BASS West Point Lake Baits, Gear & Patterns

Skeet Reese's Winning Pattern Baits & Gear

Skeet Reese arrived at West Point Lake last week thinking how cool it would be to win the Elite Series event there fishing a style of bait he loves to throw. "I came here fantasizing about winning this tournament with a swimbait," he said. "I'm a swimbait guy and I love throwing a swimbait, but I couldn't get bit on a swimbait all week. The lake fished totally different than I had anticipated." Did it ever? Rising water, then dropping water, then a day-long deluge rainstorm mixed in with clouds, an east wind and a bevy of post-spawn fish in a state of flux certainly turned the fourth Elite Series event of the season into a grinder's delight for some and a head-scratcher for others. Little did Reese know, it was all playing into his hands. It wasn't until the final day, when the sun burst through on the Chattahoochee River impoundment, that Reese was able to trigger a flurry of big fish to bite (on light line and tackle) and come out on top. He hung around the Top 10 the first 3 days, never getting higher than 5th or dropping lower than 7th. Then on the final day, he blasted 15-04 (just one of four 15-pound bags weighed all week) to erase a 2 1/2-pound deficit and bank his fourth Elite Series victory by 2 pounds over Aaron Martens.

"I didn't think I'd be throwing a spinning rod and 10-pound line," he said. "I thought I'd be throwing a swimbait if I'd won. It just goes to show that preconceived notions don't ever work. I just kept an open mind and went fishing." As he mentioned above, Reese attempted to get something going on a swimbait in practice, but eventually moved in shallow to target post-spawners. He mentioned on stage after his victory that the creek by Highland Marina, a known release spot for local tournaments, seemed to harbor a good population of quality fish. "It was the best thing I found in practice," he said. "I saw some big ones and had some bites. I wound up grinding it out there all week long." Reese started the tournament in the creek where he'd located several fish near beds. Problem was so did a number of other competitors. He managed 13 pounds, which had him in 5th place after day 1. He backed it up with a 9-10 stringer on day 2 and caught 8-08 in between rain drops on Saturday to make the Top 12 cut in 7th. Entering the final day, the gap from leader Tommy Biffle to Cliff Pace in 12th was just 4-01 so each finalist knew he had a legitimate opportunity at the win. Reese faced a 2 1/2-pound deficit, which he quickly erased. "(Sunday), the sun came out and it repositioned the fish where they were on Tuesday and I just started going down the banks slow and got the bites," he said. He managed between five and eight keepers a day during the event. "Going out in the morning, I was never optimistic about catching a good stringer," he added. "t doesn't matter what lake you go to, most people get caught up fishing their spots, especially on a home lake. We pride ourselves fishing the moment and the conditions. I was able to do that and change up."

Winning Gear:

He used a variety of baits on finesse presentations, including a wacky-rigged 5" Berkley PowerBait Fat Dover Crawler (methiolate) and a Berkley Havoc Bottom Hopper Jr. (smoke purple) rigged on a dropshot. A few key fish also came on a Lucky Craft LV 100 lipless crankbait.

West Point Lake Winning Pattern Bassfan 5/8/13 (Todd Ceisner)

Aaron Martens' Pattern, Baits & Gear

Aaron Martens made two separate trips to West Point Lake prior to it going off limits to competitors on April 1. While there was no way for him to anticipate the weather patterns that would develop between then and tournament time, he was able to drive around and read his electronics and mark potential fish-holding areas. Even though he'd fished there in 2011, he said he's more comfortable when having scouted a body of water instead of showing up blind for practice. When he arrived for official practice, he figured there would still be some fish spawning, but high water made some of the nests hard to see. "I was focused on bed-fishing if I could find enough of them," he said after notching his 11th career runner-up finish in B.A.S.S. competition. "I didn't know it was going to be as cloudy as it was. It was like pre-dawn cloudy all week. It was weird. That made it much tougher. More sun would've made it better. The weights would've been a few pounds higher, I think." He tried to unlock a topwater bite in practice, but had more success fishing a soft jerkbait rigged weightless. He also caught keepers on a shaky-head, keying on points and shoals and the backs of shallow pockets and creeks where schools of shad congregated. "They were definitely keying on shad," he said. "You couldn't see them really good, but the shad were spawning before it got cloudy and cool. That's one the reasons the fishing would've been better. When the sun went away, I think the shad backed off and the bass just backed off with them. "I was seeing a lot of shad in 3 to 4 feet of water right on the grass line and some fry guarders would come out and nail the shad here and there. That's what tipped me off to it."

Soft jerkbait gear: 7' medium-action Megabass Diablo casting rod, Shimano Metanium casting reel (7.0:1 gear ratio, 12-pound Sunline Super FC Sniper fluorocarbon line, 3/0 Gamakatsu Offset G-Lock light wire worm hook, Zoom Super Fluke (glimmer blue and mardi gras). He tied on the glimmer blue under cloudy conditions and broke out the mardi gras or watermelon version when the clouds parted. He also dipped the flukes in JJ's Magic Dye, which he thinks triggered some bites.

Jerkbait gear: 7' medium-action Megabass Orochi XX Flatside Special casting rod, same reel, 10-pound Sunline Super FC Sniper fluorocarbon line, Megabass Ito Vision 110 Magnum (pro green).

Shaky-head gear: 6'11" medium-action Megabass Orochi XX Dropshot Series spinning rod, Shimano Stella 2500 spinning reel, unnamed 3/16-ounce jig, 6" Roboworm straight tail worm (bold bluegill).

Main factor: "I made a couple scouting trips there. I went there one day last December and spent two half days there right before off limits. It seems like most of the time I pre-practice, I do pretty well."

Performance edge: "My Roboworms. I caught a few key fish on the shaky-head during the tournament."

West Point Lake Patterns 2-5 Bassfan 5/7/13 (Todd Ceisner)

Pete Pond's Pattern, Baits & Gear

The topwater bite at West Point Lake played into the hands of Pete Ponds, who grew up throwing a popper bait to catch schooling fish. "I love to throw a popper even though it's not usually a big-fish bait," he said. "But because the weights were so low last week, I was able to utilize it. Being able to throw it was cool because I had a lot of confidence in it. Normally, though, a bait like that isn't going to get it done on the Elite Series. It might catch you limit here or there, but it's just not a big-fish bait." Coming off a dismal practice, he entered the event unsure if he'd be able to bag a keeper, let alone a limit. He'd discovered an old waterfall/drain where an old lake emptied into West Point and that was the only area he had confidence in. He wasn't on a shad spawn pattern and couldn't locate enough bedding fish to last him the event. "Takahiro Omori had told me he'd been catching them on a Pop-R, so I tried it and got some bites," he said. "I caught two spots on day 1 and went back to throwing the Pop-R and caught a key fish. Once I got that bite, I stuck with it. It was probably the key bite that helped me in the tournament." His topwater bite didn't fire on day 4 so he transitioned to a spinnerbait. "One thing that keyed me in on the waterfall bite was I'd caught a striped bass in there and it was spitting up threadfin shad," he said. "When I saw that, I matched the blades on my spinnerbait to the size of the shad it was spitting up." Boat position was also a key factor for the Mississippi native. "My fish came from what I think was a post-spawn deal," he said. "I could catch them where you'd position your boat if you were fishing the bank. I had noticed a competitor of mine was in tight to the bank on the first day and he only weighed three fish so that clued me in that I had to stay off the bank. Mentally, it was a challenge all week because I was only getting about seven or eight bites a day."

Topwater gear: 6'10" medium-heavy Duckett Fishing White Ice Terry Scroggins Pro Series Model casting rod, Ardent Edge casting reel (7.2:1 gear ratio), 14-pound Vicious monofilament line, Rebel Pop-R (silver black). While most of his competitors were throwing newer, pricey popper-style baits, he dug out a Pop-R that he estimates he's caught 300 bass on. "It's got teeth marks all over it," he said. "The paint's all worn off, but I put new hooks on it and it worked just fine." On day 4, he caught several of his weigh fish on a 1/2-ounce Talon spinnerbait in a shad pattern with a willow-leaf blade.

Main factor: "Persistence and sticking to it mentally. Sticking with a lure I knew would work was key."

Performance edge: "My HydroWave was very important for me. I believe strongly in it. I had it on Shad/continuous play and I really believe that masked the trolling motor noise and depth finder noise and the fish relate that to eating."

West Point Lake Patterns 2-5 Bassfan 5/7/13 (Todd Ceisner)

Hank Cherry's Pattern, Baits & Gear

Hank Cherry came to West Point with a bit confidence simply because of the time of year he loves fishing post-spawners in the spring. "I knew I wouldn't be throwing worms or dragging something around slowly," he said. "I tried to practice differently from a lot of other guys and sometimes when you do that, it give you an advantage." He caught a few fish in practice swimming a jig and tried to get on a swimbait bite, but "they'd just come up and slap it and not eat it," he said. "I went to the jerkbait and they started to bite it better." His pattern consisted of following schools of bait fish around points. "All I was keying on were balls of shad on my depth finder," he said. "I'd pull up on points and when I saw them, I'd back off and start fishing. There wasn't much of a shad spawn because I think all the rain dropped the water temperature and the knocked the shad back a little." His tournament was bookended by two 10-plus pound stringers while averaging about 9 pounds between days 2 and 3. A culling error on day 2 cost him about 1 1/2 pounds, but it ultimately didn't affect his final position. The depths from which his fish came from varied, depending on how the shad were bunched up. "They were mostly in 8 feet or sometimes it would be 8 feet over 20," he said. "I'd hit about 40 to 50 spots a day. I burned through two tanks of gas on Sunday."

Jerkbait gear: 7' medium-heavy Denali Rosewood casting rod, Abu Garcia Revo MGX casting reel (7.0:1 gear ration), 15-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line, Livingston Lures Stick Master (beauty shad). He'd throw the Livingston Lures jerkbait when fishing shallow, switch to a Megabass Ito Vision 110 when fishing deeper water and throw a Lucky Craft Pointer when working over shoals. All had a pearl blue/chartreuse shad color pattern.

Jig gear: 7'4" Denali Ray Scheide Signature Series flipping rod, Abu Garcia Revo MGX casting reel (7.9:1 gear ratio), 20-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line, 9/16-ounce E.R. Lures jig (white/pearl blue skirt), 4" Damiki Air Craw trailer (white silver flake). He also trimmed his jig with a Zoom Super Chunk, but threw the Air Craw trailer around bushes.

Main factor: "Not taking the temptation to go to the bank and staying out and doing what I know I how do."

Performance edge: "I really think that HydroWave played a big part in catching fish. On the second morning, I had it off for the first hour and the fishing was slow. I went back through those places with bait in it and cranked it up and it made a big difference."

West Point Lake Patterns 2-5 Bassfan 5/7/13 (Todd Ceisner)

Todd Faircloth's Pattern, Baits & Gear

Todd Faircloth finished 64th at West Point Lake 2 years so he was anxious to see if the swimbait pattern would be the deal again this year. It wasn't to be last week. "I pushed the swimbait deal and the topwater deal on the shoals," he said. "But there was just a little bit of a shad spawn going on. It wasn't full blown like it was last time we were here. It just seems like everywhere we've been this year has been just a little behind with this extended spring we're having. I think a lot of fish are done spawning at West Point, but I also tend to think there will be another wave of them coming up." He caught 7-12 on day 1 to open in a tie for 40th place. He added a pound on day 2 and moved up seven slots before whacking 15-09 on day 3 to rocket into 4th place entering the final day. He fished a soft-plastic stickbait mostly and mixed in a jerkbait and a topwater popper, which is how he bagged the 15 pounds on Saturday. "I was targeting the brown grass or the deepest grass I could find in the pockets," he said. "When the pulled the water real hard, I think is sucked the fish out to the last grass that was out there. Some of the grass was submerged, some of it stuck through the surface. I wasn't catching a whole lot of them doing that, but I caught some big ones. I had a few more miss it that were good ones. I felt like the potential was there (on day 4) to catch another big bag, but they just wouldn't come up on it." When he focused on key isolated stretches, he'd slow down and pick up the stickbait or jerkbait. "(On day 3), I could almost call my shot," he said. "I could pretty much feel where I'd get bite or not." Having plenty of areas to fish was another key because the action wasn't fast and furious. "That lake is not a lake where you can put the trolling motor down and fish an area and feel like if you just fish it, you're going to catch them," he said. "I might've fished a whole pocket and got one bite and then go to the next one and not get a bite and then get two out of the next one. It was real sporadic."

Topwater gear: 6'10" medium-heavy CastAway Skeleton casting rod, Shimano Chronarch casting reel (7.0:1 gear ratio), 16-pound Sunline Super FC Sniper fluorocarbon line, unnamed popper-style bait (shad pattern).

Jerkbait gear: Same rod, same reel, 10-pound Sunline Super FC Sniper fluorocarbon line, Strike King KVD jerkbait (pro blue).

Soft stickbait gear: 7' mag-heavy CastAway Skeleton casting rod, same reel, 16-pound Sunline Super FC Sniper fluorocarbon line, 4/0 offset worm hook, 5" Strike King KVD Perfect Plastics Shim E Stick (watermelon).

Main factor: "On day 3, I dedicated about 90 percent of the day to fishing for largemouths. I'd split up 50-50 the first 2 days."

Performance edge: "My Lowrance unit was a big key. I was running new water every day and looking at my Navionics/Lowrance mapping for those flatter pockets which is where I caught some of my bigger fish."

West Point Lake Patterns 2-5 Bassfan 5/7/13 (Todd Ceisner)