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A Big Win for B-Lat

Brian Latimer claims his first FLW Tour victory. (Photo by FLW/Jacob Fine)

A true testament to the power of perseverance, Z-Man pro Brian "B-Lat" Latimer won his first-ever FLW Tour contest on March 10 at Lake Seminole, Florida, permanently placing several challenging seasons in the rear-view mirror. Those who witnessed B-Lat's "winning moment" saw what unedited, authentic excitement for fishing really looks like.

On stage with his $100,000 check, Latimer's passion for bassin' shined through.

"I have fished for so long, man. I didn't do well for a long time. This is not an easy sport. But I knew I could do this. I'm so glad I kept going because my wife and family are here to see me persevere. All I've ever wanted to do was fish for a living. The $100,000 is great, but to finally get this (win), it's just so awesome."

B-Lat was right, though. It wasn't easy.

Even for the fun-loving fourth year FLW pro, bites during the event proved tricky at times, running the gamut from cranking a current seam on day one to sight fishing with finesse worms during a portion of day two. But throughout the Friday to Sunday bass-athon, one winning pattern prevailed: flippin' a Texas-rigged Z-Man Palmetto BugZ™ on a ½-ounce tungsten weight and 50-pound Seaguar Flippin Braid.

"I didn't realize until the second day of the tournament that I might be on the winning school of bass," Latimer recalled. "I told my wife, if I can get five bites a day on that flat, I'll win this thing."

Actually, the winning spot was concealed within a massive 2-mile-long flat in the Flint River. "I looked down into 7 feet of water and started noticing good-looking patches of hydrilla and milfoil here and there. I had to really pick that stuff apart. Every day, I had little bitty flurries of action. I'd go two hours without a bite, then I'd catch a couple big fish."

B-Lat's Winning BugZ

Latimer's instinct-driven decision on day-two to go all in on his flippin' pattern, despite far-from-frequent bites, paid dividends. "I've had a lot of success crankin' and Ned rigging over the years. But my all-time favorite way to fish is flippin'. Ironically, flippin' a Palmetto BugZ is what put most of my big fish in the boat," Latimer admits. "I love getting up in the bow and throwing to shallow water targets—an isolated stick or a clump of milfoil. I did a lot of that at Seminole, and it worked out."

One key, according to Latimer, involved the slow rate of fall of his Texas-rigged bait. "I threw another, more traditional beaver-style flipping bait that plunked right through the strike zone," he observed. "But the Palmetto BugZ's buoyant ElaZtech material gave the bait the perfect, slow rate of fall. The bigger pre-spawn females were hovering off bottom, right in the grass. You needed a bait that sort of hung there in their faces a little.

"Most of my bites happened on the initial drop," added Latimer. "A few bass made me finesse 'em a little more, hopping the bait in place 5 or 6 inches off bottom, right in the thickest veg. To me, though, that slow, claw-flapping rate of fall was the magic."

Latimer ascribed other advantages to his chosen bait. "Seemed like bass were holding the Palmetto BugZ a little longer. The bait's like a gummy bear; fat and super soft, and way more lifelike than traditional beaver baits. I also like the fact the Palmetto BugZ has a bulkier, larger-profile than other baits in the category; makes it more appetizing to those big 4-plus pounders. For clear water, California Craw was the one—a funky looking watermelon color with black and red flakes. When the water became stained in the afternoon, I'd switch to black and blue flake."

Photo by FLW/Jacob Fine

Interestingly, while some anglers have occasionally avoided ElaZtech baits for Texas rigging, B-Lat offers an alternative school of thought. "Man, to me, that softness is an advantage. I'd argue my hook-up ratios are way better because the hook slides more easily through the material. Just add a drop of superglue on the eye of the hook, and the bait will never slide down or ball-up on the hook."

Calling out ElaZtech's renowned durability, Latimer admitted he used "a mere handful of Palmetto BugZ baits through practice and all four days of competition. In a typical tournament like this, if I wasn't throwing ElaZtech, I would have torn through 40 to 50 baits. But the bait's toughness reduced that number to no more than a dozen. Not having to dig into bait packs or re-rig was a huge time saver.

Near the end of day four, a 7-pounder wolfed Latimer's Palmetto BugZ—the big prespawn hawg he needed to seal the deal: 4 days, 20 bass, 80-pounds 15-ounces. $100k richer.

"I've got an old phrase that comes from my years as a musician: Stay in the pocket. Keep one bait—the right bait—tied on when it's working. When you're in tune, good things are going to happen."

ChatterBaits Excel Again

At recent FLW, B.A.S.S. and MLF events, few lures have netted more attention (or money) than the Z-Man / Evergreen ChatterBait JackHammer. At the FLW Tour event at Lake Seminole, no fewer than three of the top ten anglers wielded a JackHammer, with at least two others hoisting "unnamed" Z-Man ChatterBaits, plus several more "homemade vibrating jigs."

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