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Bassmaster Classic 2010 Interview with Jeff Kriet - Second Place Finisher

Date: 3/11/10
Interview: Jeff Kriet
Subject: Classic 2010 Interview
Reviewer: Bassdozer


Some call it the world championship. Others say it's the Super Bowl of bass fishing. Bar none, it is the most prestigious and respected fishing title to win. The 40th Bassmaster Classic tournament took place on Lay Lake in Birmingham, Alabama over the weekend of February 19-21, 2010 with 51 of the world's foremost anglers in contention.

Sebile pro-staffers Jeff Kriet and Todd Faircloth, both using the Sebile Flatt Shad, were in the top three for all three days, fighting fish-by-fish for the championship crown with the #1 world-ranked Kevin VanDam. Adding to the suspense, all three anglers staked out their turf, practically within shouting distance of each other for the entire three days within Beeswax Creek, a side creek arm just a few minutes from the tournament launch ramp.

This world championship was filled with challenging fishing and a lot of suspense between the top three players who distanced themselves from the rest of the Classic field right from the start. The 2010 Classic proved to be largely a three man competition. The duel between the three only served to make this Classic even more exciting than many past ones. It's true there were other hopefuls like the indomitable Mike Iaconelli and local expert Russ Lane hot on their heels, ready to overtake the top three if any one of them stumbled, but Kriet, Faircloth and VanDam never did.

Jeff Kriet rolls in at the Classic

We talked to Jeff Kriet from Ardmore, Oklahoma about his experience at the event. Jeff fought hard for the crown, moving from third place on day one, taking over first place on day two and ending in second place in the most important tournament of Kriet's twelve plus years fishing as a Bassmaster pro, including 6 times qualifying for the Classic. As the tournament commenced, most of the Classic field was aware that successful fishing would require the use of lipless vibration baits as the bass were pretty lethargic with the unseasonably cold weather in Alabama. Water temps ranged from the low 40's at the start of the event and edged upward to the high 40's in the late afternoon of the final day in Beeswax Creek. Mornings were brutally cold, and many anglers started fishing with gloves on each morning.

Bassdozer: “First of all congratulations for your strong showing at the event and thanks for taking the time to talk about the experience. Let’s start with a little background on yourself and your initial approach to the event.”

"I grew up fishing Toledo and Rayburn in Texas and throwing loud rattling baits in the grass and that's what I am used to doing," says Kriet who decided to start day one with what he's had the most comfort throwing for so many years - a very loud, rattling lipless crankbait. "One of the issues I faced, the color I felt that I needed to be throwing was a specific red one, a color that I hand-paint myself. I call it Rayburn Red and I have probably weighed in 400 pounds of bass on that color bait in the last ten years," reveals Jeff.

"The first day of the tournament I was throwing a rattling bait with a lot more rattles. As the water cleared up and got clearer every day, it cleared enough that the fish got more conditioned to the rattle. That's when the Sebile Flatt Shad really started to shine. It is a more subtle bait, but it has probably more vibration than the other one I was throwing. Starting on the second day of the Classic, I saw that these fish were getting sick of that loud rattle in my hand-painted rattle bait," observed Jeff who relied increasingly more on the subtle sound of the Sebile Flatt Shad from that point onward.

"I think when a guy absolutely needs to make sure he throws the Flatt Shad is on the second or third day of a tournament or anytime that a bunch of other fishermen are throwing rattling lipless crankbaits, that's when the Flatt Shad really, really shines," according to Jeff.

"As the water cleared up some on day two, I caught some on the straight white Flatt Shad (Q2 White Lady). I also threw the Holo Greenie (D9), one of my favorite Sebile colors. Late in the final day three, the water got even clearer, and I put on the translucent Blood Red Amber which emits a gold shad-like flash in stained water," says Jeff.

Jeff brings his fish up to weigh in

"I was fishing the depth contour lines, kind of the outside break line for a big flat with a couple of ridges that ran out off the flat, and I was following the contour. I was trying to keep my boat out in 5-1/2 to 6 foot, and most of the fish I was catching were anywhere from probably three foot on out to the boat. I was always trying to fish the Flatt Shad within coontail grass, and most of the better fish were on the edge of the grass on the sides of those ridges where the depth broke. Some of them were moving up onto the flat, but all the big ones seemed to be hanging on the edges." The Flatt Shad model he chose for the shallow 3-6 foot depths that Jeff fished during the Classic was the Flatt Shad 66 SK, half-ounce sinking version.

"The way I caught them, I wasn't just throwing it out and reeling with it. I was throwing it out and letting it sink to the bottom. Then I was fishing it almost like a jig. I was trying to let the bait hang in the grass, and then I really didn't even want to jerk it out of the grass. I just wanted to pull it out of the grass and let it fall back in. That was the big deal to generate strikes," reveals Kriet.

"The way I was doing it is probably different than most other guys. I was keeping my rod probably at ten o'clock. If I was winding it in normally, I would have my rod almost pointed at the water, but the way I was worming it, because the water was so cold, winding wasn't the deal for me. So I would keep my rod up fairly high and at times raise it to almost twelve o'clock and then I would lower the rod and let the bait fall."

"The best is when you can just ease it on through that grass and pull it through clean. When I got hung in the grass, I can feel the Flatt Shad stop vibrating, and any time your bait quits vibrating, you either have a fish or you've got grass hung on your bait. If there's grass on the bait, no fish is going to hit it like that, so that's when I snap my rod a couple times to try to tear the grass off the bait, and then once I have snapped it and get that grass off it, I can immediately feel the bait go back to emitting its normal, clean vibration again, and that's when I immediately let the Flatt Shad fall right back down."

"When I feel that grass, and it's bogging down and I know I am balling the grass, I'll put my rod in a little lower position and put a little slack in my line and pop it real quick a couple of times and generally, that will pop it free, and that is what you want, when you tear it out of the grass, you want it to come clean. What you do not want to do is just pull straight and steady. All that does, that just balls more grass on it, but if you put a little slack in your line and pop it, and put a little slack in your line immediately after that first pop, all that grass will kind of fall off during that little slack moment, and the second pop gets it clean again. That's when you get a lot of bites too."

"It's like when a car gets stuck in the mud, and you put a tow rope on to help pull it out, you have to kind of start out with a slack line, you pop it out and the line ends up slack again. Now, don't go trying to jerk a stuck pick-up truck out of a ditch based on that simple allegory, but do try it when your Flatt Shad hangs in grass. It works! I was throwing the Flatt Shad on 15 lb test fluorocarbon line. Fluorocarbon has a little less stretch, and I was throwing on a medium heavy rod which helps pop it loose."

"The deal for me in the Classic was that the bigger fish seemed like they bit it one of two ways. They would either just slack line it. They'd just take it in and it'd throw slack in your line when that happened - or I'd be pulling that bait and it would start to load up just like it was in grass, and I'd lean back, not sure whether it was grass or not, and then I'd actually have one. That was really how the bigger fish came. Most of the smaller fish would thump it; I'd pull it out of the grass and I'd feel them just thump it. Whenever I wasn't sure, I'd just lean into the rod, just start reeling and lean back. Even the small ones that bit it good, that's what I'd do, just reel hard and lean. If you get to jerking to make the hookset with a bait like that, you'll miss a lot of hits, actually pull it away from them if you jerk on them. The hooks are so good on the Flatt Shad, you don't need to do that. It's best to just lean into them while cranking the reel handle pretty hard."

"Especially early in the morning, it was so cold, the fish were almost buried down in the mud and the grass, they didn't want to bite at all. They were in a bad mood and it was a very tough, grinding tournament. I had key angles on the sides of these ridges, and I caught about 75% of my fish when I threw on these same angles. I would make 70 or 80 throws on that same angle for every bite I got. One thing the everyday angler doesn't realize is that the presentation angle always matters whether deep or shallow, the angle you pull the bait past the fish does a lot to determine whether it will bite. There is always a key angle to your cover or structure. I never caught a fish in three days if I was off the angle nor did I catch one in three days throwing on top of the ridge. I always caught them by throwing across it from the side, whether I was coming from the deeper water up on top or when it fell off, back down the edge."

A strong finish with fish taken on the Sebile Flatt Shad

"The ridges I was concentrating on were only about a 1/2 to a foot difference in depth on the outside edges of these ridges, just a real subtle change, but on these ridges there were some stumps and the grass on top of the ridge was sparser. There was thicker coontail grass on the sides, but it seems like, for the fish I was catching, that the best sections for me were the edges where you had scattered, patchy grass seemed to be the deal."

"One reason I was working the bait the way I was, worming it through the grass, was to make contact with those stumps and when I'd hit a stump, I'd just raise the rod, and I would crawl the bait over the stump and as soon as I got over the stump, I'd let the bait fall back down in front of that stump. That's how a lot of the bites came."

Bassdozer: “Is there anything else you would like to add about the baits you were using?”

"The thing about Sebile baits that I like the most is that most of the lures have several different applications, there are lots of different ways to fish them, and the Flatt Shad proved very versatile to do everything I needed from it during the Classic."

Bassdozer: “Thanks again for taking the time to talk to us about the event and the tactics you employed and once again congratulations on your strong finish.”

Read about Pro Angler Todd Faircloth's third place finish and his own experience with the Flatt Shad here

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