Billy “Hawkeye” Decoteau

swimbait1Never one to resist an opportunity to fish New Hampshire’s premier bass fishery, Lake Winnipesaukee, my response was instantaneous, “Absolutely…When and where!” Bassmaster Elite Angler Mark Burgess’s invitation to spend the day sharing the padded front deck of his i-Class Skeeter/Yamaha professionally wrapped rig, in and of itself was enough enticement. (

Massachusetts’s #1 Professional B.A.S.S. Angler’s instructions were also a no-brainer! “Here’s the deal, leave all your baits at home, I’ll provide you with the lures we’ll be utilizing!” Trying desperately to encourage Burgess to reveal some additional information for our Lake Winni adventure, the Norton, MA resident smiled, “Spool your reels with 12-17 lb Seaguar Fluorocarbon, and saddle them unto long 7-7’6” Medium-Heavy rods.” Pausing for a moment Burgess added, “And, you might want to pick-up a spool of Power Pro 65lb test braided line we might need it!” (

Our rendezvous starting point was Lake Winnipesaukee’s famed Lees Mill in Moultonborough, NH. Upon my arrival, I found Mark Burgess sitting in his Skeeter rigging several Shimano rod/reel combinations. Reaching over to a large plastic Plano box, my host politely invited me to take a seat on the front deck. “These are the baits we are going to concentrate working today!”

Opening his Plano box, the Bassmaster Elite Angler looked me in the eye and handed me one of the most beautiful realistic looking swimbaits I have ever seen! Continuing to enlighten my inquisitive questions, Burgess explained the hydro-dynamically engineered 4 segmented section hard-bodied lures.

Produced by Reaction Strike Bait Company (, Mark Burgess had been approached to develop a signature series of specific colors relative to the forage base in the crystal clear waters of the Northeast. “Reaction Strike’s rEVOLUTION Shad is unlike any other swimbait on the market! Besides an extremely life-like replica when retrieved, the rEVOLUTION Shads fall perfectly vertical on their treble hooks. When you suddenly stop your retrieve, these baits make a 180 degree turn enticing following bass to engulf them with a Reaction Strike!”

Placing four rEVOLUTION Shads in his signature series Yellow Perch color on the deck, Burgess asked me if I could see any difference between them. Reaching for a billed rEVOLUTION Shad I replied, “All are the same except for this billed deeper diver.” Obviously, I was wrong! “Each of these Reaction Strike swimbaits is designed to run and fall at different rates. Thereby covering the entire water column, while staying in the strike zone much longer.”

My Bassmaster Elite Reaction Strike Swimbait Lesson revealed the rEVOLUTION Shads we were about to use are available in both 4” and 5” versions, and come in a Wake model for swimming just under the surface, a Slow Fall model which Burgess says is excellent to run over submerged vegetation, a Fast Fall model to quickly achieve deeper depths, such as those in which smallmouth bass occupy, and of course the billed Suspending Model. Burgess also pointed out, “For easy reference to each baits model, Reaction Strike has labeled each rEVOLUTION Shads model and size near the VMC treble hook eye.”

Spooling our Shimano reels with Seaguar 100% Fluorocarbon ‘INVIZ-X line we then tied on Burgess’s Signature Series rEVOLUTION Shads Swimbaits. Burgess rigged his 5” Yellow Perch in a Wake model while I chose his Golden Shiner 4” Suspending model. Burgess’s completed arsenal consisted of a Shimano Crucial 7’ Medium-Heavy ‘TC’ Crankbait rod paired with Shimano’s CU 201E-7 Curado reel. While I saddled a high speed 7.0:1 gear ratio CU 200E-7 Curado to Power Tackle’s Paragon PG104 7’6” Medium-Heavy rod. (

Idling out of Lees Mill, Burgess replied, “We are going to start near the deeper open areas first and search for smallmouths, then as the wind picks up we will make our way back to the shelter coves for largemouths.”

Coming off plane Burgess’s Humminbird ( sonar revealed tapering contour lines reaching deep submerged coontail vegetation topping out in 12-15’ of water. “We are going to parallel this weedline and try to locate where the smallmouth bass are holding, once we hook up we will toss a buoy marker overboard and concentrate in that area,” instructed Burgess. Adding, “Smallmouth bass have a tenacity to school up, especially when they are on schools of baitfish like yellow perch!”

Noticing surface commotion, Burgess fired a long cast landing on his target. Instantly his Shimano rod loaded as a smallmouth bass rocketed into the air twisting and turning its brilliant bronze colors. Instructing me to drop a buoy marker overboard Burgess continued, “That’s the advantage of these Reaction Strike swimbaits and their inherent perfectly balanced natural vertical sinking baitfish qualities!”

Carefully Burgess demonstrated his Bassmaster Elite Angler talents and techniques, as he fought his feisty smallmoutcompetitor to the boat. Reaching over the side of his Skeeter, and gently placing his hand under the smallmouths belly, Burgess lifted a 3 lb plus smallmouth motionlessly into the boat. Utilizing our buoy marker as a guide we circled back casting in the same general area, this time we both managed to entice several smallmouths in the 1.5-2 lb category to eat our rEVOLUTION Shad swimbaits.

Mark Burgess and I spend the next three hours working similar deep weedlines harvesting both coontail and cabbage. Concentrating on only high percentage pockets of these open water weedlines, we eliminated wasted time on the water, thus increasing the number of smallmouths and a few largemouths to eat our Yellow Perch colored Reaction Strike swimbaits. Once the wind velocity became too difficult to maneuver in we headed towards Lake Winnipesaukee’s shelter Basin.

While Burgess alternated between his Yellow Perch 5” Wake and 5” Slow Fall swimbait, I switched to a 4” Suspending Yellow Perch. With only one VMC treble hook I found the 4” Suspending rEVOLUTION Shad could easily be ripped through the submerged vegetation. I managed to land several smaller largemouths and a few nice size pickerel along the outside deeper weedline.

“When you have pickerel feeding in the area, bass will be close by as well,” claims Burgess. “Since all of your pickerel have been caught along the outside edge of the weedline, lets concentrate our efforts on the inside edge and over the top of the vegetation.” Burgess’s suggestion once again, proved to be productive. As I worked my smaller 4” Suspending Yellow Perch over the submerged coontail, Mark ran his 5” Yellow Perch Wake model swimbait along the edge of emergent vegetation. To the sound of a bass exploding on the surface, my Bassmaster Elite partner whispered, “This ones a hawg!” After several surface swirls and a final dive into the thick mixed vegetation, Burgess maneuvered his Skeeter along side his line that was buried in the weeds. “I can still feel her tugging,” said Burgess as he reached into the water. Then with a sudden pull and twist of his body Mark Burgess held up a Lake Winni largemouth that tipped the scales at 6lbs.

Smiling for a picture, Burgess replied, “What a way to end a day on the water!” To follow Professional B.A.S.S. Elite Angler Mark Burgess, log unto his web site at

God Bless and Best Bass’n