June 30, 2014 by Curtis Niedermier
PARIS LANDING, Tenn. - Skip Johnson put together a day-four best 24-pound stringer on Sunday to climb his way to the top of the leaderboard in the Walmart FLW Tour event on Kentucky Lake presented by Evinrude and hosted by Henry County Alliance.
Johnson relied on a Western Plastics 8-inch worm in crawdad color and a footbal jig. His competition threw every tool in the ledge angler's arsenal at the fish this week.
The stories of the rest of the top 10, along with their go-to lures, are detailed below.
To read more about Johnson's winning program, click here.
Over a span of about a month, Jason Lambert has spent 11 days in competition on the Tennessee River system with FLW. That includes top-10 finishes in the Rayovac FLW Series on Kentucky Lake (second place), Walmart FLW Tour on Pickwick Lake (eighth place) and Walmart FLW Tour on Kentucky Lake (second place).
In every event, Lambert applied his run-and-gun strategy to find and fish as many schools as possible. Now that the grueling stretch is over, Lambert is the 2014 Tour Rookie of the Year, and he’s headed to the Forrest Wood Cup.
“I’m tired,” he says, “but today was pretty good.”
It took a few hours for Lambert to get dialed in today. He had a limit by 11:30, but spent most of the early hours catching one or two fish here and there.
Then at 1:45, when he made his third stop on a particular school, Lambert lit up the live on-the-water feed at FLWOutdoors.com.
“I pulled in and fired one [a school] up,” he says. “I caught a 5 1/2, a 5 and a bunch of 3 1/2s. I had that hole to myself. I could pull in and fish it whenever I wanted. When I fished it the last time, they were hungry.”
Today was actually a bit of a slower-paced day for the Pickwick Dam, Tenn., pro, at least by his standards. He only fished 20 spots and burned 38 gallons of gas. His schools this week were spread nearly from Kenlake State Resort Park near Aurora, Ky., to New Johnsonville, Tenn.
Lambert was one of the pros who mopped up on Kentucky Lake with the breakout new Ben Parker Signature Series Magnum Spoon (8 inches long, weighing 3 ounces) this week. He also caught fish on the Castaic Jerky J series of soft-plastic shad lures, which he rigged on a trio of vibrating jigheads. The lures produced a final-day stringer of 22 pounds, 14 ounces.
In the end, this summertime season couldn’t have been scripted better for Lambert. He was able to finish out on the system of fisheries where he’s most familiar, and in the time of year when he can apply his expertise at ledge fishing. In the process, Lambert stepped up under the pressure of major competition and proved that he can hang with the biggest names in the ledge game.
It’s no surprise that a football jig was one of the key lures for Snickers pro Jim Moynagh this week. After all, All-Terrain Tackle makes a football jig that’s named after the Minnesota pro. He also caught some of his fish on a swimbait.
The biggest hurdle for Moynagh was figuring out how to sustain the action once he was able to get a school to fire.
“Today I got off to a good start, and I couldn’t finish it off,” he says. “The fish I caught late in the day were all small.”
Moynagh spent a few hours this morning on his first spot near Moors Resort at Kentucky Lake’s northern extreme. He managed to get a limit there from a stretch of ledge with a couple of key sweet spots.
After bagging a limit, Moynagh rotated through his remaining waypoints, but the bite just shut off midday. At point, he checked five spots before he even marked fish again. Despite the afternoon lull, he still brought 23 pounds, 2 ounces to the scale. It just wasn’t enough to keep up with Skip Johnson’s pace.
“I’m not sure what was going on,” he says. “They didn’t ‘re-fire.’ I’d catch them, then they’d be done [when he came back]. A lot of my schools were gone this afternoon.”
Many fishing fans expected 2014 Rayovac FLW Series Kentucky Lake champion Randy Haynes to go back-to-back on the famed ledge fishery when the Tour rolled into Paris. And at a few points this week, it looked like he just might do it. But Haynes ended slightly less than 3 pounds shy of defending his Kentucky Lake crown.
It was somewhat of an up-and-down final day for Haynes, but it ended with what he says was some of the best fishing he’s had on the lake in awhile. Haynes weighed 22 pounds, 9 ounces.
The biggest challenge came midday when he lost a pair of bass that weighed more than 5 pounds each.
“I went through a little meltdown for about four hours,” he says. “I lost it mentally. I just couldn’t see what I was looking for [on the sonar].”
Thankfully, Haynes was able to pull it together in kind of an unusual way. He landed a brute striped bass that was swimming among some keeper black bass. When he caught that fish, it clued him into what he needed to look for with the depth finder.
“I ended up getting a 4,” he says. “The next spot I got a 4 ½, then a 5 and a 4 1/2. I had the lake to myself. I was calling the shots. Everything was right. It was some of the best fishing I had all week, once I figured out what I was looking for. I just ran out of time.”
Haynes was among the contingent launching the new Magnum Spoon. He also used a Profound Outdoors Z-Boss 20 crankbait and a 1-ounce Profound Outdoors Swampers jig.
Clent Davis was also launching mega metal this week. Like the other pros that were in on the Magnum Spoon release, he had a few issues keeping fish hooked up, particularly on one school – the only school he says he could make fire today, getting four bites in as many casts.
“I caught two weigh fish with it and lost two very big ones that I would have weighed in,” Davis says about the flurry.
His other go-to lure was a swimbait that he prefers to remain nameless.
Davis spent his tournament fishing from about a quarter-mile north of the Paris Landing takeoff site to Kentucky Dam.
“I probably ran 40 to 50 spots this week,” he says. “I spent a week searching before the Rayovac and probably found another 12 or so schools this week. I spent my practice flat out idling from daylight to dark.”
Like Moynagh, Davis had good success early but couldn’t maintain the pace all day. He brought in a final-day stringer of 21 pounds, 8 ounces.
“I caught them from 8:30 until 12,” he says. “After that I didn’t catch anything that I put in the box.”
For two consecutive days, it looked like deep-water expert Tom Redington had figured out how to consistently unlock Kentucky Lake’s ledges no matter if the fish were active or dormant. He just couldn’t maintain the momentum today. The Texas pro, who led the event Friday and Saturday, brought in a final-day limit of 18 pounds, his smallest limit of the week.
The first two days, Redington had a limit spot where he could go and get five quickly to take off the pressure. But the last two days, it never fired, and he had to scramble.
“My starting school was totally gone,” he says. “[Today] it was blown out on the east side of the lake from the wind. The west side was more protected. I had to focus on that side, and I didn’t have as much there. It took until 9 to get a limit.
Redington keyed on shallow ledges that topped out at around 8 to 10 feet. He says he had to hunt and peck his way from takeoff to the Moors area this morning just to find a few schools of fish spread out through 15 to 20 spots that he graphed with sonar.
“I saw two that were in the right formation, like they were when I was able to blast them before,” he says. “It was in the last hour. But I just caught little ones.”
Redington caught his fish this week using lures and techniques that he felt the fish hadn’t seen – not the same spoons and crankbaits others were using. His better ones came by slow-rolling a bladed jighead with a swimbait trailer and by stroking a jig.
Brett Hite made a lot of noise on the first day of the tournament with a first-place, 24-pound, 14-ounce limit. But he fell off on day two with just 16-13 and was never able to make up the difference.
On the final day, he weighed 18 pounds, 12 ounces.
“I went to the spot where I caught them yesterday and the day before, and they weren’t on bottom. They were all scattered out,” Hite says.
He caught just two keepers from the spot in the morning.
“I came back at 11:45,” Hite continues. “They were fired up. I stayed there the rest of they day. They were biting every cast. I just could not dial in on the cast to consistently catch those 4- to 5-pounders.”
Hite fished only two spots the entire week, both at the far southern end of the lake. The spot where he camped and caught all of his day-one weight is a point formed where a creek channel connects to the main river channel.
His second spot, which Hite unlocked on the second afternoon and relied on through the rest of the tournament, is located where the river makes a bend. A “blow-through,” or depression, along the face of the ledge creates a current funnel, and Hite set up on the point formed at the downstream side. A mussel bed sweetened the top of the point.
“It’s a half-moon depression,” he says. “I was sitting on top casting out onto the point and bringing it back. With my 10-foot [Minn Kota] Talons, I was able to ‘Talon down’ and cast out.”
Hite relied on a 3/4-ounce Evergreen Reaction football jig with a Yamamoto craw trailer on the first day. A drop-shot and 10-inch Yamamoto Kut Tail Worm worked better in the later rounds. Hite even worked in a topwater.
Today was about new scenery for Andrew Upshaw.
“I didn’t catch a fish off any spots where I caught them the previous three days,” he says. “I beat them up for three days. So I decided to scrap my early stuff and run north.
“Yesterday I had an early morning deal, and I caught them pretty good before 9,” he continues. “I didn’t see the potential there to win today. I had three more schools that were really good, and I knew it was risky to save them.”
He made the call to lay off those final-day schools the first three days because he knew how much potential his southern spots had this week. It turned out to be a profitable gamble.
“I pulled up to one spot I’d saved and probably caught 15 to 20 fish on it,” he says. “When I looked at my SideScan, I knew it was on. No doubt about it. I stopped fishing stuff where I didn’t see them.”
Upshaw sacked up a strong final limit of 19 pounds, 14 ounces to increase his total to 82-4.
His list of lures included a Strike King 6XD crankbait, swimbait, Mega Spoon and Outkast casting jig (his own brand-new signature series) rigged with a Gene Larew HooDaddy.
Straight Talk pro Scott Canterbury came into the final day in 10th place. With nothing to lose, the Alabama pro decided to swing for the fences and completely scrap the program that got him to Sunday.
The first three days, Canterbury fished a dozen 16- to 23-foot-deep spots at the north end of Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, which is connected to Kentucky by a canal up north near the two reservoirs’ dams. Today, he flip-flopped and ran to Kentucky Lake’s shallower upper end, far down south in Tennessee waters.
“It was a grind for me,” Canterbury says. “I was 90 miles away from where I’d been fishing, trying to catch a big bag. I just never had a big bite. I knew I needed 24 pounds to have a chance.”
The spots he ran today were among a handful he found on the final day of practice, which is the only day he spent scouting the lake’s southern end.
His Barkley pattern also developed during a short window in practice, and it produced two keepers per day through Saturday.
“I spent a half-day of practice there trying to find a big school,” Canterbury says. “I knew I needed 17 pounds a day to make the Cup, and I knew there’d be fewer people there.”
Canterbury relied on the entire ledge-fishing arsenal: Dirty Jigs football jig, Bruiser Baits worm, swimbait, crankbait and Magnum Spoon.
His day-four limit weighed 18 pounds, 7 ounces.
While some pros prepped their boats for a long morning run each day, Tim Malone had it easy. He drove out of the marina, rounded the corner under a bridge and shut it down on his best spot.
“My primary deal was one area,” he says. “It’s a stretch of rock ridge in shallow water. The top was 4 feet deep – 2 in some areas. That [the depth] was the death of me today. I had 3-footers blowing on it all day. I think it just pushed them off it.
“It’s not on any map,” Malone adds. “It’s not something you can find on a map chip. I found it by idling a shallow flat and looking for something different. I never had another boat on it all week.”
That spot produced about 15 of Malone’s weigh-in fish this week. When it failed to fire up the final morning, he scrambled to a pair of back-up spots: a grass spot upstream that churned out a 7-pounder earlier in the week and a deep-water point. He just didn’t have enough in reserve to catch the leaders and brought in only 14 pounds, 8 ounces the final day.
Malone’s key lures this week were a Luck-e-Strike Sneaky Snake worm, a Yum Money Minnow swimbait and a homemade jig.
For complete results, click here.