By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Some high finishes were turned in at the Kentucky Lake FLW Tour by anglers who fished the shallow bushes, but the big money was made on the venue's famed offshore ledges. Jason Lambert caught more combined weight over the first 3 days than anyone else did in 4, but it still took a solid 18-pound average to crack the top 5.
Among the 2nd- through 5th-place competitors were three guys (Scott Martin, Michael Neal and Mark Rose) who many observers had tabbed as pre-tournament favorites considering their ledge-fishing prowess and past success at the lake. The other, 3rd-place finisher Josh Douglas, is an electronics maven from Minnesota who parlayed his meter-reading abilities into a career-best showing.
Following are some of the specifics on how that quartet went about their business.
2nd: Scott Martin
> Day 1: 5, 17-14
> Day 2: 5, 20-00
> Day 3: 5, 17-05
> Day 4: 5, 18-06
> Total = 20, 73-09
While Lambert's winning fish were on the northern end of the lake, Martin rode two schools of recent ledge arrivals to a runner-up finish that moved him to 2nd in the Angler of the Year race with only next month's event at Lake St. Clair remaining on the regular-season schedule. He'll start that derby trailing Rose by 64 points, so he'll need the leader to falter in order to have a shot at his second career points title.
The closest of his two locales was about a 70-mile run from the launch in Gilbertsville, Ky.
"I knew there was a good population of fish there and I felt like more and more were coming every day," he said. "They kept reloading. I eventually got the cast down perfectly and the line-up where I need to sit and I managed them the best I could.
"I did run around and look for new stuff each day, but I never came up with anything. I felt I could do well if I just managed those spots right. I'd gotten onto a little bit of a shallow bite in practice, but I never used it in the tournament."
His offerings included a crankbait, a big worm, a hair jig and a Carolina rig.
"The key was really (on day 3) at about 1 o'clock when I found some rusty swivels in my boat and tied on a Carolina rig for the first time in many years. I finished my limit with it, then I lost a 5-pounder and caught a 5.
"(On day 4) I caught my second-biggest fish on it and several others that were over 3 pounds."
The tops of the ledges at that end of the lake are much shallower – just 6 to 8 feet compared to 20-plus in the northern end.
> Carolina rig gear: 7'6" heavy-action Okuma TCS Scott Martin Signature Series rod, Okuma TCS casting reel (8:1 ratio), 20-pound P-Line Tactical fluorocarbon line, 1-ounce tungsten weight, 4/0 Trokar EWG hook, Googan Baits Bandito creature bait (green-pumpkin).
> Jig gear: 7'11" medium-heavy Okuma TCS Scott Martin Signature Series Power Crank rod, same reel, 15-pound P-Line Tactical Fluorocarbon, 1/2-ounce hand-tied hair jig (white).
> Worm gear: 7'3" heavy-action Okuma TCS Scott Martin Signature Series rod, same reel, 15-pound P-Line Tactical fluorocarbon, generic 3/8-ounce jighead, 5" Googan Baits worm (green-pumpkin).
> Cranking gear: 7'6" Okuma TCS Scott Martin Signature Series rod, same reel, 15-pound P-Line Tactical fluorocarbon, 6" LiveTarget Blueback Herring swimbait.
Main factor in his success – "There weren't very many boats down there where I was, even on the first 2 days. In my mind, that stuff wasn't getting messed with."
Performance edge – "My Garmin Panoptix allowed me to find the highest spots on those bars, which was very key, and the Spot-Lock (on his Minn Kota trolling motor) allowed me to make very precise casts in there. The last thing was that I could program my route back to the launch on my Garmin and it would give me the navigation and a precise ETA. I could manage my time and I wasn't stressed out about what time I should leave."
Josh Douglas milked a single ledge in the vicinity of Paris Landing.
3rd: Josh Douglas
> Day 1: 5, 19-10
> Day 2: 5, 17-08
> Day 3: 5, 14-02
> Day 4: 5, 21-08
> Total = 20, 72-12
Douglas stayed on one ledge near Paris landing that kept replenishing day by day. He said that the tails were still bleeding on at least 65 percent of the fish he caught, meaning they'd just come from the spawning grounds.
"When the Elites came here (a couple of weeks earlier), I didn't pay attention," he said. "I didn't want to know what they were doing because I knew this would be different."
He spent about 2 hours flipping bushes during practice and quickly deduced that the program would not carry him to a high finish.
"I just had to make sure I wasn't missing something," he said.
The native Minnesotan calls Mille Lacs his home lake and he's an expert at reading electronics – he even teaches classes on it to his fellow Northerners. He also spent a significant period of time living at Lake Chickamauga, where he learned the Tennessee River offshore game.
"I love to use my Lowrance units to look for fish and the Navionics map showed the ledges and road beds really well. The spot I ended up fishing, I only got three bites there in practice, but they were three decent fish.
"I milked it hard every day of the tournament and every day I got some good bites."
His best fish for the event were a 7-pound largemouth and a 6-pound smallmouth. He caught fish from the tops of the ledges in 20 feet of water or so all the way down to 35 or 40 feet.
A dropshot rig produced about half of his weigh-in fish, with the others coming on a mix of two different swimbaits and a Carolina rig.
> Dropshot gear: 7'3" medium-action G. Loomis NRX rod, Shimano Exsence 4000 spinning reel, 10-pound PowerPro Super 8 Slick braided line (main line), 10-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon (20' leader), 3/8-ounce Woo! Tungsten cylindrical dropshot weight, 2/0 Roboworm Rebarb hook, 7" Roboworm Straight Tail worm (margarita mutilator).
> Swimbait gear: 7'7" heavy-action Shimano Expride rod, Shimano Curado K casting reel (7:1 ratio), 15-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line, 1-ounce prototype Outkast Tackle Golden Eye swimbat head, 5.7" Strike King Shadalicious swimbait (gizzard shad).
> His other swimbait, which he threw on the same gear, was a 3:16 Lure Company Rising Son. It produced his biggest fish on days 1 and 4.
> Carolina rig gear: Older-model 7'6" G. Loomis GLX rod, same reel as swimbait, 20-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon, 1-ounce Woo! Tungsten weight, plastic bead (green), barrel swivel, 4/0 Gamakatsu Round Bend worm hook, unnamed plastic craw bait (green-pumpkin/purple flake).
Main factor in his success – "Hunkering down in that hole that kept producing."
Performance edge – "The Lowrance units and the Navionics map, as well as my Phoenix/Evinrude. The boat and motor were flawless on the long ride to Paris and back."
Michael Neal made a huge upward climb in the standings after a horrible day 1.
4th: Michael Neal
> Day 1: 4, 10-00
> Day 2: 5, 19-04
> Day 3: 5, 19-10
> Day 4: 5, 23-05
> Total = 19, 72-03
Neal was an extreme longshot to end up in the top 5 after day 1, when he weighed a four-fish sack that just barely reached double-digits. The trip to the stage was especially painful considering he'd lost a 4 1/2-pound bite – every ounce of which would've aided his cause.
"I fished too conservatively the first day," he said. "I didn't go out deep enough – I fished where I knew there was a few from practice. That bit me in the butt. Practice was terrible; I had one school that I'd actually found and they were just little ones. I had six keeper bites in 3 days.
"I scrapped everything on day 2 and went to an area around Paris that I know holds a ton of fish, and just went fishing. It was obvious stuff – ditch mouths and turns in bars in the 6- to 9-foot range."
He started day 3 in that same place and caught three good ones, then found a much deeper school (20 to 22 feet) about a mile away that gave him two more weigh-in fish. He pounded that locale on day 4 and caught a bag that was topped only by Lambert's 27-03 haul.
A Big Bite Baits Fighting Frog on a swing-head jig was his primary offering and he also connected with a swimbait. A deep-running crankbait gave him a single fish that he took to the scale.
> Jig gear: 7'4" heavy-action Denali Lithium Worm/Jig rod, Daiwa Tatula CT Type R casting reel (8:1 ratio), 20-pound Sunline Super FC Sniper fluorocarbon line, 3/4-ounce unnamed swing-head jig, 4" Big Bite Baits Fighting Frog (tilapia).
> Swimbait gear: 7'6" heavy-action Denali Liithium Swimbait rod, Daiwa Tatula SV casting reel (6.3:1 ratio), 20-pound Sunline Super FC Sniper fluorocarbon, 1-ounce Ledgehead Lures swimbait head, 7" Big Bite Baits Suicide Shad (blue gizzard).
Main factor in his success – "Keeping an open mind and not being 100-percent locked in on what I'd been doing in practice. Very few times have I just rolled the dice and gone practicing during the tournament, and I did that every day after the first day and it worked out."
Performance edge – "I have zero sponsorship with them, but it would be my Minn Kota Ultrex. There's no way I could've done what I did without it. I could sit on one spot while I culled, re-tied, re-rigged, whatever I needed to do. It saved me hours of time over the course of the week."
Mark Rose overcame a poor start by focusing on his strengths.
5th: Mark Rose
> Day 1: 4, 12-05
> Day 2: 5, 17-15
> Day 3: 5, 21-14
> Day 4: 5, 19-09
> Total = 19, 71-11
Rose, who's one decent finish away from his first AOY title, had a similar hang-up to the one that Neal experienced on day 1, and then he made the same type of climb up the standings sheet.
"On the first day of practice I got intimidated by all of the (Asian) carp and I let them keep me from going out deep on the next 2 days," he said. "That was a poor decision on my part. I guess I thought every fish in Kentucky Lake was never going to go out offshore again.
"After day 1 (of the tournament), I was behind and I knew I couldn't catch up doing what I was doing. I had to go out, so I started running old places. There was a lot of carp, but then I ran into a school of bass.
"I had two schools that carried me on days 2, 3 and 4," he continued, "and I caught some single fish off a few shallow areas."
He lost what was perhaps his biggest bite on the final day, but that didn't cause him much consternation.
"I had one on a swimbait that I locked up on and had on for a couple seconds and it felt like a sack of 'taters. It pulled off, but I also landed three 6-pounders that stayed buttoned up. You're not going to hear me complain."
He threw a deep-diving crankbait and a jig and mixed in a variety of swimbaits.
> Jig gear: 7'1" heavy-action Team Lew's Mark Rose Ledge Series Jig/Worm rod, Team Lew's HyperMag Speed Spool casting reel (7.5:1 ratio), 17-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line, unnamed 3/4-ounce swing-head jig, Strike King Rage Bug (blue craw).
> Cranking gear: 7'11" heavy-action Team Lew's Mark Rose Ledge Series Mag Crankbait rod, Lew's BB1 Pro Speed Spool casting reel (5:1 ratio), 15-pound Seaguar Tatsu fluorocarbon, Strike King 10XD (sexy herring).
Main factor in his success – "Forcing myself to go back to my strengths and the ways I've had success on the Tennessee River."
Performance edge – "Without a doubt, my Garmin electronics – they're my eyes under the water on the Tennessee River. My Mercury motor and the Lew's Ledge lineup were important, too."
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