Harris Chain Will Showcase Double Digit Potential

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Harris Chain Will Showcase Double Digit Potential

By Pete Robbins

No region of the country is more closely associated with early season big bass than Central Florida, and no professional angler is more synonymous with both terms than Gainesville’s Shaw Grigsby. The veteran Strike King pro has earned a substantial chunk of his more than $2 million in career winnings in the Sunshine State, including three wins wholly within Florida and one on the Florida/Georgia border.

The most recent of those victories came in 2011 on the Harris Chain of Lakes, where the Big Bass Tour will begin its 10th season on February 15-17, 2019. In that early March tournament, Grigsby won with 75 pounds over four days, and he said that the lake is fishing even better now.

“Some of my better tournaments have come in the months of January and February in Florida, the BBT will really be hitting it at a very good time,” he said. “We’ve had a rather mild winter, and unless there’s a major cold front it should be exceptional. Even if that cold front rolls through, you just have to focus on what you’ve found and slow down. The bass slow down and you slow down with them.”

He’s caught multiple bass over 10 pounds on the Harris Chain over the course of his career but has yet to notch an 11. That’s on par with the BBT’s past results there. In four past events, our competitors have only failed to eclipse the 10-pound mark one year – 2016.

In 2015 there was one.

In 2017 there were two.

Last year we weighed in three, including Judd Fuhrmann’s massive 10.80 largemouth.

There’s no reason that this year we can’t keep the upward trend continuing. For Grigsby, that would likely require one of two distinct strategies. The first would be to fish offshore, specifically in Lake Harris. While he’d have a vibrating jig like a Pure Poison on the deck of his boat along with many other competitors, he also wouldn’t hesitate to use a tool that many anglers seem to have forgotten: the spinnerbait.

“The last time we had an open there a cold front rolled through,” he recalled. “I had a bunch of bed fish located, but each morning I’d catch a limit with a compact spinnerbait and that will still work, either with a small Colorado and a willow, or a double willow, but if you’re just looking for big fish, I’d use the bigger profile ¾ ounce Premier Plus spinnerbait. You want to hang it in the grass and then rip it free. That’s when your bites will come.”

He’d rotate in another pre-spawn staple around that offshore grass – a ¾ ounce Redeye Shad.

“Trust me, they really like red there,” he said. “Delta Red and Chili Craw have both been really good for me.”

If the tournament comes on the heels of a warming trend or stable warmth, he’d also concentrate on the technique that made him famous: sight fishing for “big old giant pigs.” He’d look in the mouths of the canals if the fish were just starting to make their move to bed, but if they’d been up there a while he would focus more heavily on the interiors of the canals themselves.

“I use a Strike King Rodent a lot,” he said. “But now that we have the Rage Bug, I throw that more than anything else. I’ll have two basic colors. Something bright, like white, that I can see, and something natural like Okeechobee Craw or Blue Craw. I may not be able to see those as well, but when they don’t want something bright I can judge when they have it based on the motion of the fish.”

While plenty of dedicated bed fishermen use craws and creatures for spawning fish, Grigsby sometimes throws them a curveball in the form of Strike King’s Rage Cut R Worm, which provides a large profile and rapid tail flicker. “It’s outstanding for big fish,” he said. “It just fires ‘em up.”

Because this tournament will take place at such a prime time, it’s expected to have a large draw, but no matter how many boats the event pulls in, Grigsby is convinced there will be “A-Class” water for everyone to focus on.

“The Chain is very large,” he said. “Every one of the lakes has good fish and unique cover. You can have hundreds of boats and it won’t be an issue.”

The issue, however, might be time management. The Harris Chain is full of canals and no-wake zones that require careful planning and strategy as to when to take your lunker to weigh in. Pay careful attention to the Bass Pro Shops Big Bass Tour Live Leaderboard, which automatically refreshes every 15 seconds. You’ll want to make sure that your double-digit bass is weighed in during the right hour, and even if you don’t catch one that big a savvy competitor can find a time to take home a check with something much smaller.