In changing conditions, Classic contenders changed baits and game plans to get bites

In rapidly changing conditions, it helps to keep an open mind and an open tackle box full of different baits. That’s a lesson Rapala® pros were reminded of last week in the 2016 Bassmaster Classic, held on a muddy Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees that was clearing slowly while rapidly warming.

“On the first day of competition I caught five keepers on five different baits,” said five-time Bassmaster Classic contender Ott DeFoe.

Those five baits were a Terminator® Spinnerbait, a #5 and #6 Rapala® Shad Rap®, a Rapala® DT®-6 and a Terminator® Pro Series Jig.

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Because Grand Lake’s lower end traditionally features lots of clear water, Defoe and other Rapala® pros came with game plans built on high confidence in Rapala®’s new Shadow Rap® Shad. It was unveiled for the public right before the Classic and Rapala® pros have been whacking bass on it for months. Although the innovative new jerkbait features an action that bass have never seen – it works best when the water is clear enough for bass to actually see its amazing action.

Similar to the original Shadow Rap®, released at last year’s Classic, the Shadow Rap® Shad is taller in profile than its predecessor, but not as long. And, rather than slowly sinking on the pause — as an original Shadow Rap® does — a Shadow Rap® Shad slowly rises when stopped, slightly wobbling and perfectly mimicking an injured shad.

“With the action it’s got, man I just totally expect this thing to be a big hit there at Grand Lake this year,” DeFoe said in a video recorded before Grand Lake went off limits for pre-fishing. But that was before near-flood-level rains deposited epic amounts of mud throughout the reservoir right after Christmas.

“I figured there would be some off-colored water this week, but I was not expecting as much cold, off-colored water as we had,” DeFoe said. Areas with clear water were few and far between – conditions better suited for vibration-emitting lures like Terminator® spinnerbaits and Rapala® crankbaits. Once Grand Lake returns to normal form, DeFoe said, local anglers will likely commence whacking bass on Shadow Rap® Shads.

“But during the Classic, I kind of had to adjust as I went along,” DeFoe said. That meant scrapping his initial game plan and keeping both his tackle box and his mind open. In a tournament that saw numerous top pros fail to catch a five-bass limit, a last-minute color change resulted in one of DeFoe’s hard-to-come-by keepers.

“I had been fishing primarily craw-colored DT®-6’s when the water was in the 40s, but something just told me on that second day to tie on a Disco Shad color instead, and then caught my first two keepers in 15 minutes.”

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For six-time Classic contender Brandon Palaniuk, scrapping game plans developed in practice was necessary and focusing on the current conditions as they changed rapidly. From practice to the last day of the tournament, water temps in many places warmed from 43 to 55 degrees.

“This week was just all about changing for me,” said Palaniuk, who turned in yet another top-12 finish in the world’s most important fishing tournament. “I changed every day.”

Although known as a crankbait fanatic, Palaniuk fished the conditions and enjoyed his best success with a chartreuse and white half-ounce Terminator® Super Stainless Spinnerbait. “That was my big key this week,” he says.

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Whether you’re fishing for bragging rights or in the biggest bass tournament in the world, keep an open mind and an open tacklebox to adapt to changing conditions in order to catch more fish. A wide assortment of lures in the Rapala® family of brands have been designed to help you do just that.

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