Dustin Connell’s Tournament-Winning Guide to Spotted Bass

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Fresh off of his 2024 Bass Pro Shops REDCREST win, Wired2fish gives viewers an in-depth look into Dustin Connell’s spotted bass-catching mind. The prespawn spotted bass bite is Connell’s favorite of the year. Stationed on the Coosa River, his approach targets current-influenced main lake shoals, where spots feed heavily before spawning. He discusses spotted bass location and his top bait rotation to keep the bite going for some of the biggest spotted bass in the country. 

TACKLE USED (retail links)

* Boat links at the bottom.


Spring typically brings dirty water, where spinnerbaits and crankbaits are key players, but clear water conditions drive a different approach. Connell’s clear water arsenal focuses on downsized, more subtle presentations. Key baits include:

  • 3-inch paddle tail swimbait on a jig head: A perfect all-arounder for locating bass and gauging the bite. 
  • Scrounger head with a Freeloader: When finesse needs more punch, this setup imparts an irresistible rocking action and slows the bait in the current. It’s Connell’s go-to for mimicking larger forage such as gizzard shad and brim. 
  • Jerkbait: An erratic jerkbait is one of the best tools to trigger reaction strikes and excels for spotted bass feeding up in the water column. Connell uses it at the end of his rotation to catch a few more bass after the single hook minnow-imitators run their course. 


Locating the right spots plays a crucial role in Connell’s strategy. He looks for structural changes like main lake shoals adjacent to the river channel (current). While forward-facing sonar can be an indispensable tool, it factors less around shallow current areas. Connell uses nature’s visual cues, such as bird activity, to zero in on feeding zones. His dynamic approach involves constantly reading the conditions and adjusting tactics to stay on top of the fish.


Day in and day out, Connell prefers starting with a more aggressive presentation. His scrounger jig approach imparts a deadly rocking action onto his straight tail minnow, similar to the more manual shake and bake. A scrounger also excels in the current, slowing the bait in the strike zone. If he’s fishing with a co-angler, he’ll have finesse paddle tail swimbait in the rotation. Connell always makes a few casts with the tried and true jerk bait to trigger a few extra bites. As he notes, some fish are trained on feeding up, which is where the jerkbait excels. The bottom line: Remaining versatile and constantly transitioning between aggressive and subtle techniques allows you to catch the most fish. 

Dustin Connell’s prespawn strategy for spotted bass combines a deep knowledge of his local waters with a flexible bait selection. His insights into fishing current, choosing the right baits, and reading natural indicators provide a solid knowledge base for anglers looking to elevate their spotted bass bass fishing game.