Rasmussen Fires Up Unreleased Baits “Freeloader” and “Cleanup Craw” at Wheeler Lake for Classic Berth

Wisconsin pro Adam Rasmussen brought a wealth of knowledge, a heavy dose of savvy, and some new Rapala® soft plastics to Alabama’s Wheeler Lake. By the time he was ready to go home, he’d claimed a spot in the 2024 Bassmaster Classic. In winning a Bassmaster Open, he becomes one in a long line of recent Badger State anglers to accomplish that feat and showed that solid angling skills transfer wherever bass live. And in the case of multispecies fisheries, a one-two punch never hurts.

Shad Spawn Attack
Rasmussen beat out 224 of the best anglers in the world – a mix of tour pros, living legends, and local hammers – over the course of a grueling three days on Wheeler’s famous Decatur Flats. The lake was a bit “off,” and it was certainly crowded, but you wouldn’t know it by his average of 18 pounds a day. He made it look easy by getting off to strong daily starts and finishing with a hammer of a third day when the field was reduced.


“In the south, those fish get fished year round, so they’re a lot smarter,” he said. “Up here, they’re only bothered for five or six months out of the year. That means down there your bait and your bait presentation has to be perfect. Little tricks make all of the difference in getting you that additional bite or two throughout the day.”

He started off the tournament chasing a vigorous but briefly-lived shad spawn frenzy, fishing a vibrating jig with Rapala’s yet-to-be-released Freeloader swimbait on the back.

“It has that little ball on that tail that creates extra action,” he said. “It kicks and it’s super realistic and lifelike. I snagged a bunch of shad with it on the last day and it looked exactly like those gizzards.” 

River Ledge Approach
When the shad spawn bite died off, he complemented it with a bottom-bouncing technique. Alabama is about as southern-fried as a state can be, but Rasmussen utilized his understanding of fishing for a mixed bag in current, as honed on the Upper Mississippi near La Crosse. He found hard bottom spots and dragged a ¾ ounce VMC® Swinging Rugby Jig with Rapala’s upcoming Cleaup Craw on the back.

“I tied it on the morning of the tournament,’ He said. “It was an instinct thing. I like one that is heavy because I reel it in – I don’t drag it – and I want it to maintain bottom contact. I like for it to bang around in the rocks and in the shell beds.

For both power fishing presentations, he used 20-pound test Sufix® Advance® Fluorocarbon.

“It’s super sensitive,” he explained. “And it was especially important with the Rugby Jig because it sinks and keeps better bottom contact. That was really important.”

Mixing it Up with the Dropshot
You can’t win an Open unless you make it to the final day of competition and Rasmussen, who was in 7th place after both Day One and Day Two, eked out some key fish each of those days with a dropshot. Once again, he chose his terminal tackle carefully, starting with a ¼ ounce VMC® Teardrop Weight and paired with a #1 RedLine Series® worm hook. Unlike the other two techniques, he downsized his line to 10-pound test Sufix® 131® braid paired with a leader of matching 10-pound test Sufix® Advance® Fluorocarbon.

Now he’ll take his talents to the remainder of the Opens season, but he has circled next March’s Classic on his calendar.

“I’ve only been there once, but I like how the lake lays out,” he said. “To win that would be the ultimate, but winning a Bassmaster Open is probably one of the biggest accomplishments ever in my career. There are no slackers in that field. Everybody can catch them.” Then again, not everyone had access to the new soft plastics that put him over the top. Soon everyone will, but Rasmussen is confident that this win is just the start of bigger things.

VMC Swinging Rugby Jig – Shop Now

Sufix Advance Fluorocarbon – Shop Now

VMC Teardrop Weight – Shop Now

VMC RedLine Series Worm Hook – Shop Now

Sufix 131 Braid – Shop Now

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