By David A. Brown
- Tournament winner Matthew Nadeau caught his fish on a 2.8 and 3.3 Keitech Swing Impact Fat in electric shad on a 3/16-ounce Gamakatsu ball head jig and a Strike King 6XD.
Diff Maker: Nadeau fished his Keitechs on a 7-2 medium light G.Loomis fiberglass rod with a Shimano C-14 reel and 6-pound Seaguar Invis-X fluorocarbon. The rod’s flex proved essential for sticking and holding each fish.
- The first two days, Austin Bonjour caught his fish on a Megabass 110 jerkbait and a 3-inch Keitech Easy Shiner on a 1/8-ounce Keitech tungsten ball head. The final day, he bed fished with a Basstrix Flash-Trix on a dropshot and the 3-inch Keitech Easy Shiner.
Difference Maker: Bonjour said he appreciated the versatility of using his Stealth Stixx Little Pete rod for the swimbait and the dropshot. For bed fishing, his AFTCO Yurei sun hoody kept his face shielded.
- Third-place John Pearl caught his fish on a G-Ratt Baits GB-100 SP rip bait in 6-8 feet and Megabass Vision 110+1 Jr. in 8-15.
Difference Maker: Pearl fished his baits on a Douglas DXC 763 MF rod, a parabolic model with a soft tip that prevented any pulled treble hooks.
- Ryan Friend did most of his work with a float-n-fly. He used custom tied white flies to match shad and chose a 1/8-ounce for windy conditions and a 1/16 for calmer times.
Difference Maker: Friend threw his rig on a custom rod built on a St. Croix blank, with a Pfleuger President reel carrying 6-pound Sunline Sniper fluorocarbon.
- Mason Mcabee’s lineup included a dropshot with a No. 1 Gamakatsu Dropshot Hook and a white Berkley MaxScent Flatworm, a 1/8-ounce Team Davies darter head with a 3-inch Keitech Easy Shiner, and a Team Davies Straight Up Baller ball head (90-degree line tie) with a 3.3 Keitech Swing Impact Fat.
Difference Maker: Mcabee used a 7-1 Stealth Stixx Little Pete rod and a prototype 7-6 Stealth Stixx rod made for the small swimbait presentation. The latter allowed him to make the necessary long casts, while the action prevented pulled hoods.
- Placing sixth, Nick Cloutier filled his limit by throwing a G-Ratt jerkbait, a Luckycraft Pointer, and an umbrella rig with 3.3 Keitech Swing Impact Fat swimbaits.
Difference Maker: Relying on his Garmin LiveScope to spot his targets, Cloutier fished his jerkbaits on 12-pound P-Line fluorocarbon and his umbrella rig on 20-pound P-line fluorocarbon.
- Scott Hellesen, the reigning APEX Pro Tour Angler of the year who lead days 1 and 2, caught his fish on a 3/16-ounce prototype Garagetek Bait Co. underspin with a 3.5 Keitech Easy Shiner and the same swimbait on a 1/8-ounce ball head.
Difference Maker: Hellesen said the balanced action of a 7-foot medium-light Stealth Stix Skinny Pete spinning rod with a Shimano Stradic, 8-pound Daiwa J Braid and 8-pound Seaguar Tatsu leader allowed him to make the right presentations.
- Billy Hines caught his fish on a 3/16-ounce Frenzy Nail with a Strike King Finesse Worm, a dropshot with a Strike King Baby Z-Too, a 3/8-ounce underspin with a Strike King 2.75 Rage Swimmer, and a deep jerkbait.
Difference Maker: Hines said his Garmin Livescope directly accounted for at least half of his fish, as he used the underspin and jerkbait to target suspended bass.
- Hayden Lee caught his two biggest fish on a dropshot with a 1/8-ounce weight and a Berkley MaxScent Flat Worm. He also caught keepers on a Megabass Vision 110 and a YUM Flash Mob Jr. umbrella rig with 1/8-ounce heads and 3.8 Keitech Easy Shiners on the outside and a 3/16-ounce head with a 4.3 Keitech Easy Shiner in the middle.
Difference Maker: Lee relied on Garmin Livescope, not only to locate fish, but also to detect entangling bottom and avoid snags. Once he dialed in his zone, he could make key casts and keep his A-rig in the right depth.
- Luke Johns, the reigning 2022 APEX Pro Tour Championship Champion caught his fish on a Bill Lewis Scope Stick 100 and a Megabass Vision 110+1 Jr.
Difference Maker: Johns said his Garmin Livescope Plus allowed him to find fish quickly and see when he attracted a follower. This enabled Johns to adjust his retrieve to make the fish react.