Rapala® baits helped one Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour angler to a win last week in winter-like weather in Texas, and two others to top-5 finishes. The champion and the 5th-place finisher both caught big Lake Fork bass on a flat-sided, balsa-wood Rapala crankbait designed by Rapala Pro Ott DeFoe. The third-place finisher, Rapala Pro Jacob Wheeler, caught scorable bass on Rapala jerkbaits.
“What an awesome week here on Lake Fork,” said Wheeler, MLF’s 2021 Bass Pro Tour Angler of the Year. “For me this whole week, it’s been throwing jerkbaits on 12-pound-test Sufix Advance Fluorocarbon.”
Among his productive jerkbaits were three Rapala models – Shadow Rap Deeps, RipStops and Husky Jerks. “I had a bunch of jerkbaits tied on every morning because sometimes you can get fish to react to one or the other,” he explained to majorleaguefishing.com.
Native Texan pros Alton Jones Jr. and Alton Jones Sr. finished first and fifth on Lake Fork, respectively. Both son and father qualified for the tournament’s championship round last Friday by throwing Red-Crawdad-pattern Rapala OG Slim 6 crankbaits to catch big numbers of big pre-spawn bass in the earlier rounds. Neither Jr. nor Sr. are sponsored by Rapala.
The “OG” in “OG Slim 6” stands for “Ott’s Garage,” the location of the workbench at which DeFoe carves and sands prototypes of balsa-wood baits he designs for Rapala. DeFoe, who won two Bass Pro Tour tournaments last season, was competing against the Joneses and Wheeler last week on Lake Fork, but did not reach the championship round.
“I apparently was fishing correctly, just not in the right areas!” DeFoe said, referencing the fact that although he too was throwing an OG Sim 6 in the tournament, he fell a few places shy of advancing to the Knockout Round. “[My son] Parker said I got beat by my own bait. It’s actually really cool to think about that and what an honor! Go catch some more big ones, guys!”
A non-rattling, easy-casting crankbait that swims with a medium wobble and tight side-to-side action, the OG Slim 6 sports a lightweight, circuit-board lip. It will dive to six feet when fished on 12-pound-test line – hence the “6” in its name.
The most memorable of Alton Jr.’s OG Slim 6 catches was a 7-pound, 14-ouncer that got hung-up in a submerged tree and which he got into his boat only after jumping into 50-degree water and swimming underwater to free the stuck fish by hand. Alton Sr.’s most memorable OG Slim 6 catch was an 11-pound, 2-ounce whopper he caught while targeting Lake Fork’s famous flooded trees with a Red Crawdad-pattern OG Slim 6 in depths of 10 to 12 feet to 3 to 4 feet. In three consecutive casts to one submerged tree with his OG Slim 6, Sr. caught a 6-pound-5-ouncer, the 11-pound-2-ouncer and a 3-pounder.
The OG Slim 6 has earned a reputation as a go-to, big-bass bait on Lake Fork. In Bassmaster’s Texas Fest tournament on the lake last year, 2021 Elite Series Angler of the Year Seth Feider, a Rapala Pro, won a brand-new Toyota Tundra pick-up truck for catching the tournament’s biggest bass, a 9-pound, 9-ounce lunker he caught on an OG Slim 6. Feider left Bass Fest last year with both the truck and $15,000 for placing 11th in the tournament.
Last Friday on Lake Fork, in the championship round of Major League Fishing’s second tournament of the season, Wheeler caught 10 scorable bass weighing a combined 40 pounds. His 3rd-place finish was his second in the top 10 in as many tournaments this season.
“Starting the season with two Top 10’s, I couldn’t be happier,” Wheeler said in a post on his Facebook page. “Congratulations to my buddy [Alton Jones Jr.] on grabbing the W! We literally talked a month ago and I told him I was picking him to win. To see it really happen is awesome. I couldn’t be happier for him and his family!”
On Monday of last week, Wheeler earned an automatic berth in the tournament’s championship round, winning the two-day Group A qualifying/elimination round with 30 scorable bass, weighing a combined 121 pounds. One the biggest of those, a 7-pound, 3-ouncer, came on a Rapala® Shadow Rap® Deep on Wheeler’s third cast of the tournament, a mere four minutes into the start of Day 1, Group A qualifying-round action.
“Basically, the depth was the key – If the fish were deeper, I’d have go to a deeper-diving jerkbait,” Wheeler explained. “And that was really the whole key for me the whole week — adjusting my bait to what I see on that Active Target [forward-facing sonar] unit.”
Rapala’s Shadow Rap Deep jerkbait features side-to-side darting action and flat sides that give it a rolling flash. As its name indicates, it’s a fairly deep-running bait – it will reach the strike-zone in 8 to 9 feet of water on 10-pound-test line.
In shallow water, Wheeler caught more big bass on shallower-running jerkbaits, including a Rapala® RipStop® and a Rapala® Husky Jerk®. Additional key fish came on a Storm® Arashi® Glide. Storm is a Rapala Respected Brand.
Looking like a cross between a jerkbait, suspending twitch bait and a swimbait, a Rapala RipStop will stop in place and suspend almost immediately on the pause – something no other bait does. A No. 12 RipStop will dive to five feet. A Rapala RipStop Deep will dive to eight feet.
A Rapala Husky Jerk works well in multiple situations — off sunken islands or rock points, whether fish are holding deep or shallow, and in cold water and warm. It’s in cold water though that bass pros throw them most often, owing to its tight, more neutral action.
Swimming with an exaggerated motion that draws in fish from long distances, an Arashi Glide Bait delivers a consistent and stable glide action at both fast and slow retrieve speeds. Similar-looking baits often glide effectively only at one retrieve speed. It’s extremely stable, allowing anglers to easily create different actions with multiple retrieve methods.
Dating back to last season, in which Wheeler won a Bass Pro Tour-record three regular-season tournaments, he has placed in the Top 3 in six of 10 tournaments. He has the honor of owning the most “mosts” in the Bass Pro Tour’s three-year history – the most wins, the most championship-round qualifications, the most knockout-round qualifications, and the most money won.
Cold Snap Caused Postponement Moving Fish Around
The championship round was originally scheduled to be contested last Thursday, but frigid temps and icy roads and boat ramps caused it to be postponed until Friday – and even then it got off to a late start. Period 1 started at 11 a.m. and the anglers competed until 5:30 p.m. Previously, cold and icy conditions had also caused a shortened Knockout Round on Wednesday.
Although Wheeler was not on the water competing last Tuesday and Wednesday when the colder weather moved in, it wouldn’t be accurate to say the cold snap didn’t affect him. When the championship round finally began late last Friday morning, he had not been on the water since Monday, when weather and water conditions were much warmer. In that amount of time, and in the midst of cold front, bass will often move a considerable distance and change their eating habits — sometimes dramatically.
“It had been three full days since I had been on the water, so I knew things were going to be different and I was going to have to fish on the fly,” Wheeler said. “This sport is all about making adjustments during the event. I made a couple good calls yesterday and a couple I would like to get back – and that’s going to happen.”
Wheeler was not on the water competing last Tuesday and Wednesday because Elimination Round winners in Bass Pro Tour competition earn an automatic berth in the Championship Round, skipping over the Knockout Round. Wheeler won the Group A Elimination Round last Monday. Alton Sr. won the Group B Elimination Round last Tuesday. Alton Jr. won the Knockout Round last Wednesday.
The six-day Stage 2 Bass Pro Tour tournament on Lake Fork showcased 80 of the top professional bass-fishing anglers in the world competing for a total purse of $805,000, including a top cash prize of $100,000 to the winner. The tournament was live-streamed at MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MOTV app, and also filmed for broadcast later this fall on the Discovery Channel.
OG Slim 6 Triggers Big Fish to Bite
Although OG Slim 6’s name derives, in part, from its thin, flat-sided profile, its balsa-wood construction gives it a live-minnow action that similar-looking flat-sided plastic crankbaits just can’t replicate. And its ultra-thin circuit-board lip delivers the right action and attitude no matter how you fish it, triggering bites from big bass and other gamefish.
The OG Slim 6 measures 2.75 inches and weighs a half-ounce. It’s armed with two No. 3 VMC black-nickel, 1X-strong, short-shank Hybrid Treble Hooks. It’s available in 19 other color patterns.
Shadow Rap® Deep Darts Side to Side, Spins 180
While most look-alike jerkbaits follow a forward trajectory with each twitch of the rod tip, a Shadow Rap’s action stands out. Not only does it dart side to side, it’ll spin around almost 180 degrees with the right action applied. As a result, it can trigger bites in three phases of your retrieve – initial kick, snap back to action, and on the pause, while slowly sinking, nose down.
In cool-to-cold water temps, you can often load your boat with bass by jerking a Shadow Rap Deep over deep standing timber and near transitions between shallow shelves and steep breaks into deeper water. Be sure to actively fish your Shadow Rap Deep all the way back to the boat – don’t allow your mind to wander towards the end of your retrieve. Bites can come both far and near — from the bait’s initial splash-down to almost all the way back to the boat, or anywhere in between.