While we’re all ready to erase 2020 from our memories, we still need to check back in with the Bassmaster Elite Series and dissect last season’s winning lures. Doing so allows us to gauge the top pattern trends in pro bass fishing and make more productive choices on the water. We’ve done this for a number of years following the campaigns of each major tour.
Let’s dig in. The 2020 Elite Series season was one of postponement, making nearly every event a summer or fall affair. The lone exception was the St. John’s River tournament in February. In addition, the “Northern Swing” was a full-on smallmouth yearbook, with events at Champlain, St. Clair and the the St. Lawrence.
For those reasons, our top lure statistics reflect a different sample than what we’re used to. Remember, in year’s past, vintage springtime baits were key and sight-fishing lures often dominated. Not so this season.
Like my previous piece discussing top baits on the FLW Pro Circuit, I’ve again included winning lures, as well as those responsible for 2nd- and 3rd-place finishes. This gives us a better idea of what’s really going on. Remember, if a competitor claims use of multiple lures, we give each bait credit.
>Dropshot (4), swimbait (2), bladed jig (2), frog (2)
>All others one each, including: Ned rig, Neko rig, glide bait, swimjig, jig, punch rig
It probably comes as no mystery that dropshotting played a huge role this season, with the smallmouth-oriented summer events. Year after year, it seems to be the only game in town on the big waters. The resurgence of the frog got me licking my chops, though.
>Dropshot (7), crankbait (4), bladed jig (3), punch rig (3), Texas-rig (3), jig (3), spinnerbait (2), Carolina rig (2), swimbait (2)
>One each: Tokyo rig, jerkbait, topwater, swimjig, frog, shaky-head, Senko
It’s amazing how trends change. Remember when shaky-heads and Senkos were the only games in town? Now they barely make the list of all the top lures used for an entire season of Bassmaster Elite competition. Astounding. But don’t crank up your eBay account just yet: these baits are sure to play a big role again someday.
The midsection of this list really stirs a bit of optimism in my fishing. Texas rigs? Spinnerbaits? Carolina rigs? When was the last time we saw these seemingly archaic fishing methods credited for a big check?
Truth is, all of the tried and true methods continue to catch bass, as we all know. But I wonder, how many of our fisheries constantly require new methods due to intense fishing pressure. Could it be that we’re seeing some of the old-school methods be new again, as educated bass have now seen more Keitechs than Ol’ Monsters? Could it be that the old ball and chain will again play a role?
I’m afraid that, in this day and age, electronics find more shell beds than sinkers. But these summertime events show that there’s more to bass fishing than bladed jigs and square-bills. And remember, there was a time in this sport when top contenders made the Classic each year throwing nothing but a spinnerbait. Sure makes tackle prep easy.
I’d be remiss not to again mention the dropshot dominance. When will it end? As a one-time smallmouth junkie with loads of experience, I can attest to both the power of the dropshot and the reliance on it. But look for this category to tighten up, too, as more anglers dial in alternative methods for catching deep smallmouth. Swimbaits, wobble-heads and deeper jerkbaits are getting more water-time with those in the know and it won’t be long before these trends spread to the masses.
Yes, 2020 was a challenging year, forcing massive flexibility from all those involved in professional fishing. I, for one, enjoyed following the seasonal shift. Perhaps now we’ll see more consideration from the major tours to host events outside of their springtime comfort range.
As we’ve seen, the bass still bite in the summer.
(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)