Two Mega Limits of Smallmouth for the Win
Bass are always changing, but this spring had the fish on the Mississippi River changing by the hour. Our spring has been warm, then cold and the conditions that the 72 teams fishing the 19th annual Dick Hiley St. Jude Bass Classic encountered were the same, overnight lows and morning temperatures were chilly, but then quickly warmed up during the day.
With the majority of the smallmouth done spawning on the river, the majority of the perennial river rat teams that target big pre spawn smallmouth ended up turning to the largemouth bite which was heating up by the minute.
But for the team of Scott Pellegrin and Joel Willert, the smallmouth bite is what they stuck to and it propelled them to their second St. Jude Bass Classic win in three years, with a second place finish last year as well. The duo weighed in 12 smallmouth for a total weight of 45.16 lb’s, which was 2.7 lb’s more than second place finishers, BASS Elite Series Pro Jacob Wheeler and Rapala Pro Staff Manager Dan Quinn.
Scott and Joel began their search for the smallmouth in pre spawn locations, but would then follow those bass to their spawning areas as the day progressed. “Even though the end result looks great, it was a grind,” exclaimed Scott. “We only had one fish at noon on Saturday.”
With the bite changing almost hourly the team stuck to their finesse tactics and just kept moving until they found the smallmouth. “Every day of practice, we basically scrapped what we did the day before and had to begin from scratch,” said Joel.
With this win, either Scott or Joel will receive an invitation to fish the Classic Bass Champions Tour Open event on the Whitefish Chain in August.
The duo of Wheeler and Quinn did everything completely opposite of the lone team that beat them. They had two great limits of largemouth weighing a total of 42.46 lb’s that they caught fishing power and reaction baits.
By locating some quality 2.5 to 3 pound bass up shallow to get their limit early in the day, the team then focused their attention on areas that were adjacent to these spawning flats that the pre spawn bass were setting up on.
“We had a two lure combination, a ChatterBait in green pumpkin and Terminator Walking Frogs and the new Walking Frog Jr in black and Cocoa Camo. We relied on these baits both days of the event,” said Dan.
The team began their practice looking for smallmouth, but quickly dumped that plan as the smallmouth weren’t setting up as they normally do. “What we did was focus on small, key stretches in areas that were loaded with bass,” stated Wheeler. “By focusing on these specific areas, we were able to fish a little differently than the other nearby boats and show the bass something different.”
Following up on their Minnesota Bass Federation win two weeks ago, the father/son team of Tom and Jason Howland took third place with 12 largemouth weighing 41.59 lb’s. The team was also the top finisher in the Classic Bass/St. Jude Bass Classic contingency program, so they’ll be receiving an additional $150 from Classic Bass.
“We started on the spot from two weeks ago, but didn’t get a bite,” stated Jason. “So we went fishing up shallow with swim jigs to target pre spawn and spawning largemouth.”
Waiting for that key afternoon bite was vital each day. As the water temps climbed throughout the day, bass quickly moved into the shallows during the afternoon period. The team looked for slack water areas with shallow vegetation that held their largemouth.
Please check back to the Dick Hiley St. Jude Bass Classic Facebook page for photos from the event.
Before the final day weigh in, the event was already a success as the 72 teams raised over $377,925, which was more than $36,000 from last year’s event! Mike Auten, former FLW and BASS pro angler and son Ryan returned as the honorary patient family for Saturday night’s banquet, along with Mike serving as the co emcee for the event.
Another piece of exciting news coming from the Dick Hiley St. Jude Bass Classic is that next year for their 20th annual event, the first place prize will be $20,000! Be sure to follow Classic Bass for more details on this event as it is released.