggering a lot of bites.”
“When you’re not hitting bottom, you don’t get that erratic action you get when you’re deflecting off stuff, so that’s why a stop-and-go retrieve is key,” he explains further. “By pumping it, burning it, and stopping it, you get that erratic action out of the bait without having to collide with something.”
Crankin’ for the win
In past tournaments on St. Clair, Feider targeted smallies with drop-shot rigs, an effective tactic in his home state of Minnesota and on most smallmouth waters across the country. But on St. Clair, he kept getting beat by anglers fishing crankbaits. So this year, he rigged up DT-10s and some other crankbaits and went for the win.
“It seems like a crankbait catches bigger fish there,” Feider says. “I’ve been there a few other times and lived the drop-shot life and ended up getting beat out by guys cranking. It’s a real historic St. Clair deal. As far as cranking smallies goes, that’s probably one of the best places on earth to do it.”
That being said, any time his crankbait bite cooled off for a spell, Feider would drop on them. He caught a few key fish on a drop-shot rig that comprised a No. 2 VMC® Neko™ Hook, a fluke-style soft-plastic bait, a tear-drop shaped tungsten weight, a long 8-pound-test Sufix Advanced Flourocarbon leader and a main line of 8-pound-test Sufix Advanced 832 braid.
“I think the forage has gone from gobies – where the tube and the dropshot was really strong – to where they’re eating more perch and shiner minnows now,” Feider says of St. Clair. “That’s probably why it’s more of a crankbait, jerkbait, spybait kind of place now.”
Sufix Advanced Fluoro is Supple, Sensitive and Strong
The most supple, sensitive and strong fluorocarbon line Sufix® has ever engineered, Easy-handling and abrasion-resistant, Advance achieves increased suppleness without sacrificing strength or feel.
“Its strength-to-diameter ratio is so unbelievable,” Feider says. “That’s what we have in our Advance Fluorocarbon – super-strong, super-abrasion-resistant.”
Advance’s inherent qualities and exclusive G2 Precision Winding make it virtually memory-free, preventing the dreaded line coils that jump off your reel with most other fluorocarbons.
“I can put it on that spool for months, pull it out of my rod locker, make a cast with it and it comes off of there without those coils,” Feider says. “It really clears up some of those headaches you have with fishing straight fluorocarbon on a spinning reel.”
Balsa construction gives DT-10’s unique action
Rapala’s DT® Series baits dive fast to a pre-set depth and stay in the strike zone longer than any than other crankbait on the market. Built of balsa wood, Rapala’s signature materal, DT’s combine carefully placed internal weights, a tapered fuselage and a thin tail to create a unique crankbait action. In stained to muddy water brightly-colored DT’s generally out-produce brownish and greenish patterns. In clearer water, more natural color patterns usually prevail.