Unnamed Mystery Lure Wins the 2019 Bassmaster Classic

In the world of professional bass fishing, anglers are quick to give credit to their sponsors, but what happens when you catch the winning fish on another company’s lure?

Unnamed Mystery Lure Wins the 2019 Bassmaster Classic

Before I get to the unnamed mystery lure teased in this article’s title, let me provide a bit of background for this story.

Like many anglers across the country, I enjoy following professional bass fishing. As you might have heard, the tournament waters became a bit muddied recently when relative newcomer Major League Fishing (MLF) lured most of the biggest names in the game away from longtime king of the mountain, B.A.S.S. (Bass Anglers Sportsmen’s Society). Add in the FLW Tour, and fans of professional bass fishing now have the opportunity to follow three different national tournament circuits: MLF, BASS and FLW.

Each year about this time, BASS hosts approximately 50 of the finest bass anglers on the planet for what is commonly called the Super Bowl of bass fishing, the Bassmaster Classic. The 2019 version wrapped up recently, and what made this event especially noteworthy is a large percentage of the 52-man field was comprised of anglers who had recently left BASS to join MLF. These anglers were allowed to compete in the Bassmaster Classic because they had qualified for it before announcing their plans to switch circuits. Confused? I don’t blame you.

Regardless of the reasons for anglers leaving BASS to join MLF, one thing was clear during the 2019 Bassmaster Classic: For MLF converts, this would likely be there final Classic. You see, they won’t be fishing any BASS-sanctioned events during 2019, which means they won’t qualify for the 2020 Classic. Because of this added drama, the eyes of the fishing world were locked on this year’s Bassmaster Classic competition.

The best bass anglers in the world gathered recently at the 2019 Bassmaster Classic in Tennessee. Hometown favorite Ott DeFoe took the title — and the $300,000 first-place check — with a 3-day (15 fish) total of 49 pounds, 3 ounces.
The best bass anglers in the world gathered recently at the 2019 Bassmaster Classic in Tennessee. Hometown favorite Ott DeFoe took the title — and the $300,000 first-place check — with a 3-day (15 fish) total of 49 pounds, 3 ounces.

One of the fan benefits to come out of the MLF vs. BASS vs. FLW rivalry is each circuit has greatly expanded its coverage of events, especially live on-the-water coverage. In other words, there are more cameras in more boats, and live footage is streamed online almost constantly. During much of the 2019 Bassmaster Classic, you could watch four anglers on the screen at one time, and whenever someone who wasn’t part of the featured four was doing something interesting (i.e. catching fish), coverage would immediately switch to that angler. Of course, expert commentary is included with all the live video.

I mention these facts about the event coverage to illustrate it’s impossible for today’s top-level bass angler to hide his locations, tactics and lures. Unlike years ago, when it was common for tournament anglers to keep their winning formula under wraps until the final fish was weighed (most of these events are held 3 or 4 days in a row), anglers in 2019 have zero secrets.

And that brings me full circle to the tease in this article’s title. Did the winner really use a mystery lure? Yes and no.

The 2019 Bassmaster Classic was held on the Tennessee River near Knoxville, and Tennessee’s hometown favorite Ott DeFoe was able to win his first Classic. This was his eighth Classic, and with career earnings of nearly $1.65 million, DeFoe is a hammer, especially in the TN river systems he calls home.

Of course, with all his success, DeFoe isn’t hurting for sponsors. From Mercury outboards to Nitro (Bass Pro Shops) boats, DeFoe is near the top of the top when it comes to sponsorship deals. Combine DeFoe’s on-the-water success with his family friendly nature, and companies are standing in line to have their brand featured on his bass boat and fishing jersey.

And this is where things get interesting. Professional bass anglers never miss an opportunity to talk about their sponsors, and make no mistake, these guys aren’t settling for marginal gear. That said, there are rare instances when an angler’s winning lure isn’t produced by one of his many sponsors. (Click here to see a Bassmaster online slide show of the top lures from the 2019 Bassmaster Classic.)

DeFoe caught many of his bass on days one and two on two lures, a Storm Arashi Vibe lipless crankbait, and a Rapala DT4. Both lures were colored to imitate a crayfish.
DeFoe caught many of his bass on days one and two on two lures, a Storm Arashi Vibe lipless crankbait, and a Rapala DT4. Both lures were colored to imitate a crayfish.
Storm Arashi Vibe in Rusty Craw color
Storm Arashi Vibe in Rusty Craw color
Rapala DT4 in Dark Brown Crawdad
Rapala DT4 in Dark Brown Crawdad

Such was the case at this year’s Classic. As I watched the live feed on championship Sunday, Ott DeFoe was using a vibrating (bladed) jig almost exclusively. He was targeting suspended largemouth that were hanging along the edge of a massive floating marina. DeFoe kept his boat close to the wooden marina and casted parallel, hoping for bass to ambush his lure from the shadows under the huge dock system.

One thing about the live coverage on Sunday struck me immediately: During the previous 2 days of competition, when DeFoe was fishing another type of structure, he went into great detail regarding his choice in crankbaits, namely a Storm Arashi Vibe (lipless crankbait in Rusty Craw color) and Rapala DT4 (Dark Brown Crawdad). However, as hour after hour clicked by with DeFoe casting alongside this marina, he didn’t name the brand of his bladed jig. 

Thinking maybe I missed it, I listened carefully to DeFoe as he explained on stage his winning system. He named many of his sponsors, including Storm and Rapala, but when it came to the lure that produced on the final day, he simply said “bladed jig.”

Interesting.

Quote from slide/photo No. 21 in the top-lures Bassmaster article I mentioned previously: “A key lure [for DeFoe] on Championship Sunday was a 3/8-ounce unnamed bladed jig, chartreuse white, with an unnamed pearl white, fluke-style trailer.”

Unnamed. Again, interesting.

As I watched the live video on Sunday, I was 99 percent sure DeFoe was throwing a Z-Man ChatterBait Jack Hammer, one of the hottest bladed (vibrating) jigs on the tournament scene since its debut in April 2017. The day after the 2019 Classic weigh in, I noticed a post on the Z-Man Fishing Products Facebook page: “Looks like the ol’ ‘unnamed vibrating jig’ came through for the Bassmaster Classic win!”

Z-Man ChatterBait Jack Hammer
Z-Man ChatterBait Jack Hammer

Because I have a few contacts in the fishing industry, I fired off a couple emails to learn whether anyone had inside info as to whether DeFoe was indeed tossing a Jack Hammer. I won’t divulge my source, but someone I trust completely said, “Ott was definitely using a Jack Hammer, as were three others in the top 10.”

Ott DeFoe relied on three primary lures to win the 2019 Bassmaster Classic. He specifically named the Storm Arashi Vibe and Rapala DT4 crankbaits, but left the third lure a mystery. As this pic from Z-Man Fishing Products Instagram page shows, the unnamed chartreuse/white lure is a Z-Man ChatterBait Jack Hammer.
Ott DeFoe relied on three primary lures to win the 2019 Bassmaster Classic. He specifically named the Storm Arashi Vibe and Rapala DT4 crankbaits, but left the third lure a mystery. As this pic from Z-Man Fishing Products Instagram page shows, the unnamed chartreuse/white lure is a Z-Man ChatterBait Jack Hammer.

You might be asking yourself: “Why didn’t DeFoe give credit to the Z-Man ChatterBait Jack Hammer?”

The obvious reason is sponsorship conflicts. You see, one of DeFoe’s primary sponsors is Rapala VMC Corporation, and one of the brands that falls under that umbrella is Terminator. (DeFoe has won a lot of money on Terminator Frogs.) Terminator recently released its own version of a bladed/vibrating jig called the Shuddering Bait.

Terminator Shuddering Bait
Terminator Shuddering Bait

Certainly, DeFoe could send a text to his contacts at Terminator and get a boat load of Shuddering Baits delivered next-day air to his doorstep, or hand delivered to a boat dock of his choice anywhere in the country. For whatever reason, however, he tied on a Z-Man ChatterBait Jack Hammer on championship Sunday at the 2019 Bassmaster Classic.

I personally will be following this DeFoe sponsorship situation closely as spring turns to summer. Will DeFoe start using a Terminator Shuddering Bait? Perhaps. Or maybe he’ll work out a deal where he can add Z-Man to his list of sponsors?

Whatever the case, the mystery around what lure DeFoe used to win the 2019 Bassmaster Classic on championship Sunday is solved — a Z-Man ChatterBait Jack Hammer, 3/8 ounce, in chartreuse/white. 

As for the “unnamed pearl white, fluke-style trailer” used on DeFoe’s Jack Hammer? That mystery was solved when I saw the pic below on a Facebook post from Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits. Called the Zako, this 4-inch swimbait trailer was designed for ChatterBaits and other bladed jigs. It appears DeFoe used either color 909 (Chartreuse Shad) or color 036 (Cream White). If it was the all-white Zako, then DeFoe customized its tail with some chartreuse.

Lure tease posted on Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits Facebook page.
Lure tease posted on Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits Facebook page.

Author’s note: If the $15.99 price of a Jack Hammer causes you to pause, you’re not alone. Buddies of mine who fish bass tournaments swear by the Jack Hammer and claim that the lure’s premium components are worth the high price. That very well could be true, but the fact remains I can’t afford it. The good news is I’ve caught a lot of bass on the less expensive, but still high quality, original ChatterBait, which sells for $4.99. It comes in 3/8 ounce (and 1/4 and 1/2) and a wide variety of colors, including chartreuse/white.

Z-Man Original ChatterBait
Z-Man Original ChatterBait

In my experience, vibrating jigs work great whenever bass are shallow. They aren’t as weedless as a spinnerbait, but you can retrieve them faster if desired. As DeFoe proved at the Bassmaster Classic under tough, post-front conditions, bladed jigs are deadly when retrieved with a moderate to slow retrieve, too.

In almost every case, anglers rig ChatterBaits with some type of soft-plastic trailer for added attraction. DeFoe used the Yamamoto Zako. I typically go with the Z-Man Split-Tail TrailerZ.

2019 Bassmaster Classic Champion Ott DeFoe showing off his trophy, as well as the Storm Arashi Vibe lipless crankbait. Of the five bass DeFoe brought to the scale on championship Sunday, four were caught on the Z-Man Jack Hammer, one was taken on the Storm Vibe.
2019 Bassmaster Classic Champion Ott DeFoe showing off his trophy, as well as the Storm Arashi Vibe lipless crankbait. Of the five bass DeFoe brought to the scale on championship Sunday, four were caught on the Z-Man Jack Hammer, one was taken on the Storm Vibe.
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