By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Knowing that he'd already secured victory at the Kentucky Lake FLW Tour and that his total weight for the event would exceed 100 pounds, Jason Lambert spent Sunday afternoon lounging on the deck of his boat at the launch, eating pizza and interacting with fans.
As it turned out, he could've done that starting at sunrise and still collected the same six-figure paycheck without ever making a cast on day 4 of the tournament. The only difference is he would've missed out on the 100-pound thing and the fun of catching yet another massive sack of ledge-dwelling bass.
Pickwick is Lambert's home lake, but his name is becoming synonymous with Kentucky. He captured his first Tour win there in 2016, won an FLW Series derby last year to offset a horrible Tour campaign and made it three in a row over the weekend in record-setting fashion.
Randy Haynes held a slight edge over him after both days 1 and 2, but Haynes withdrew from the tournament early on day 3 after a dispute with Lambert over the rights to fish a ledge that both had utilized over the first 2 days. Any notion that someone other than Lambert might claim the trophy was put to rest as soon as Haynes left the water.
Lambert went on to catch a Tour lake record 30-08 stringer that day to push his 3-day total to 74-06. That would've been enough to win – runner-up Scott Martin finished with 73-09 over 4 days – but he badly wanted to become the 11th angler in Tour history to amass s triple-digit total. He achieved that on day 4, finishing with 101-09. His 28-pound victory margin was easily the largest in the 23-year history of the circuit.
Following are some of the details.
Lambert did a considerable amount of boat-driving and almost no casting during the 3 days of official practice. He said he put 32 hours on his Evinrude motor during that period.
"I approached it like any other ledge tournament at Kentucky Lake even though I knew the fish weren't as far along as they should be (due to a delayed spring warm-up)," he said. "I just drove around graphing ledges.
"I saw groups of fish in maybe 12 places that I was pretty sure were bass (and not the now-overabundant Asian carp). There are a couple different things you can do to clarify what you're looking at, but I'd really rather not discuss those – we're going to be dealing with this issue for a long time."
> Day 1: 5, 24-06
> Day 2: 5, 19-08
> Day 3: 5, 30-08
> Day 4: 5, 27-03
> Total = 20, 101-09
Lambert started the tournament on the spot that would be the site of his dispute with Haynes 48 hours later. Throwing a Castaic Jerky J swimbait, he boxed well over 20 pounds in less than 45 minutes and then pulled out (Haynes arrived shortly thereafter and caught a day-best 26-03).
He said the locale, a "community hole" in the northern portion of the lake actually wasn't his favorite among the dozen waypoints he'd logged.
"I was boat (No.) 51 that day, and the only reason I started there on Thursday because it was the first place I came to that I knew bass were on that nobody else was on," he said. "It was lights-out when I got there – I caught one that was 2 1/2 or 3 pounds on my first cast and it only took a few more to get the big ones ready to bite."
He made one cull with a 4 3/4-pounder later in the day from the school he'd originally pegged as his No. 1 option. His opening-round effort left him trailing Haynes by 1-13.
With the boat order flip-flopped for day 2, Haynes beat him to the northern locale, so he hole-hopped his way back toward Paris landing. He didn't have a fish at 10 o'clock, so he opted to run to an obscure spot on the southern end where he'd made one cast and caught a 5-pounder on the final day of practice.
It's a ditch that runs through a small bar that's covered by about 7 feet of water.
Lambert compiled better than a 5 pounds per fish average at Kentucky Lake.
"It's a place that very seldom gets fished even by any of the locals. It's kind of a hidden deal off the main river channel and you can't scan it – you just have to go fish.
"It's been a traditional hole for me for a long time now. I know of two or three local guys who fish it, but that's about it."
It took him 45 minutes to collect 19 1/2 pounds with a Gene Larew TattleTail worm. Haynes bag that day was 7 ounces heavier, leaving them 2-04 apart and far ahead of the rest of the field headed into the weekend.
Lambert and Haynes staged a 20-mile-plus boat race to the northern location on the morning of day 3, with Lambert arriving several seconds earlier. Shortly thereafter, they were lined up virtually shoulder to shoulder for the precise cast that the spot demands.
They bumped boats a few times and a few words were exchanged, but not many and they weren't overly heated. FLW Live cameras recorded Lambert's offer to share the spot after making it clear that he wasn't leaving (Lambert already had a couple of decent fish in his livewell at that point). Shortly thereafter, Haynes strapped down his rod and trolling-motored away from the spot before starting his big engine, declaring that he had work to do at home in Ripley, Miss.
"It was probably the most stressful situation I've ever been in while fishing a tournament," Lambert said. "I'm glad it worked out for my part."
He caught about 19 pounds there in less than an hour, then moved to a ledge just a few miles away where he'd found some fish the previous day. He made three upgrades with a pair of 5-pounders and a 9-02 behemoth that was easily the largest fish caught in the event and his personal record for the lake.
"I knew as soon as I set up on that big one that it was a serious fish," he said. "It gave me a big run right at the boat, but it wasn't anything too crazy."
With Haynes no longer in the picture, he had a 19-pound lead heading into the final day. He went back to the place where he'd finished day 2 and caught two 3-pounders and a 5 on his first three throws of the Jerky J to put himself far out of reach of the remaining competitors.
He amassed close to 25 pounds there, then went back to the other northern stop and made a cull with a 6 3/4-pounder. He idled over some other places for a while after that and headed for the ramp at about 11:45.
"That time (back at the launch) was actually pretty anxious," he said. "I knew I'd won and I knew I had 100 pounds and I just wanted to get it all over with."
> The Jerky J is the same bait he'd used for his previous two Kentucky Lake wins – he employed both the 5- and 7-inch versions in this event. "It's just a real subtle swimbait and it's something those fish don't see all day, every day," he said. "I thought more people would start throwing it after 2016, but I still don't see hardly any of them.
"I change sizes if I get a lull in the action. I weighed fish on both of them, but I tend to catch my bigger fish on the 7-inch."
> He attaches it to a 1-ounce jighead that he orders components for and constructs himself. He's been doing that for a couple years since he ran out of the original Scrounger heads. "That's another thing that I don't want to talk too much about."
> There's nothing tricky about his presentation. "It's like any other swimbait – I throw it as far as I can and then use a good, steady retrieve. It needs to stay pretty close to the bottom because that's where those fish are feeding."
Winning Gear Notes
> Swimbait gear: 7'11" heavy-action Duckett Fishing White Ice II swimbait rod, Duckett Fishing 360RW casting reel (7.1:1 ratio), 18-pound Sunline Super FC Sniper fluorocarbon line, homemade 1-ounce Scrounger-style swimbait head, 5" or 7" Castaic Jerky J (green shad).
> Worm gear: 7'6" heavy-action Duckett Fishing Micro Magic rod, same reel and line, homemade 5/8-ounce jighead, Gene Larew TattleTail worm (plum).
The Bottom Line
> Main factor in his success – "It was a ledge tournament and I was going to stay out there until I found them, basically. I knew they were coming and it was getting better every day. I made a good decision to use those shallow fish on Friday and finding that other ledge spot that day ended up being a key deal."
> Performance edge – "It was definitely my Garmin electronics."
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