June 08, 2022
By Dr. Todd Kuhn
A wet, soupy fog hung over the phosphate pit, socking us in and rendering the big outboard useless.
The trolling motor, however, whirled away, churning up a silty cloud as we eased off the muddy, makeshift ramp. Our guide, Dean Jackson, gestured with two fingers toward open water.
"We’re going to target bass in the deep grass beds. Cast as far as you can, let it sink to the bottom, jerk it up then crawl it back," he said.
The baitcaster sang as the braid hummed through the guides, the black-and-blue bladed jig racing out then plopping down.
The bait fluttered on the fall before settling in the vegetation 25 feet down. I snapped the rod to attention, breathing life into the vibrating bait. Three turns into my first retrieve, the rod shuddered.
I wrenched down on the drag and leaned into the fish, bracing for a tussle. The spool slipped as a thickly muscled largemouth challenged the drag’s resolve. Soundly buttoned to the bass and hunched over the boat’s gunwale I couldn’t help but think this was going to be a special trip.
This year, for the fourth-annual Game & Fish Tackle Test, we traveled to Florida’s Bienville Outdoors, a legendary fishery with a vibrant bass population. Here, over the course of four days, our team of experts put the newest bass gear through its paces, in search of the best rods and reels the industry has to offer.
Some of the go-to gear and lures used during the Game & Fish Tackle Test
Pure Fishing and Z-Man generously provided our test team with a selection of lures and baits to use during testing. These were some of our favorites.
Berkley’s PowerBait Speed Boss Worm is a large-profile bait that the Bienville bass inhaled whether fished weighted or unweighted. The twin, turbo-style tail emits a large amount of vibration, drawing fish to investigate. We fished the big worm at depth in grass beds and up top over emergent grass.
With a large population of shad at Bienville, a jerkbait is a must. The Berkley Stunna was designed and tested by back-to-back Bassmaster Classic champ Hank Cherry. With its unique single-tungsten-weight transfer system, the Stunna casts like a bullet while offering a slow sink and a shimmy and shake that draws aggressive strikes.
The Z-Man ChatterBait burst onto the tournament scene nearly 20 years ago. Since then, it has helped bass anglers everywhere catch more fish, thanks in part to its incredible versatility. Test team members fished the bladed jig on straight, slow retrieves in open water, over deep grass beds and through weedy patches.
Bass love swim jigs, and our jig of choice was the new Berkley PowerBait Swim Jig. The PowerBait jig lineup features silicon skirts infused with scent, which is released into the water column to attract fish and make them hold on longer once they bite.
Additionally, control reels were installed on rods not paired with a test reel. Abu Garcia Jordan Lee JLEESP30 and Lew’s TLC2000 spinning reels, and Abu Garcia Jordan Lee JLEE-HS and Lew’s KVD baitcasting reels were utilized for this purpose. All reels were spooled with SpiderWire UltraCast x8 30-pound braid and a variety of Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon line.