July 26, 2008 by Rob Newell
MURRAY, Ky. - As the old saying goes, timing is everything, and nothing could be truer in the sport of professional bass fishing - just ask Mike Ward of Paris, Tenn.
Like dozens of other pros fishing the Stren Series Central Division event this week, Ward ran down to the Paris-Danville area on Kentucky Lake each day, chucked big worms and jigs on ledges, and caught fish.
The only difference was, at the end of four days of fishing, Ward had amassed 78 pounds, 5 ounces of bass to win the Stren Series event worth $25,000 and a new Ranger boat and motor package.
And why Ward came out on top is still a mystery to him. Sure, Ward knows the water well; he works the night shift at UPS so he can fish during the day. But many of Ward's competitors know the water around Paris well, too.
Yet Ward was able to turn in daily weights of 22-2, 20-8, 19-0 and today's 16-11 without falling off the winning pace.
"If I had to point to one thing, it might be timing," Ward said. "Every good place on the river has the right time to be there - it might be 8 o'clock, it might be 11:30, it might 3 in the afternoon - but every place has a time when fish start feeding, and I was very much in tune with that this week."
It comes as no coincidence that the time frame Ward knew best was from about 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
"Since I work at night and early mornings, I don't get to the lake until about 10 o'clock on the days I fish," he mentioned. "I know the best places to be from about 10 until noon."
As it turned out, many of Ward's competitors would run straight to some of his best holes first thing in the morning, fish them for a while without much luck and pull off at just about the time when Ward was looking to get on them - and bingo, the fish would start biting.
For much of the week, Ward fished a Strike King 10-inch Anaconda Rage worm and Strike King ¾-ounce jig tipped with a Rage Tail trailer. But one thing Ward particularly knows how to time well is a crankbait, and in the end that turned out to be his ace in the hole.
"There are times out there when everything just gets right for a crankbait," Ward said. "I don't know how to describe it, but I can just feel it. The water, the wind, the current - things just get right. I got that feeling today and ran to one of my backup spots and caught two of my best fish on a DD-22. All I can say is it's all about timing."
While other competitors were fishing matted grass edges in some of the same areas Ward was fishing, he chose to stay away from grass and focus completely on hard-bottomed ledges, specifically shell bars.
"I fished the grass for a day in practice, but I couldn't get that going like some of the other guys, so I just chose to stick with bare ledges out away from the grass, and that's what I won on."
Finishing in the runner-up position was Michael Wooley of Collierville, Tenn., who caught a four-day total of 70 pounds, 11 ounces worth $8,917.
Wooley was fishing in the New Johnsonville area, and he focused totally on grass edges.
"That place has turned into a little Lake Guntersville down there," Wooley said. "There is matted grass along the river channel for 40 miles, and the number of fish in it is incredible."
Wooley made it clear that he was not flipping or "punching" the grass mats, but instead was backing way off in the river channel and casting a worm to the grass edges.
"Anywhere the matted grass made a little point on the river channel was the key," Wooley said. "I was making long casts with a Zoom Ol' Monster in Bama Bug and a Trick Worm in green-pumpkin - both worms were weighted with 3/16- and ¼-ounce Tru-Tungsten weights."
Despite a `small distraction' this week, Zack Bull of Lakeland, Tenn., finished third with a four-day total of 70 pounds, 9 ounces for $8,026.
Actually, Bull's `small distraction' was a huge gift in the form of a new bundle of joy.
While he was competing in the Stren event, his wife went into labor back home in Lakeland, Tenn. In fact, Bull traveled three hours home last night to see his newborn then returned this morning just in time for takeoff and proceeded to fish the event on an estimated hour's worth of sleep.
"I'm about to pass out right now," Bull said onstage after fishing in the ferocious heat and humidity all day.
Bull's fish came from a single mussel bed-lined hump in about 14 feet of water located about 11 miles south of the takeoff.
"My big mistake the first day was leaving that spot," Bull said. "I started moving around and only ended up with 13-8 on day one. So the next three days I just camped there and discovered that spot had a load of fish on it. I bet my co-anglers and I combined pulled a hundred fish off that place - it was unreal."
To catch his fish, Bull relied on a Zoom Ol' Monster worm in red-bug with a 3/8-ounce Tru-Tungsten weight and a PJ's football-head jig (green-pumpkin) tipped with a Zoom chunk.
And since fishing is a game of pounds and ounces, it would only be fair to mention that Bull's new daughter, Amelia Rose, weighed in at 6 pounds, 14 ounces.
Abu Garcia pro George Jeane Jr. of Evans, La., finished fourth with a four-day total of 67-13 worth $7,134.
Jeane, too, fished the Paris-Danville area and focused on the grass edges lining the river.
He probed the grass edges with a Berkley 10-inch Power Worm (plum) and a 1-ounce grass jig made by Oldham's, which included a new Berkley Chigger Chunk.
"The edges of the grass were definitely the key for me," Jeane said. "I started the week by flipping the grass, but the second day I figured out the bigger fish were sitting out there in 12 to 13 feet on the edge of the grass."
Pro Sam Lashlee of Camden, Tenn., finished the event in fifth place with a four-day total of 66-14 worth $6,242.
Lashlee fished from Danville to the Blood River and tried to avoid the grass by fishing strictly bare ledges that were 12 to 15 feet on top.
His best baits included a 1/2-ounce Strike King football jig with a Rage Tail trailer in Texas Craw and a hand-poured 11-inch worm, which he favors on TVA impoundments.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros in the Stren Series event on Kentucky Lake:
6th: Ramie Colson of Cadiz., Ky., four-day total of 66-5, $5,350
7th: Bobby McMullin of Pevely, Mo., four-day total of 64-9, $4,905
8th: Lloyd Pickett of Bartlett, Tenn., four-day total of 64-6, $4,459
9th: Terry Bolton of Jonesboro, Ark., four-day total of 59-12, $4,012
10th: Scott Brummett of Brentwood, Tenn., four-day total of 57-11, $3,568
The fourth and final Stren Series of the Central Division will take place on Lake of the Ozarks Oct. 8-11.