Rapala Lure Key To Bassmaster Classic Win

Here's something you may not know: three of the top five finishers in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic caught many of their fish on Rapala DT-6 crankbaits, including winner Randy Howell.

"This is what I caught a good bit on this week," Howell said, holding up a Demon-pattern DT-6 covered with teeth marks. "I'm not sponsored by Rapala, but that's a great cold-water bait."

Howell's comments came as he recapped his final-day action during a live webcast interview with Rapala pro Davy Hite, the 1999 Classic winner, moments after Howell came off of Alabama's Lake Guntersville and hours before he weighed in and was crowned champion. Success with a DT-6 did not surprise Hite.

"On Friday, I said that would absolutely, 100 percent, be a bait that I'd be throwing a lot here," Hite said of the DT-6.

And although Hite did not qualify to fish this year's Classic, his instincts were spot on. Not only did the Classic winner catch numerous bass on a DT-6, so did two other anglers with a chance to win - Rapala-Terminator-VMC pro Ott DeFoe and VMC-Trigger X® pro Randall Tharp, who finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

"Every big fish that I weighed in - and all five of the fish I got today - came on this bait," DeFoe said, showing Hite a DT-6.

"I had a 7-1/2 [pounder] the second day and I had one over five [pounds] on the first day that came on this," DeFoe said, also in a pre-weigh-in interview with Hite . "Man, it's been really key."

A longtime Alabama resident who launched his professional fishing career by cashing checks in tournaments on Lake Guntersville, Tharp came into the Classic heavily favored to win. He led after Day 1, having caught a 27-pound, 8-ounce limit of five bass. Throughout the tournament, he caught many of his fish on a Bluegill-pattern DT-6.

"He said a lot of his big fish came on this crankbait right here," Bassmaster TV co-host Mark Zona said of Tharp, holding up a DT-6 to the camera live-streaming bassmaster.com's instant-analysis "War Room" webcast. "A ton of guys in this tournament are using that bait," Zona said. "[It has a] very tight wiggle - it's not a very wide-wobbling crankbait. It's got a tight profile. Great cold-water crankbait."

Brandon Palaniuk, a Rapala, Storm, Terminator and VMC pro, finished in 15th place. On the tournament's final day, he caught most of his bass on the Red Craw-pattern Storm Rattling Arashi™ Square 3, a new crankbait unveiled last Friday at the Classic. Released along with the Square 3 was a Square 5. The numbers indicate the baits' diving depths.

In the first two days of Classic competition, Palaniuk threw a Electric Blue 3/8 ounce. Terminator Pro Series Jig. Storm, VMC and Terminator are three of the many respected names in the Rapala family of brands. DeFoe Predicted DT Bite Before the Classic even launched, DeFoe predicted that a Rapala DT bait would be a player.

"Everything from shallow-running stuff like a DT Flat-3, down to maybe a DT-10 or DT-16 even," he said in a pre-tournament interview. Conditions dictated that the DT-6 would be most effective. DT stands for "Dives-To," indicating the baits' diving depths. Fellow Rapala and VMC pro Michael "Ike" Iaconelli also predicted a DT bite. And although Ike, the 2003 Classic winner, didn't find the fish he needed to be a contender in this year's Classic, he described well why DTs are go-to pre-spawn baits. "When the water's cold, [bass's] forage is cold and doesn't really move quick," Ike explained. And because DTs are made of balsa wood, he said, they float up very slowly when paused. "The bait kind of just hovers there, rising ever so slowly. That often in itself, in the pre-spawn period, is the trigger of the bite."

Bites generally come on a pause following what Ike called a "secondary movement," such as hitting a rock, laydown or strand of vegetation. Some of DeFoe's bites in the Classic came in grass, but most came off riprap rock on causeways and around bridges.

"DeFoe methodically fishes the riprap," outdoor writer Mark Hicks wrote in a bassmaster.com live-blog post on Day 3 of the Classic. "He's casting parallel and tight to the rocks and slowly grinding the bait over the riprap. And I mean grinding. He pauses frequently to let the crankbait float off snags as he's often snagging the rocks."

Due to abuse from the rocks, DeFoe stopped frequently to re-rig his DT-6 with fresh VMC treble hooks. He uses VMC short-shank trebles, "same as what comes on there," out of the package.

"It's been a heck of a week for me," he said.

Not to mention a heck of a young career. Since winning Bassmaster Rookie of the Year in 2011, DeFoe has not only qualified for three consecutive Bassmaster Classics - no small feat, in and of itself - he finished in the Classic's Super Six twice (5th, 11th, 4th, in that order).

"He's one of the best shallow crankers in the game," Tharp said of DeFoe, whom he competed against previously on the FLW Tour, professional bass fishing's other top-level tournament circuit.

But Tharp is one of the best in the game too. Last year, before qualifying for this year's Classic by winning a Bassmaster Open, he won the Forrest Wood Cup, the FLW's equivalent of the Classic.

"I had a chance today [to win], that's all you can ask for," Tharp said, offering a respectful "hats off" to Howell, DeFoe and the two other anglers that finished ahead of him, runner-up Paul Mueller and third-place finisher Edwin Evers.

"They whooped me pretty good on my home lake."

DT Feature Series

Rapala's DT crankbaits are designed to dive fast to a pre-set depth and stay in the strike zone longer than any than other crankbait on the market. Made from the top 7 percent of balsa wood, this consistently perfect wood combined with carefully placed internal weights, a tapered fuselage and a thin tail design creates the ultimate crankbait action. An ultra-thin polycarbonate lip digs the bait down quickly to desired depth.

Swimming with a side-to-side action only balsa crankbaits can achieve, DTs pull with ease when cranked. Perfectly weighted to rest in a "quick-dive," nose-down position allowing for immediate descent to desired depth, DTs can be easily cast up to 150 feet. The farther your cast, the longer your bait stays in the strike zone.

DTs feature an internal baritone rattle tuned for optimal bite-triggering sound. They come in 27 color patterns, including eight "Ike's Custom Ink" patterns designed personally by Iaconelli, exclusively for Rapala. All come with premium VMC hooks. Each is hand-tuned and tank-tested to swim perfectly right out of the box.

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