Four time world champ lands his 14th B.A.S.S. career victory
JASPER, Texas Revising long established rules to suit his own style of power fishing, four time Classic champion Rick Clunn may have pushed the limits of bass fishing knowledge a little further by cranking his way through muddy water to a victory at the 2002 Texas CITGO BASSMASTER Central Open presented by Busch Beer on Sam Rayburn Reservoir Oct. 31-Nov. 2.
As has been his style throughout his career, the Missouri pro bucked conventional wisdom by fishing muddy water that was steadily getting colder. At times he was working water so dirty that his crankbait disappeared within 4 inches of the surface. Yet he still finished with 15 bass weighing 43 pounds, 6 ounces to claim the $50,000 winner's purse.
In so doing, he outdistanced runner-up Clayton Meyer of San Diego who finished with 42-15, and Slade Dearman of Onalaska, Texas, who was third with 42-11. Yusuke Miyazaki of Mineola, Texas, finished fourth with 37-4, while Cody Bird of Granbury, Texas, took fifth with 34-3.
"The muddy water was actually one of the keys to winning this week," smiled Clunn, "because it kept other anglers out of the area. I basically had the water to myself, and that's always an advantage no matter what the conditions."
Clunn targeted several small tributaries feeding into the back of Buck Bay, one of Sam Rayburn's best-known fishing areas. But because recent heavy rains and the resulting runoff had muddied the creeks, other anglers elected to stay in the main timber-filled bay itself.
Initially, Clunn found bass schooling and chasing baitfish in the muddy water. On the first day of competition he quickly caught a limit of bass with two of his favorite lures; a Norman's Tiny N and a Deep Baby N.
"I was keeping my boat in the creek channel and casting straight ahead, just ticking the top of the hydrilla and coming over the edge of the channel," he explained. "The bass were basically between about 4 and 8 feet down, right over the vegetation, which was around 4 feet deep."
With a small limit in the livewell, Clunn then moved out to slightly deeper water (13 feet) in the same creek and fished a 1/2-ounce Stanley spinnerbait (shad pattern) over the submerged hydrilla around creek points. This produced larger bass, including one weighing 5-9 that anchored his first day's catch of 17-11, which put him in third place behind Slade Dearman (22-1) and Ray Scheide (17-12).
"I followed this pattern pretty much the rest of the tournament, although I noticed the baitfish were becoming less and less active as the water cooled and continued to muddy," Clunn continued. "I believe they were probably moving out to deeper water, because that's where I caught my largest fish each day.
"The key areas were always where the creek channel swung near a point. If there was any hydrilla on the edge of the channel, I tried to work the crankbaits right over the top of it. Those crankbaits have a fairly wide wobble to them, so even in the muddy water the bass were able to locate them."
While he had his limit by 11 a.m. the first morning, it took longer the second day, but nonetheless Clunn continued to make the pattern work, bringing in five more fish weighing 17-3 and taking over the lead with a total of 34-14.
"By the third day, the baitfish were gone from my primary area," he said. "I did catch three small keepers in the back of the creek, so then I moved farther out to concentrate in the deeper water. I couldn't get anything going there, so I changed areas and went to a similar creek I've fished often in Ash Bayou. But the only bass I caught there were nonkeepers.
"I came back to my primary creek in the back of Buck Bay and caught my fourth keeper out in the deeper water. From there I went back into the creek and made one pass down what had been my most reliable water, but didn't catch anything. So I went back out to the slightly deeper water and caught a 3-pounder and then lost a 2-pounder. That was at 1 o'clock, and I never had another strike. I had only six keeper bites all day."
Clunn fished the crankbait and spinnerbait on 14- and 20-pound-test Bass Pro Shops XPS monofilament lines, respectively, with his own Signature Series 7-foot XPS rods and XPS reels from Bass Pro Shops.
Afterward, while enjoying the success of his 14th career B.A.S.S. victory (which ties him for second overall in wins with Larry Nixon), Clunn explained that he wasn't sure exactly what was causing the baitfish to leave the back of the creeks, but it probably included a combination of factors.
"The bass back there are resident fish, so I'm not sure the muddy water bothered them a great deal, nor am I convinced they actually left for deeper water as the creek continued to muddy," he said. "They probably became less and less active as the shad left, and the bass I did catch were simply relating to the baitfish. As for cranking the muddy water, I will admit I was having problems catching any fish in clear water. I don't pay nearly as much attention to factors like that as I used to. Instead, I like to let the baitfish tell me what to do."
In that regard, Clunn said, he noticed the baitfish were unusually small for this time of year, which is why he alternated the Deep Baby N with the Tiny N.
Likewise, the Stanley spinnerbait he threw featured a small profile that closely resembled the size of the baitfish swimming in that particular area of Sam Rayburn Reservoir during the tournament.