May 29, 2014 by Curtis Niedermier
There are no secrets on Kentucky Lake this week. If you want to catch a winning stringer, you'd better be ledge fishing.
Rayovac FLW Series anglers launched out of Kenlake State Resort Park this morning to near-perfect ledge-fishing conditions for the start of the second Central Division event of the season.
Largemouths and smallmouths throughout Kentucky Lake's 160,000 acres have pretty well wrapped up their spawn and are beginning to stage up in large schools on primary and secondary channel ledges. The water level is holding steady at around 359 feet above sea level, which means the shallow bush bite will not be a factor on Kentucky Lake, though some anglers will run to neighboring Lake Barkley, which is connected by a canal and produces a better shallow bite in early summer. Forecasts are for moderate winds that won't prevent anyone from running and gunning around the lake. And if power generation schedules remain consistent, there'll be daily "pulls" of power-generating current that should motivate bass to set up and feed heavily at times.
A few other options exist for catching limits, including a morning shad-spawn bite and junk-fishing shallow cover. But everyone knows that to catch the 25 pounds per day that it could take to win, the best odds are to park on a ledge and work over schools of bass with crankbaits, jigs, Texas rigs, Carolina rigs, spoons and swimbaits.
Dealing with pressure
According to some of the local favorites, the biggest challenges of this tournament will be finding the right schools that hold winning fish and dealing with the heavy fishing pressure of two major tournaments. The Rayovac event has 179 registered boaters, launching out of Kenlake in the central section of the reservoir's Kentucky waters. Farther south in Paris, Tenn., another major multiple-day event will commence on Friday with between 300 and 350 boats.
Winning the Rayovac title will come down to careful school management and who can capitalize when a top spot opens up.
"I know it's going to be crowded," says Indiana pro Todd Hollowell, a well-known Kentucky Lake stick. "I think there are fish in a lot of different places. They're scattered around. I just got here a few days ago, but the water temperature has come up 10 degrees in the last four or five days. It's just starting to warm up. The guy who finds a school of 4-pound-plus fish is going to win it."
Hollowell says he has spots waypointed throughout a 60-mile stretch of the lake, and he thinks the top 10 could be scattered even wider once the weekend cut is made.
Like most of the anglers in the field, Hollowell says he spent most of his practice period idling ledges with the big motor and staring at his electronics, rather than actually casting on his best spots. That strategy was about covering water and playing defense. During practice, anglers not only faced heavy pressure from bass fishermen practicing for the two tournaments this weekend, but also increased boat traffic during the Memorial Day weekend and the usual local fishing pressure that exists on this popular bass and panfish lake. A bent rod is like a beacon that invites unwanted company, so the safest strategy is to focus on locating schools and worry about figuring out the fish in the tournament. Other anglers chose to borrow unwrapped boats or fish their best spots only at dark. One well-known local even hinted at making an extreme run to the south end of Barkley, where he hopes to have water to himself.
Expect a slugfest
Reigning Kentucky Lake Rayovac champ Curt McGuire, a guide and local favorite from Paris, Tenn., won the 2013 event with a three-day total of 70 pounds, 3 ounces. He thinks this year's event could be an even bigger slugfest.
"There'll probably be bigger weights this year than last year," he says. "They haven't been pressured yet."
The 2013 event was held in mid-June, and anglers were confronted with high winds that made fishing tough. A late spring this year also held up the initial move to the ledges, so this week we'll see the very first wave of ledge bass being brought to tournament scales.
"There's still some transitioning going on," McGuire adds.
The timing also means that some of the traditional summer holes won't quite have their normal schools of bass, but according to Alabama Tour pro Barry Wilson, where you do find a school, it's usually a "mega-school."
"When you find them, they're set up and lined up," he says. "Fish are grouped together, but they're not everywhere yet. They should stay [on those spots] for awhile."
Wilson is confident that he's figured out a presentation that's a little different than what he saw other anglers using in practice. Most importantly, it's worked for him at times when the current has slacked off and fish have gone inactive.
And that's the final piece to the puzzle. When they're chomping, just about anyone can pull up to a school and quickly put a limit n the boat. The best ledge fishermen in the business, however, have a unique ability to make bass bite even when the school isn't firing.
Rest assured, this field includes some of the country's best ledge fishermen, and their skills will be on full display for three days in western Kentucky. Expect big weights and big bass on the big waters of Kentucky Lake.
Sunrise: 5:37 a.m.
Day's outlook: partly cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms in late afternoon
Extended weather forecast: high chances of scattered thunderstorms each day
Temperature at takeoff: upper 60s
Expected high temperature: mid-80s
Water temperature: upper 70s
Wind: south, southeast at less than 5 mph
Moon phase: new moon
Rayovac FLW Series event information
Location: Kenlake Resort State Park, 524 Kenlake Road, Hardin, Ky.
Time: 6 a.m.
Days 1 and 2 location: Kenlake Resort State Park, 524 Kenlake Road, Hardin, Ky.
Days 1 and 2 time: 2 p.m.
Day 3 location: Country Chevrolet, 104 W. 5th St., Benton, Ky.
Day 3 time: 4 p.m.
For those who can't catch the weigh-in action in person, FLWOutdoors.com offers FLW Live, an online application that brings fans real-time weigh-in results, streaming video and audio.
Pros will fish for a top award of $40,000 plus a Ranger Z518C with a 200-hp Evinrude or Mercury outboard if Ranger Cup guidelines are met. Co-anglers are competing for a top award of a Ranger Z117 with 90-hp Evinrude or Mercury outboard and $5,000 if Ranger Cup guidelines are met.
The Rayovac FLW Series consists of five divisions - Central, Northern, Southeast, Texas and Western. Each division consists of three tournaments, and competitors will be vying for valuable points in each division that could earn them the opportunity to fish in the Rayovac FLW Series Championship, to be held Oct. 30-Nov. 1 on Wheeler Lake in Rogersville, Ala.
The Rayovac FLW Series tournament on Kentucky Lake is being hosted by the Marshall County Tourist Commission.
For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow the Rayovac FLW Series on Facebook at Facebook.com/FLWFishing and on Twitter at Twitter.com/FLWFishing.