By David A. Brown
1. Tournament winner who has also won 4 majors in 9 the past 9 months Ken Mah armed himself with G. Loomis rods with Shimano Curado reels carrying Sunline Shooter fluorocarbon and caught his fish on a Jackall Gavacho in gold gill, a SPRO Rock Crawler 55, Bill Lewis SB57 in red craw and a punch rig with a Big Bite Baits Yo Mama in the confusion color fitted with a G Money Punch Skirt and a Blade Runner Spinnerbait.
Difference Maker: When the river turned rough, Mah trusted his 21-foot Vexus boat and Mercury Pro XS 250 to safely make those long runs. Even in windy conditions, he had the peace of mind to stay longer and catch what he needed.
2. Finishing second and making his 3rd top 10 in a row, Scott Hellesen caught his fish with a 3.3 Keitech on a 1/4-ounce ball head and a Strike King 3XD in a red craw color.
Difference Maker: Throwing his swimbait on a Stealth Stix Skinny Pete with a Shimano Vanford 3000 with 8-pound Daiwa J-Braid and an 8-pound Seaguar Tatsu Leader afforded him the long casts he needed to reach his fish.
3. Thomas Kanemoto (2 top 10s this season) caught his third-place fish on a 1/4-ounce 1st Gen Topspin with a 3.8 Keitech Swing Impact in Tennessee shad, a Lucky Craft Moonsault 250 in mad craw, a Lucky Craft LV500 in phantom chartreuse shad and a 3.8 Keitech Swing Impact Fat on a 1/4-ounce ball head.
Difference Maker: Kanemoto enjoyed high productivity and using PLine Tactical fluorocarbon allowed him to boat flip his fish without worry of line breakage.
4. Ish Monroe caught his fish on a River2Sea TacticalBassin crankbait in a green craw color and a River2Sea Ruckus in the I Know It color.
Difference Maker: Monroe said his electronics played a huge role. His Lowrance 3-in-1 nose cone allowed him to spot rock piles left, right and in front of the boat, while his Lowrance ActiveTarget showed him the big smallmouth and the exact cast he needed to make.
5. Day-1 leader Hayden Lee caught his fish on a 3/8-ounce Revenge Swim jig with a 4.3 Keitech Swing Impact trailer and a red Lucky Craft LV 500.
Difference Maker: Lee fished his swim jig on a prototype of the 7-foot heavy rod rod he’s building and used 20-pound Seaguar InvisX fluorocarbon. For his lipless bait, he used a 7-6 Dobyns cranking rod with 12-pound Seaguar InvisX.
6. Christian Ostrander caught his fish on a Megabass Vision 110 jerkbait in a purple back shad color and a Norman Deep Little N in bright red and brown colors.
Difference Maker: Fishing his baits at a rapid pace proved most effective and 12-pound Seaguar InvisX fluorocarbon gave him the strength to handle whatever bit.
7. Colby Pearson mixed up his presentations with a 3.8 Keitech Swing Impact Fat in the ayu color on 3/16- and 1/4-ounce ball heads, a Lucky Craft LV 500 in ghost perch, a weighted Yamamoto D-Shad in ayu and a Duo Realis Spinbait 100 in American shad.
Difference Maker: Because he was targeting specific areas, his Garmin mapping and LiveScope proved essential.
8. Austin Bonjour used a diverse arsenal of baits including a finesse Carolina rig with a Berkley Flat Worm in the mango magic color, a Megabass 110 jerkbait, a 3.8 Keitech in chartreuse blue on a 1st Gen Topspin and a Jackall MC 60 crankbait.
Difference Maker: For his Carolina rig, Bonjour found an iRod 702 Air provided the sensitivity to feel the light 3/8-ounce tungsten weight, while an iRod 703 Gabe’s Riprap Special offered the right action for his jerkbait.
9. Matthew Nadeau caught his fish on a 3.3 Keitech Swing Impact Fat in electric shad on a 3/16- and 1/4-ounce ball head and a 1/2-ounce War Eagle spinnerbait with double willow-leaf blades (gold and silver) and a 2.8 Keitech Swing Impact Fat trailer.
Difference Maker: Casting at submerged rock piles in about 10 feet of water and making contact with the structure was essential for Nadeau and he trusted his 8-pound Seaguar Invis-X fluorocarbon to give him the strength he needed to handle fish near the structure.
10. Nick Salvucci (Lake Trinity’s Champion) got his work done with a 1/2-ounce bladed jig in shad occur with a 3.8 Keitech Swing Impact Fat in Tennessee shad, a 5/8-ounce Dirty Jigs swim jig with a 3.8 Keitech Swing Impact Fat and a SPRO Rock Crawler 55 in red craw.
Difference Maker: Monitoring his Garmin LiveScope was essential for spotting the submerged grass where his fish were holding.