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Winning Gear archive: Lake Amistad

Mark Menendez: Lake Dardanelle

At the 2009 Toyota Trucks Diamond Drive on Lake Dardanelle, Mark Menendez of Paducah, Ky., utilized a small aluminum boat to access a shallow backwater and caught 55 pounds, 7 ounces over the shortened three days of the tournament to claim his first Elite Series victory and his third with BASS.

The key to his success was having a shallow backwater all to himself and adjusting to the fish each day of competition. With all manner of weather changes coming through the Russellville area, Menendez had to change lures and techniques as the tournament progressed.

On Day One his 17-pound, 12-ounce bag came in his first hour and a half of fishing on a Strike King Rage Tail Lizard in junebug. He rigged the lizard on a 4/0 hook with a ¼-ounce sinker and found success swimming it around the shallow cover that was present in the backwater.

Day Two required a slight adjustment, as conditions continued to change and the fish got closer to the spawn. Menendez switched to a Strike King Coffee Flipping Tube in black neon, which he rigged on a 5/0 Ohio Pro Lure Max Series shiner hook and a ¼-ounce sinker. His 21 pounds, 8 ounces launched him into the lead by less than a pound over Cliff Pace.

With the cancellation of Day Three, Menendez fortunately didn't have to make his long run across the wind-ravaged main body of Lake Dardanelle, but on the final day, the front moved through leaving tough cloudless skies and temperatures that started in the 30-degree range.

"Each day, the fish got closer and closer to spawning," Menendez said. "That required a smaller and smaller presentation. Then, with the cold front that came through, I went to the smallest tube I could use to get my bites."

Menendez downsized to a Strike King KVD tube in black neon and he inserted a rattle into the tube for added effect. That change helped put 16 pounds, 3 ounces in the boat and he held of a final charge from Kevin VanDam to take the tournament title.

All three of his key baits were rigged on a Power Tackle PG104 7-foot, 6-inch flipping stick and a Pflueger Patriarch casting reel in a 7:1 gear ratio.

"It was all power fishing, flipping and pitching," Menendez said, as to why he chose that particular rod and reel.

He chose to spool up the Pfluegers with 20-pound Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon, because, "Fluorocarbon is harder material and thus, more abrasive resistant and it relates strikes better than monofilament."

His sunglasses, a pair of Strike King glasses with amber lenses were also key to picking out targets.

"I could make out obstructions in the water with those Strike King glasses," Menendez said. "Laydowns were real keys because the bass were using them to spawn on."

Menendez also offered insight into a follow-up presentation he was using to occasionally entice another keeper bite.

He paired a 6-foot, 6-inch Power Tackle PGC166-66 Paragon Series rod with a Pflueger President reel in a 6.3:1 gear ratio and 15-pound Berkley Big Game line to throw a Strike King Series 3 Bleeding Series crankbait in chartreuse and brown.

When the scales finally settled Sunday, his use of these products proved key and he took the champion's trophy by a two-pound margin.

Winning Gear archive: Lake Amistad