An Inside Look at Bassmaster’s Northeastern Tour

[dropcap size=small]T[/dropcap]he race to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic was really heating up as the Elite Tournament Series made a rare northward turn with two major late summer events held in the Northeast. The first stop on the “Yankee Leg” of the nine tournament series was the Delaware River held from August 7th through 10th. The event was hosted by the City of Philadelphia not far from Hi-Seas headquarters in Coatesville, Pennsylvania about 25 miles west of the city.

“We sponsor five Elite competitors,” said Mike Shields, Hi-Seas VP of Sales and Marketing, “and we couldn’t have been more excited about having them compete in our area of the country.”

“Hi-Seas manufactures some of the most popular fishing lines in use on the tournament circuit, products like our Hi-Seas Fluorocarbon” said Steve Miller, Director of Sales. “It’s great to see so many of the Elite Pros using our products, especially so close to home were we had the opportunity to see our guys perform on local waters.”

The Delaware River tournament was based out of Penns Landing, the city’s beautiful waterfront park and recreation area, with the weigh-in held at the outdoor amphitheater each day in front of throngs of spectators. Some were just curious about all the fishing hoopla, but most were dedicated bass fishing fans. It was great to see so many kids on hand, many vying for autographs from their favorite pro fishermen.

According to Joe Sancho, “Philly was the biggest and best crowd I saw at any tournament this year!” Sancho is the only competitor in the series to hail from New York and the newest member of the Hi-Seas Elite Pro Team, but he is not new to their products by any means.

“I was using Hi-Seas lines for years before I turned pro and way before they became one of my sponsors,” Joe told us. “It’s great to have an association with a company whose products I was already confident using in tournaments.”

Sancho had some experience fishing the Delaware River while most of the competition did not, and he was quick to say that it is one of the most challenging bodies of water anywhere in the country. Dealing with 6-foot tide fluctuations means that the spots you caught fish on in the morning might be high and dry by noon. When all was said and done, the Delaware River event was won by New Jersey pro angler Mike Iaconelli, one of the most accomplished fishermen on the tour. He has more experience fishing the Delaware than anyone.

The second tournament of the “Yankee Leg” was held the following weekend at Lake Cayuga, just north of Ithaca in New York State’s Finger Lakes Region. After the rigors of competing on the Delaware Cayuga wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. This cold, clear lake is one of the deepest in the country plummeting to over 400 feet in spots. It has a good population of both largemouth and smallmouth bass, but finding and catching them is always a challenge and the lake proved it for many of the Elite pros.

Just who are the pro anglers that make up the Hi-Seas Elite Series Pro Team? The group is headed up by 2013 Bassmaster Classic winner Cliff Pace. Unfortunately Cliff was out of the action this year because of an injury that has kept him sidelined while convalescing. He did not make the trip to fish the Yankee Leg with the other four members of the team and he was sorely missed.

In addition to his win in 2013, Cliff finished second in the Bassmaster Classic in 2008 on Lake Hartwell. He has competed in over 100 tournaments, finished in the money in 75 and has lifetime winnings in excess of $1.3 million. Nicknamed “Game Face Pace” he is a cool competitor and always a dangerous opponent. On the water he is easily recognized fishing from his sleek Mercury-powered Skeeter bass boat emblazoned with a Hi-Seas Grand Slam wrap.

Cliff has been sponsored by Hi-Seas since 2007 and he has been instrumental in helping the company with the development, testing and promotion of new line products like Hi-Seas 100% Fluorocarbon. He won the Classic using it and feels it has been a game changer for him and tens of thousands of bass fishermen around the country. We caught up to Cliff at his house in Petal, Mississippi where he assured us his recovery was on schedule for him to fish one of the southern open tournaments this fall before returning to the Elite Series tournament trail in February 2015.

“I really missed the opportunity to fish up north this summer,” he told us. “Missing the entire season has been a huge disappointment. I’ve been working some and fishing a little while looking forward to the cool weather of fall. It’s my favorite time of year to bass fish.”

In competition Cliff fishes Hi-Seas 100% Fluorocarbon the majority of the time. “It’s the best line money can buy for so many of my favorite lures and techniques,” he said, “but I’ve also had the opportunity to try out the new Grand Slam Select Monofilament and it’s a great product! I plan on using it a lot more this Fall.”

Grand Slam Select is Hi-Seas hot new 100% copolymer monofilament line and it is turning a lot of heads since its introduction this year. Cliff told us that as the water cools it really triggers bass to feed more aggressively to fatten up for winter and reaction baits take center stage. “Fall is power line fishing and Grand Slam Select is the perfect line for fishing topwater lures, shallow running crankbaits and spinnerbaits. It can cover all the important bases in fall and for the weekend fisherman it’s less expensive alternative to fluorocarbon.”

We are all looking forward to watching Cliff get back in the hunt for the 2015 season. We know he can’t wait either and we’ll all be rooting for him.

[divider]Jeff Kriet[/divider]

Jeff Kriet has been on the team for the past few years and he has been benefiting from using Hi-Seas products in competition. He has fished over 200 tournaments in his career and placed in the money over 50% of the time with total winnings in excess of $1 million. He hails from Ardmore, Oklahoma.

Kriet
Kriet

“I have never broken off a fish using Hi-Seas lines and fishing in really nasty stuff is where I like to be,” Jeff told us while practicing for the Lake Cayuga tournament.

“The tournament on the Delaware River was tough. I used 12-lb. Hi-Seas 100% Fluorocarbon most of the time, but use Grand Slam Braid in heavy cover because of the lack of stretch and the way it cuts through vegetation. I had never used leaders with braid before, but lately I’ve been tying on a couple feet of their fluorocarbon to reduce visibility. I did that on the Delaware and am using it on Cayuga, too.”

When Jeff was flipping the river’s extensive grass beds with heavy jigs he was using 65-lb. Grand Slam Braid with a 20-lb. leader of Hi-Seas Fluorocarbon. At other times he dropped back to 10-lb. braid with a 10-lb. leader. “There are not too many lines I would trust for the kind of fishing I do, especially in lighter tests, but Hi-Seas has made me a believer,” he commented.

“I’ve been fishing top water with the new Grand Slam Select mono recently and I really like it,” Jeff added. “I use 15-lb. for walking baits and 12-lb. for poppers and it performs great.”

[divider]Terry Scroggins[/divider]

Terry Scroggins has been fishing with Hi-Seas for the past four years. He calls San Mateo, Florida home and his nickname is “Big Show” because he has consistently finished high in the standings in the Angler of the Year and Bassmaster Classic tournaments, the biggest shows on the circuit. He came within 14 ounces of beating the all-time heaviest single day catch record with a 44-lb. bag a few years back and then came within ounces of breaking the all-time single tournament weight record with 132 pounds. He is definitely one of the top anglers to watch, especially when the pressure is on and the stakes are high!

terry_scroggins_day 10.7.14
Scroggins

We caught up with Terry after a day of practicing on Lake Michigan for the 2014 Angler of the Year Tournament and asked him about his experiences fishing the Yankee Leg of the tour this year.

“It was neat to fish up north,” he said, “even if I didn’t have the best showings at the events. At Cayuga I got caught up in a pattern that was producing lots of fish, but they were small. The crowds at the Delaware River tournament were really great. I managed to learn something pretty much everywhere I fish and those two events were no different.”

When we asked him about his favorite line his answer came as no surprise. “Hi-Seas 100% Fluorocarbon!” he said. “It’s the best there is for so many fishing situations that I probably us it 90 percent of the time in competition.” But I also use Grand Slam Braid for top water, especially in heavy cover.”

Terry told us the braid works so well in thick vegetation because it floats, which keeps it above the weeds while working baits over top. He also likes that it has no stretch so his hook sets are solid, and it casts further than other lines. After a hook up it cuts through vegetation easily when a good fish runs you back down into the nasty stuff.

“I like to use 20 or 30-lb. braid with a 2-foot leader of Hi-Seas 100% Fluorocarbon for working shallow running crankbaits through grass,” he said. “I run it down into the grass and when it gets caught up I rip it out and frequently get an instantaneous reaction bite from bass. Try it sometime and you’ll see what I mean.”

Terry has been trying out the new Grand Slam Select copolymer monofilament and summed it up in two words, “Good stuff.” He said it’s a versatile line that tournament and weekend anglers can depend on to get the job done.

[divider]Joe Sancho[/divider]

Joe Sancho is a rooky on the Elite Series with less than a dozen pro events under his belt. He hails from New Windsor, New York and is just getting his feet under him on the tournament trail after fishing Federation and club events for many years. We have every confidence that Joe will be making his presence known in the coming season.

“I loved seeing the Elite Series come to the Northeast,” he told us, “and hope the promoters saw how much support and how big the fan base is up here during the Delaware River tournament. It was a great crowd.”

Joe’s specialty is fishing shallow water with jigs, flippin’ and pitchin’, but being from the Northeast he is all too familiar with deep water fishing for smallmouths, too. He loves drop-shot fishing for pre spawn and spawning fish. His favorite line is Hi-Seas 100% Fluorocarbon, which he uses in a variety of tests on about 80% of his outfits. He also relies on Grand Slam Mono and Grand Slam Braid for specific situations like fishing heavy cover and top water.

“When I use Hi-Seas 100% Fluorocarbon, I back it up with Grand Slam Braid and then add a topshot of the fluoro, maybe 25 or 30 feet, using a Crazy Alberto knot,” Sancho said. “It’s a great knot for attaching mono or fluoro to braid. I do this because I change line frequently and when I do I only have to strip off the topshot and not a whole spool of the valuable stuff. Saves time, saves money.”

Joe offered a suggestion for taking care of your line. “When you’re not fishing keep your rods and reels out of direct sun and really hot places like inside your vehicle when it’s parked for long periods of time. The same goes for any spools of line you bring along for respooling between tournament days. The first things I take out of my truck when I arrive someplace to fish a tournament are my rod, reels and bulk spools of line. Heat and UV can start to break down any line so the more care you take with it the longer it will maintain its performance characteristics and the less you have to worry about line failure.”

[divider]Casey Ashley[/divider]

Casey Ashley is the newest member of the Hi-Seas Elite Angler team coming on board just before the Classic last February on Lake Guntersville in Alabama. He spooled up his outfits with Hi-Seas 100% Fluorocarbon line and hit the lake with an amazing fifth place finish in a tough event against the very best in the business. He followed that up by winning the very next event, an FLW tournament on Lake Hartwell, which certainly made a Hi-Seas believer out of him!

casey ashley 10.7.14

“Hi-Seas 100% Fluorocarbon is the toughest fluorocarbon line I’ve ever fished,” he commented after the Hartwell win.

Ashley, whose nickname is “The Voice” because he is a singer-songwriter when he’s not chasing the leader board on the Elite Series, has fished over 100 tournaments to date with 3 first place wins, one 2nd and one 3rd place finish, an impressive showing, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. He has finished in the top ten an impressive 16 times, 31 times in the top 20 and in the money 64 times!

A native of Donalds, South Carolina, Ashley started young. His first win at Smith Mountain Lake in 2007 made him the youngest Elite Series winner ever at the tender age of 23. Later in the season he weighed an 11 lb.14 oz. largemouth at an event on Clear Lake in California, one of the heaviest bass ever weighed in Elite Series history. He followed that up with a win in 2008 at Lake Falcon scaling one of the heaviest bags in tour history with a four day total of 113 pounds. To say Casey is one of the top pros to watch is an understatement and everyone at Hi-Seas is watching his career closely.

When we caught up with Casey at the Friday weigh-in on the Delaware River he was disappointed in his overall performance, but so were the majority of the pros. “This is a tough body of water to figure out,” he told us. “The tide fluctuations are a factor that takes lots of getting used to.”