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Mike Stevens – KNEE DEEP

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Friday, November 09, 2018
One trip on the Prowler

On the water with Strike King and Lew’s
The highlight of my October was taking part in a media event put on by Strike King and Lew’s at Tennessee’s Kentucky Lake. Members of the fishing media from all over the country were on hand to spend time on the water with the companies’ vast stable of top-shelf pro staffers and talk about their products. They included competitors in the BASS Elite Series, FLW and Major League Fishing.

FISHING WAS VERY tough that week on Kentucky Lake, but Strike King pro Cody Meyer of California had a flurry of six bass landed in about 15 minutes while throwing the Ocho stickbait on a bridge piling. WON PHOTO BY MIKE STEVENS

Being the only attendee from “out west,” I tried to get a Western angle on everything we talked about, and that resulted in – along with 40 pages of notes and 500-plus photos – a gold mine of info, tips and analytical minutia specific to each angler. Eventually, I’ll boil it all down and use it over the next year in season-specific bass fishing content, but fresh back from Tennessee (where I ate alligator…served by Shaw Grigsby), it would be a shame to not touch on some thought-provoking nuggets from every angler I worked with.

Mark Davis: The former Bassmaster Classic champ has a very out-of-the-ordinary favorite rod that he admits “the average Joe won’t buy this rod because he’s afraid it’s too big.” It’s a 7-foot, 11-inch Lew’s Custom Speed Stick rated for ½- to 3-ounce lures (model TLCPMCR3). He told me he has four on deck in every tournament, and he uses it for jigs, chatterbaits, spoons, Carolina rigs, pitching, pretty much anything but crankbaits. Big fan of the Sexy Dawg walking bait and the only colors he uses are Bone and Sexy Chrome.

Jay Yelas: Another Classic winner and former WON BASS competitor, he cut his teeth on the lakes of Southern California. All these guys seemed to have a specific outfit they used for a variety of applications, and he was no exception with his Lew’s Pro Ti 7-foot, medium/heavy that he also employs for almost everything but cranks, and it’s a big performer at a manageable price point. Now an Oregon resident who has fished competitively all over the United States and beyond, he still says California still has some of the best bass fishing in the country.

Tim Horton: Told me he is always using the latest technology and newest products when it comes to rods and reels. This was after I asked him if there were any old rods and reels that he just loved and still used in competition, and he was one of a very few who said “no” to that question. Horton did say he hangs on to certain pieces of gear that played a big part in winning a tournament, reaching a milestone, or landing a particularly notable fish.

James Niggemeyer: Another top-ranked basser with California roots, I asked him to name five Strike King baits that he would have on hand for attacking clear, pressured Western lakes. While I will get into the details of when he said to use each in future write ups, I can tell you now that he quickly rattled off: Strike King’s Rage Swimmer swimbaits, Rage Tail Menace Grubs, KVD Squarebill 1.0 crankbaits, Ocho and Shimmy Stick stickbaits, Half Shell (drop-shot bait) and Caffeine Shad soft jerkbait.

Wesley Strader: About as OCD as one can get. He has the same reel on all of his rods because he likes the feel to be the same regardless of which one he picks up. He said anglers should pay less attention to a reel’s gear ratio and more on inches retrieved per crank, because different reels with the same ratios might actually have a different rate of retrieve. Like I said, OCD, but he was on to something. He did say he likes a 6.8:1 for “almost everything” and singled out flipping and pitching as situations for faster than that.

Cody Meyer: Northern California native, so I had to take the opportunity to get a West Coast list of Strike King baits as well: Rage Swimmer, Ocho (after all, it did catch him at world-record spotted bass at Bullards Bar), a variety of cranks in craw colors specifically for Clear Lake and the Delta, KVD Super Fry (old-school finesse bait that will ring a bell when you see it) and jerkbaits including a newer model that dives to 10 feet. Fishing was terrible at Kentucky Lake during this event, and I saw Cody stick six bass in 15 minutes on a bridge piling using the Ocho after seeing a total of three bass over the first two days.

Todd Faircloth: Will fish a buzzbait any time of year, and likes to speed them up in clear water. That was actually his take on all reaction baits. For western bassers in clear, pressured lakes, he suggests going outside of the box and reaching for a jerkbait instead of drop-shots and other widely-used finesse techniques. Specificlally, in that situation he likes a suspending bait fished on a shorter rod and 16-pound braid to a 4- to 5-foot ,10-pound fluorocarbon leader. Fish it fast for reaction strikes, said Faircloth.

Keith Combs: Well known among his colleagues for his spot-on Mark Davis impersonation, he hails from Texas (home lake, Sam Rayburn), so he’s not one to reach for light stuff very often. He likes the monster KVD 6XD in summer and fall where its tight, subtle wobble draws strikes as deep as 18 feet. He likes those crankbaits in translucent colors for clearer water. When things get tough on any lake – or when he needs to “grind out a limit” – he reaches for a 4-inch Game Hawg (creature bait) and rigs it on a light Texas rig and takes advantage of its respectable action even at very low speeds.

Andrew Upshaw: Only attended the first couple days of the event because he had to hit the road for the WON BASS U.S. Open. He’s a big fan of the Lew’s Dock Sniper rods, which are designed for firing baits under docks and the like, but according to Upshaw, they are also ideal drop-shotting and wacky worm sticks.He also thinks spinning reels have come a long way in just the last few years, but thinks “there is a lot of technology out there that hasn’t been tapped.”

Bill McDonald: He’s all about covering bases and keeping it simple.“Buy the best equipment you can afford, but not so expensive you can’t afford to fish.” He’s also a big believer in Solunar Tables and has determined the best times to fish, generally speaking, are when the moon is straight up or straight “below” you. McDonald fishes straight braid with topwater (this varied greatly from angler to angler) and says the Strike King Rage Tail Craw is the most versatile bait in his arsenal. He also LOVES Winn Grips on both his rods and reels (some of the guys preferred them on one or the other).

Terry Bolton: Kentucky Lake local who also likes Dock Sniper rods and made some good points about putting too much thought into a rod’s name. For example, Lew’s makes a rod specific for fishing hair jigs, but it has a versatile action with a fast “quick to backbone” tip that is also ideal for flipping or any type of “tight quarters” fishing. He was so passionate about it, he went as far as to say he’d prefer if rods weren’t named for a specific application.

Mark Menendez: Another pro calling Kentucky Lake home, Menendez tilts more toward moderate-action rods when fishing for money because he believes it’s a safer option than fast rods when it comes to landing fish. One thing that stood out was, even at the highest levels of bass fishing, each guy still has their own theories on things based on a lifetime on the water, but they differed wildly from angler to angler.

Eric Jackson: Olympic kayak champion and founder of Jackson Kayaks and Orion Coolers, his approach to all things fishing was classic-‘yak angler stuff: simple, stripped down, and efficient. That being said, I asked him what Strike King baits he always has on hand and he listed the: Rage Swimmer (every boat I rode on had one of those rigged up), Finesse Jigs (green pumpkin with same color Rage Tail trailer), Tour Grade Swim Jig, Hack Attack heavy-cover swimbait and KVD 1.5 Squarebill.

John Garrett: Young up-and-comer out of the college bass ranks, I had him throw the new Super Dawg (huge version of Strike King’s go-to walking bait) since I hadn’t seen it in action yet. He likes to throw it in “clean” water with little wind chop where bass prey on big baitfish.Good size for “slick” conditions because it’s not particularly loud and can be given a subtle “slide” action. There was a moment of comic relief when a white bass as big as the bait came up and ate it. Garrett also likes lipless baits like the Red Eye shad in spring, winter and fall in shallow offshore flats, and spawning areas.


THE NEW PARTNERSHIP between Lew’s and Strike King is already making waves in the bass fishing world. WON PHOTO BY MIKE STEVENS


“CRAPPIE STAKES” ARE man made structures put up by lakefront residents (usually under their docks) to attract slab crappie, but one also kicked out a nice largemouth for Lew’s pro staffer, Wesley Strader. You can see the stakes under the footbridge. WON PHOTO BY MIKE STEVENS

A MEMBER OF the outdoor media prepares for a day on Kentucky Lake with Strike King and Lew’s pro staffers which includes some of the best bass anglers on the planet. WON PHOTO BY MIKE STEVENS

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