May 30, 2014 by Curtis Niedermier
Jason Lambert wasn't complaining about catching 75 bass and weighing in a 24-pound, 3-ounce limit, but that doesn't mean everything went according to plan today.
The Pickwick Dam, Tenn., pro struggled to truly tap into the potential that's out there in Kentucky Lake right now, yet he still managed to up his two-day total to 48 pounds, 9 ounces and grab a slim 7-ounce lead going into the final day of the Rayovac FLW Series Central Division's second event.
"It was slow today - slow for Kentucky Lake," says Lambert. "At 1:30, I only had 16 pounds. I had two schools I was going to save, but I had to lean on them today. I caught 75 bass, but they just weren't the right ones."
Those 75 bass - along with the 100 or so he caught the first day - have turned Lambert's thumb into ground chuck, hence the tape job he employed to ease the pain today. Simply put, his issue hasn't been catching fish or even finding the right ledges that are holding tournament-winning fish. He's got waypoints in the area of all the schools he needs to win this thing. The problem is that there's no current to cause the fish to group up. Instead, they're roaming, and it's difficult to relocate them when close to 500 anglers competing in two major tournaments are crowded onto the same ledges.
"They're moving a lot, but even when they're moving you can still find them with the Lowrance," he says. "But you can't idle around on a ledge because as soon as you move there's another guy on them."
The best solution Lambert has devised is to run and gun, hopping from spot to spot in hopes he'll be able to pull in on an active school and capitalize. When it doesn't happen, he flicks the ignition switch and runs to the next place.
"I'm just trying to hit more spots," Lambert says. "I ran way down south, then back up north, then back down south again. I burned 52 gallons of gas today."
Tomorrow, Lambert's plan is to stick with the same swimbaits, crankbaits and jigs he's been using for the last two days, and to run around as much as it takes to get the 5-pound-class bites he'll need to win - especially if the pros get that critical current flow that can ignite the bite for everyone.
"If they'll turn on that water, you can smash them," Lambert says.
If it happens, we could see a final-round smashfest that'll make this anyone's tournament to win.
Lambert needs to fend off a top-10 field that is sandwiched together within 4 pounds of each other. And with local ace Brandon Hunter just 7 ounces off the lead, and names like Randy Haynes, Scott Canterbury, Michael Wooley, Todd Hollowell and Mark Rose behind him in the standings, Lambert has to get his chewed-up hands on some of Kentucky Lake's heaviest specimens.
2nd place - Brandon Hunter - 48 pounds, 2 ounces
Day-one leader Brandon Hunter felt a little bit flummoxed when he pulled his Ranger out of Kentucky Lake today. After a monster 27-pound, 9-ounce limit on day one, Hunter returned to his best spot today and struggled to find the kind of activity he was hoping for. He brought in 20 pounds, 9 ounces and slipped into second place.
"It's kind of a secondary [channel] spot, and they're roaming around," Hunter says of his primary area. "The lack of current and this slick, hot weather has them up off bottom. This hot summer weather has them wanting to get out on that main river. I had to do something completely different [than yesterday] to catch them.
"Yesterday I had 20 pounds there by 7 o'clock," Hunter adds. "I was really banking on that spot, and it didn't happen. It kind of hurt my feelings."
Hunter caught a 2-pounder from his first spot this morning, and that was it by 8 a.m. He then managed to tempt a 5-pounder by sliding out off the ledge to where he says the better-quality fish just aren't holding like yesterday. From there, Hunter went into scramble mode, which seems to have landed a big punch to his confidence.
"I don't have a clue what I'm going to do tomorrow," Hunter says. "I ran around a lot today and burned a lot of gas in that Mercury. I'm fortunate to have 20 pounds, to be honest with you.
"The winning fish are there," he adds. "It's just a matter of getting them to group up and turn on."
Translation: If he gets any combination of a windblown chop, cloud cover or current, Hunter can quickly reclaim his day-one lead. If not, he's going to have to find a Plan B to climb back into it.
3rd place - Randy Haynes - 47 pounds, 11 ounces
There's a dangerous man sitting less than 2 pounds off Jason Lambert's lead: ledge-fishing guru Randy Haynes. And he says he's going to "turn it loose" tomorrow.
"Today, I just stuck with what [locations] I caught them on yesterday," Haynes says. "Midday, I didn't think I had enough to make the cut, so I just stuck with what I knew. Tomorrow I'll probably go the other way. I've got them found all over the lake."
For Haynes, today was a slower day than what he experienced yesterday, both in terms of the fish catching and the pace. Yesterday, he hit about 30 spots.
"I didn't hit but about 10 today," he says. "There were just too many boats. It was a rough morning."
He used the same prototype Profound Outdoors crankbait - a subtle model that he says is effective at catching fish behind other anglers - as he used on day one, but also caught a few on a Texas-rigged worm and threw "a little bit of everything."
Today, Haynes never truly had what he considers a big bite, yet he still weighed 22 pounds, 10 ounces. If he gets a brute tomorrow, Kentucky Lake could once again be the stage for the Randy Haynes Ledge-Fishing show.
4th place - Scott Canterbury - 47 pounds, 10 ounces
Straight Talk pro Scott Canterbury made some noise at weigh-in with the heaviest stringer of the day - 24 pounds, 13 ounces.
He spent day two in the same area as where he opened the tournament, a four- to five-mile stretch that appears to have potential winning fish. On day one, he lost a 5-pounder there that would have given him another pound on his final limit. At 15 ounces off the two-day lead, that could have been a critical fish.
"I spent my whole practice looking deep and didn't know I had that kind of potential," he says. "Yesterday I laid off them. Today I tried to catch all I could, but today I had a big one [that weighed about 7 pounds] and yesterday I didn't."
Canterbury says the lack of current is causing his fish to move around "big time" - up to 100 yards from the spots where he caught them the first day.
Tomorrow, he'll go after them with the same handful of lures he's used for two days, including a Dirty Jigs California Swim Jig rigged with a Bruiser Super Swimmer swimbait, a football jig, a Bruiser Baits worm and the big crankbait that duped his best fish today.
5th place - Michael Wooley - 46 pounds, 10 ounces
Accomplished Kentucky Lake pro Michael Wooley moved up three spots in the standings on day two with a 22-pound, 8-ounce limit. He's less than 2 pounds off the lead.
For Wooley, the key to his success thus far has been a technique that hinges on a pair of Strike King lures - he might reveal their identity tomorrow.
"It definitely makes a big difference in catching a big bag and catching a `regular' bag," says Wooley of the technique.
Like many pros in the top 10, Wooley had to change up his locations today due to the heavy fishing pressure that's out there this week. Luckily, he had a back-up plan in place.
"Every spot I caught my fish off yesterday, I couldn't fish today," he says. "I had two spots I found in practice that were off the beaten path, and I really whacked them there. I believe I can get on them tomorrow too. There are still some fish there."
Wooley's got his fingers crossed that there'll be more current tomorrow, so he can take a shot at climbing a few more spots up the leaderboard and into contention for the win.
Rest of the best
6th place - Todd Hollowell - 45 pounds, 4 ounces
7th place - Ray Barga - 44 pounds, 14 ounces
8th place - Mark Pierce - 44 pounds, 12 ounces
9th place - Barry Wilson - 44 pounds, 5 ounces
10th place - Mark Rose - 44 pounds, 3 ounces
Click here for full results.
Webb wins tiebreaker, leads co-angler field
Co-angler Tim Webb has a lot to be thankful for going into the weekend. He's currently tied for the heaviest two-day stringer by a co-angler with 38 pounds, 8 ounces. He's the current co-angler leader due to a tiebreaker (Webb weighed 10 fish to second-place co-angler Tim Beale's nine). And today he experienced the kind of sportsmanship that makes bass fishing such a great sport.
"It went fabulous," Webb says about his day. "I had a limit by 7:15 in the morning, and I was able to cull two fish in the last half-hour. I had a great practice, and the Lord blessed me. My boater [Forrest Smith] knew he was out of it, but he was on the right kind of fish. He worked pretty hard to keep me around fish all day."
Webb says he's doing something a little different this week that he thinks is a key catalyst of his success. It's all based on a couple of lures, which he wasn't ready to reveal just yet.
Despite the tight weights in the co-angler top 10, and the ever-present possibility that one of his competitors could get in on a flurry of schooling bass activity on a ledge, Webb is feeling good about his odds at walking away with the keys to a new Ranger Z117.
"I'm definitely feeling pretty confident," he says.
2nd place - Tim Beale - 38 pounds, 8 ounces
3rd place - Shawn Overton - 37 pounds
4th place - Frank Divis Sr. - 34 pounds, 10 ounces
5th place - Damon Brown - 33 pounds, 15 ounces
6th place - Chuck Rounds - 33 pounds, 14 ounces
7th place - Joey Schmidt - 33 pounds, 4 ounces
8th place - Vince Denina - 32 pounds, 13 ounces
9th place - Roger Olson Jr. - 32 pounds, 7 ounces
10th place - Wes Hardman - 32 pounds, 1 ounce
Big Bass Awards
Pro: Billy Hurt - 8 pounds, 13 ounces
Co-angler: Roger Olson Jr. - 6 pounds, 3 ounces
The top 10 pros and co-anglers will launch at Jonathan Creek at daylight Saturday morning for the final day of competition, with $40,000 and a Ranger Z518C with 200-hp Evinrude or Mercury outboard at stake for the pros and a Ranger Z117 with 90-hp outboard on the line for co-anglers.
Location: Country Chevrolet, 104 W. 5th St., Benton, Ky.
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 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.