How Did Justin Lucas Win the Elite Tournament on the Potomac River?

Instinct and Lure Choice Led Lucas to Winning Catch
from The Fishing Wire

The way Yamaha Pro Justin Lucas won the recent Bassmaster® Elite tournament on the Potomac River surprised everyone in the 107-angler field, possibly most of all Lucas himself. The weather was hot and humid and fishing on the famous waterway had been poor, but Lucas led all four days of competition and weighed in 72 pounds, 14 ounces of bass, all from a single long boat parking dock.

“I guess the lesson to learn from the tournament is to follow your fishing instincts,” noted Lucas. “The dock was not where I intended to fish at all, and even during two previous Potomac River tournaments I’d never made a single cast to it. It was 40 yards from the area where I had chosen to start fishing when the tournament began, but when I didn’t get a bite there, my instincts just told me to try it.

“I had not fished it in practice, and really, my entire practice had been pretty fruitless so all I was trying to do was salvage a top-50 finish. I had no idea my first few minutes around that pier would change everything.”

Those first few minutes resulted in two quality bass and by the time Lucas reached the end of the long pier, he had put more than 16 pounds in the livewell. Another pass down the pier allowed him to cull up to his opening day weight of 20-4.

“The longer I fished there, the more I began to understand what I had stumbled into,” continued the Yamaha Pro. “The pier was actually several hundred yards long and had vegetation growing right up to it. The water depth was five to eight feet, there was current, and I could see bluegills and other baitfish around. The pier itself offered plenty of hard cover as well, including not just the vertical pilings but also wide crossbeams between the pilings.

“It literally had everything you look for in one place, and with that much cover and food available, the tidal fluctuation did not move the bass very much. I caught fish on both the rising and falling tides.”

Lucas also credits much of his success to the lure presentation he happened to be using when he made his first presentation to the pier, a drop shot rig with a thin, six-inch plastic worm. He doesn’t think he would have caught nearly as many bass, if any at all, had he been fishing a jig or any other lure.

“Maybe it’s part of my West Coast fishing background where the drop shot was developed,” he said, “but it’s always my ‘go-to’ presentation, regardless of whether bass are shallow or deep. I used spinning tackle and flipped or pitched the worm around the crossbeams. I never made an actual cast all week.

“I’d raise the worm up and shake it on top of a crossbeam, then pull it off and let it fall to the bottom. Bass usually hit while the worm was still falling.

Lucas rigged the drop shot with a 3/16-ounce sinker at the end of his line and positioned the worm 10 to 12 inches above the weight. He prefers the six-inch worm for largemouths because it has a lot of action and it gets their attention, and it’s his first choice anytime he’s fishing for largemouths in less than 10 feet of water. Because of all the wood cover and barnacles, he spooled on 10-pound braided line.

“Several competitors noticed the three spinning rods on my boat deck that first morning and kidded me about them,” laughed the Yamaha Pro, “but I could not be a stronger advocate for learning to use a drop shot with spinning tackle. A regular baitcasting outfit simply would not have been efficient where I was fishing.

“Everyone thinks of a drop shot as a purely finesse-type presentation, but it’s much more versatile than that, and I know from years of experience a drop shot will attract bass when many other lures won’t. I’m just glad I had it ready and used it first when I decided to go over to that pier. I’m not sure those bass had ever seen a drop shot before.”