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Good Conditions Greet College Open Field

Good Conditions Greet College Open Field

The YETI FLW College Fishing Open on Kentucky and Barkley Lakes returns to FLW’s home waters this morning, as a full field of anglers prepare to take off for the fifth iteration of the two-day event, hosted by the Kentucky Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau and Moors Resort & Marina.

Last year, the Adrian College duo of Chase Serafin and Cody Batterson posted a two-day total of 50 pounds, 3 ounces to take home to title. That event, also held at the beginning of March, is a pretty good indicator of what to expect the next couple days in terms of tactics and weights.

Anglers who finish within the top 20, along with one additional team for every 10 teams over 200 competing, will automatically qualify for the 2020 YETI FLW College Fishing National Championship, and the champions will take home a new Ranger Z175 boat with a 115-horsepower outboard – a $30,000 package.

 

ABOUT THE FISHERY

Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley run essentially parallel to one another and are connected by Barkley Canal, a nearly two-mile stretch that allows anglers to explore both bodies of water this week. While Barkley could certainly produce a win, Kentucky is likely to get most of the pressure this week. 

Taken together, the lakes represent a pretty massive water system, totaling about 160,000 surface acres. The water level has been high lately thanks to ongoing and persistent rains throughout the region, though there isn’t much in the forecast for the tournament. 

Still, current can be a blessing on these lakes, as both smallmouths and largemouths take cues from it, and it can make a big difference in the prespawn. 

Both lakes offer much of the same cover and structure: docks, current breaks, ledges, creeks and coves. 

 

CURRENT CONDITIONS

The water level on Kentucky Lake is about a foot below summer pool now, which is high for March, but not so high that flooded shoreline cover will come into play. What will be a factor to watch is the current. The Kentucky Dam is projected to be spilling each day, with more than 350,000 cfs running for each day of the tournament. That’s a tremendous amount of water, and the current in the lake will be truly exceptional. How exactly that will affect the fishing remains to be seen. 

Luckily, the area is in the middle of somewhat of a warm front, with highs reaching the low 70s on Wednesday. That warmer weather should continue to push fish shallower in anticipation of the spawn and perhaps even turn on an exceptional shallow bite. This time last year, in the middle of a cold front, anglers were forced to target more main-lake structure and fish a little deeper, ignoring the flooded shoreline cover in favor of the original bank or going offshore to target humps and breaks.

It won’t be overwhelmingly warm the next couple days, but it will be pleasant in the afternoon especially. The biggest thing to watch in terms of conditions this week will be high winds expected to blow in on Wednesday, with forecasts calling for 15 to 25 miles per hour SSE.

 

TACTICS IN PLAY

Kentucky and Barkley offer nearly limitless strategies and tactics for anglers to exploit, especially when water levels aren’t inordinately high or low. Current breaks could be ultra-productive – where a crankbait is always a good bet – as could shallow structure and cover like shoreline laydowns and docks.

Because this area is still in a prespawn pattern, anglers will have a lot of options for what to throw. Umbrella rigs, spinnerbaits, crankbaits, jigs and soft plastics (both worms and creature baits) rigged any number of ways will produce bites and should be in the mix for winning baits when all is said and done. Last year, Serafin and Batterson relied primarily on umbrella rigs, crankbaits and spinnerbaits to do their heavy damage. 

 

DOCK TALK

“From what I’ve heard, the lake is supposed to start dropping a foot a day, so barring any more rain, they should be fishing falling water,” says FLW Tour pro Terry Bolton. “The lake has been high for a while, and I think that will create some opportunities. There should be heavy current generation, so it will be about finding little eddies and bars and points where those fish can stack up. My guess is the winning team will probably find one spot and that’s all they’ll need, and they’ll catch most of their weight in one place first thing in the morning.”

Bolton is as familiar with Kentucky Lake as anyone, and he knows what plays this time of year.

“Overall, I think it’s probably going to be dominated by crankbaits, like a Rapala DT10or DT6, big spinnerbaits, and even an umbrella rig,” he adds. “With the color of water, I still think it’s going to be a moving-bait type tournament. You may see a jig play a little bit. The jerkbait bite may be a little tough with the color of the water, but we’ll see what happens as the water falls; it may clear up creeks and other areas.”

Bolton expects around 42 pounds to win the two-day tournament. Given what we saw in last year’s Open (five teams over the 40-pound mark), that certainly seems to be a reasonable estimate this time around.

 

TOURNAMENT DETAILS

Dates: March 12-13

Host: Kentucky Lake CVB & Moors Resort & Marina

Format: All teams will compete for two days. The winners will be determined by the heaviest cumulative two-day weight.

Takeoff Time: 7:30 a.m. CT

Takeoff Location: Moors Resort & Marina, 570 Moors Road, Gilbertsville, Ky.

Weigh-in Time: 3:30 p.m. CT

Weigh-in Location: Moors Resort & Marina, 570 Moors Road, Gilbertsville, Ky.

Tags: flw  college-open  kentucky-lake  bass-fishing  fishing-tournament  justin-onslow  morning-story  2019-03-12-kentucky-barkley 

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