Eleven years ago this month, Alabama’s Steve Kennedy went to California and set what was then a BASS record with a four day catch that weighed 122 pounds 14 ounces.
Eight years and a month later, California’s Skeet Reese traveled to Alabama and earned his eighth BASS win with 92 pounds 11 ounces.
Both of them did it with a swimbait – primarily a Basstrix -- which means, for those of you scoring at home, that swimbaits are a known way to enter the winner’s circle. If that wasn’t proof enough, Kennedy used one for much of his winning catch at West Point in 2011 and Skeet swimbaited to a win at Virginia’s Smith Mountain in 2010. Both of those dudes will compete at Hartwell next week.
There’s no doubt that swimbaits catch big fish.
There’s no doubt that they’re a valuable tournament tool.
They’re not a secret.
Nevertheless I’m guessing that they probably won’t be the primary lure in the winner’s arsenal at this Classic. Since moving the Classic to February in 2006, and then to March in 2016, we’ve had prime opportunities for the swimbait to play a role in the granddaddy of them all, and so far the tennis shoe has struck out, with jigs, crankbaits and plastics doing most (but not all) of the champions’ damage. I know that anglers have thrown them – indeed I was in the boat with Skeet at Hartwell in 2015 when he used one – but things haven’t come together yet.
I hope that I’m wrong, and I furthermore hope that if someone does manage to conquer Hartwell with a swimbait it’s not a “tournament-sized” four- or five-inch model, but rather a seven- or eight-inch Basstrix or – better yet – a monstrous jointed glide bait. I wrote earlier this week about how brutal it might be to try to snatch a finicky winning fish off a bed, but it would be every bit as brutal to have a 9-pounder follow your swimbait back to the boat, nose to tail, without biting. But if someone did crack the code, and got “old big” to commit, it would surely be a Classic to remember.