A trio of Rapala®, Storm® and VMC® baits helped Bob Downey to two monster bags and a runner-up finish in the Bassmaster Elite Series season/opener last week on Florida’s St. Johns River. The bait that put the most big bass in the Rapala pro’s boat was a Storm Arashi Vibe lipless crankbait.
“It’s been an amazing week down here in Palatka,” Downey told Bassmaster Elite Series Emcee Dave Mercer on the weigh-in stage on championship Sunday. “To start off the year with this sort of a finish, I couldn’t ask for more.”
A less grateful angler might have left Palatka asking for a little more, perhaps — one more keeper bass could have won Downey the tournament; with one more 5-bass limit, he would have blown the rest of the top-10 finishers out of the water.
Although his total weight of 74 pounds was only 1 lb. 4 oz. lighter than the total of tournament champion John Crews, Downey’s final tally comprised the weight of only 16 bass — four short of a four-day limit of 20 keepers. Crews, on the other hand, brought a 5-bass limit to the scales each day, and led wire-to-wire before getting the win.
“What you have done here is almost impossible,” Mercer told Downey, referencing his near come-back out of the hole he was in after day 2. “You book-ended this tournament with two of the most incredible days ever.”
Downey started and ended the tournament with epic, 5-bass limits that weighed 27 lbs. 4 oz. and 29 lbs. 3 oz. — each a “monster bag” in bass-angler parlance. On day 3, he scratched out a limit weighing a combined 10 lbs. 14 oz. But on day 2, he brought only one bass to scales, a 6-lb. 11-ouncer.
Among the five fish Downey caught and weighed on championship Sunday was an 8 lb. 4 oz. lunker. Like most of the big bass he caught that day, the 8-plus-pounder came on a Storm® Arashi® Vibe, which was his most-productive bait in the tournament. In his excitement upon landing it, he exclaimed “Arashi Vibe! Down the hatch again! … Oh my gosh! This is a giant, giant bass!”
Featuring a soft-knock rattle, the Arashi® Vibe emits a unique single-cadence, low-pitch sound that attracts attention without alarming tentative fish. The Vibe will start swimming at a slower retrieve speeds than will other lipless crankbaits, and it falls slower too. This allows you to fish shallower water at a slower speed when that’s what the conditions call for.
Rotated hook hangers, a feature of all baits in the Arashi family, ensure that the Vibe’s two sticky-sharp No. 3 Premium VMC® Black Nickel Hooks will grab fish and not let go.
“You don’t really land all the fish usually, when you’re catching them on other [lipless crankbaits],” Downey noted. “So to fish clean this week outside of basically one fish that I lost yesterday? I mean, I can’t ask for more.”
The Vibe’s rotated hook hangers improve its action and prevent hang-ups as well. The Vibe also has a self-tuning line tie, another feature unique to the Arashi line of baits. It measures 2 3/4 inches, weighs 9/16 ounces and comes in 14 color patterns.
In his first two Elite Series tournaments on St. Johns River, Downey finished at the back of the pack, so he was pleased with his 2nd-place finish, and wasn’t dwelling too much on the woulda, coulda, shoulda’s of coming in short of a limit on day 2.
Downey explained that his game-plan this time around on the sprawling St. Johns River system was to throw out previous years’ game-plans, visit new areas and adjust to changing conditions.
“I just looked at new water in practice and tried to get away from what I’d done the last two years, really,” he said. “Basically just treated it as a new place — don’t go back to anything old. … Approached it from a different angle.”
Downey caught most of his championship-Sunday bass in a 30-minute flurry of big-fish Arashi Storm action.
“That would have been a blast even if i was just out for fun, let alone fourth day of an Elite Series tournament on Live,” he said. “It was insane. I mean, you can’t ask for more than that.”
Another key bait for Downey was a Rapala® X-Rap® Prop, which features counter-rotating blades that spin in opposite directions, creating surface attention with even the slightest movement.
The finesse offering essential to Downey’s success was a Wacky Rig comprising a No. 2 VMC® Neko Hook, a 6mm VMC® Crossover Ring, and a soft-plastic stick-worm.
Walters gets 4th-straight top-10 finish on St. Johns River
VMC® hooks, a Rapala® RipStop® jerkbait and Sufix® line helped Patrick Walters earn a 4th-straight top-10 finish in Bassmaster competition on the St. John’s River. He finished 7th, with a combined weight of 59 lbs. 4 oz.
Walters caught more than half of his total weight in bass on a Wacky Rig comprising a No. 1 VMC Neko hook, a 5mm Crossover Ring and a 5-inch soft-plastic stick bait. He fished it on a main line of 10-pound-test Sufix® 832 Advanced Superline® braid, with a 12-pound-test leader of Sufix® Advance® Fluorocarbon. He also caught several of the bass he weighed on a No. 9 RipStop, in the “Sneaky Pete” color pattern. He fished it on 10-pound-test Sufix® Advance® Flourocarbon.
“So many say it is tough to stay consistent here and you haven’t missed a single Top 10 cut, how have you done it?” Mercer asked Walters on the weigh-in stage.
“You gotta throw everything out the window from last year and fish completely brand new water,” Walters said. “And that’s what i tried to do.”
“I’m happy making a top 10,”Walters said further. “My decision-making wasn’t on point this week, but when you can leave with A top 10, you can’t really complain whatsoever, because Nobody wants to hear that. Especially the other 80 anglers.”