Living the "dream"

JT Kenney

Editor's Note: The writer's opinions and observations expressed here are his own, and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views, policies or positions of FLW. The media does a great job of covering bass tournaments. It's easy to find out who won the tournament, what the winning pattern was, and who ended up in the top five or 10. That being said, have you ever wanted to hear about the train wrecks that happen at every event that you never get to hear about? Well, here's one for you. Not that it involves anyone you know - just follow along: As an angler, you do everything right, plan and prepare for weeks leading up to an event. You have everything in order, and everything is set. You found fish in practice - good ones, and they are biting. You're pumped, you're ready and the tournament is finally here. "Boat No. 16." You hear your boat number called out. Excitedly, you raise your hand as you idle past the checkout and then stand on the throttle. You're on your way; this is gonna be a good one ... Then, "WHACK, followed by, "BANG-BOOM." "What in the heck was that?" you wonder as you come off plane. Then you spot it, a floating log just barely brushing the surface of the water, and it just took out your gear case. You curse, spit, curse again and yell something about that dirty darn log and all the rain that floated it down. You put in the trolling motor and start making your way back to the dock. When you arrive, you're thankful that Jay and the shore crew from Mercury are waiting for you with their bag of tricks. You're back on the water by midmorning and speed to your best stretch of the lake. The problem is that you find two other boats already on it, and they're culling. You, being the professional you are, show due respect and professional courtesy and let them have it. They were there first, and that's that. You go to some backup stuff and scratch out a small limit; enough to keep you in it. Later that night you find out that the two boats on your best stuff are in second and fourth. You shake it off because you know you can go smash 'em tomorrow. Day two starts, and before long you're flying down the lake when you remember an area that looked like your best stuff, but where you actually didn't get bit in practice. It's warmed up. Hey, let's go try it. You turn the boat around, and before long you're fishing. On your second cast, "BOOM," a 4-pounder is in the boat, and a few casts later a 3-pounder joins it in the bucket. Here we go! It's on now. A little while goes by, and "BAM," it's a big 'un, 6-plus ... and it jumps off right at the net. Two casts later, another big 'un. Halfway to the boat it pulls off. You get your plug back, and the back hook has pulled out. Your 25-year-old Wiggle Wart has seen its last cast. And you've lost 10 pounds of fish in five minutes. Meanwhile, it's starting to get late in the day, and the panic is setting in. Important things are slipping away: Forrest Wood Cup points, world rankings and, oh yeah, the mortgage payment that's due along with the health insurance premium - the power bill is already weeks overdue. Not to worry about the MasterCard payment, though, because the VISA card has enough left on it to cover the minimum payment. First things first. You've got two fish for 7 pounds. You know you need 9 pounds for a 10-grand check and valuable points. You've got one hour left to catch a 2-pounder worth $10,000. Can do, not a problem; no, wait, it doesn't happen. You're spent - mentally, physically and financially. It's hard to group words together to make a proper sentence. Well, it's over now, and nothing else can be done. You see the guys that were on your first spot the first day have moved up to first and second in the standings. That just caps it. Well, not really. Now comes the phone calls. Mom calls to let you know that, "That finish is gonna hurt you in the standings for the Cup." Girlfriend calls to remind you, "Your bills are getting behind again." And then there are your buddies asking, "What happened?" Unintentionally, of course, your family and friends constantly remind you that you're a failure in that you've invested so much of your time, energy and emotion into so little purpose. But you know it's more than that. You've invested your soul, your whole self into it. And now for the next day, the day after you didn't make the cut. Time to attend the Expo and greet the fans. To you it feels like four hours of people (unwittingly) ridiculing you by asking the simple questions of "What happened?" or "Didya catch 'em?" Over and over again for the next four hours. And during those four hours you have to repeat over and over, "No, I finished 107th." The hours crawl by, and it's finally over. You get packed up and ready to head for home, though you're still not done. There's one more Expo and four more hours of "What happened?" and "Didya catch 'em?" Then it really is over, and you're rolling coal outta there. You listen to FLW Live on the 20-hour drive home. The guys that were on your spot ended up first and second. You hear all the cheers and applause. Why is your head not exploding? Because you're already thinking, planning and preparing for the next event. The last tournament is over, and the slate has been wiped clean. Redemption is the only thing on your mind as you make the long drive home, though maybe the aforementioned bills that are past due rear their ugly heads now and then. Through the negative, there is light. You really are fishing for a living. It's not quite as glorious and glamorous as you once thought. But you really are living the dream. You really are doing something that most of your friends and peers only wish they could do. You really do have thousands of fans that adore you all over the country. And you're okay with the lesson that all professional anglers have to learn and make peace with: While you're living the dream, there might be a night terror or two along the way.

Tags: blog  jt-kenney 

/news/2015-03-18-garrick-dixon-gallery-the-best-of-jt-at-toho

Garrick Dixon Gallery: The Best of JT at Toho

Photographer Garrick Dixon followed Walmart FLW Tour pro JT Kenney for four days as Kenney pieced together his wire-to-wire win at the season opener on Lake Toho. In this gallery, Dixon shares with FLW fans his favorite shots of Kenney on the water, at weigh-in and behind the scenes. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-18-expect-change-and-adapt-to-it

Expect Change and Adapt to It

Ish Monroe explains how to adapt to changing conditions and recommends to always fish your strengths in this weeks blog. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-17-so-you-want-to-be-a-co-angler-

So You Want to be a Co-Angler?

First and foremost, I know I’m fishing the tournament as a co-angler and I make sure that I not only stay out of my pro’s way, but I do what I can to assist him throughout the day. This starts at the ramp with assisting him with the launch where possible. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-16-a-30-piece-puzzle-with-four-pieces-missing

A 30-Piece Puzzle with Four Pieces Missing

The whole time I was down in Florida during the FLW Tour opener on Lake Toho I felt like I was trying to put together a 30-piece puzzle with four pieces missing. The weather was right, the water temperature was right, the thousands of acres of vegetation looked right, but one thing was wrong: the fish! READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-12-a-clean-slate

A Clean Slate

The 2015 season opener of the Walmart FLW Tour wasn’t at Okeechobee, as in recent years, but at Lake Toho in central Florida. I was excited about the change, and even more pumped to start a fresh new season after blowing my motor on day one of the first event last year. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-08-kenney-connects-the-dots

Kenney Connects the Dots

Mercury pro JT Kenney was as confident as he could be early in the week at the Walmart FLW Tour season-opener on Lake Toho. He had an incredibly refined plan built on a series of precisely placed waypoints. The waypoints marked isolated spawning areas within beds of lily pads. In the first two days of competition, Kenney looked unstoppable with limits weighing 29-14 and 22-9, respectively, to build a lead of 12-10. On day three, Kenney looked human. His limit of 14-5 could have left the door open – but after weigh-in Kenney’s lead shrank by only 2 ounces. And today, it looked as if the king, despite a massive lead, was about to give up his crown. Kenney weighed in only 9 pounds, 4 ounces. But that was enough. The Florida pro squeezed through by an 11-ounce winning margin to win the first Tour event of 2015. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-08-strader-striding-kenney-gaining-steam

Strader Striding, Kenney Gaining Steam

Wesley, Wesley, Wesley. If anyone is going to catch JT Kenney and overtake his 12-pound, 8-ounce lead, it appears as if Wesley Strader is the man to do it. He lit up the leaderboard and FLW’s On The Water feed yesterday when he caught more than 21 pounds in one short midday flurry. Now he’s doing it again on day four. Strader has a 9-pounder in the boat and a limit estimated at more than 20 pounds. Most of that limit was in the boat by about 9:30, leaving him plenty of time to upgrade. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-07-kenney-on-cruise-control

Kenney on Cruise Control

For those who don’t believe that professional fishing is a game of offense and defense like any other sport, consider JT Kenney’s strategy for the last three days of the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Toho presented by Mercury. The first two days, Kenney ran pure “offensive plays” on key, precise bedding areas to run up the score. Today, he ran more “defensive plays” to protect his lead. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-07-a-morning-with-the-leader

A Morning with the Leader

Sullen gray skies and a gusting northeast wind contrast with the weather on opening day of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Mercury here on Lake Toho. JT Kenney jumped out to the lead with a solid stringer of almost 30 pounds on Thursday, but Saturday is altogether different, and expectations match the weather. No pattern is weatherproof, including Kenney’s, but at least he knows that neither is anyone else’s. The brisk northeast wind is scooting his boat along at a fairly fast clip, and he’s fishing a spinnerbait that helicopters with every cast. To this point, the spinnerbait hasn’t attracted more than a small pickerel and two small bass in the first hour of the semi-final round. Still, the veteran pro has been here before, and knows what a change of weather will do to Florida bass. Gradually, the wind will lay and the day will grow warmer. Kenney is saving his better spots for then. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-07-giants-are-falling-at-toho

Giants are Falling at Toho

Let’s jump right into the details: Wesley Strader caught a 6-pounder and has a limit approaching 20 pounds. He’s the daily leader so far, but he’s got a ways to go to catch Kenney, who has a 4-pounder in his livewell. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-06-kenney-crushing-the-field

Kenney Crushing the Field

Day two of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Mercury on Lake Toho saw JT Kenney extend his lead to 12 pounds, 10 ounces over second-place pro Stacey King with a 22-9 limit. Kenney has lived near Toho for some time and prepared meticulously for this event – it appears to be paying off. Fishing in Kissimmee all day, he managed another strong bag on a day when weather changes caused many in the top of the ranks to stumble. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-06-top-5-patterns-from-toho-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from Toho Day 2

At halftime in the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Toho presented by Mercury, it’s looking like it could be a runaway by tournament leader JT Kenney. Of course, it’s bass fishing and anything can happen, but the latest frontal system rolling through Florida seems to have certainly stymied the bed-fish bonanza that many expected. As a result, the most productive areas from the last two days have been beat down by fishing pressure and are not recovering or replenishing very well. Here’s a look at how the rest of the top finishers managed to overcome challenging conditions on day two to stay at least within striking range of the leader. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-06-toho-midday-report-day-2

Toho Midday Report Day 2

If you’ve been following the FLW On The Water feed, you might have seen a slight uptick in the reports in the last hour or so. A crisp north wind, which was cold enough to force many anglers into their rain gear this morning, seems to have tapered off to a breeze. Down south on Kissimmee the sun is shining. And as the weather has improved, so too has the bite – as evidenced by the sudden surge in fish-catching reports. The increase in action is good news for many anglers who experienced slower fishing this morning than yesterday. Stacey King, who came into today in second place, is among that group. Unfortunately for day-one leader JT Kenney, “slow” for King is still pretty good. He’s got a limit, including a pair of 4-pounders, and has already culled. That makes King our unofficial leader right now. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-05-jt-tees-off

JT Tees Off

There was fuel, and there was flame. The fuel was in the form of a delayed largemouth bass spawn on Lake Toho that had been pushed back for several weeks due to low water temperatures and high water flows through the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. The biological clocks of Toho’s bass have been ticking, so to speak. The flame was in the form of a fast warm-up over the last three days, a full moon occurring right now and water temperatures rising nearly 10 degrees in the last 72 hours. At the day-one takeoff of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Mercury this morning, everyone held his breath for the combustion that was about to occur. And when fuel met flame there were a few fiery flare-ups, but not of the size that many expected. In all, the 20-pound mark was reached by seven anglers on a warm, balmy day that had five-alarmer written all over it. Exactly why the bite was not as good as expected is still in question. Many pros reported a vanishing act of bedding bass that had just started to show up during practice, but have now disappeared despite highly favorable conditions At the top of the standings are Florida ace JT Kenney and Missouri veteran Stacey King, who checked in with 29-14 and 28-1, respectively. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-04-episode-67-shane-lehew-and-jt-kenney

Episode 67 - Shane Lehew and JT Kenney

READ MORE »

/tips/2015-02-27-toho-bound

Toho Bound

You have to understand that having home field advantage in fishing is the absolute worst. There are so many demons; you have too much information, you start fishing the lake’s history – it goes on and on and it’s very hard for a professional angler to mentally break that barrier. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-02-25-3-thoughts-on-toho

3 Thoughts on Toho

I was without power for three days after the first storm, but it snowed again this weekend and there is supposed to be more weather on the way. Suffice to say, I can’t get to Florida and Lake Toho fast enough. READ MORE »

/news/2015-02-24-tour-opener-timed-right-for-florida-spawn-fireworks

Tour Opener Timed Right for Florida Spawn Fireworks

It’s always nice to kick off a new season with the proverbial bang, but the Walmart FLW Tour might very well mark its 20th anniversary with a Boom. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-02-20-east-to-west

East to West

As a tournament angler, I realize that a primary aspect of my job is to be able to catch fish anywhere, in all types of fisheries, under a variety of conditions. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-02-12-from-swamp-pro-to-bass-pro

From Swamp Pro to Bass Pro

When most people hear the name “T-Roy Broussard,” they think of me as the Texan in the big green airboat on the reality television show Swamp People. Three years ago I was introduced to households across the world as a burly alligator hunter that made a living off of the land. READ MORE »