By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
There was talk that the winning weight might exceed 100 pounds in the days leading up to last week's Kentucky Lake FLW Tour. The big ledge-fish weren't quite that cooperative, however – in fact, no competitor exceeded the 25-pound mark on any of the 4 days of the season-ending event.
Nonetheless, the fishing was extremely good. Anglers reported having 60- and 70-fish days and a few who fared exceptionally well had periods during which they got tired of catching 3- to 4-pound fish.
As often happens in offshore-dominated derbies, winner Skip Johnson fished an area that he had mostly to himself. Most of the field had to stay mobile as the bite was all about timing – you had to be there when the bruisers decided to put the feed bag on and you had to get your work done quickly before they shut down again for who knows how long.
Here are some pattern details for Johnson's closest pursuers.
2nd: Jason Lambert
> Day 1: 5, 20-15
> Day 2: 5, 22-09
> Day 3: 5, 21-08
> Day 4: 5, 22-14
> Total = 20, 87-08
Tennessean Jason Lambert, who clinched the Tour's Rookie of the Year award on day 3, has quickly established himself as a big-time offshore player. He finished 8th in the previous event at Pickwick – the lake on which he resides – and was the runner-up at the Kentucky Lake Central Rayovac a week prior to that.
He knows Kentucky Lake well and had a superb initial day of practice, catching eight or nine fish, the best five which would've pushed 25 pounds combined. He did little casting for the remainder of the pre-fish period, but did boat a 7-pounder on the second day.
By the time day 1 of competition rolled around, he had 47 schools pinpointed.
"I probably caught fish off 24 or 25 of them," he said. "The hole I was starting on was only 4 feet deep and there was some grass involved, but the majority of them were 18 to 22 feet. It was just typical ledge stuff.
"I just ran waypoint to waypoint until I saw a school (on his depthfinder) that looked right. I had to make sure they were grouped up – if they're all scattered out they don't really want to fire. You can see if they're active on the screen by the way they're positioned."
For baits, he alternated between a giant spoon and a swimbait.
> Spoon gear: 7'6" double extra-heavy Yank-Um Custom Tackle frog rod, Lew's BB1 Pro casting reel (7.1:1 ratio), 20-pound Vicious Pro Elite fluorocarbon line, Ben Parker Magnum Flutter Spoon (chrome).
> The spoon, which weighs 3 1/2 ounces, is 8 inches long and 2 inches wide.
> Swimbait gear: 7'10" heavy-action Yank-Um Custom Tackle swimbait rod, same reel (6.4:1 ratio), same line, 1/2-ounce prototype jighead (Scrounger-style), Castaic Jerky J swimbait (green shad).
Main factor in his success – "Covering a whole lot of water."
Performance edge – "I'd have to give it to my Lowrance unit. Without it, you don't find that many fish in that short of a time."
Jim Moynagh exploited a big school of fish that was far off the beaten path.
3rd: Jim Moynagh
> Day 1: 5, 21-06
> Day 2: 5, 22-12
> Day 3: 5, 19-09
> Day 4: 5, 23-02
> Total = 20, 86-13
Like winner Johnson, Jim Moynagh had virtual exclusivity on his best school of fish.
"I scanned and fished a lot of ledges in practice and found lots of schools," he said. "One particular school had a lot of nice ones in it, and I found that one fishing rather than scanning."
The vast majority of his action occurred during the morning hours. Many of the top finishers caught their best specimens in the afternoon, when the Tennessee Valley Authority's current-generation level was at its daily peak, but that wasn't the case for him, and he lamented that such long periods of non-production doomed his chances of picking up his initial Tour victory.
He figured he caught about half of his weigh-in fish on a jig and the other half on a swimbait. He picked up a few here and there on a crankbait, but believes all of thos were eventually culled.
> Jig gear: 7' heavy-action unnamed casting rod, unnamed casting reel (7:1 ratio), 12-pound Gamma Edge fluorocarbon line, 3/4- or 1/-ounce All-Terrain Tackle jig (brown or green-pumpkin), 5" unnamed twin-tail trailer (brown or green-pumpkin).
> Swimbait gear: 7'6" unnamed soft-action flipping stick, unnamed casting reel (6.3:1 ratio), same line, 1-ounce triangle jighead, unnamed swimbait (shad).
Main factor in his success – "That was a hard school to find – I didn't have a lot of competition for those fish."
Performance edge – "Probably the GPS was the most critical thing. Without that, it would've been impossible to get on that spot. It was such a distance offshore that it would've been real tough to line things up from the middle of the lake."
Randy Haynes turned in his usual high finish in a summertime event on the Tennessee River.
4th: Randy Haynes
> Day 1: 5, 22-11
> Day 2: 5, 21-01
> Day 3: 5, 19-06
> Day 4: 5, 22-09
> Total = 20, 85-11
Nobody was the least bit surprised to see Randy Haynes log another single-digit finish in a summertime event on the Tennessee River. The winner of the Rayovac came within 3 pounds of posting back-to-back victories on the venue.
He had issues with lost fish throughout the event – particularly on days 2 and 3 – and had just one in his box at 1:30 p.m. on the final day before staging an afternoon rally.
He caught about 70 percent of his weigh-in fish on the big Ben Parker spoon, which he'd never thrown prior to the second day of practice. The others were enticed by the big crankbait that he's been throwing all summer.
"I got the spoons on Monday and got my confidence up on them that day and the next one, and I figured out what I needed to look for on my Raymarine electronics," he said. "It was all about the way the fish were grouped up and how they were sitting.
"Once I dialed that in, it was awesome – I was calling my shots."
> Spoon gear: 7'11" extra-heavy Kistler Z-Bone rod, Lew's Super Duty casting reel (7:1 ratio), unnamed 20-pound fluorocarbon line, Ben Parker Magnum Flutter Spoon (sexy shad).
> Cranking gear: 7'11" KLX offshore rod, Lew's BB1 Pro casting reel, same line, Profound Outdoors Z-Boss 20 (blue moon).
Main factor in his success – "About 100 hours of idling on that lake this year."
Performance edge – "I have to give Raymarine a big shout-out – it's the deal. Also my Mercury/MotorGuide combination."
Clent Davis was one of several top finishers who threw the monstrous Ben Parker Magnum Flutter Spoon.
5th: Clent Davis
> Day 1: 5, 20-06
> Day 2: 5, 19-07
> Day 3: 5, 22-14
> Day 4: 5, 21-08
> Total = 20, 84-03
Clent Davis caught a lot of quality fish – as evidenced by his 21-pounds-per-day average. However, like Moynagh, he accomplished very little after lunchtime and he never got one of the 6- or 7-pound bites that transformed bags from strong to spectacular.
He caught a lot of fish over the first 2 days on a Mister Twister Magnum SinSation, a new plastic offering that's sort of a worm/Brush Hog hybrid. Over the weekend he relied on the big Ben Parker spoon and a swimbait.
"I might have fished a total of 30 minutes each day in practice," he said. "I mainly just graphed and marked waypoints, and when I was in a 'community hole' sometimes I'd stand up and catch a few.
"I found close to 60 schools and I'd say I fished close to 50 of the (in the tournament). The shallowest were 15 feet deep and the deepest were 28.
> Spoon gear: 7'9" extra-heavy Phoenix punch rod, Shimano Chronarch casting reel (7:1 ratio), 20-pound unnamed fluorocarbon line, Ben Parker Magnum Flutter Spoon (chrome).
> Swimbait gear: 8' heavy-action Phoenix swimbait rod, same reel (6.3:1 ratio) and line, unnamed 7" swimbait (shad).
> Worm gear: 7'7" medium-heavy Phoenix MBX rod, Shimano Metanium casting reel (7:1 ratio), 16-pound unnamed fluorocarbon, 1/2-ounce unnamed jighead, Mister Twister Magnum SinSation (California 420).
Main factor in his success – "Knowing what I was looking for on the electronics. If you don't know what's a bass and what's not, or if they're going to eat or not, you're in big trouble. It was easy to get fooled – they'd look like they were set up and ready to eat, and then they just wouldn't."
Performance edge – "Most definitely my Lowrance HDS-12."
Much of the tackle referenced above is available at the BassFan Store. To browse the selection, click here..