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Bob Downey's 2023 Bassmaster Strategy: The Baits and Gear That Qualified Him for Another Classic

For the country's elite bass anglers, a Bassmaster Classic birth is a sign of having a great season. The small decisions made at every tournament have huge impacts on end-of-season points.  

No decision is more critical than what bait to use or where to target fish. Elite Series Angler and 2024 Bassmaster Classic Qualifier, Bob Downey, has been documenting his strategy and bait choices throughout the season by filing fishing reports on the Omnia Fishing platform. 

These fishing reports are part of the Omnia Fishing Ambassador Program where anglers earn free tackle credits for sharing what worked for them on the bodies of water they fish. 

Below are the fishing reports that have the baits and tactics Bob used throughout the entire 2023 Bassmaster Elite Series.

Bob Downey's 2023 Bassmaster Elite Series Recap

Lake Okeechobee - Feb. 16-19

Bob Downey

Blue Ambassador

2/14/23

  • Species

    Largemouth Bass

  • Season

    Spring (Spawn)

  • Technique

    Texas Rigs (Pitch/Flip)

  • Structure

    Submerged Vegetation

  • Forage

    Bluegill

Flipping isolated pencil reeds and cattail clumps with hyacinth mats that had floated into those areas. Also caught some key fish on a bladed jig in open water around those same areas.

Lake Seminole - Feb. 23-26

Bob Downey

Blue Ambassador

2/23/23

  • Species

    Largemouth Bass

  • Season

    Spring (Spawn)

  • Technique

    Wacky Rigs

  • Structure

    Submerged Vegetation

  • Forage

    Bluegill

  • Water Temperature

    72°

The first day of the tournament I was able to blind cast to beds in a spawning area I located in practice. The conditions weren't quite right to have them pushed up during practice but I saw enough activity that led me to believe the time was fast approaching. The warm weather trend set this area up for bass to be there the first morning of the tournament. The key was being able to make long casts to marked areas that I though would have fish. I ended up catching several bass that filled out my bag on day one.

Tennessee River - March 24-26 (Bassmaster Classic)

Bob Downey

Blue Ambassador

3/28/23

  • Species

    Largemouth Bass

  • Season

    Spring (Pre-Spawn)

  • Technique

    Structure Jigs

  • Structure

    Laydowns

  • Forage

    Shad

I was keying on shallow wood near the main river channel or just inside shallow pockets off the main river. Anything that had just a little bit of depth on it where you couldn’t see bottom. 2-4ft of water. I was flipping a jig around the wood. My better quality fish came this way. The lake was still at winter pool levels so there was some wood and brush that was just stuck on shallow flat areas that looked like junk from a distance, but it held fish as the afternoons warmed up during the tournament. I also cranked the OG Tiny on rock back in pockets. Rock transitions from chunk rock to pea gravel leading into spawning areas as well as offshore shallow rock piles in 2-6ft were my primary cranking areas. I caught smaller keepers cranking, but filled out my limit on day 3 with those fish.

Lake Murray - April 20-23

Bob Downey

Blue Ambassador

4/20/23

  • Species

    Largemouth Bass

  • Season

    Spring (Spawn)

  • Technique

    Swim Jigs

  • Structure

    Submerged Vegetation

  • Forage

    Blueback Herring

  • Water Temperature

    68°

Caught good numbers of fish in bank grass around the sides and backs of pockets on a swim jig. I was throwing the fluke more so on long main lake points to catch a few better quality fish in the afternoons

Santee Cooper Lakes - April 27-30

Bob Downey

Blue Ambassador

4/28/23

  • Species

    Largemouth Bass

  • Season

    Spring (Post-Spawn)

  • Technique

    Wacky Rigs

  • Structure

    Standing Timber

  • Water Temperature

    70°

2023 Bassmaster Elite - Santee Cooper. In practice I was catching fish shallow on a swim jig, frog an chatterbait. That bite really faded on me as the tournament started so I switched up and threw a wacky rig on cypress trees during the second half of day one and the entire day on day 2. Day 2 was much better. Had 20lbs and almost slipped into the day 3 cut. a touch deeper trees in 2-4ft with some eel grass nearby was key.

Lay Lake - May 11-14

Bob Downey

Blue Ambassador

5/15/23

  • Species

    Spotted Bass

  • Season

    Spring (Post-Spawn)

  • Technique

    Damiki Rig

  • Structure

    Ledges

  • Forage

    Shad

I was catching spotted bass using the moping or dimiki rig technique in 8-22ft of water on main river ledges. I expected to catch largemouth up shallow in the grass for this event, but that never materialized for me in the tournament. I ended up weighing all 15 of my fish this week using the moping technique. In the morning the fish would be up on top of the ledge in 6-8ft chasing bait. As the day went on they would set up deeper and chase balls of bait off the edge of the ledge. They were very difficult to get to bite besides a few flurries every so often. If you could land your lure in the middle of a ball of bait while the spots were feeding you had a better chance to catch them. They move super fast when they’re feeding so it took the perfect set of circumstances to get your bait in the middle of a feeding frenzy. I used the 1/8oz head when the fish were finicky and I need to almost float the bait down to them. I used the 1/4oz head when they were more actively feeding. Fun way to fish!

Sabine River - June 1-4

Bob Downey

Blue Ambassador

6/1/23

  • Species

    Largemouth Bass

  • Season

    Summer

  • Technique

    Spinnerbaits

  • Structure

    Points

  • Forage

    Shad

  • Water Temperature

    80°

Keyed on current breaks when the tide was incoming and outgoing. Anytime the tide was strong enough to create small eddies around little points or pieces of wood. Covered lots of water with a spinnerbait to find active fish.

Lake St. Clair - July 27-30

Bob Downey

Blue Ambassador

7/28/23

  • Species

    Smallmouth Bass

  • Season

    Summer

  • Technique

    Drop Shot

  • Structure

    Submerged Vegetation

  • Forage

    Perch

Focused primarily in the 13-18ft range targeting smallmouth with a drop shot or a tube. I had one school located in 13ft that I would start on each day and use the tube to get a quick limit. Making long casts and snapping the tube back across the bottom. After getting a limit I would focus deeper in 16-18ft the rest of the day using a drop shot to pick off individual fish using Mega Live. The fish seemed to be relating to slight rises or drops (1ft or less) on the massive flats of St. Clair. Beyond that, if bait was in the area it made it even better. Sunny conditions in the afternoon were best for seeing fish on Mega Live as they would rise up off the bottom to actively feed. Stayed in the trolling motor in the afternoons just moving around until I would run into pods of fish.

Lake Champlain - Aug. 17-20

Bob Downey

Blue Ambassador

8/18/23

  • Species

    Smallmouth Bass

  • Season

    Summer

  • Technique

    Drop Shot

  • Structure

    Baitfish

  • Forage

    Alewife

Found smallmouth loosely relating to offshore structure in 20-35ft of water. They were primarily relating to alewife and would corral them up against pieces of structure. Caught them on a drop shot as well as a dimiki rig in front of the boat or below it. I would pan around with Mega Live until I saw a group of smallmouth and throw at them with a dropshot if they were near the bottom or the dimiki if they were higher up in the water column. Some fish we barely under the surface at times.

St. Lawrence River - Aug. 24-27

Bob Downey

Blue Ambassador

8/24/23

  • Species

    Smallmouth Bass

  • Season

    Summer

  • Technique

    Drop Shot

  • Structure

    Rock Pile

I had a couple patterns that I would run each day. I started out drifting in the river around rock/sand shoals in 20-35ft of water. Primarily drifting a drop shot or ned rig. In the afternoons I would get up shallow and cover water with a Chatterbait if it was windy or a spybait if it was calmer. I wasn't finding a ton of better quality fish up shallow this time of year, but every so often I would run into a 4lb+ fish.

Congratulations Bob on a successful 2023 season and qualifying for the 2024 Bassmaster Classic!

If you are looking to be a part of the Omnia Fishing ambassador community and earn free tackle from filing fishing reports, join our ambassador program today!

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