Fishhound.com asked BASS Elite Series anglers Boyd Duckett and Keith Combs to each name a facet of tackle or technique they expect to significantly impact their performance during the 2014 season. Duckett named one of his favorite early-season baits, while Combs cited innovations in fishing lines. Here’s what the two tournament trail veterans had to say about these key elements within their respective tackle arsenals:

Boyd Duckett

Rat-L-Trap: An Early Season Classic!

A Rat-L-Trap
A Rat-L-Trap

Boyd Duckett made history as the first “local” to win the Bassmaster Classic when he captured the 2007 Bassmaster Classic title on Alabama’s Lay Lake. He added to his legend that season by amassing the second highest single-season winnings in Bassmaster history. This past October, Duckett moved to Lake Guntersville, site of the 2014 Bassmaster Classic. When asked to name one tackle item he believes will be key for him in 2014, and important during this year’s Classic, Duckett was quick to provide an answer – Rat-L-Trap.

“I expect a Rat-L-Trap to play a key role in determining who wins the upcoming Classic on Guntersville, and I know this lure will be essential to my success in 2014, especially early in the season,” said Duckett.

According to Duckett, a lot of anglers don’t realize just how effective this bait is when the water is cold. “They recognize it as a fast-moving bait, but the fact is, it can also be deadly during the winter months, even when the temperature drops into the 30s,” he noted.

Duckett recalls that it was unseasonably cold in January 2007 when he won the Classic. “My strategy was to catch a quality limit with a Rat-L-Trap and to flip (jigs) in the afternoon for one or two big bites. I caught my limit each day, but I was also able to get one or two good fish – bigger fish – on the Trap.  Having a limit in the livewell enables you to swing for the fences, but it was the quality fish caught on the Rat-L-Trap that made the difference, said Duckett.

Duckett points out that in the fall and summer, a Trap is more of a ‘cast and retrieve’ lure.  But when the water is cold, it can be fished very slowly to produce some incredible results. “I crawled it like a jig on Lay Lake, basically sweeping the rod and crawling the bait, pausing it on the bottom, picking up the slack, and then crawling it some more,” he explained.

Duckett also notes that the Rat-L-Trap is perfectly suited to fishing in the grass, which anglers will find a lot of during the Classic on Guntersville. “If a lake has grass, I like to lift and drop the Trap, instead of ‘ripping’ it during my retrieve. I pull it free from the grass and let it fall back. You can expect to get hung up every third cast or so, but if you fish it this way, the results will impress you,” he said.

As far as colors go, Duckett likes brown and orange, especially in Alabama lakes like Guntersville and other Southern waters. “When the crawfish are molting into a dark brown and orange color combination, that’s the time most guys fish the ‘red’ traps you hear so much about. But I actually like the brown and orange combo for this time of the year – January through March.  My favorite (Rat-L-Trap) is the 46R Red Crawfish, which is really more of a brown and orange crawfish.”

Duckett is also a big fan of Rat-L-Trap’s “cool new colors” in the Super Nova Series, where the lures feature luminous inserts that reflect through transparent external bodies.

“A Rat-L-Trap will beat a jig to death in cold water!” Duckett said.  “I think it will be the ‘go-to’ bait for the field at the Bassmaster Classic on Guntersville!”

Keith Combs

Evolution in Line Logic

Seaguar fluorocarbon lines
Seaguar fluorocarbon lines

Keith Combs fished his way to a remarkable 111.5-pound total and a 2013 Bassmaster Lake Falcon Championship over bass legend Rick Clunn last March. Understanding the impact that giant Texas bass and casting big-lipped crankbaits all day can have on fishing line derives from the “line logic” that Combs expects to serve him again in 2014.

“Six or eight years ago, I was using monofilament line for most every fishing application, but my approach to line selection has changed a lot, and it continues to change,” Combs noted.

“Today I do a lot of my fishing with fluorocarbon, and I choose from several types of Seaguar fluorocarbon lines.  For example, when I ‘m crankbait fishing, I’m not as concerned with abrasion resistance.  I want a line that is very ‘castable,’ yet also strong, like the 15-pound Seaguar Tatsu double structure fluorocarbon I use.”

When it comes to flipping, Combs believes he gets more bites using fluorocarbon over braid. “Sure, I’ll use braid at times, but 25-pound AbrazX fluorocarbon is almost unbreakable, even when I fish it in heavy cover or when I’m dealing with extremely big fish. That’s the line I used for flipping when I won at Falcon last season.  But, when I’m dealing with really heavy cover, such as matted grass, I switch to Kanzen or Smackdown Braid,” he said.

According to Combs, another line factor that’s been a game-changer is using braid for spinning applications. “Seaguar’s new Smackdown Tournament Braid is exceptionally thin but super strong as well, so it’s ideal for this.  I use 15-pound Smackdown, which casts farther than any line I have ever fished with. Smackdown is a huge plus, particularly for fishing in clear water. It’s a small diameter line, so it sinks quickly too, and it’s super sensitive,” he added.  Combs likes to splice a fluorocarbon leader on his braid using a Double Uni knot.

Improvements have also allowed Combs to save time by changing line less often. “I generally re-spool with braid only two times a year, although with smaller test line, I may re-spool a little more often,” he noted.  “Your 50- to 60-pound braid doesn’t wear like other lines. You still have to check the line portion near your bait for frays, but sometimes you can go six months before you have to change – even if you’re a guy like me who fishes almost every day.”

When he’s using fluorocarbon, Combs says how often he re-spools depends on the type of fishing he’s doing and how his day went.  “Fluorcarbon doesn’t stretch much, but if you’re really torquing hard – burning a crankbait all day or catching a lot of fish – it’s a good idea to change your line because the constant strain can cause it to fatigue, he explained. “Still, I don’t change my line every night, even during a tournament. I look at the spool and feel the first 10 or 15 feet with my fingers to make sure nothing is wrong. Today’s fluorocarbon lines don’t get nicked up as easily and seem to handle hard fishing just fine.  That’s especially the case with Seaguar…now that’s quality stuff!”

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