ALX Rods Elite Pro Jake Whitaker just finished the first event of his third season fishing the Bassmaster Elite Series. Jake shared some of his techniques and a few experiences from the event.
How would you sum up the event overall?
Practice was a STRUGGLE! Having minimal experience in Florida can be a considerable challenge when fishing there. Those fish are very finicky when it's cold, and that's just what we had the first few mornings of practice. Days 1 and 2 of practice only yielded a few bites, and finally, on Day 3, I got a few bites on the wacky rig. After the first 2 days of the tournament being canceled due to high winds, I knew the river would be changing, and it did just that.
Day one of the event, I ran to the area where I had the most bites on the last day of practice. To my surprise, the water had dropped over a foot - totally shutting down the pattern I was on. After no bites by 11:30, I decided to go try some canals to see if any fish had moved into them. Man, was that the right choice! From 12:00pm to 1:30 pm, I caught 16 pounds of bass, and that put me in 9th Place!
Day 2 was productive as well!. I had 16 pounds again with a 7-pound 2-ounce kicker that really helped me out! Again, all these fish came on the wacky rig. The final day of the tournament was a struggle. Everyone in the field fought to get quality bites. I ended up with only 8 pounds, ending in 5th Place! I will take a top 5 in any derby, especially a Florida tournament!
I was surprised by the low weights, but as I said earlier, those fish are finicky when it's cold, and I think that's why the weights weren't as good as last year's tournament on the St. Johns River. I wouldn't change a single thing about how I fished, I made some significant adjustments throughout the tournament, and that provided me with an excellent 5th Place Finish and a great start to the 2020 Season!
You relied a lot on a wacky rig for sure - what's your set up?
The ALX Rods IKOS Soul 7 or ALX ENOX Wizard with 10 lb Pline X Braid as the main line with a 6'-8' ft 10 lb Pline Tactical Fluorocarbon Leader connected by a double uni knot. The hook is a 2/0 Hayabusa Wacky Hook, and my bait of choice is a Bizz Baits Sassy Stick.
What's your perfect length rod for wacky rigs?
The 7' length is the perfect length for skipping, and that's how I like to present a wacky rig, whether it docks, laydowns, or overhanging brush. A longer rod may make your skips less accurate in certain situations, it's up to you to determine the right length you prefer, but the 7' mark is perfect for me.
You mentioned the Soul 7 and the Wizard - how do they compare for you?
The Soul 7 is probably my favorite spinning rod in the ALX line up due to its excellent versatility. I throw lots of things on it, but my favorite baits to use with it are a wacky rig and a shaky head. Earlier this year, ALX sent me a new Wizard to try out, knowing that I love spinning rods. Well, the Soul 7 now has a close competitor for my favorite spinning rod, and its the Wizard. The Wizard is truly one of the most impressive spinning rods I've ever fished with. It comes in at 7' 2" with a powerful yet super sensitive medium action. It definitely has a place in my rod locker.
In my opinion, the Soul 7 is a little heavier in power than the Wizard. However, both rods are medium powered rods. This slight increase in strength, I believe, allows me to get the perfect hook set when using a wacky rig. The Soul 7 is a 7' rod so this makes casting into tight areas just a little bit easier than the 7'2" Wizard.
Now, the Wizard is a special rod, the medium action paired with the fast action make this a handy spinning rod for multiple applications. The Wizard has a little more tip than the Soul 7, meaning it's a little softer compared to the Soul 7. This feature on the Wizard made it very easy to fight and play the bigger fish I was catching.
One big difference is sensitivity - the Wizard is extremely sensitive. Now the Soul 7 is a very sensitive rod, but the Wizard takes it to another level. I was able to feel even the slightest bites and was able to put a hook into those fish before they released my bait! Both rods served a great purpose in this event, and I can't wait to put them to work at the next event!
What other baits do you throw on those rods?
Soul 7 - I use it mostly for wacky rigging and shaky heads but will also use it for floating worms or small crankbaits.
Wizard - I love this rod for Wacky rigging as well, but I also like to use it for moving baits such as small swimbaits, crankbaits, and even small top waters.
I'm looking forward to the next event - the 50th Bassmaster Classic on historic Lake Guntersville!