Opening his year on a high note, Lester won the Bassmaster Southern Open on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. A couple weeks later, at the Bassmaster Elite on the Harris Chain of Lakes, he notched a fifth-place finish. In both events, Lester fished with complete confidence in his tackle choice — in particular, his choice of rods.
A longtime rod builder, Lester recently partnered with Mustad to create the BLF Instinct Series with actions, powers and weights meticulously balanced for optimal performance. As he explains, specific rod selection has played a key role in his tournament performance.
When cloudy conditions required a more aggressive presentation, Lester threw a 3/8-ounce Evergreen JackHammer Chatterbait in the golden shiner color with a 3.3-inch Keitech Swing Impact Fat trailer. This bolder presentation really stood out during Day 3 of his Open win, while the right rod design elements enabled him to catch the winning fish.
“I used a 7-foot-3 rod that’s actually in the crankbait line; it says ‘Crankbait’ on the handle, but I actually designed that rod for mid-depth crankbaits, as well as 3/8- and 1/2-ounce chatterbaits,” Lester said. “It’ll cover a pretty good range of presentations, but I feel like that 7-3 is the perfect size.
“It’s not too long, so you can still make good accurate casts with it, but it’s long enough that if you’re fishing out in open water, you can make long bomb casts, which is what I was doing at the Kissimmee Open. I was just casting as far as I could, chunking and winding and covering water.”
Paired with a 7.1 baitcaster and 17-pound fluorocarbon, Lester described his chatterbait rod as a graphite model with a parabolic action. This design, he said, ensured hemissed no bites or hook sets.
“You can feel every vibration that bait makes and you can feel exactly when that fish takes the bait,” Lester said. “It’s very sensitive, but it has plenty of tip and plenty of ‘give’ to let that fish eat the bait good.”
In both tournaments, Lester did much of his work by flipping shallow cover with a 5-inch Junebug color soft stick bait rigged on a 3/0 Mustad Grip Pin Big Bite hook with a 3/16-ounce Mustad Tungsten weight. For this presentation, he used two different rods.
During the Open, Lester fished relatively uncluttered bottom with only a low mix of hydrilla and eel grass so he could use straight fluorocarbon. However, on the Harris Chain, targeting reeds and pads required a different setup.
“On the Kissimmee Chain, I didn’t have to keep those fish out of a lot of cover; as long as I kept them out of that short grass, I was good, so I threw the same line I was throwing the Chatterbait on,” Lester explained. “In that instance, I was using my 7-6 heavy baitcasting rod. It’s a good all-around rod for flipping and pitching.
“At the Harris Chain Elite, it was more of a heavy cover situation, so I actually used 50-pound braid with a 4-foot leader of 20-pound fluorocarbon. When you do that, you have to back off on your rod a little bit to absorb some of that shock on the hook set so you don’t break your leader.”
For this scenario, Lester found what he needed in his 7-2 medium-heavy BLF Instinct rod. Completing the package, he used an 8.1 reel so he could quickly gather line and move a fish out of the cover.