The upcoming Bassmaster Classic on the Tennessee River will include three groups of anglers. Those who have prior experience there from other tour level events, those who pre-practiced for the event before the cutoff date and some who have never seen the waters.
Arizona’s Josh Bertrand is one of the anglers with no prior experience there; in fact, he has never seen where the Classic will be held.
He is relying on his research, the official practice period and three proven pre-spawn approaches to build his game plan to take home the trophy.
Going in Blind and Weather Dependent Fishing
While Bertrand has never been there, he has done his research by taking a look at past tournament results, viewing maps, and using Google Earth to scout the waters.
“It is a big fishery even though the acreage doesn’t seem like a lot. It is long and tons of water to cover. We have the river to fish as well as both Ft. Loudon and Tellico lakes,” he said. “From what I have learned it is a good fishery, but it is still somewhat of an unknown.”
When we talked to Bertrand, he said that the long-term weather forecast shows that the area around Knoxville, Tennessee will remain cold, but that could change quickly.
“If we get some warmer weather it could change things completely, but right now I am planning for a pre-spawn bite,” added Bertrand.
Many Options for Pre-Spawn Bass
Bass are always hungry right before they spawn and that opens up many different options when it comes to lures and patterns. Bertrand agrees but feels like three patterns will come into play since they always do this time of year. He listed a crankbait, jerkbait and flippin’ as three approaches he plans to use in Knoxville.
“This time of year, you could potentially have 25 rods rigged up and could catch a fish on any one of them. I haven’t completely decided how I am going to attack it, but know that those three patterns work anywhere in the country during the pre-spawn,” he said.
There are many different styles of crankbaits that will fool a bass before they spawn, but Bertrand likes medium diving crankbaits that dive between six and ten feet deep. His bait of choice is the Berkley Wild Thang 6.5 and 8.5 that dive 4- to 7-feet and 6- to 9-feet respectively.
“That bait is always good in the pre-spawn, and I will be using it around rocks, steeper banks, and transition areas. Some of the waters we will be fishing are a little off-color, so a color like Special Red Craw will be good because it stands out in dirtier water,” he added.
This style of bait is another standard for pre-spawn bass fishing, and Bertrand will be ready with a Berkley Skinny Cutter 110+ in either the Blue Vapor or Skeletor Vapor color.
“I will be fishing it in the same places I will be cranking, but I’ll also be targeting docks. There are tons of them there, and I will parallel the outside of docks because bass will often use these as staging areas,” Bertrand said. “I will be looking for the docks leading into pockets and spawning areas.”
Flippin’ and Pitchin’
This approach will be dependent on the water level when he arrives in Tennessee, but if there is enough water to cover the many laydowns and bushes, he will be flipping and pitching.
“There are some big smallmouth here, but I think largemouth are the dominant species and should be a big factor in the tournament. I plan to flip and pitch in creeks and other areas where largemouth should be if the water is high enough,” Bertrand added. “I’ll keep it simple with a Berkley Pit Boss (VIDEO) in either Green Pumpkin or Black and Blue depending in the water clarity.”
Bertrand likes to flip and pitch with a 7’6”, heavy Abu Garcia Fantasista Premier rod, a 7.3:1 Revo Premier and 20-pound Trilene 100% fluorocarbon. His ideal hook and weight combo is a 4/O Berkley Fusion19 Heavy Cover hook and 5/16-ounce XPS Tungsten weight.
When the Bassmaster Classic field blasts off into the Tennessee River, Bertrand will be among the 52-angler field, and he hopes his preparation and approach leads to him bringing the title back to the West Coast.