June 28, 2014 by Curtis Niedermier
Up and down. Up and down.
Kentucky Lake has been like a rollercoaster this week for the pros fishing the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Evinrude and hosted by Henry County Alliance.
One day is a whackfest, but the next is a grind. One hour can produce a 20-pound stringer, while the next hour is a zero.
The one pro who seems to have the most solid grasp on how to hang tight through fast, slow, up and down is Tom Redington. The Royse City, Texas, pro extended his lead on the third day of competition with an 18-pound, 13-ounce limit. It was a slower day, but enough to keep him at the top. His three-day total of 65-12 is 1 pound, 2 ounces ahead of pros Skip Johnson and Jason Lambert. And every one of the 10 pros who’ll fish the final day is within 4 pounds of the leader.
That’s one big Kentucky Lake keeper separating nine other pros from the title that Redington worked so hard for today.
“It was a tough day,” Redington says. “I went to my limit hole in the morning, and there were no fish there. I left after five minutes. I spent the first hour running around trying to find a school."
Redington relied heavily on his Lowrance depth finders to scan each spot and quickly judge the size and feeding potential of the bass hanging out there – a much more efficient way to compete than testing schools by fishing them.
He found schools, but they were the opposite of the mega-schools that Kentucky Lake is famous for. Redington wasn’t sure if it was boat pressure, sun, wind or some other factor that caused the change from yesterday, when he went on a two-hour flurry that produced his 24-pound, 9-ounce limit and helped him take the lead. Whatever it was, his schools busted up into smaller clusters, and he never was able to find a window of heavy activity where the right class of bass was feeding. Almost all day it was small schools and small bass – he caught nearly 25 keepers, just not the right ones.
“I never saw a good school where I hopped up on the trolling motor and thought, ‘Yeah, this is right,’” he says. “At first I kept running places to find the right school. Up north [in Kentucky waters], I could run around, but after the first 12 spots and no schools, I realized it was not going to happen. So I slowed down, hit the marginal schools and waited. That just happens sometimes with deep-water fishing.”
Today was more similar to Redington’s first day of competition. Back on Thursday, his grinding lures were “extreme” – jumbo, finesse, random colors. Today, it was a jig and worm that helped him cling to the lead, though he also caught fish on a swimbait. Redington relied on 7-foot, 4-inch to 7-foot, 6-inch Dobyns rods to launch long casts so that he could stay back off the schools and avoid spooking them even worse.
“Most of my fish were just those rats,” Redington adds. “I caught 12-inchers. I don’t know where they came from. It was weird. But tomorrow might be totally different.”
Redington’s strategy tomorrow, when he’ll be in the first boat to idle out of the marina at Paris Landing, is to fire up his Lowrance units and go looking for those perfect schools of bass in “attack formation.” If he finds them, expect a repeat of yesterday’s 24-plus performance. If the fish are still scattered, let’s hope this deep-water expert has a few tricks left to throw at them in his quest for a first Tour title.
2nd place – Skip Johnson – 64 pounds, 10 ounces
It was a great day for Skip Johnson, but considering what it could have been, the Michigan pro left weigh-in feeling like he’d missed a golden opportunity.
Johnson went through a stretch today where he lost three absolute pigs. He and his co-angler both agreed they were all at least 6 pounds, maybe approaching 7.
Unfortunately, the blunders continued for Johnson throughout the morning. He swung and missed, lost fish, and eventually lost all confidence in the jig that had been working so well for him. He ended up catching most of his weigh-in fish on a black-and-blue-neon Western Plastics worm.
Probably the most interesting part of Johnson’s program is the spot – actually 12 to 15 spots. They’re all scattered along a creek channel connected to the main shipping channel. He never even has to fire his outboard to move from waypoint to waypoint. The tops of the channel sides come up to about 10 feet, but he’s targeting the 12- to 15-foot range. On the map, it looks like a spot somewhere in between a traditional summer hole and a postspawn transition spot.
“I don’t know this lake good enough to know what their transition is, but I know this spot is reloading from the shipping channel,” Johnson says. “I’m literally following them in. I actually followed the channel all the way to the back just to see if they were there.”
Thus far, Johnson has had the spot almost entirely to himself, and no one else fished it today.
“I have other stuff, but I won’t be deviating at all,” he says. “It’s been way too good. I just don’t think I’ll be throwing the jig as much. If I get bit, they’re gonna be stuck.”
Pickwick Dam, Tenn., pro Jason Lambert’s hot streak continues this week. He made his third consecutive Tennessee River top 10, locked up the Rookie of the Year title and is in easy striking distance of his first Walmart FLW Tour victory heading into Sunday’s competition.
Today he had one of those “slow days” that the Tennessee River’s big shots so often complain about – you know, when you catch 21 pounds, 2 ounces and still feel like you left something more out there.
“I lost two good ones,” says Lambert. He’s been throwing the new 8-inch Ben Parker Signature Series Magnum Spoon, soon to be available from Nichols Lures. Both of his lost fish were hooked on the spoon. “That’s the downside to that thing. They’ll dump it. It’s aggravating. But a lot of times you’ll throw the swimbait, throw the swimbait, throw the swimbait and nothing. Then you’ll throw that spoon and get bit, but you dump one. But I guess you’ve got to get bit first if you’re going to catch them.”
Per his usual routine, Lambert fed his outboard plenty of fuel today. He fished 30 spots, starting with his best big-fish place, where he estimates he spent one and a half to two hours first thing this morning.
“I’ve got a shallow school down south that you can’t see [on the depth finder].” Lambert says. “I have to fish for them. It’s old-school. Today I caught a limit there, with a 6-pounder.
“Hopefully tomorrow I can find a school that’ll fire. That’s the problem. Today I couldn’t get them to fire.”
Lambert culled fish throughout the morning until about noon, then he lost the two big ones. Tomorrow, he’ll need perfect execution to make a lunge for the lead.
“I just hope they’re still there,” he says. “We beat on them pretty good this week.”
Day-one leader Brett Hite had a quiet second day with just 16 pounds, 13 ounces. But today, he reminded us of just how much potential his best area has this week.
Hite weighed 22 pounds, 11 ounces to climb eight spots up the standings and earn his ticket to fish the final day.
On day one, Hite hammered away on one school to get all he could – figuring other anglers would find it too. He spent the rest of that day playing defense to try and keep anyone else away.
On day two, he went back to the spot, and they weren’t there. When he went to his second area, which he felt had just as much potential as the first, he found another top 20 angler already fishing there. Left to scramble, Hite never really got into a rhythm, and his timing suffered. It wasn’t until later in the day that he was able to get in and piece things back together.
“Yesterday I was just a little out of synch,” says Hite of the second day. “But they started feeding there in the afternoon, and I started to figure it out.
“Today, I went to the first spot and caught two keepers right away,” he adds. “Then I went to the second spot and never left.”
An early 15-pound limit helped Hite find his timing.
“You feel it,” he says. “When you pull up and maybe get a bite, it quickly makes you settle down. When you can catch two right off the bat and then get a limit on a second spot in 30 minutes, that lets you relax and slow down.”
The area he’s fishing is one he found about six years ago. He says the two key spots were obvious to him, even though they don’t really show up on the map.
“It doesn’t really look that great on the graph, but stuff down south [Kentucky Lake’s upper end] is different,” he says. “It’s a lot shallower. I don’t really graph them. I’ll search for them the old-school way, running down the ledge with a crankbait.”
Hite reports catching 30 to 40 keepers. He’s dialed in on his areas and is relying on six lures and some minor adjustments to keep the action going.
“It’s a spot where you’re going to make that same cast and catch two or three, then it’ll die down,” he says. “Then you have to find that next cast that makes them bite again.”
Yesterday, Snickers pro Jim Moynagh admitted he was a bit flummoxed by Kentucky Lake. He was never really able to figure out how to trigger the fish in his schools and had to really grind to put together his 22-pound, 12-ounce limit.
Today, he experienced a bit more of the same, but only during intermittent periods of slow action. He weighed a 19-pound, 9-ounce limit. Eliminating the downtime is the next piece of the puzzle if he wants to make a run at Redington on the final day.
“I just need to get rid of the downtime during the day when I’m not catching them,” he says. “If I can have a day when I go from one spot and catch them then to the next spot and catch them all day, then I’ll be OK.”
Moynagh is only rotating through seven or eight key spots, using mostly jigs, swimbaits and crankbaits. His areas don’t require extremely precise casts. In fact, he’s able to work along the structure and still be in the fish.
“It’s not a one-angle type of place,” he says. “They have plenty of elbow room, or maybe that’d be plenty of fin room.”
Tomorrow is all about reacting to the conditions for Moynagh. He has a “loose idea” of how he’ll approach his spots. Then he’ll just need to execute as well as he did today and hope he can keep the schools firing more consistently.
“The key today was that all the good ones stayed on the hook,” Moynagh says. “I didn’t catch a whole lot of fish today. I caught maybe 10. I did lose some small ones, but all the good ones stayed on the hook, thankfully.”
Rest of the best
6th place – Tim Malone – 63 pounds, 6 ounces
7th place – Randy Haynes – 63 pounds, 2 ounces
8th place – Clent Davis – 62 pounds, 11 ounces
9th place – Andrew Upshaw – 62 pounds, 6 ounces
10th place – Scott Canterbury – 62 pounds, 2 ounces
For complete results, click here.
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.
Location: Walmart, 1210 Mineral Wells Avenue, Paris, Tenn.
Time: 4 p.m.
Date: Saturday and Sunday, June 28-29
Location: Walmart, 1210 Mineral Wells Avenue, Paris, Tenn.
Time: noon to 4 p.m.
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.