June 10, 2006 by Jennifer Simmons
BENTON, Ky. - A phenomenal tournament on a phenomenal fishery came to a phenomenal end today, as Camden, Tenn., pro Sam Lashlee won his second major tournament in seven days when he annihilated the competition at the Stren Series Midwest Division opener on his home lakes, Kentucky-Barkley.
His margin of victory over No. 2 pro Yancy Windham was an astounding 6 pounds, 13 ounces, but the tricky Lashlee had the crowd, FLW Live viewers and, in particular, his wife believing he lost the whole thing. His basket of fish, shrouded by a black National Guard bag to keep the suspense going, actually contained a 21-pound, 12-ounce limit, but a disappointed-looking Lashlee said he had three fish in the box.
It was true - he did have three fish in the box, but they were of course joined by another two. Lashlee's dramatic ploy worked, as the black bag was whisked off the basket to reveal his hefty five-bass limit that put his two-day total to 44 pounds, 15 ounces, easily handing him a victory he'd led everyone to believe he had lost. The trick was, everything he said was true. But his response to an otherwise tough day not only handed him another lucrative victory but also top-shelf status as an angler who gets the job done.
"This was one of the most frustrating days of my life," Lashlee said on stage. "I woke up with a different kind of feeling. I was tense. I started off and lost a big one and said to my partner, `I'm going to have to earn this baby.' Then I lost another toad. I couldn't believe it."
Lashlee went on to say he "squeaked out a limit," which indeed he did, but the major obstacle Lashlee had to overcome today was boat traffic. Lashlee has been hounded all week by fan followers, and while the support is always appreciated, deliberately fishing his hot spot didn't sit so well.
"There were so many boats on my area," he said. "I ran here, I ran there, everywhere, doing everything I could. I don't have any gas left in my boat."
Lashlee says his biggest strength as a competitor is finding the fish, and he put that strength to the test today when he arrived at this Tennessee honey hole and found it covered up with boats. His frustration level mounted when, at 11 a.m., he still didn't have the bass to win it, whereas every other day this week, he could have put his rods down by 8 o'clock.
"It's funny how things happen," he said. "It was a struggle, but thank God it worked out the way it did. I knew about what I had, and I knew it would take one heck of a sack to beat it."
All week, Lashlee has been using a Series 6 crankbait and a 3/4-ounce jig, but today's change in location warranted a change in presentation, so Lashlee switched to a paddletail worm.
"That worm saved my neck today," Lashlee said. "It was good to me on the first day, and it really paid off today. Four of the five I weighed in came on that worm."
All eyes were on Lashlee after day two, when he took over the pro lead from local pro Mike Auten. Lashlee is a known threat on his home lake, but a victory here would mean two in one week, as it was just last Saturday that Lashlee earned $100,000 at the Wal-Mart FLW Series event on Old Hickory Lake.
"Two weeks ago I was a local guy who wins a lot of tournaments," Lashlee said of the impact of two major victories. "It's like a dream. Pinch me, wake me up."
With the $10,000 he won today, it is as if Lashlee earned more than $15,000 a day over the past seven days, and that is not including the value of the fully rigged Ranger boat he also won as the Stren Series Kentucky Lake champion.
Windham makes a run for it
Thanks to Lashlee's convincing performance, Yancy Windham of Gordo, Ala., was the newest Stren Series winner in the eyes of the audience up until the very last minute. In the end, though, he had to settle for second, but his day-four effort was noble, as he put his best foot forward today and hauled in 19 pounds, 14 ounces to bring his two-day total to 38 pounds, 2 ounces, good for $10,000.
Windham too dealt with a crowd problem today, but his hodgepodge of bait choices was still effective. He reported catching them on crankbaits, big worms, shaky-head worms and jigs, among other things, all week long.
"I had a variety of things going," Windham said. "I had some big schools of fish found, and I did the best I could with what I had. I wanted to make sure Sam couldn't breeze by with this thing."
Making Windham's performance all the more remarkable is that Kentucky-Barkley does not play to his strengths. He credits fellow final-round pro Bobby Kilzer with teaching him how to fish Kentucky Lake ledges during practice for another Stren Series event here in the past.
"This definitely is not even my strength, so to do what I did, I'm really happy," Windham said. "I caught a ton of fish, and I was catching them on everything."
Tutt milks one spot for third
After spending the first three days in the No. 4 position, Texas pro Jim Tutt ended the tournament in third with a final-round total of 33 pounds, 6 ounces, good for $9,000. He brought in a limit today weighing 15 pounds, 12 ounces.
"I had a great week," Tutt said. "I caught all my fish off one spot that was 50 yards wide and 20 yards long. I was running wide open this morning and ran clean past the spot because there was nobody on it. I couldn't believe it."
Indeed, it seems Tutt was in a rare position today to have reached his spot and found it empty. What it was not empty of, though, were bass. Tutt estimates he caught 66 keepers all week off that one spot, and he caught the majority of them on a Zoom Ole Monster Tequila Sunrise worm.
"I don't know the ledges very well," Tutt said. "All my fish were kind of suspended a little bit. I just fished really slow and only got about one bite an hour, but I made myself stay there."
Chapman, Lynch round out top five
Taking fourth place and $8,000 is Woodlawn, Tenn., pro Kenneth Chapman, with a two-day catch of 32 pounds, 15 ounces, including his day-four catch of 16-10.
"I caught what I could catch here," Chapman said. "Sixteen pounds, I was lucky to get that."
Local pro Drew Lynch of Paducah earned $7,500 as the fifth-place pro thanks to his final-round catch of 32 pounds, 9 ounces. He too caught 16-10 on day four.
"I didn't lose but one fish all week," Lynch said. "I had an outstanding tournament, but I'm tired."
Lynch caught his bass this week on Barkley Lake in 10 to 18 feet of water, throwing jigs and worms.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros on Kentucky Lake:
6th: Ramie Colson Jr., Cadiz, Ky., 10 bass, 32-6, $6,500
7th: Mike Ward, Paris, Tenn., 10 bass, 31-3, $5,500
8th: Donald Cordle Jr., Brentwood, Tenn., 10 bass, 30-12, $5,000
9th: Bobby Kilzer, Paris, Tenn., 10 bass, 30-6, $4,500
10th: Anton Silvester, Staunton, Ill., five bass, 21-11, $4,000
The Stren Series will next visit the Mississippi River in Onalaska, Wis., July 12-15, which is another Midwest Division event.