Virginian Consistent, But Sees Room To Improve

By Jonathan Manteuffel
Special to BassFan

Anytime an angler can look back on his Bassmaster Elite Series season and see the kind of consistency that Virginia’s John Crews demonstrated in 2011, he has to feel pretty good about it. He easily qualified for his sixth Bassmaster Classic with a 30th-place finish in the Toyota Tundra B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year (AOY) race.

His best tournament finish was 16th at Lake Murray, and he didn’t have any serious bombs all year. He turned in respectable 17th-place showing at the Bassmaster Classic. All in all, he was “Crews-ing” on all cylinders.

“I was consistent, that was probably my biggest accomplishment last year,” he said. “I fished well, but at the same time I lost some key fish in a number of tournaments that probably cost me some Top 20s and even Top 10s. That’s what I need to improve most on this year.

“It comes down to focus and dialing in on a few details. There are a lot of small things that add up. You have to make sure you execute 100 percent of the time, and don’t get distracted. I was putting myself into situations where I had opportunities to do better, and I need to capitalize on those this year. So that’s my biggest goal now, to execute well all the time.

“That, qualifying again for the next Classic, and winning a tournament,” he continued. “The Red River Classic next month would be a good place to start.”

A Worthwhile Trip

Crews has been preparing for the Classic for months. Some of this year’s qualifiers have said they didn’t go to Louisiana to pre-practice, but Crews did.

“I went and learned my way around, and I think I found some good places to fish,” he said. “I’ll try to get dialed into what’s going on during official practice, but right now I think the Spro Fat John (crankbait) and some of my new plastics will be the deal.”

The new plastics he refers to are baits he designed and is producing himself, through his recently announced new company Missile Baits.

“I’ve been wanting to find a niche in the fishing industry,” he said. “I love my relationship with Spro for hard baits, but I didn’t have an outlet for all my soft plastic ideas. I wanted to do my own thing somehow, so I created my own opportunity. I did have a couple offers while I was planning this deal but turned three of them down because I wanted to do it myself, my way.

“In general the baits are thinner for the right action, but they’re made with various consistencies (of plastic),” he noted. “Some are softer, some firmer. I dial them in to be just right for the application.”

He’s already been using some of the baits in competition.

“I used the Twin Turbo (twin-tail grub) on a swim jig at Wheeler Lake for the Elite Series. That thing is smoking on a swim jig. The prototypes are made one at a time and they are expensive, but I caught some weigh-in fish on them in that tournament.

“And in one PAA tournament I caught them on the Twin Turbo and the D-Bomb in shallow grass,” he added. “The D-Bomb is a bigger, bulkier flipping-style bait with big, thin flappers on the back that have an undulating action. There’s a thin section in the bait where the hook pushes through for excellent hooksets.

“I’m really itching to get out on the tournament trail, start catching fish on them, and get them on the market and help other anglers catch fish,” he continued. “There’s a unique sense of pride in hearing about people catching fish on lures I designed. It’s a one-of-a-kind feeling that I’m really looking forward to, hearing about all the big fish people caught on the Missile Baits.”

An Even Keel

So which lake on the 2012 schedule is Crews most excited about?

“I try to condition myself to not get excited or disappointed with any of the tournaments,” he said. “It sounds cliché, but it takes years to teach yourself that. Mentally, I want them all the same and I’ll take them one at a time. If I do what I’m supposed to do I’ll end up where I feel like I should be – near the top.

“You can’t help yourself with negative thinking. But if you get pumped up too much, you already have too much expectation as to how you’re going to catch them. Places change every day, so if you already have scripted how you’re going to catch fish, that’s a recipe for disaster.”

Still, here’s how he’s guessing he might approach this year’s somewhat unusual assortment of venues.

> St. John’s River: “I’m likely to drop the D-Bomb on them. There should still be a lot of bed-fish, and that bait will be disgusting on bed-fish.”

> Okeechobee: “Flipping may be the deal, or punching mats. The Missile Craw (small 4-inch punch-style bait) could be pretty good there.”

> Bull Shoals: “We should be there around the spawn. If the water is up, it’s deep and clear and I could see that Drop Craw being pretty slick on bed fish there.” He describes the Drop Craw as a “unique 3-inch dropshot bait that is slim with tremendous action when you barely move it, great for highly pressured fish and clear water.”

> Douglas Lake: “I’ve never been there, but it might work out to use a heavy football-head jig with a Twin Turbo on it.”

> Toledo Bend: “I’ll probably fish the Tomahawk (8 3/4-inch twin ribbontail worm) on deeper grass edges and ledges.”

> Mississippi River: “Definitely a swim jig, that’s Twin-Turbo city there. The northern swim jig was pretty much invented there.”

> Oneida: “I might be flipping or punching if I’m going for largemouths. If smallmouth are the deal, the Drop Craw will be like a vacuum cleaner. I’m kind of excited about that tournament; you can catch both types of fish that time of year, which opens up the lake pretty good. It gives you more options. Oneida could be won on either species.”

Notable

> Crews sometimes goes by the handle “Crews missile,” hence the Missile Baits company name and missile-related names for the baits.

> As noted in his press release last week, California Bassmaster Elite Series pro and running buddy Ish Monroe is on the Missile Baits pro staff. “Ish is pretty pumped up about everything,” Crews noted. “I’m really glad Ish will be promoting the baits; he’s almost as excited as I am about it.”


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