Steve Kennedy has fared well on the Bassmaster Elite Series ever since he transitioned over from being an FLW-only pro in 2006. He's notched a couple of victories (including one this year at West Point) and has qualified for six consecutive Classics.
That first Classic went pretty well, too, as he turned in an 8th-place finish at Lay Lake. That's far and away the high-water mark regarding his appearances in the sport's premier event, though: His ensuing four placements were in the bottom half of the field, culminating with a career-low 48th this year at the Louisiana Delta.
Lots of things have gone wrong for him in that event. He's had horrible day-1 boat draws on more than one occasion, and that's a critical factor in pre-spawn events when the quality fish are often grouped up in specific places. And then this year, when he pulled a favorable number (3rd), he made a strategic error that completely nullified that advantage.
"I've tried to do some stuff that didn't work out," he said. "Then on day 2, after I was that far down in the standings, it's just been a matter of getting out of people's way.
"We're not fishing for points or anything like during the regular season. The only problem is it pushes me down the list in the (BassFan World) Rankings."
Was Where He Needed to Be
Kennedy admits that venues like the Louisiana Delta (where the Classic was staged this year) and the Red River (which hosted the event in 2009 and will do so again this coming year) don't set up well for him. He's at his best on large reservoirs that feature periodic current due to the power-generation process.
He won't use that as an excuse for his Classic woes, however. He's figured things out a few times, but just ended up being a little late to the party. He was right on time this year, but a quick departure to look at something else cost him dearly.
He said he made the trip to Lake Cataouatche on day 1 in Kevin VanDam's wake (KVD, as the 2010 Angler of the Year, was the first boat out). He fished for about 10 minutes without a bite, then decided to try a nearby area that he felt had the potential to produce a quick limit.
While he was there, he heard numerous boat engines shut down in the area he'd just come from as Aaron Martens, Scott Rook, Derek Remitz, Brandon Palaniuk and other eventual high finishers arrived on the big flat that was welcoming more spawn-minded fish seemingly by the minute.
"I came back out and it was like there were 50 boats in a circle," he said. "The one area I had to myself I didn't catch anything, and at that point I pretty much panicked."
He started off an ill-advised run to Venice, all the way at the opposite end of the Delta. He didn't make it even halfway.
"The wind was blowing harder than I'd realized and I started doing the math, and I knew I wasn't going to have time to go down there and catch them and get back. So I came back (to Cataouatche) and ended up right between VanDam and Martens, and ended up getting cut off in both directions. After that I just went off on my merry way and didn't catch squat.
"You just can't make a mistake like that. When you know (the fish are) there, you've got to stay with them."
Ready for the Red?
Kennedy has reasons to believe he'll make a strong showing in the 2012 Classic. He's been to the Red twice now (once for the '09 event and then again last year for the FLW Tour stop that was eventually canceled due to dangerous conditions precipitated by high water).
He bounced around to numerous places where strong bags were caught in '09, only to find other anglers on them. Among those who road-blocked him were Skeet Reese (the eventual winner), Boyd Duckett (who was in contention until the final day before ending up 12th) and Kelly Jordon (10th). Ironically, none of that trio qualified this time.
He'll have two boats there – his regular fiberglass Ranger and an aluminum rig for accessing shallow backwaters. He said he was afraid B.A.S.S. would outlaw that option (which has paid off for him in the past) during this off-season, but the most recent angler update from the organization didn't address it.
He knows his way around there pretty well now and will search for some places that are new to him, such as the culvert that John Cox navigated in a tin rig en route to winning this year's FLW Tour event.
"I don't know where that one is, but I need to find it," he said. "That's my kind of place."
> Kennedy started the year at No. 21 in the Rankings and ended at No. 12.
> There's one out-of-the-way place he found during practice for the 2010 FLW Tour stop that he'll be eager to check during official Classic practice. "I found it in awful conditions, but I got five or six bites in 30 minutes," he said.