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Bass fishing is a game of matching wits and tactical prowess against the innate survival senses of one of the nation’s most prolific game fish. Some days an angler feels as if they can do no wrong, boating one bass after another. However, many days are spent pondering how best to pull lock-jawed fish from the cover and varying water depths in which they reside.
Consistent bass fishing success can often be fleeting at best, and even some of the nation’s top anglers have their off days. With challenges abundant, bass fishermen strive to always have an ace in the hole. For many, this comes in the form of a go-to lure or bait that can always be counted on to put bass in the boat.
For professional bass angler and 1993 Bassmaster Classic Champion David Fritts, that ace in the hole has always been the use of a crankbait. Fritts has built a legacy, and a career, around being one of the nation’s premier crankbait specialists, and now designs Berkley’s line of crankbaits, including the Frittside line of lures.
David Fritts and the Crankbait Revival
In the 80s and 90s, bass fishing as a whole was booming. The tournament scene was flourishing, and the number of new baits and lures being released onto the market on a yearly basis were numerous.
Soft plastic baits were growing in popularity, with many anglers gravitating toward the appeal that they offered. A sport once dominated by topwater plugs and crankbaits saw a tremendous shift toward what was new and different.
It seemed as if the bulk of magazine articles and angler interviews centered around talk of Texas or Carolina-Rigging. Though soft-plastic baits, and the various methods by which they are fished, had been around for quite some time, the publicity that surrounded their use made them a mainstay in tackle boxes across the country during this era.
Another lure that drew a relative tidal wave of attention, was the spinnerbait. It seemed as if the spinnerbait was well on its way to becoming bass fishing’s darling, with pros such as Hank Parker, Rick Clunn, and Kevin Van Dam touting its virtues.
Meanwhile, David Fritts was holding tight to the tactic with which he had found extensive success, cranking for bass. This technique was far from new to Fritts, who had found favor in the use of a crankbait from an early age.
“When I was a kid, at a church outing when I was twelve years old, I knew I could throw a crankbait and just wind it back. Sooner or later I was going to catch one. It just seemed easy.” said Fritts.
By the early 1990s, David Fritts, who began his fishing career in 1985, had already gained quite the reputation as a force to be reckoned with, along the professional bass fishing tournament trail. Much of this buzz surrounding Fritts pertained to his expertise as a crankbait specialist, and the consistency with which this skillset allowed him to boat bass.
Though Fritts had experienced success at the professional level by this time, the best was yet to come. In a matter of only a few short years, he would not only gain an unshakable reputation as the “Crankbait Guru”, but also put his own indelible stamp on the long and illustrious history of competitive bass fishing.
1993 Bassmaster Classic Championship
Upon qualifying for the 1993 Bassmaster Classic at Logan Martin Lake, in Alabama, David Fritts was hopeful that his crankbait fishing prowess would be enough to make a run to the top of the leaderboard. Fishing in his first Classic, he would have his work cut out for him, as the year’s tournament field was stacked with veteran anglers, several of which had fished in the previous year’s Classic on the same body of water.
As the Classic got underway on August 12th, it quickly became apparent that the tournament standings would be ever-changing, as anglers jockeyed for their spot atop the leaderboard. As afternoon temperatures sweltered, the field of pros threw every tactic that they had at their disposal at the bass of Logan Martin Lake.
In the midst of it all, David Fritts continued to employ the same strategy that had gotten him to this point. Crankbait fishing was the tactic in which he had the most confidence, and he intended to crank his way to victory or go down swinging.
Fritts knew if he could locate the bass, he could put them in the boat. “Back then we used flashers, and found them with our bait,” said Fritts. Luckily, it did not take him long to locate the kind of structure that he was looking for, and hot fishing soon followed.
“When I first found the fish, they were deep. Most were in 15-18 foot of water,” said Fritts. “Then when we came back, the water was hot at 92 degrees and there was little current, so the fish actually moved up. The biggest bunch of fish I caught were actually only about 7 feet deep,” Fritts continued.
Throughout the duration of the Classic’s three-day span, David Fritts continued to stick to his guns, fishing different crankbaits to reach the desired depths needed to round out his daily catch totals. “I fished a Poe’s 400, and a bait that Pose’s was getting ready to come out with, but it was actually a Steve Blazer Plug,” Fritts said.
This resilience proved to be key, as Fritts weighed in a three-day total weight of 48 pounds, 6 ounces. This total stood through the final weigh-in, allowing him to take the win. David Fritts had reemphasized the crankbait’s true value to the bass fishing world, as he was crowned the 23rd Bassmaster Classic Champion.
Fritts Continues To Forge A Trail
Although he had just reached what can only be described as the pinnacle moment in most bass angler’s careers by winning a Classic title, David Fritts was far from finished, and was poised to move forward in his success. Little did he know, his next milestone achievement was just months away.
When the 1994 tournament season came around, Fritts was as efficient as ever. He qualified for that year’s Bassmaster Classic, which was held on his home waters, High Rock Lake. Though he did not win the Classic (finishing 21st), he did indeed take home 1994 Angler of the Year honors.
In 1995, Fritts received his chance at redemption over his 21st place finish in the previous year’s Classic. The event was again held at High Rock Lake, and Fritts was able to put together an impressive fifth-place finish.
However, David Fritts had what was arguably his best year yet of tournament fishing in 1997. That year, the Bassmaster Classic returned to Logan Martin Lake, where he had been crowned Champion just four years before. Although he did not take home the title, Fritts put together impressive daily totals and took third-place overall.
Fritz also saw extensive success that same year on the FLW circuit. He won the 1997 Forrest Woods Cup. This came as quite the distinction in itself, as only a handful of anglers had ever captured both the Forrest Woods Cup and a Bassmaster Classic Championship.
More recently, Fritts played an active role in Team USA’s win at the 2018 Bass Fishing World Championship, held on Lake Cuchillo, Mexico. During this win, Fritts was able to lean on his three-plus decades of knowledge, intuition, and experience to overcome the absence of a GPS or contour maps, to find success on a lake in which he had never fished.
Additionally, Fritts has found a new found role as a distance-casting coach. He teaches everyone from children, to those with years of angling experience under their belt, how to lengthen their effective casting distance. Fritts also regularly runs casting competitions for Lew’s, one of his sponsors, where competitors, both young and old alike, step up to test their long-distance casting prowess.
In 2019, David Fritts was chosen for induction into the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame. Located in Springfield, Missouri, at the Bass Pro Shops Wonders of Wildlife complex, the Hall Of Fame serves as a testament to the sport of bass fishing and all the individuals who have been instrumental in its continued success.
Today, Fritts can be found fishing in the B.A.S.S. Elite series, where he has been competing since 2017. He also spends an extensive amount of time on the road speaking at seminars, attending promotional events, and working with his sponsors.
Berkley Frittside Crankbait
Outside of his time spent on the water or traveling to events, David Fritts has remained busy as of late designing and building crankbaits for Berkley. His 30 plus years of professional angling experience and overall expertise in the realm of crankbait fishing has served him well, and directly positioned Berkley at the forefront of innovation in that field
Out of the time that Fritts has spent working with Berkly, a number of cutting edge products have been brought to market, assisting pros and recreational anglers alike in landing more bass. However, one lure in particular, which carries Fritts’ name, has been making waves as of late.
Berkley’s Frittside has quickly become one of the hottest selling crankbait lines on the market today, and by all accounts, bass love them just about as much as the anglers who put them to use. For all intents and purposes, the Frittside line of lures is revolutionizing the crankbait market.
One of the most pronounced features of the Frittside line of crankbaits is its flat-sided body profile. This is a direct throwback to many of the wooden plugs of old, and produces a tight balsa-like thumping action upon retrieval, which directly mimics the baitfish on which bass prey. In fact, Berkley states that the Frittside creates a higher degree of flash than any other crankbait within their product line.
A number of other features add to the appeal of the Frittside as well. The inclusion of Berkley’s Integrated FlashDisc improves stability and tracking, as well as assists in further bolstering the lure’s distinctive wobble. The availability of weighted bills on the 7 and 9 series models also make the Frittside quite versatile, as it allows an angler to get to the depth at which bass are holding in a much quicker fashion than many other crankbaits on the market.
The Frittside is available in three different lengths (2 ¼”, 2 ½”, and 2 ¾”), and can be purchased in three particular weights as well. Berkley lists the Frittside’s weight options numerically, and they include 5 (⅓ oz.), 7 (3/7 oz.), and 9 (½ oz.) models. The Frittside also comes in 18 different colors, including David Fritts’ personal favorite, Honey Shad.
According to Fritts, the key to the Frittside’s success lies in its design. “All of our baits are a little bit different and I feel like they are better, but the Frittside is a lot different and a lot better,” says Fritts. “We made a plastic bait act like wood, and that’s the big key. It’s a solid feeling bait, and it fishes exactly like wood,” he continues.
Fritts says that the action of the Frittside is the game-changer that makes it so effective in yielding more strikes on a consistent basis, no matter the conditions. “The action makes the difference. You don’t get the front to back wobble, as much as you do side to side motion. It is totally different,” says Fritts.
The Frittside has been such an innovation in the world of crankbait fishing, that you do not have to look far to find a tournament pro that has found great success with its use. One such angler is Major League Fishing Pro, and 2016 Bassmaster Classic Champion, Edwin Evers.
Evers is a true believer in the Frittside advantage, and refers to it as one of his go-to lures. He credits the Frittside as being one of two lures that have helped him achieve a notable portion of his success, as of late. “It’s just an amazing, amazing bait,” says Evers.
Evers spoke of the vast advancements featured in the Frittside, saying, “It’s a new technology in a crankbait where they have disc weights in the bottom of it, and it’s a flat-sided crankbait. We all know how good and subtle a flat-sided crankbait is, but this bait you can throw, yet it is still subtle with the way they positioned the weights.”
When asked about his favorite color and size of Frittside to tie on, Evers said, “I like the Lone Ranger and the Special Red Craw. They come in three sizes, the 5, 7, and 9, but the 5 (⅓ oz.) is probably my favorite.”
David Fritts’ Tips For Fishing the Frittside
Like any lure, there are specific ways that a crankbait can be fished in order to entice more strikes at any given time. There are also several tips, tricks, and tactics associated with this style of fishing that are only learned with years of being on the water and the experience that this yields
When talking about crankbaits, there are few better people in the world to give winning advice than the “Crankbait Guru” himself, David Fritts. When this advice pertains to a lure that one of the world’s foremost crankbait specialists designed himself, it comes with immense value.
Speaking on how best to fish a crankbait, and more specifically when using the Frittside, Fritts has a few pointers that he doesn’t mind sharing. He emphasizes the importance of knowing what structure is present in the area you are fishing, and taking advantage of this knowledge to dictate how best to retrieve your lure.
“Knowing what my bait is doing, and knowing what cover feels like allows me to crawl my bait over it,” says Fritts. “I pause my bait, and slow it down to crawl it over cover.” he continues. On the other hand, Fritts takes a different approach if he does not come into contact with any form of structure or cover upon retrieving his lure. “If I don’t hit anything, or if a fish doesn’t hit my bait, I do nothing but throw it and wind it,” he says.
During difficult times of the year when bass are lethargic, such as during the winter months, Fritts modifies his approach to create a presentation that has the ability to draw strikes from even the most lock-jawed of fish.
“In the wintertime, especially when water temperatures get below 50 degrees, you want to wind it fast enough to make it lively,” says Fritts. “What I do is throw it out, and I’ll wind it up to get it down to where I need the bait to be, then sweep my rod and wind my slack. That way I can keep my bait moving fast, but yet it’s stopping every 6-8 feet,” he continues.
Fritts finds this method of cranking for lethargic bass to be effective due to its natural appeal within the scope of what fish experience within their environment. “It’s like a dying shad. A dying shad will swim a little, then he’ll stop. He might even float up a little, then swim some more and stop,” says Fritts.
Cranking For Bass Comes Full Circle
David Fritts’ legacy as a professional bass angler is a storied one, inching ever closer to four decades in duration, and growing in notable achievements by the year. Much of the crankbait’s resurgence in popularity can directly be attributed to Fritts, and his continual involvement in the design and development side of the fishing lure industry has spawned a number of advancements that will be enjoyed by generations to come.
The very lure that carries David Fitts’ name has made waves across the bass fishing landscape, among both tournament and recreational anglers alike. This swell in popularity does not look to be falling by the wayside anytime soon. It appears quite safe to say that the Frittside crankbait is poised to go down in angling lore, as a lure on which untold numbers of bass were caught.
As far-reaching, and ever-changing as developments in the bass fishing industry have been, and continues to be, it is always exciting to see where the next chapter in lure design and development will take us. As it appears today, whatever the future holds in store for the continued evolution of the crankbait, it is safe to say that David Fritts and Berkley will be at its forefront.