Florida-based bass brain, Drew Benton, shares his winning tactics for bedding fish and the concurrent shad spawn buffet
Back on April 27, 2023, Panama City, Florida-based Bagley Baits pro, Drew Benton, added another Bassmaster Elite win to his growing resume of firsts and top 10 finishes.
With a four-day total of 87 pounds even, Benton closed the gap on Tennessee’s Hunter Shryock’s second-place finish by nearly a pound-and-a-half. The win amounted to a $100,000 payday plus bonuses and incentives.
“I slipped around sight-fishing and throwing a topwater during practice and noticed a lot of bedding bass,” says Benton. “Timing-wise, it played out perfectly because that’s the kind of fishing I really love doing.”
For the first two days of the tournament, Benton concentrated on shallow, bedding fish each day and weighed in 23-pound-plus bags.
Then, on Day 3, the conditions changed, and it was windy and overcast on Lake Murray.
“Without the sun, I couldn’t see quite as well, even though I was fishing the same areas,” recalls Benton. “So, toward the end of Day 3, I started fishing some creeks that nobody had touched yet. After a nearly sleepless night, this gave me my confidence back. I knew I’d have opportunity to put together another good bag on the fourth and final day.”
Chatting with a couple of other tournament contenders later that night, Benton learned of a shad spawn along rip-rap farther down the lake from his shallow, spawn bite.
“Looking back now, it was kind of a gamble, but I had to try something different than what I did on Day 3. The guys I talked to didn’t catch many fish, with a lot of chasers, but no biters. Nonetheless, I headed down to the rip-rap and caught two fish right off the bat on a Bagley Pro Sunny B—two fish pushing 4 pounds each,” says Benton.
An Olive Shad Pro Sunny B proved deadly for Benton along shoreline rip-rap. Benton says it was “nuts” up and down Murray’s intermittent rip-rap banks.
“There were giant balls of shad everywhere. But some areas were better than others. Anywhere I found shade, I found bass using it as ambush locations to gobble up bait. In particular, I found three points that had trees casting shadows on the water where bass were active. After each time I boated a fish, a new fish would slide up into the same place I casted,” divulges Benton.
“In terms of working the Pro Sunny B,” offers Benton, “I was winding the bait as fast as I possibly could without it blowing out. And we’re talking super-fast since I was using an 8:1 reel loaded with 15-pound fluorocarbon on a 7’ medium-power rod. That’s how you had to work it, or the bass would just slap it. Once I figured out the shade and speed thing, it all came together.”
After a couple big fish—each caught without any aid of forward-facing sonar—Benton motored back to the creeks that had done him right sight-fishing on days 1 and 2.
“Leaving the rip-rap shad spawn bite, I had a little under 20 pounds, and then caught three more off beds, culling up to 27 pounds, which was a pound over my goal of 25 or 26 for the final day.”
Where to Fish Bagley’s Pro Sunny B Crankbait
Fish the Pro Sunny B in 5-6 feet around rocks and laydowns. Use a lighter, 10- to 15-pound fluorocarbon to emphasize its tight action and buoyancy – and don’t be scared to let its sturdy square lip bang right into structure head-on. It’s designed to deflect wonderfully and bass out of their hiding places.
The Pro Sunny B crankbait is manufactured using Bagley’s exclusive Heat Compression Molding (HCM) process—a real technological advancement in making high-quality balsa lures. HCM allows for a full wire through design, creating greater lure strength and more durability when used with today’s modern lines and equipment. HCM also promises precise internal weighting bait-to-bait right out of the box that tracks perfectly and is easy to cast.
In terms of size, the Pro Sunny B is 3 inches long and 1/2 ounce, with a diving depth of 5 to 7 feet. Anglers can choose from 20 bass-catching colors, including Benton’s favorite at the recent Lake Murray Elite event, Olive Shad.
Tap the Shad Spawn Bite At Home
Got shad where you fish? Keep a bead on the right temps for their spawn along rip-rap and other gravel or rock-laden near-shore structure. A lot of times you can see the massive balls of procreating bait busting the surface and flickering around right along the shore. Feeding birds is another sign that something’s going on that might mean bass activity.
Threadfin shad generally spawn from 70 degrees through 80, depending on the length of day and night and weather.
As far as sight-fishing shallow, bedding bass, look at the Bagley and Northland assortments, which include many great baits that will agitate big females into slurping up the intruder—and just plain get eaten by nearby males.