Bemidji, MN – Bassmaster Classic qualifiers will soon hit the water on the famed Tennessee River out of Knoxville, Tennessee. Among them will be Bagley/Northland Fishing Tackle Bass Elite Series pro angler Jeff Gustafson of Keewatin, Ontario.
Gussy’s no stranger to these waters, which has him super amped. In March of 2021, Gussy went wire-to-wire on the Tennessee River for his first Bassmaster Elite Series victory with all deep-water smallmouth bass when other anglers focused on largemouths.
“We start practicing end of this week, and I’m super-excited to be back on winning waters,” says Gussy. “It’s a great break from Ontario’s ice, that’s for sure.”
Gussy recalls: “In 2021 I caught 20 smallies over the four-day event, which people said couldn’t be done because they must be 18-inches to keep on the Tennessee River. The win was surprising considering I had a tough practice—only catching two or three keepers—and then on the last day found a bunch of fish, so that’s where I started the event. And the area turned out a lot better than I thought. All my fish were caught in 18- to 22-feet of water ‘moping’ a soft-plastic minnow on a jig head 2- to 5-feet off the rocky bottom.”
“Fished vertically right under Humminbird MEGA Live set to Down Mode, I’m trying to mimic a wounded or dying shad or baitfish. I typically hold the bait 2- to 5-feet off the bottom. When I fished the Tennessee River in 2021 there were clusters of little rock piles and a little bit of current that would slide me over the structure. Back then I was using 2D Sonar only, and when I’d see a fish come up to the bait, I’d shake it or lift it up a bit. The main key is to always keep the bait above the fish; that’s the trigger. I use 10-pound braid tied to a 10-pound fluorocarbon leader on a medium-power spinning rod,” explains Gussy.
The Right Jigs for Moping & More
“Northland’s Mimic Jig has been around forever and was the first realistic minnow-looking jig-head I ever fished, so it’s been part of my arsenal for a long time. And now it’s been re-introduced for 2023 with an improved, super-sharp Gamakatsu hook and some new colors. It’s perfect for moping; lifelike head, sharp hook, and 90-degree eye to keep the bait horizontal,” notes Gussy.
“I’m also excited about Northland’s Mimic Swim Jig with its 60-degree eye and a little heavier hook for fishing areas where you need to upsize your swimbait. I’m going to have the Mimic Swim Jig tied up on deck during the Classic. Beyond that, I think it’s going to be a real fish-catcher the entire season all over the U.S. and Canada—multi-species, too,” continues Gussy.
Crankin’ the Classic
“I’ll be covering water with the Bagley Sunny B, which is my personal favorite crankbait. It’s the perfect, prespawn, cold-water crank. It has a thinner profile, great action, and seems to catch fish in water temps below 55-degrees,” notes Gussy.
“The Sunny B runs 6- to 8-feet, which is often ‘the zone’, but I’ll also keep a couple rods on deck rigged with the Shallow Sunny B 05, which runs 2- to 4-feet, both cranks in Bagley’s bright red ‘Cooked Crawdad’ pattern and various shad imitators. I plan to alternate throwing each on 12-pound fluorocarbon with a medium-power rod and 7:1 gear ratio baitcasting reel,” offers Gussy.
Bagley introduced the Sunny B in 2015. Made using the exclusive Heat Compression Molding (HCM) manufacturing process, this uniquely shaped baitfish lure is precision balanced to cast easily and run true, whether retrieved fast or slow, with eye-popping vibration. It also provides maximum action when twitched – just like a baitfish darting to escape a bass. The Sunny B is available in size 5 at 2 inches long and 3/8 ounce with a diving depth of 6 to 7 feet. There are 22 bass-catching colors to choose from.
“It has a small profile which is deadly on smallies,” says Gustafson. “On any smallmouth waters the Sunny B just excels. In waters with crawfish, I like to mimic those patterns. If I’m in a position where the forage is some kind of shad, perch, or bluegills, Bagley also has colors that mimic those as well. It’s been a good fish-catcher for me. It’s just perfect for that 5- to 8-foot depth range and it doesn’t get snagged,” says Gustafson.
Take Gussy’s recommendations and you’ll be on your way to more brown bass this spring. From the Bagley Sunny B to the new Northland Mimic Jig and Mimic Swim Jig, all are designed to catch more bass—largemouths, smallmouths, and spots.