Jeff Gustafson shares his Bassmaster Classic-winning secrets with his friend and mentor, Outdoor Canada’s Gord Pyzer


Jeff Gustafson (left) and Gord Pyzer have often fished together on Lake of the Woods

GORD: It’s extremely rare to win any tournament with just one presentation, but you’ve moped your way to success twice now, once on the Elite circuit, then at the Bassmaster Classic. That has to be pretty special.

JEFF: Yeah, that’s two events that all of my fish have been caught on one presentation. It is hard to believe. I said earlier about how it was hard from Sunday to Friday. You just didn’t know if those fish would be there, because it was cold when we started practice, then a big heat wave came through in the tournament. It got warm. It’s just the time of year those fish were getting ready to leave. So, if the tournament had been a few days later, I probably wouldn’t have been able to do what I was going to do. On the other side of that, if it was a few days earlier, I probably would have caught 20 pounds every day. That’s how many fish were on my two main spots.


Moping is a technique I have the ultimate confidence in. I have caught thousands of fish with it, so it easy for me. We’re not allowed to use nets on the tour, and I don’t like messing around or babying fish. The longer you play and fight with them, bad things are going to happen. That’s the reason I like that Smeltinator jig so much. It has a 604 Gamakatsu hook in it. It’s 2X heavier gauge wire, so you’re not going to open that up with 10-pound braid. If you’re using a lesser-quality hook that’s softer, you can’t pull on them as much.

On the third day, when things got really tough, I later had a lot of people ask me, “Did you think about trying this or that?” I had 20 rods in my rod locker with a variety of different things tied on, and I did try a few of them. But in my limited experience on that body of water, even when I was around really big fish that were biting really good, I’d never found another bait they liked even remotely close to that jerk shad. So, I just felt that if I could keep it in the water on the third day, especially when it got really tough, I might put it on top of a fish that hadn’t seen it yet—a fish that didn’t know my boat’s there. That was my best chance to do what I need to do.

GORD: When you won the Elite event last year by moping on the Tennessee River, you did it with traditional 2D sonar. This time at the Classic, you had both Humminbird 360 Imaging and Mega Live. How important were they?


JEFF: The 360, particularly for practice, was huge because I could see and map out where the rock and the hard spots were located on the couple of places that I had. So, I had really good waypoints where I wanted to have my boat. In the tournament, I actually turned the 360 off just to have less sonar running up there, because I didn’t really need it. I had the Mega Live to show me where the little high spots were in relation to my waypoints. And I could see my bait and the fish, so the Mega Live was really key in the tournament.

I want to get on top of the fish when I’m moping. For that, 2D sonar works great. I can watch my bait like I’m ice fishing. But what ended up happening, particularly on day three when I caught both of my fish, was that it got flat calm, really bright and quiet. Twenty feet of water isn’t that deep—that’s the length of your boat—so when you’re on top of fish at that depth, they 100 per cent know you’re there. If they haven’t been fished for a lot, haven’t been pressured, it’s probably not a big deal. But I could tell by the way they reacted to my bait and the boat that they didn’t like it.


So once the fish started to get pressured a little bit, especially on the third day, the forward-facing sonar allowed me to look in front of the boat, so I could put my bait on top of the fish without getting the boat on top of them and alerting them. When I could see some fish out in front of me. I’d pitch out my bait and swim it over top of them, three or four feet off the bottom, and they’d come up and bite it. I otherwise just couldn’t get on top of them and do what I wanted to do, so it certainly helped me out for that. On the last day, I probably had 70 to 100 bass look at my bait that I could see out there, but they would not bite anything. So, just because you can see them, it doesn’t mean those fish are going to end up in your boat.