By David A. Brown
1. Local pro Luke Johns turned in a convincing performance by catching the winning fish on a 1/4-ounce Owner football head with a 3.3 Keitech Swing Impact Fat.
Difference Maker: Johns said the most important element of his setup was the 10-pound Sunline Sniper fluorocarbon leader, which stood up to the abusive dragging presentation and gave him the confidence to fight each fish without worry over break-offs.
2. Taking the second-place spot, Jason Austin fished an umbrella rig with 1/4-ounce Ed’s Lead ball heads and 3.3 Keitech Swing Impact Fat swimbaits in Tennessee shad.
Difference Maker: For the proper slow-rolling presentation, Austin used a 7-11 Loomis heavy rod with a 6.2:1 Shimano Curado reel carrying 20-pound P-Line fluorocarbon.
3. Third-place finisher Nick Cloutier caught most of his fish on a 1st Gen Fishing Top Spin with a 3.8 Keitech Swing Impact Fat in the Smallmouth magic and light hitch colors. Cloutier also caught fish on a G Funk umbrella rig with 1/4-ounce Owner InShore heads and 3.8 Keitech Swing Impact Fats.
Difference Maker: Garmin Panoptix allowed Cloutier to watch the fish responding to his bait and make the necessary adjustments.
4. William Ponting’s fourth-place weight mostly came on a 1/4 Z-Man ShroomZ head with a Z-Man Finesse TRD in green pumpkin.
Difference Maker: Ponting lauded his 6-pound Sunline fluorocarbon for a strategic blend of stealth and strength.
5. Finishing in fifth place, Marty Lawrence caught most of his fish on 2.8 Keitech Swing Impact Fat swimbaits in Tennessee shad on 1/4-ounce tungsten ball head jigs and a 3/8-ounce Keitech finesse football jig with a Yamamoto Fat Baby Craw trailer. He also threw an umbrella rig with 1/4-ounce Keitech Tungsten Super Round Jig Heads with 2.8 and 3.3 Keitech Swing Impact Fat swimbaits
Difference Maker: Balanced tackle was critical for Lawrence, who trusted his presentations to Dobyns rods, Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris Platinum reels, Sunline braid and BPS XPS fluorocarbon.
6. Thomas Kanemoto did his best work with a 3.3 Keitech Swing Impact Fat in Tennessee shad on a 1/4-ounce 1st Gen Fishing Jaw Dropper in the glimmer shad color. He fished this bait on a Skinny Pete Stealth Stixx spinning rod and a Lew’s reel with 12-pound SpinX Braid with a 9-pound SpinX fluorocarbon leader.
Difference Maker: As Kanemoto explained, the Jaw Dropper brought a key impact with its lead bill, which allows the jig head to deflect off of rocks to create an erratic action that triggered fish even when they were in a lethargic mood.
7. Nick Wood placed seventh after dropshotting a Megabass Hazedong and dragging a 1/4-ounce Pepper Jigs finesse football jig with a 4-inch green pumpkin Yamamoto Twin Tail.
Difference Maker: Wood relied on his Garmin Livescope to locate isolated rock piles in 25 feet of water and keep his eye on the resident fish.
8 . Austin Wilson, who won the first APEX event in 2021, finished seventh after fishing an umbrella rig fitted with 1/4-ounce Ed’s Lead ball heads and 3.3 Keitech Swing Impact Fat swimbaits in Tennessee shad.
Difference Maker: Using a 6.2:1 Shimano Curado, Wilson said the 20-pound P-Line fluorocarbon spooled on his reel provided the consistency he needed to fish clean.
9. Matthew Nadeau caught his fish on a 2.8 Keitech Swing Impact Fat and a Picasso Schoolie umbrella rig with 3.3 Keitech Swing Impact Fats on 1/16-ounce G Money heads and 2.8 Keitech Swing Impact Fats on the decoys.
Difference Maker: Nadeau said his commitment to the umbrella rig proved pivotal. He fished this presentation on a 7-6 Dobyns swimbait rod with a Pflueger 6.3:1 reel and 20-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon.
10. Rounding out the top-10, John Pearl caught his fish by throwing a 2.8 Keitech Swing Impact Fat swimbait on a 1/8-ounce Dirty Jigs Matt Stefan Guppy Swimbait Jig Head. For dragging main lake points, Pearl used a Texas-rigged Reaction Innovations Smallie Beaver, with a 1/8-ounce weight.
Difference Maker: With cold water requiring a snail’s pace, Pearl had to slow his presentations and that light jig head compelled him to maintain the right speed.