May 17, 2003 by Gary Mortenson
Alabama native captures tournament title on Kentucky Lake in dominating fashion
GILBERTSVILLE, Ky. - Coming into the finals on Kentucky Lake, Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala., had never finished higher than 16th place in any FLW tournament. To make matters more interesting, Kennedy had recently quit his job, moved out of his apartment and had been surviving check-to-check for as long as he could remember in an effort to pursue the difficult goal of becoming a professional bass angler.
However, even in his wildest dreams, Kennedy could not have foreseen what was to happen in Saturday's final-day weigh-in. Using a behemoth two-day catch of 44 pounds, 14 ounces, Kennedy obliterated the rest of the field - outfishing his nearest rival and 1998 FLW Champion Davy Hite by more than 10 pounds - to capture his first tournament title and a whopping first-place prize of $100,000.
"This has been the best two days of tournament fishing in my whole life," said Kennedy. "I practiced for about a week and never even caught one 4-pounder. It's hard to explain. I really just wanted to make the top 10. This is just incredible. Incredible."
What was even more incredible was the fact that he caught nearly every single fish all week from one fishing hole.
"I really hammered that hole over the last two days and I'm very surprised it held up," said Kennedy. "Just about every fish I caught came off that one hole. I still can't believe the fish that came off of that spot."
According to Kennedy, the magical location was situated just over a "big gravel flat" sandwiched between bushes and a grass line some 100 yards apart. On the final day of competition, Kennedy attacked his fish with a Carolina-rigged 5-inch green-pumpkin Senko, a Fat Free Shad junior crankbait in a chartreuse color and a Rapala DT-10 crankbait. His bait choices, fished in about 8 to 10 feet of water, were good enough to land a 21-pound, 13-ounce stringer in the finals - easily the largest sack of the day - and build upon his already formidable 4-pound lead in the semifinals.
"My hands still hurt from catching all of those fish," said Kennedy, who had visible black marks up and down his thumb and palms from his strenuous day on the water. "But it's worth it. This is something I've wanted to do for the last 10 to 15 years. And to accomplish what I did over the last two days, and to do this in an FLW final, it doesn't get any better than this."
A gentleman's second
Although Davy Hite of Prosperity, S.C., didn't win the big prize in Saturday's finals, few anglers were ever more gracious in defeat.
"Steve beat me fair and square. He was just a better fisherman this week," said Hite, who recorded a very respectable two-day catch of 34 pounds, 13 ounces. "When I was sitting there this morning, I could see the excitement on Steve's face. I could see the tears in the eyes of his family. I'm not saying I didn't want to win. We're all fierce competitors. But I thought this morning if I didn't win, it would be great to see Steve win."
Despite the second-place finish, Hite said that he had few regrets.
"It's been a great week," said Hite, who walked away with $35,000 in prize money. "I caught a lot of big fish and I made the top 10. And you can't ask for much better than second place. Basically, it was one step away from being a perfect week."
Hite said that he caught the majority of his catch fishing a Carolina-rigged Gambler Lizard and Ring Fry as well as a Rattleback jig.
Mr. Monsoor grabs third
Fishing in his very first FLW final, Tom Monsoor of La Crosse, Wis., showed few signs that this was only his rookie season on the tour. A stalwart of the EverStart Northern Division for years, Monsoor turned in a two-day catch of 29 pounds, 11 ounces to capture third place overall and a check for $20,000.
"I had a great time out there," said Monsoor. "This has been my dream."
However, had Monsoor not lost one of his favorite crankbaits in the finals, things might have turned out even better.
"I caught 37 fish today," he said. "But after I caught that big one, I lost my plug when it got snagged on the next cast. And unfortunately, I only had that one lure."
Surman infatuated with Kentucky Lake
Using a catch of 29 pounds, 7 ounces, Mike Surman of Boca Raton, Fla., finished the finals in fourth place. However, in addition to the $16,000 in prize money he took home, Surman also left with newfound respect for Kentucky Lake.
"It was just an awesome tournament," said Surman, who landed the majority of his catch fishing a Gambler Lizard and Bacon Rind. "This place is unbelievable. I caught about 75 fish today. There is no other place in the world where you can catch a 2 1/2-pounder after a 2 1/2-pounder after a 2 1/2-pounder. This is just a fantastic lake."
Thomas happy with result
Jeffrey Thomas of Broadway, N.C., used a 26-pound, 1-ounce catch to capture fifth place and a check for $14,000.
"I had a blast today," he said. "I just kept that bait in the water and hoped for the best. Overall, it turned out pretty good."
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top 10 pro finalists were Terry Segraves (sixth) of Kissimmee, Fla., with a catch of 24 pounds, 2 ounces; Todd Ary (seventh) of Birmingham, Ala., with a catch of 23 pounds, 5 ounces; Terry Baksay (eighth) of Monroe, Conn., with a catch of 18 pounds, 2 ounces; Gary Yamamoto (ninth) of Mineola, Texas, with a catch of 15 pounds, 10 ounces; and Kevin VanDam (10th) of Kalamazoo, Mich., with a catch of 15 pounds, 8 ounces.
FLW action resumes June 18-21 at Wheeler Lake in Florence, Ala.
Quick Bites: FLW Kentucky Lake, Day 4