By Todd Ceisner
(Editor's note: In an effort to expand coverage of Rayovac Series events, BassFan will be publishing pattern information from the 2nd- and 3rd-place finishers moving forward.)
The key to success at the Kentucky Lake Central Rayovac Series last week was finding enough schools of fish to target during the tournament, and then finding more and more.
Once on a biting school of bass, it was imperative to stay on them as other tournament fishermen, either from the Rayovac event or the 300-plus boat Triton Owners Tournament going on simultaneously, were likely to soon be on the waypoint by the time you were on plane to the next spot.
Most accounts indicate that the Rayovac Series hit the lake at the perfect time as schools, some small and some "mega-sized," were in the midst of their transition to deeper water. Getting them fired up wasn't much of a chore as deep-diving crankbaits and swimbaits along with jigs, typical Kentucky Lake fare, were among the popular offerings.
For Jason Lambert, who held the day-2 lead then caught his biggest bag of the event on the final day only to lose to Randy Haynes, it was exclusively a swimbait pattern south of the takeoff at Kenlake.
Here's how Lambert and 3rd-place finisher Mark Rose filled their livewells.
2nd: Jason Lambert
> Day 1: 5, 24-06
> Day 2: 5, 24-03
> Day 3: 5, 24-14
> Total = 15, 73-07
When Lambert visited Kentucky Lake the week before the tournament for 3 days of scouting, he concluded the lake was way behind schedule. Ultimately, that would up being a good thing because come tournament time, the lake was on fire.
"A lot of schools werent out yet," he said. "But as practice went on, there were places they were on that they hadn't been 2 days before. As far as timing goes, I think we hit it about as perfect as we could've."
He kicked off a remarkably consistent tournament with a 24-06 stringer on day 1.
"I caught 100 fish over 3 pounds that first day. It was crazy," he said. "I couldn't conserve anything because once you got a school to fire you had to keep on them because someone else was just sitting back waiting for you to move off them. Typically, under a tournament situation, I wouldn't have fished it like I did but with all the boats and pressure you had to stay on them."
He said he caught 50 bass out of one mega school on Thursday.
"The key is finding the school that just got there and hasn't been beat to death by everybody," he said. "There were fresh fish coming out every day."
He spent his entire tournament south of the Interstate 68/80 bridge and caught all of his weigh-in fish on a 5" straight-tail swimbait rigged on a 1-oz. bladed swimbait head.
"I never got the crankbait bite going down south like some other guys did," he said. "I caught them out of schools as shallow as 10 to 12 feet and as deep as 23."
He took a small lead into the final day and knew he need to likely catch the 24-plus he'd caught the first 2 days to have a shot at winning.
"I caught 22 (pounds) in 10 minutes off a school that had boats on it Thursday and Friday all day," he said. "I just happened to come it early before anyone else had gotten to them when they were eating."
While he did cull his way up to 24-14, it wasn't quite enough to fend off Haynes' final-day charge.
"Everybody wants to win," he said. "If I'd have gone out and caught 19 or 20 and not done what I was supposed to do, I'd have been upset. I did what I was supposed to do and didn't slip up. I had the best day of my week. Any time you catch your best stringer and get beat, all you can do is congratulate the guy who beat you."
> Swimbait gear: 7'10" Yank-um Custom Tackle swimbait rod, Lew's BB1 Pro casting reel, 20-pound Vicious Pro Elite fluorocarbon line, 1-oz. Yank-um Custom Tackle Shakin Shad bladed swimbait head (white), 5" Castaic Jerky J (green shad and blue shad).
> Lambert opted for the green shad Jerky J (straight tail) when the skies were overcast and blue shad under high skies.
> He said he caught some fish on a paddletail swimbait in practice, but eventually settled on the straight-tail version in the tournament because of the confidence he had with it on the Shakin Shad bladed head. "It just gives a different action that the bass haven't seen," he said. "They've seen a million Basstrix and Shadalicious swimbaits. I just had a lot of confidence in throwing it."
> Main factor in his success "Having so many schools to fish. I probably had 80 places and even with all that pressure, I could run and find something to get on. I just had so many places to fish I felt like I would eventually get on something that would fire."
> Performance edge "My Lowrance XDS 12 unit. Without it, you don't find 80 schools of fish in 4 days of practice. It gives you the opportunity to find fish and not necessary have to catch them in practice and then allows you to figure them out on tournament day."
Mark Rose changed his strategy for the final day and it resulted in his biggest stringer of the tournament.
3rd: Mark Rose
> Day 1: 5, 21-10
> Day 2: 5, 22-09
> Day 3: 5, 27-00
> Total = 15, 71-03
Rose wasn't at all surprised how well the lake fished. He remembers it being just as good or even better a year ago.
"You could pull up and catch 50 out of a school," he said. "It's unbelievable how many 3-pounders are in the lake. It's got everything you could want you can flip, throw a topwater, fish ledges. There are so many ledges that you could win from New Johnsonville to the dam on either side of the river and over on Barkley."
Rose didn't put in a whole lot of practice time after being at the Major League Fishing Select event in Oklahoma the week prior.
"I showed up Tuesday afternoon and put in a half day then and all day Wednesday," he said. "I found some schools in the midsection of the lake. It was real simple idle, find them and make a few casts to see what they'd bite, then move on. After that it was all about finding as many schools as I could."
Even as the tournament approached, he didn't get the sense he was on winning-quality fish.
"I knew I didn't have anything special," he said. "Most times, you just know when you're on stuff to compete. I didn't get that feeling."
He stayed in the mid-lake section the first 2 days and averaged better than 22 pounds on crankbaits, swimbaits and worms.
"I fished as hard as I could day and caught respectable bags," he said.
He opted to change up his strategy on the final day in an effort to stay out of his friend Haynes' way and also to see if he could unlock other schools.
"Doing that forces you to hunt instead of running around to waypoints," he added.
He popped 20 pounds off his first spot down south, then culled through everything on a Strike King 6XD in mid-depths. He caught one weigh fish in Barkley Lake and then came back to Kentucky and caught two other upgrades to push his stringer to 27 pounds.
> Cranking gear: 7'11'' heavy-action Kistler KLX Mark Rose Offshore casting rod, Lew's BB1 Pro casting reel (5.1:1 ratio), 12- and 15-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line, Strike King 6XD and 10XD (assorted colors).
> Rose also used an assortment of swimbaits during the week.
> Main factor in his success "I really have a lot of confidence in my equipment and that's important when I'm ledge fishing. The combination of knowing my Mercury and Ranger will get me there and back, and then my tackle I truly feel like I have the perfect rod, reel, line and crank combo there is. For me, it works."
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