ESPN2: Kneeling, reeling for open water bass

When it comes to fishing for bass in deep water, Paul Elias is the king.

After all, the Laurel, Miss. man who won the 1982 CITGO Bassmasters Classic is also the angler who helped to popularize the term "kneeling and reeling" with a deep diving crankbait for offshore bass.

And that's exactly why Elias will trade his Mercury ball cap for a professor's hat this Bass Saturday morning at 8:30 a.m. ET on ESPN2 as this week's installment of "Bassmaster University" airs.

"I'll be talking about structure fishing in general," Elias said of his appearance on "Bassmaster U."

Specifically, Elias — whose Web site (www.indepthfishinglessons.com) attributes nearly half of his $641,039 in career BASS earnings to offshore fishing — will talk about how to fish such open water structure with a variety of baits.

Wait a minute — a variety of baits?

Paul, you mean a variety of baits other than the deep diving crankbaits that you've become famous for fishing?

"Oh, yeah, definitely," Elias said. "There are a lot of times when you're fishing offshore that you'll be fishing deeper than most crankbaits can go."

"In any given situation, you might be fishing a swim bait, a jig, a spinnerbait — it all depends on the weather, (the water depth), and a whole lot of other things."

Make no mistake about it, fishing for deeper bass with a crankbait is Elias preferred methodology.

"Deep cranking is my favorite way to catch them," said the five-time BASS tourney winner. "The crankbait seems to trigger a better response since it is moving through there so quickly and erratically."

And a bait moving through a predatory bass' lair like that is almost more than some bucketmouths can handle, even offshore.

"A bass is a mean critter and he may take a swat at it just because it is moving through there," Elias said.

Case in point according to Elias is when an angler is fishing a jig and knows fish are in there but aren't biting or when an angler has missed a fish with the jig.

"You can rip a crankbait through there and it might fire them up," Elias said.

The '82 Classic champ knows full well what he is talking about, riding a crankbait to his title on the Alabama River near Montgomery, Ala.

"The crankbait was definitely the main bait for my kneeling and reeling," Elias said of his Classic triumph over Jack Chancellor by some eight pounds.

Why the kneeling and reeling technique?

"(Back) then, the deepest crankbait only went about 12 feet deep or so," Elias said. "But those fish were 14 feet down so I had to kneel down and put the rod in water to get the bait there."

Amazingly, Elias didn't find his mother-lode of Classic bass until a nearly last gasp effort on the last day of his pre-tournament fishing.

"I checked that place and it looked really good," Elias said. "But in our pre-fishing, I didn't catch anything."

Still, Elias was so impressed with the location that he decided to give the spot one final try on his final day of practice.

Good thing he did!

"On the final day (of pre-fishing), I caught a four-pounder and a five-pounder," he added. "(And) I won the Classic there."

Even so, open water venues like that are spots that Elias knows that most anglers are out of their fishing comfort zones when they venture there.

"I think the main mistake that most anglers make when they go there is that they fish too fast," Elias said.

"You've got to treat it like you do shallow water and take the time to cover that bottom like you would if you were fishing shallow water.

"You've also got to realize that you're out there hunting schools of fish and you'll be fortunate to find one (active) school of fish (during the course of a day)."

But when you do find that active school, the results can be more downright memorable.

In fact, the Mississippi BASS pro says that the fish that will be shown during his "Bassmaster U" segment this weekend are quality bass that weigh close to 30 pounds!

Tune into the Deuce this Saturday morning to watch Elias lecture on the "kneeling and reeling" technique for offshore bass and the guess here is that you'll be more than prepared the next time those open water lunkers want to throw an angling pop quiz your way.