ULM’s Pearce uses his favorite bait to stay in the winner’s circle

John “JK” Pearce hoists a “hawg” he caught while prefishing Toledo Bend with his mother, Brandy Pearce, in February 2018. Toledo Bend is his favorite place to target bass in February.

After learning to fish a drop-shotted soft plastic and applying it to high school bass tournament action, John Pearce won Angler of the Year his junior year at Calvary Baptist Academy.

Pearce took that deliberate approach as a junior this past fall during his first year fishing collegiately as well. He proved using the drop shot is the most versatile finesse fishing method by winning AOY as a co-angler on the University of Louisiana at Monroe Fishing Team.

John Pearce of Frierson was on a bass fishing trip with his father, Jay Pearce, and his grandfather, Johnny Pearce, when he got his hands on these two bass at Toledo Bend.

The 21-year-old junior, born and raised in Frierson with considerable bassin’ time spent on Toledo Bend starting at age nine, has adjusted to competitive fishing sans his own boat, which he sold to help buy a house in Monroe. His ULM AOY run was earned with five runner-up finishes in intra-club tournaments which he fished in from the back of the boat.

Pearce’s 490 points were accumulated with second-place finishes at Lake Claiborne, Bayou Boeuf, Lake Ouachita, Lake Bartholomew and Lake D’Arbonne. With ULM dropping each of the 11 angler’s worst tournament finishes, he didn’t have to fish the sixth and final derby at Caney Lake.

It’s the drop shot

He owes it all to his favorite artificial lure, his go-to bait.

“It’s got to be a drop shot,” he said. “From my experience, it gets bit more than any other bait. It’s super versatile. It gets bit. If fish are there they’re going to bite it. I’d say 90 percent of the fish I catch are on a drop shot.

“I started using a drop shot as a junior in high school at Pickwick,” he said about his appearance with tournament partner Jackson Gregory at nationals on Lake Pickwick. It was their second straight appearance at nationals.

That drop shot approach as a junior also gave him back-to-back AOYs with Calvary Cavalier Fishing. Following his junior year, he was denied a chance to three-peat as a senior because of a coronavirus-shortened season.

Pearce and Gregory won the first tournament they fished as a high school team in December 2017 at Millwood Lake in southwest Arkansas. Teams from three other states competed. It was the first of several wins for them, Pearce said, proudly.

He has fished many evening tournaments — Thursdays at Cross Lake, Mondays at Cypress Lake and Sundays on a church trail with his cousin, Brandon Smith of Vinton, and his grandfather, Johnny Pearce of Frierson.

Seek the creek

Pearce’s grandfather, who parked an RV for nine months each year at Cypress Bend on Toledo Bend, kindled and fueled his bass fishing passion. The elder Pearce kept an old 17-foot long Nitro with a 125-h.p. Mariner there for his grandson’s use, and use the boy did. It’s his favorite lake and he loves to target prespawn bass there this time of year.

“There’s no better place to be than Toledo Bend in February,” the ULM student said, noting he’ll offer a Jackhammer along creek beds in Patroon Bayou and at Blue Lake.

John Pearce, left, and his friend, Noah Trant, hold four giant bass they hooked and boated during a November 2019 trip on Grand Bayou Lake.

“I’ll look for where creek beds run into Grand and if I see stumps, I’ll throw a drop shot,” he said.

He uses a 3/16 or 1/4-ounce pencil weight for his drop shot rig. If he fishes around docks or shorelines, he’ll use 15-pound fluorocarbon line and a 1/0 weedless finesse hook. Otherwise he’ll tie a 2/0 Owner Mosquito Hook to 10- to 12-pound fluorocarbon. Either way, he puts the hook 10 inches above the pencil weight.

His top soft plastic for the drop shot is a red bug/shad, red bug, june bug or muscadine color Zoom Finesse Worm.

Pearce, the son of Jay and Brandy Pearce, will graduate in December, 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in toxicology and a minor in chemistry. He plans to try working as a medical sales rep with the possibility of entering pharmacy school further down the road.

He wants to get established as a businessman first before pursuing a long-time goal: Compete in either Major League Fishing or Bassmaster events, preferably the former.

“My dream is to graduate and make enough money to go into fishing as a professional,” he said.

ULM’s team has a rich history behind it, including FLW National Championships in 2013 and 2018. A former team member is Brett Preuett, who started bass fishing collegiately when the sport was taking off in the early 2010s. Preuett fished his way into the Bassmaster Elite Series and stayed on the tour through 2021.

About Don Shoopman 559 Articles
Don Shoopman fishes for freshwater and saltwater species mostly in and around the Atchafalaya Basin and Vermilion Bay. He moved to the Sportsman’s Paradise in 1976, and he and his wife June live in New Iberia. They have two grown sons.