By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Kentucky Lake isn't the fishery it was 5 years ago. It's become chock-full of invasive Asian carp and there's at least one year-class of bass that seems to be entirely missing.
It can, however, still give up a 25-pound average to a guy who really knows what he's doing out on its famed ledges, where big bass congregate after the spawn. Jason Lambert is one of those guys.
Strike that. At Kentucky Lake, Lambert is "The Man."
The Tennessean captured his second FLW Tour victory at the venue in the past 3 years on Sunday as his 27-03 stringer gave him a 4-day total of 101-09. His triple-digit aggregate is a Tour record for the lake (surpassing his own mark of 97-02 from 2 years ago) and his margin of victory (an even 28 pounds) shattered the previous Tour benchmark, set by Randall Tharp at Lake Okeechobee in 2012, by nearly 4 1/2 pounds.
He set the Tour record for single-day bag at Kentucky Lake with his 30-08 on day 3. That also eclipsed his own standard from 2016 (29 pounds).
Martin, always a contender at the venue, sacked 18-06 on the final day to finish with 73-09. Second-year pro Josh Douglas was 3rd with 72-03 (21-08 on day 4).
The 4th- and 5th-place finishers are both Tennessee River stalwarts who rallied from far back in the field after day 1. Michael Neal's 23-05 stringer gave him a 72-03 total and Mark Rose's 19-09 haul boosted his total to 71-11.
Here are the final numbers for the bottom half of the top 10:
6. Alex Davis: 67-13
7. Jeff Gustafson: 67-00
8. Cody Meyer: 64-08
9. John Cox: 59-08
10. Matt Arey: 55-02
With only the late-June event at Lake St. Clair remaining on the regular-season schedule, Rose has a firm grip atop the Angler of the Year (AOY) standings. He's 64 points ahead of Martin, with reigning AOY Bryan Thrift another 8 points back in 3rd.
All five fish that Lambert weighed on day 4 weighed at least 5 pounds.
The dates for the St. Clair derby are June 28-July 1.
> Day 4: 5, 27-03 (20, 101-09)
Lambert's only real compeititon for the win was eliminated early on day 3 when Randy Haynes, who'd led after the first 2 days, withdrew from the event after a dispute with Lambert over a starting location. As it turned out, his 3-day weight (74-06) would've been enough to garner him the trophy.
When he caught 11 pounds (two 3-pounders and a 5) on his first three casts of day 4, the victory was entirely secure. He badly wanted to crack the century barrier, though, so he still had work to do.
Within 10 minutes after that, his livewell contained 23 or 24 pounds.
"I made the statement on FLW Live that that was the ball game, but I knew I needed one more big bite for the hundred pounds," he said.
He got that one (a 7-pounder) a little before 10 o'clock.
"I think this one's more enjoyable because the 100-pound thing happened," he said when asked to compare it to his 2016 triumph.
After a horrible Tour campaign last year (which was somewhat offset by a win in the Kentucky Lake FLW Series), he was having a decent 2018 season until a 114th-place bomb at Smith Lake last month. This performance negated that stinker and put him back inside the eventual cutoff for the Forrest Wood Cup (the top 35 on the points list will make it).
Scott Martin achieved his goal of maintaining his No. 2 position in the standings.
He caught most of his weigh-in fish on a Castaic Jerky J swimbait attached to a Scrounger-type head. Full details of his winning pattern, as well as those of the other top finishers, will be published this week.
2nd: Martin Feels Like a Winner
> Day 4: 5, 18-06 (20, 73-09)
Martin achieved his final-day goal of hanging onto 2nd place, which made him feel as if he won the "other" tournament that included everybody except Lambert. He also gained a couple of points on Rose in the AOY chase.
"I probably caught eight or nine fish today, so it was a little slower," he said. "The water muddied up from the rain we had on and around the lake and some if it moved in where I was fishing. It wasn't that nice Tennessee River-clear.
"I had a decent bag up shallow by 10 o'clock from a shell bed in a little ditch and that kind of settled me down. I ran a couple of ledge spots and got a few 3-pounders there and then late in the day I went back to my best spot and caught a 4 1/4 that put me over 18. With that weight, I knew Rose had to catch 21 to pass me."
He caught a lot of his fish over the last 2 days on a Carolina rig, which is a technique he hadn't employed in quite a few years. A hair jig and a big worm were also part of his arsenal.
3rd: Career-Best for Douglas
> Day 4: 5, 21-08 (20, 72-12)
Douglas had a blast fishing all 4 days of a Tour event for the first time.
"It feels pretty good," he said. "And being that Lambert won the tournament like 2 days ago, there wasn't the disappointment of not winning today. Now I'm ready to go catch some smallies at St. Clair and try to stay in the Cup hunt."
Josh Douglas' finish was easily his best on the FLW Tour.
He caught about a dozen keepers on day 4 and weighed a 5-pounder and a quartet of 4s. He lost one good fish when, with his net sitting on the rear of the back deck, he tried to boat-flip it and it flopped off.
His bait lineup for the event included a dropshot, a Carolina rig and a couple of swimbaits.
4th: Nice Boost for Neal
> Day 4: 5, 23-05 (20, 72-03)
Neal's showing bumped him from 35th to 20th on the points list – a climb that seemed unlikely after he caught a single-digit bag on day 1.
"It was a steady climb (up the standings) and the most important thing was the points," he said. "I looked at it as a make-or-break deal."
Working a school that had about 30 fish that he could see on his graph, he caught about 10 keepers on the final day. One of those was a 7 1/4-pounder – he previously hadn't caught anything over 5.
"I lost one in the 4 1/2 range that would've helped me by a half or three-quarter of a pound, but nothing drastic. I lost a 4 1/2 the first day when I only weighed four fish and that one would've made a big difference."
He threw a Big Bite Baits Fighting Frog on a swing-head jig and a swimbait on ledges of varying depths.
5th: Rose Pleased
> Day 4: 5, 19-09 (20, 71-11)
Rose's AOY hopes were jeopardized when he was in 64th place after day 1, but he made a strong comeback and will take a substantial cushion to St. Clair.
"To be fishing on Sunday, I felt like I won a tournament," he said.
A non-competitor made things more difficult for him on day 4.
"I had a local follow me around all yesterday and he got real close and marked all my spots and saw my baits," he said. "Today, he decided to help me out on three of my best places – he was sitting on them when I got there.
"It takes a lot to get my blood boiling – I'm pretty relaxed and I don't let much get to me. But when some guy follows me all day, steals all my fishing holes and then fishes them the next day, just by himself and not even in a tournament, that gets under my skin.
He went through nine keepers, including a 5 1/2-pounder. He lost one big fish on a swimbait.
His other offerings included a swing-head jig with a Strike King Rage Bug and a Strike King 10XD crankbait.
> Day 4 stats – 10 anglers, 8 limits, 2 fours.
Day 4 (Final) Standings
1. Jason Lambert -- Michie, Tn -- 24-6 (5) -- 19-8 (5) -- 30-8 (5) -- 27-3 (5) -- 101-9 (20) -- $100,200
2. Scott Martin -- Clewiston, Fl -- 17-14 (5) -- 20-0 (5) -- 17-5 (5) -- 18-6 (5) -- 73-9 (20) -- $30,100
3. Josh Douglas -- Isle, Mn -- 19-10 (5) -- 17-8 (5) -- 14-2 (5) -- 21-8 (5) -- 72-12 (20) -- $25,000
4. Michael Neal -- Dayton, Tn -- 10-0 (4) -- 19-4 (5) -- 19-10 (5) -- 23-5 (5) -- 72-3 (19) -- $20,000
5. Mark Rose -- West Memphis, Ar -- 12-5 (4) -- 17-15 (5) -- 21-14 (5) -- 19-9 (5) -- 71-11 (19) -- $19,000
6. Alex Davis -- Albertville, Al -- 8-11 (3) -- 22-0 (5) -- 16-5 (5) -- 20-13 (5) -- 67-13 (18) -- $18,000
7. Jeff Gustafson -- Keewatin, On -- 13-2 (5) -- 18-7 (5) -- 19-8 (5) -- 15-15 (5) -- 67-0 (20) -- $17,000
8. Cody Meyer -- Auburn, Ca -- 12-8 (5) -- 16-13 (5) -- 18-4 (5) -- 16-15 (5) -- 64-8 (20) -- $16,000
9. John Cox -- Debary, Fl -- 16-6 (5) -- 15-6 (5) -- 18-15 (5) -- 8-13 (4) -- 59-8 (19) -- $15,000
10. Matt Arey -- Shelby, NC -- 17-3 (5) -- 13-7 (5) -- 16-7 (5) -- 8-1 (4) -- 55-2 (19) -- $14,000