UPCOMING EVENT: Walmart Bass Fishing League - 2016 - Lake Okeechobee

Kentucky Lake: The pressure is palpable

Barry Wilson hooks up with a good one.

PARIS LANDING, Tenn. – If the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Evinrude needed a theme song, David Bowie’s rendition of  “Under Pressure” would be as good as it gets. The entire field will be under more pressure than usual as the four-day competition opens this morning. There’s the pressure to win or at least take advantage of a final opportunity to take home a good check this season, the pressure to pull out all the stops and make up ground in the Angler of the Year standings and gain entry into the Forrest Wood Cup, the pressure to not take chances and lose a shot at the Cup – and so it goes.

A lot is riding on this, the last qualifying event on the 2014 Tour, and the contestants couldn’t ask for a better playing field. Kentucky Lake is home to plenty of bass, and it accommodates practically all fishing styles and presentations. The question is not whether the fishing will be good, but how good it will be for the favored few who’ll contend for the $100,000 first-place prize and perhaps a ticket to Lake Murray at Columbia, S.C., in August for the Forrest Wood Cup.

Anglers saluting the flag for the national anthem.

FLW Director of Tournament Operations Bill Taylor isn’t wondering if many fish will be caught this week during the event – just how big they need to be to contend.

“Based on what I’ve seen and heard about being caught in local tournaments, I predict there will be at least 35 stringers that weigh 20 pounds or better,” says Taylor. “As was the case at Pickwick, it appears we’re hitting Kentucky Lake just right this year. A lot of fish are still moving to the ledges, and they haven’t been pressured too much yet. There are still plenty of fish in closer to the banks, too, though it’s debatable whether anybody can find the size there they need to win. There’s a ton of 3-pound fish on the ledges, but to win an angler needs to find that better average size of 4 to 6 pounds.”

Perhaps of some concern to the competitors is the weather that awaits them, and how wind affects the vast expanse of Kentucky Lake. Summer thunderstorms are always a possibility, and travelling by boat on the wide-open impoundment can be no fun when windswept water starts moving in one direction or another. Longtime Kellogg’s pro Jim Tutt recalls only one tournament in which heavy seas forced him to phone for a trailer and tow vehicle to come and get him, and that was at Kentucky Lake.

As recently as 2011, during the same time frame in June, Tour anglers were treated to a roller-coaster ride. High waves might have cost local pro Ramie Colson the title, as he led the tournament at the second day with fish he caught at the end of a long run to Lake Barkley. Rough weather the third and fourth days curtailed his fishing time, however, and he ended up in fourth. Chad Grigsby, the winner, was chased off his best ledge spots by 4-foot whitecaps, but he had enough shallow fish in the coves to make up the difference.  

Local ace Brandon Hunter putting his life vest on prior to getting in the water.

Colson, Randy Haynes, Michael Wooley, Mark Rose, Jason Lambert, Michael Neal – there are almost too many favorites to name in this event. Local favorites such as Dan Morehead, Terry Bolton, Brandon Hunter and the Hollowell brothers – Todd and Troy – can’t be counted out either, nor can such veterans as Andy Morgan, Brent Ehrler, David Dudley and Randall Tharp.

“I feel as good or better about this tournament as I did about Pickwick,” says Neal, who was runner-up to Greg Hackney at Pickwick. “I don’t know if I can catch the quality of fish here that I caught at Pickwick, but I don’t know that anybody else can either.”

Michael Neal, who has been one of the most confident anglers leading into this event, has an iON camera rigged to capture the action.

Colson is one of those who doesn’t plan to take any chances with his high placement in the AOY standings. Lake Barkley can wait for another time, as he’s staying in Kentucky Lake where he knows he can catch limits every day. As is the case with Neal, the quality of the fish Colson located in practice is in question.

“I did more looking than fishing in practice and marked a lot of spots,” says Colson. “I don’t know how good the fish are. I’ll find out today. I want to win this tournament, but I’m playing the safer game and staying with my closer spots. My head tells me to fish my home lake (Barkley) where I know what’s waiting, but I’m also looking at making the Cup, so …

“The critical part for me is going to be boat draw [Colson is the second boat in the second flight, or the 20th boat leaving Paris Landing Marina]. My best fishing has come early, and that’s when I might be able to do some damage. Once the sun gets up overhead, the fish move; I don’t know where they go to or what they’re doing after that.”

As far as the out-of-towners are concerned, Rayovac pro Jacob Wheeler still might have enough steam churning after claiming the title at BASSfest on Lake Chickamauga a couple of weekends ago. The Hoosier angler knocked off some of the best sticks of the B.A.S.S. crew in winning by almost 6 pounds. Wheeler’s performance graph thus far reveals top-25 finishes in three qualifiers, but he stumbled at Pickwick with a 96th-place showing. Maybe BASSfest, which followed Pickwick, was his grudge match.

Scott Canterbury with his 21-pound-plus stringer that was disqualified for late arrival because of boat issues.

If anybody has a grudge to settle at Kentucky Lake, it’s Scott Canterbury. The Straight Talk Wireless pro was in 14th place heading into the Pickwick tournament a couple of weeks ago. Then he had engine trouble on the second day, and his 21-pound-plus stringer was disqualified for late arrival back at the boat ramp. Canterbury finished the tournament in 144th place. Worse yet, he dropped to 41st in the Angler of the Year standings, and his performance at Kentucky Lake will decide if he’s going to the Forrest Wood Cup in August.

Don’t cry for Canterbury yet, though; it might not be such a nail-biter for him. In the Rayovac FLW Series tournament out of Kenlake State Resort Park on Kentucky Lake prior to Pickwick, he placed sixth behind some of the lake’s biggest heavy hitters, including Haynes, Lambert, Rose, Hunter and Barry Wilson, and just ahead of Wooley and Todd Hollowell.

Greg 'Hack Attack' Hackney is sitting pretty coming off his win at the FLW Tour event on Pickwick Lake.

Although Kentucky Lake is expected to be a ledge-fishing extravaganza, you can bet that competitors will investigate any slicks seen floating on the water – shallow or deep. Greg Hackney taught them that lesson at Pickwick, where he discovered a gizzard shad spawn that was attended by hungry, apparently unpressured bass. Hackney won that event with almost 100 pounds of fish caught from a 5-foot-deep spot where the concentration of fish was so great that the oil from their bodies caused a slick on the surface.

We might dismiss Hackney’s gold mine as being – in the clipped parlance of anglers who can’t explain the inexplicable – “one of those deals.” Chances are it won’t be repeated on this, the big kahuna of the Tennessee River chain, but you never know. Kentucky Lake is full of gizzard shad.

Thursday’s conditions

Sunrise: 5:33 a.m.

Temperature at takeoff: 69 degrees

Expected high temperature: 89 degrees

Water temperature: high 70s to low 80s

Wind: SSW up to 10 to 15 mph

Day’s outlook: Sunny in the morning with 50 percent chance of afternoon thunderstorms. Southwest winds 5 to 10 mph or higher in thunderstorms

Extended forecast: Highs in the mid- to upper 80s with partly cloudy skies and chance of evening thunderstorms through Friday; hotter with diminishing chance of showers on Saturday; partly cloudy Sunday with a high in the low 90s

Moon phase: waning crescent moon

Competition format

In Walmart FLW Tour competition, pros and co-anglers are randomly paired each day, with pros supplying the boat, controlling boat movement and competing against other pros. Co-anglers fish from the back deck against other co-anglers. The full field competes in the two-day opening round. After day two the field is pared to the top 20 pros and co-anglers. The co-angler competition concludes at Saturday’s weigh-in, and the top 10 pros continue competition Sunday, with the winner determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from all four days.

For more coverage

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.

In addition to FLW Live, FLWOutdoors.com offers real-time updates from the water. Simply click on the tournament ID within the “On the Water” banner at the top of the FLW or Walmart FLW Tour home pages.

Walmart FLW Tour event information


Location: Paris Landing State Park, 16055 Highway 79 North, Buchanan, Tenn.

Time: 6:30 a.m.


Thursday and Friday location: Paris Landing State Park, 16055 Highway 79 North, Buchanan, Tenn.

Time: 2:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday

Saturday and Sunday location: Walmart, 1210 Mineral Wells Avenue, Paris, Tenn.

Time: 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

FLW Expo

Date: Saturday and Sunday, June 28-29

Location: Walmart, 1210 Mineral Wells Avenue, Paris, Tenn.

Time: noon to 4 p.m.

Admission: FREE

Free Concert: See country star Michael Ray live in concert Sunday at 3 p.m. Admission is free.

Activities: Fans are welcome to join FLW for the FLW Expo at the Walmart, 1210 Mineral Wells Avenue, Paris, Tenn. Come meet Walmart FLW Tour pros, who’ll be on site signing autographs. Families can enjoy interactive games, explore the Walmart Kids Zone, receive free samples, drive a Ranger Boat simulator and have a chance to win a $250 Walmart gift card.

Tags: morning-story 


Rain Raises the Bar

When the 171 pros and their co-angler equivalents roll out of Paducah, Ky., onto the Ohio, Tennessee and Cumberland rivers on Thursday morning they’ll have to contend with conditions that are totally different from practice. READ MORE »


A Mixed Bag at Clear Lake

Clear Lake is famous for a good reason. Not only does it hold some giants, it’s home to tremendous amounts of fish over five pounds apiece. October tournaments on Clear in the last few years have shown some of the lake’s tremendous potential, with big ones grouped up and big-time numbers caught by many. READ MORE »


Hunting Erie’s Brown Fish

It’s going to be an Easter egg hunt on Lake Erie, but at least the great lake will behave a little better during the final Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division event than it did during practice. READ MORE »


2015 Forrest Wood Cup Off and Running

If the fishing matches the weather on the opening day of the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita, there will be plenty of limit stringers brought to the scales in Hot Springs’ Bank of the Ozarks Arena when the weigh-in commences at 5 p.m. Up until a couple of weather forecasts ago, anglers were anticipating hot, miserable weather during all four days of this, the crowning event of the Walmart FLW Tour season, which is hosted by Visit Hot Springs and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. Passing thunderstorms Tuesday afternoon brought a pleasant respite to the sultry heat, however, and now Cup contenders only have sulking bass to contend with as they vie for tournament fishing’s richest prize: a winner’s purse of $500,000. READ MORE »


Up and Down on Dardanelle

Tournament fishing inherently has its ups and downs, but Rayovac FLW Series Central Division anglers are getting a concentrated dose of this angling truism on Lake Dardanelle. An Army Corps of Engineers impoundment of the Arkansas River, Dardanelle has seen its water level fluctuate with recent rains and the Corps’ efforts to moderate this flow. Dam releases have pulled the lake down enough to reposition fish. READ MORE »


North or South on Champlain?

With waves 1 to 3 feet and thunderstorms in the offing as day one of the Rayovac FLW Series event presented by Plano gets under way on Lake Champlain, the anglers will have a tall task no matter which direction they run. READ MORE »


A Capital Challenge

Rivers can be rollercoasters, and the Potomac River might be about to give the anglers fishing the Walmart FLW Tour finale a tough ride. Two nasty storm systems have blown through in the last few days. According to FLW Tour pro and local Michael Hall, those could have been the two worst things to happen leading up to the tournament. “After 30 years of fishing here, I know storms impact the bass on this river,” says Hall. “Those storms have certainly done that. The wind alone would have done it this week.” READ MORE »


The Sun Rises on the 2015 All-American

Practice day Wednesday saw temperatures in the high 80s, with more sultry weather on tap for today. Like many others, Schroeder spent most of the day riding around and checking spots with his electronics. Though undoubtedly fish will be caught from the miles of weedbeds in the lower end of the lake below Paris Landing, he figures it will be a ledge bite that wins. READ MORE »


Deep or Shallow at Chickamauga?

There was no sentimentality attached to the smartphone photos anglers were showing off to each other prior to the Wednesday afternoon rules meeting of the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Chickamauga. The photos weren’t of loved ones back home; rather, they were shots of big largemouth bass the fishermen had caught and released during practice earlier this week. In fact, there was a surprising number of such photos making the rounds, which suggests that the kind of hefty bass that can make or break a tournament for an angler are there ready and waiting as the four-day event presented by Igloo Coolers got underway this morning out of Dayton Boat Dock. READ MORE »


Northern Rayovacs Kick Off on the James

Ostensibly, the Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division tournament presented by Mercury that began this morning is taking place on the James River, but much of the fishing focus will be centered on the Chickahominy River – or Chick, as it’s affectionately known locally. “This tournament is typically won out of the Chick,” says North Carolina pro Jamey Caldwell of the James River tributary. “There are some great bags coming out of the [James] river right now, but I just feel that those big fish are a little more sporadic. I’m going to hang out in the Chick and hope for the best.” READ MORE »


Seminole Summer

Last week, the Walmart FLW Tour plied the waters of the Chattahoochee River on Lake Eufaula. This week, the Rayovac FLW Series moves 60 miles south on the “Hooch” to Lake Seminole for the final event of the Southeast Division. Running offshore brush piles was the dominant theme on Eufaula last week, leaving some to wonder if a similar pattern could work on Seminole, since the two legendary lakes are connected by the same river. READ MORE »


Shallow, Deep and in Between at Eufaula

A couple of weeks ago Eufaula was high and off-color, and the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Quaker State that begins this morning was shaping up to be a shallow-water showdown. The lake has fallen by a couple of inches since then, however, and now the odds are even that both inshore and offshore patterns will be in play. In fact, one Eufaula expert who isn’t fishing the tournament expects it will take a mixture of patterns to make it to Sunday’s championship round and claim the $100,000 that goes to the winner. READ MORE »


Anything Goes at the Cal Delta

There are 127 pros entered in the Rayovac FLW Series Western Division tournament presented by Ranger at the California Delta this week. If you asked them all what their baits or tactics are for the first day of competition today, you might get 127 different answers. At some fisheries that FLW’s tournament circuits visit, such varied and often vague responses from pros when they’re prompted for fishing info are the result of them attempting to stealthily hide their fishing patterns. That’s not exactly the case at this tournament. The fact is, the California Delta is one of the most vast and varied fisheries that hosts FLW events. It’s a collection of unique mini-fisheries all rolled into one, with dirty water, clean water, tons of vegetation and other factors tossed into the mix. It’s a tidal fishery, so the water levels and currents fluctuate throughout each day. And, of course, it’s spring in California, and because of the vastness of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and the delta system they feed, with its 1,000 miles of waterways, there are populations of bass in all stages of the spawn in their own little geographic areas. READ MORE »


In or Out on Kentucky Lake



Texoma Tough, but Stabilizing

As of press time, we were unable to confirm whether or not Troy Broussard has ever suffered a barnyard assault by any beast of burden. Nevertheless, his colorful metaphor bespeaks a challenging scenario facing the Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division field on Lake Texoma for this week’s finale, which is presented by Evinrude. From Broussard’s facebook page: “Well, after three full days [of practice] on Lake Texoma, I can honestly say that I compare this to getting kicked in the face by a mule. It’s brutal.” Allusions aside, the big Ouachita River reservoir straddling the Texas-Oklahoma border has indeed shown its persnickety side of late. Blame Mother Nature for that. READ MORE »


Tricky Transition at Beaver

Though Beaver Lake is an annual stop for the Walmart FLW Tour, that doesn’t mean it is an easy lake to decipher. This year’s event, which is presented by Rayovac, is later into the spring than usual and is causing some major head scratching among the 154 pros in the field. There’s no doubt that some fish can be found on beds, however, they are mostly small. The consensus is that a lot of fish are stuck in limbo between the spawn and prespawn phase on this White River impoundment. READ MORE »


Fog Delays Grand Lake Start

It’s no secret that the first Rayovac FLW Series Central Division event of the year on Grand Lake has collided perfectly with the spawn. Nearly every shallow pocket on the lake holds dozens upon dozens of bass that are eager to do their deed. The 197 pros making up a record-setting Central Division field could hardly contain themselves to get on the water this morning. The only issue was fog – and lots of it. With a 7 a.m. CT takeoff planned, a heavy blanket of fog delayed the start of the tournament, which is presented by Power-Pole, until 8:30, when the fog lifted enough for safe travel but was still hanging around just enough to be a hindrance to those looking to sight-fish. READ MORE »


Weather Woes Greet College Anglers

It was supposed to be a shallow-water bassfest, with largemouths and spots roaming Lake Murray’s shoreline to feast on spawning blueback herring. That still might happen as the FLW College Fishing National Championship plays out the next three days here, but the fishing is more likely to be ad lib than follow any script. The dreary, damp weather that settled over the region Wednesday during the last day of practice is the culprit. Not only did it hamper the efforts of contestants looking for the last bedding fish of the season, but also those depending on a consistent blueback herring bite to gin up the action. Still, the consensus of opinion is that one pattern or the other will prevail, and settle the question of college bragging rights for the next year as well as send the winning team to the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita in August. READ MORE »


Swollen Rayburn Challenges Anglers

High water, high winds and high hopes – that’s the forecast for the Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division event on Sam Rayburn Reservoir presented by Mercury, which kicked off today at the Umphrey Family Pavilion. Torrential rains of recent weeks have swollen this Angelina River impoundment, and a huge downpour last weekend has all but stymied efforts to lower the water level. Currently, the lake sits about 5 feet above normal – a level not seen here in more than 15 years. Realistically, anglers aren’t looking for much, if any, decline this week – particularly given the approaching storm system. READ MORE »


Front and Center

There is little doubt it’s coming. The uncertainty lies in what will happen because of it. If the forecast holds true, at some point this evening the severe weather system that dropped tornados across the central plains Wednesday will arrive at Lewis Smith Lake. Along with the rain and thunder, the front promises to bring with it a significant drop in temperature, with lows projected in the low 30s by the weekend. It’s a storm that looms over the 154 pros and co-anglers set to fish the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Evinrude and hosted by the Walker County Chamber of Commerce. And while they, the anglers, should stay dry, the weather might be the key question mark for a tournament already overflowing with them. READ MORE »