By Todd Ceisner
Dave Lefebre wasn’t quite sure what he was looking for in practice before the Kentucky Lake FLW Tour Major. Something clicked in his mind, though, that ledges weren’t going to be enough since that’s where the majority of the field was going to be concentrated.
The genesis of his win last weekend actually dates back to the 2009 Tour Major at Kentucky Lake in which he finished 16th. That’s when he found a flat with shellbeds and other little features in the middle of the upper lake that rises up to 6 feet in some places.
“I never fished them that year even though I had a good tournament,” he said. “They weren’t very big and I never went back.”
There was plenty of size there this year and he mined it for all it was worth in winning with a closing weight of 77-03. He caught more than half of his weight (43-04) on the weekend and his 6 1/2-pound winning margin was the largest margin of victory in a Tour Major since last year’s Kentucky Lake event.
The win was his first tournament triumph since the 2009 Toyota Texas Bass Classic and second career FLW Tour Major victory.
Here’s how he did it.
The area Lefebre had found a few years ago was something most anglers would overlook with their electronics. A staunch opponent of the umbrella rig in competition, he wasn’t about to join the masses chasing schools of offshore fish and not knowing if he’d be able to get on them.
“That area has a lot of potential when you look at the map,” he said. “It has a lot of little ditches and subtleties. I had a practice partner with me and I told him we were going to this flat and that it had potential in the past. I just wanted to fish it because I felt like there was something around there.
“We hit that spot for 90 minutes or 2 hours. All week in practice, I didn’t want to fish all the obvious stuff on the map that everyone was fishing. I’d go over that stuff and then idle around off of it looking for things that were off of the structure -- little things.”
He didn’t catch anything over 3 pounds in practice, but had a hunch this area and others like it could hold the key to a tournament where conditions were drastically different than a year ago. He combed the shallows with Rapala DT-6 and DT-10 crankbaits and was able to get a better picture of how things laid out under the boat.
“These spots that I was fishing, you can’t really find them on your graphs or StructureScan,” he said. “It’s stuff you just have to fish and cover a lot of water. Then when you get a bite, you throw a buoy out and maybe there’s something to it or maybe it’s a fluke. You don’t know until you get that first bite.
“I didn’t have any idea what was there until the 2nd day when I caught 19 pounds.”
> Day 1: 5, 14-15
> Day 2: 5, 19-00
> Day 3: 5, 23-15
> Day 4: 5, 19-05
> Total = 20, 77-03
Lefebre laid a solid foundation for the week on day 1, weighing almost 15 pounds off a jig with a double-tail trailer, which had him in 40th place.
On day 2, he happened upon a shad spawn on his best area in the morning and filled his livewell pretty quick on a swimbait. He wound up with 19-00 and moved up to 9th heading into the weekend.
“They didn’t do it the first day,” he said of the shad. “There weren’t any flickering around. I didn’t feel them bumping my swimbait. The second day, I went there and the shad were flickering around and it was on, and I caught them quick.”
The shad were spawning again early on day 3 and he had a magical early-morning stretch that saw him box 18 pounds in roughly 13 minutes. He then upgraded three times the rest of the day and wound up with a tournament-best 23-15 to pull into 2nd place, just 2 ounces out of the lead.
“It’s the first day I can remember eating and drinking normally,” he said on stage. “I was able to relax."
“When the shad were spawning, it didn’t matter how I presented the bait," he added later. "I had to make the exact cast because the spot was as big as my front deck, but boat position didn’t matter.”
Late on day 3, he toyed around with boat position and honed in on the right cast, which helped him keep his baits in the strike zone longer.
“It was very obvious because I’d gone an hour without a bite and then moved, and then it was on,” he noted.
He left his fish biting each of the first 3 days and then hammered away on the final day.
While he was focused on a shallow-water area, he wasn’t shielded at all from the winds that peppered the lake on the weekend. In fact, the gusts took away his ability to make the cast he needed to the morning of day 4.
After using the crank bait in practice, Lefebre's tournament fish came on a jig and a swim bait.
“I couldn’t feel what I needed to feel,” he said. “I feel like I knew every shell down there and once I’d hit those specific little shells and the bait started wobbling, I knew I’d get a bite. That’s how specific it was.”
He returned to his primary area once the wind relented in the early afternoon and he was able to target the fish the way he wanted to. Soon after, he caught a 6-pounder that sealed the win.
“I was able to make that cast and feel what I felt the day before and then boom,” he said. “If the wind hadn’t died down in the afternoon, I might not have caught that big one.”
> When fishing his primary area and once he figured out how to reach the sweet spots, he backed off and worked on it from a distance.
“I was staying way off of it and I was throwing it out there as far as I could,” he said. “As soon as the bait hit the bottom, I’d start cranking it and most of the bites were within the first 10 or 20 feet.”
Winning Gear Notes
> Jig gear: 7’8” heavy-action Dobyns Champion Extreme Mike Long Signature Series jig rod, Shimano Chronarch casting reel (7:1 ratio), unnamed 14-pound fluorocarbon line, 3/4- and 1-ounce Tabu Tackle Open Water Series jig (green-pumpkin), Living Rubber skirt (brown), 5” Yamamoto Pro Double Tail grub (green-pumpkin).
> He added purple tinsel to a brown Living Rubber skirt for the jig.
> Swimbait gear: 7’9” heavy-action Dobyns prototype casting rod, same reel, unnamed 20-pound fluorocarbon line, 1/2-ounce jighead, 5 1/2” Storm WildEye Pro Paddle Tail swimbait (glass minnow).
> He super-glued the jighead to the nose of the swimbait to give it a bigger profile.
> On days 1-3, he showed the fish nothing but the Storm Paddle Tail, but mixed in other unnamed swimbaits on day 4.
> In practice, he scoured the flat with Rapala DT-6 and DT-10 crankbaits (pearl gray shiner) using an 8’ medium-heavy Dobyns Champion Series crankbait rod. “It’s not what I ended up catching them on in the tournament, but it was just as important as the swimbait or the spot because it helped me cover a lot of water really fast and find those tiny sweet spots.”
The Bottom Line
> Main factor in his success – “There are so many. Finding those spots that were getting zero pressure and putting the motor down and just fishing and covering a lot of water with those Rapala crankbaits. Without a doubt, that was the key.”
> Performance edge – “StructureScan was extremely important. I used the DownScan and SideScan at the same time. You can’t fish a lake like this without it. You just can’t compete without it.”
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