(This is part 1 of a 3-part Q&A with Alabama tour pro Steve Kennedy, who's currently ranked No. 3 in the BassFan World Rankings presented by Tru-Tungsten.)
Casual observers of the sport might have watched the ascendance of Steve Kennedy and likened him to a falcon – swooping in from nowhere to strike at some of the sport's biggest prizes with razor-sharp talons.
Those more studied in history know better, and liken him to a graceful eagle – one who's rode the thermals of the sport for years, from the grassroots of Georgia, to the bush-leagues of the Alabama scene, to the pinnacled aeries of tour-level competition.
His father Van fished the Bassmaster Classic and was a southeastern terror, especially in deep water. Son Steve followed close behind. That story's been told before.
What the younger Kennedy hasn't touched on much, though, is whether he ever expected to reach the level he's at now - among that handful of anglers considered to be dominant in today's sport.
What's surprising is the typically low-keyed pro answers yes, everything's about where he expected it to be. He's won some events and a hawg-trough full of money, he's in contention year after year for Angler of the Year (AOY), and he's ranked No. 3 in the BassFan World Rankings presented by Tru-Tungsten – right behind the two hottest anglers in the world right now in Kevin VanDam and Skeet Reese.
Kennedy fishes more marquee events than perhaps anyone else out there, and he does it without sponsor support – he's got just two of them, Kistler rods and Kinami baits. The rest of his equipment? He buys it himself, including his boat and motor.
In the 2-part Q&A that follows, Kennedy talks candidly about his success, his lean sponsor portfolio, his expectations for this season, and more. Read, and tread where eagles soar.
BassFan: To get right to it, your accomplishments the past few years have been staggering. But how do you feel about your fishing?
Kennedy: I'm pretty confident any day we go out on the water. When BASS did that expanded schedule 2 years ago, I was extremely confident I could do well. So it's about what I expected.
I guess you can't go out there and expect to catch 122 pounds (like he did last year at Clear Lake–Ed.), but I expected to have some big tournaments, and some bombs, which I did. But that's the way I fish.
What do you mean by that? Are you saying you'll always have some bombs because you take chances?
Yes, because I take chances. A lot of tournaments where you do the worst are the ones where you had the best practice – ones where you get hung up on something that maybe you shouldn't have. But there's a reason I'm hung up.
Actually, I can only think of one event in the last 3 years when I really missed it bad – this year at High Rock (Bassmaster American Major). We went in late May, and I went there expecting to be cranking. I did that for 2 days, and finally figured out the second day of the tournament that they were up there spawning. I never even looked.
It was the worst miss I've had by far. I think I caught one or two fish the first day, then the second day I caught the smallest limit of the tournament.
Kennedy says he's always going to have some bombs, simply because he takes chances in events.
Other than that, I felt like I'd been in every event. I had another bad finish at Toho (91st), but I was sitting there watching (Brent) Chapman catch them, and some of the other anglers down there who were on the bubble for making the Classic. I kind of let them do their thing, and I stayed up there in the grass.
I couldn't beat VanDam or Skeet (for AOY), so I kind of stayed out of the way. It was probably the worst finish I had all year.
You said your fishing is about where you expected it to be. That's truly how high you set your goals, with a realistic expectation of achieving them?
Before I was fishing BASS, I was fishing the FLW Tour, Strens and all that. The last year I fished them (2005), I think I led four event going into the final day, and didn't win any of them. In two of them, I had a 4-pound lead.
I finished 1st and 3rd in those two Stren divisions, but those points don't show up in the (World) Rankings. The FLW Tour does, and I made the Championship on the FLW Tour.
I was fishing a lot of events, so it's hard to keep up with them, but before I made the decision to come over and fish BASS, I put it on paper – if I had similar success with what I'd had the last year or so, I'd win $400,000. I worked it through three different ways.
It all said, 'You have to go do this. You have to go try this.' So it's about what I expected. I think last year I won $420,000 – that's AOY money and all the other stuff. This year it was more like $320,000. But also, I wasn't fishing as many events. I didn't fish the (FLW) Tour events I had the year before. So I was expecting to be in the $350,000 range this past year.
And this year – what do you expect to win?
About $300,000. I haven't done the math though. It's been hard this year. My grandmother passed away in a car accident, and (my wife) Julia's mom was sick. But I still expect to be somewhere in the $300,000 range. I think I signed up for 19 events. If I make the FLW championship (Forrest Wood Cup), we should be in great shape.
> Asked to name which moment was the most fun in 2007, Kennedy said: "That had to have been day 3 at Clear Lake. I'd caught several fish off that spot, throwing that Basstrix (swimbait) primarily. They were 5- and 6-pounders, but I kept seeing all these giant fish follow my bait or my fish in. You could go over there, look down in the water, and there were a million 10-pounders there. I came back the next day with that big Huddleston (swimbait), and must have had eight keepers in the first 20 minutes that weighed 35 pounds. It doesn't get any better than that."
> If he was forced to choose only one bait to fish this entire season with, he said it would be the Kinami Flash. "I finished 2nd up in New York throwing it. I didn't throw it the final day – everybody saw me throw a swimbait – but I led the cut throwing the Flash. If I'd stuck with it all year, I might have done better than I did. It's a bait you can throw in clear or muddy water. You can pitch it or do whatever you need to do with it."
– End of part 1 (of 3) –