Competitors in the first Bassmaster Classic were limited to just 10 pounds of tackle. Nowadays a single Stowaway can weigh more than that.

Every competitor was given an identical tackle box before the event, then there was a “weigh in” the night before the tournament.
“You put your box on the scale and if it weighed over 10 pounds, Ray Scott would open it up and start taking things he wanted out of it!” said Bobby Murray, who won that first Classic in 1971 and another seven years later.

“I thought it was a neat deal,” Murray said. “It forced everyone to fish to their strengths because you couldn’t take a bunch of stuff with you. It will surprise you how fast you get to 10 pounds.”

If today’s tournament angler was forced to adhere to the 10-pound rule, which lures would go into every tackle box? Here are a few that proved themselves in tournaments and deserve serious consideration.

Deep-Running Crankbaits
“Everybody’s got a favorite lure and I’ve always been a crankbait guy,” Murray said.

In 1995 shortly after the Fat Free Shad was introduced, Arkansan Mark Davis won the Bassmaster Classic on it. Fast-forward more than a dozen years to Tennessee’s Ben Parker, who used the Fat Free during his impressive nearly back-to-back victories in the Tennessee State Championship and the Triton Owner’s Tournament. His performance qualified him for the Elite Series for 2011.

Where this crankbait shines: Fat Free Shad BD7F -- Ledges or assorted structure in 12 to 16 feet of water or large flats with cover such as random stumps or brushpiles in similar depth ranges.

Useless trivial tidbit – Davis lost 100 pounds the year the Fat Free Shad was introduced. Coincidence? You be the judge.

One word: Jig

More bass are caught on jigs than just about any other type of lure. They’re versatile and efficient, with a big single hook that tends to hold fish better than a lure with multiple treble hooks.

Alton Jones won the 2008 Bassmaster Classic throwing prototype Booyah A-Jigs and Pigskin Jigs. He located some deep stumps and wood cover in South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell and slowly worked it over for a three-day total weight of 49 pounds, 7 ounces.
Jones’ win highlights a big strength of the working-man jig; it’s the most versatile you can buy.  Work it deep or shallow, flip it in heavy brush or skip it under docks, burn it bulging just under the surface or crawl it in slow motion, the jig is adaptable to a million bass fishing situations.

When the jig shines: Take any popular body of water on any decent fishing day and somebody’s going to be on a jig bite. Just a couple examples include when bass are buried in shallow cover (flipping) or feeding on ledges or shell beds in relatively deep water (casting).

Chugging Out Wins
Zell Rowland nearly single-handedly brought the Rebel Pop-R back from the dead in the 1970s by winning B.A.S.S. tournaments on the classic topwater chugger/popper. He spent hours meticulously doctoring the lures.

“Zell sanded those Pop-R’s so they’d spit more and sit a little higher in the water,” Murray said. “He started getting press and winning tournaments on the lure and the bait became one of the few lures in our lineup that went from discontinued to almost our No. 1 seller.”

It’s no surprise that the Frankenstein Zell created is now mass produced as the XCalibur Zell Pop, or that it’s a must-have bait anytime bass are looking up. B.A.S.S. Elite rookie Chad Griffin said he’d made the decision to give up fishing the Elite Tour after the 2009 season, then went out and took first place on New York’s Oneida Lake by throwing Zell’s creation. He weighed in 65-pounds, 10-ounces  – mostly smallmouth -- over the four days.

Griffin’s fish were so particular that they only hit one color pattern, Hitch, which features a white body with a small patch of chartreuse under the chin. Griffin only had one, and a big smallmouth broke his line and took it away from him the final day. Luckily he already had enough in the livewell to win.

When a topwater chugger/popper works best: Schooling bass are suckers for this type of topwater, so anytime you’re “chasing the jumps” casting to bass that are driving baitfish to the top, reach for a Zell Pop.

A tip from Zell: “People ask me all the time what’s the best retrieve with a topwater,” he said. “I tell them to listen to the fish. Fish it fast, fish it slow and fish it at a medium speed. When you get a strike you can start narrowing it down for that day.”

New Classic?

The paint had hardly dried on the first production models of XCalibur’s Xcs Series of Silent Square Lip Crankbaits before B.A.S.S Elite Pro Terry Butcher was using them to win tournaments. In early November, 2010, just days after getting his first samples, he caught four of his five-fish limit on the bait to win the Fish & Chips pro tournament on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake.
His technique during this unique tournament that combines bass fishing with Texas Hold’em poker was simply throwing it out and reeling it back at a constant, medium speed retrieve, and all his fish came out of 3-feet or less of water.