During the 2023 Bassmaster Classic, Jeff Gustafson was the one angler who found fish, got on them, and stayed with them for a wire-to-wire finish tight right up to the end. In addition to the Bassmaster Classic, Gussy also took on the Tennessee River system out of Knoxville this year. The Canadian Bass Pro, who already has the reputation for being one of the nicest human beings in the sport, has now added even more legions of fans and done a masterful job of keeping the world of pro bass fishing on everyone's radar.
What does a tournament-winning setup look like?
We've got the scoop. Let's take a look inside.
The Rod: G. Loomis NRX+ Jig and Worm Spinning
The new NRX+ system from G. Loomis is everything that it's cracked up to be and more. This integrated system offers anglers of all abilities 28 different rods to choose from, including lengths and powers that give any bass fisherman an edge on the water.
Gussy caught his tournament-winning weight of fish by keeping his bait just above the smallies over deeper water which kept the suspended fish interested longer. With the NRX+ Jig and Worm Spinning Rod in his hands, he had greater control of the bait, even in the windy conditions.
The Reel: Shimano Stella 3000
I've been fishing with Shimano reels pretty much since they came out—and I've never looked back. From the beginning, Shimano has created fishing reels that serve many anglers in targeting their favorite species and some of their best performing reels are used by pro anglers everywhere.
Getting his bait in front of the fish was the first part for Gustafson, then between the quick hook set of his rod and the sturdy Stella reel, he boated most every fish he sunk a hook into. The one-piece bail and the smooth front drag system is just a part of what makes this reel so special.
The Line: 10lb Yellow PowerPro
I've been extolling the virtues of Powerpro line for many years now and for good reason. A man from the local bass fishing league turned me onto it and it is as good as it gets as a bass angling line in every size they make it. When you can spool up a reel full of 10-pound test that has the diameter equivalent of two, you can fool a lot of wary fish.
No doubt this had to help Gussy since the water was at times murky and with the wind you can obviously track it with the Hi-Viz yellow color.
The Leader: Mastiff FC
Even with a small diameter braided line, the elite bass pros knew that a good quality fluorocarbon leader is what really fools pressured fish. While this leader won't be available to you and I until later in the summer, being a bass pro has its perks—as Gustafson found out during the 2023 Classic.
When fishing for tournament bass that have seen pretty much everything, pros like Gussy need every trick they can get their hands on to find an edge. For us common-folk, it's just a matter of getting it in our hands, tying it on, and remembering to have a good grip on the rod.
The Bait and the Rig: Z-Man Jerk ShadZ on a Smeltinator Jig Head
The Z-Man Jerk ShadZ slipped on a Smeltinator Jig Head was just one of the baits that helped make Gussy the first Canadian bass pro to ever win the Classic. But it was certainly one of the best. We've long been a fan of the Z-Man Fishing lineup and a Classic win goes along way towards making them disappear off the shelves.
He made a good, classic choice of soft plastics, which almost always puts fish in the boat.
The Electronics: Humminbird MEGA Live with MEGA Side and Down Imaging
In just the first 25 seconds of this video, you can not only see the fish that Gustafson sees, but a clear shot of one that strikes his bait. As we've learned over the years, electronics—even electronics out on the water—can have an amazing place in our boats as guides, fish finders, and for safety reasons.
With a system that offers mapping and both sides and down sonar imaging, anglers now have made the water almost transparent in their attempts to find fish. Learning how to use these great electronics is a simple matter of use and repetition.
The Boat: Lund 2075 Pro-V Bass XS
Ever since angling folks like Al Lindner brought to our attention the Lund line of fishing boats, they've been one of the top fishing crafts in North America. Anglers everywhere are familiar with Lund's smooth, dry ride and its ease of use at the boat launch. Now, it's known as the boat used to win the Bassmaster Classic.
Add to that Gustafson's Spot-Lock GPS anchor and his Minn Kota Ultrex and you've got a fishing system that is very hard to beat. Finesse fishing the way that Gussy needed to do in order to win the tournament relied heavily on boat control as much as rod control, so having a GPS anchor and a solid trolling motor was an imperative as it would be for anyone.
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