Not many tournaments get a tournament angler more excited than the anticipation of going to a lake that has what Kentucky Lake has to offer. I can’t say that I went into this tournament with a solid game plan. I have fished about 10 tournaments there with about half being in the fall and each time the lake was quite different. With 160,300 acres of water to cover and not relying on the traditional grass flats it proved to be very difficult to establish any kind of pattern during practice. After 4 days of searching I felt that I had more of a few spots rather than a true pattern. I was fairly certain that I could catch a few fish but with it being a “spot” thing the weather could really have an impact on my success. My primary spot was a shell bed in 2.5 ft of water just off of the main river ledge.
Day 1 was one of days where everything just seemed to fall into place. My best spot started off very slow. I was catching fish on a 10” worm rigged on a ¾ ounce football jig but didn’t get a bite in the first hour. I could feel that I had to make an adjustment but that little voice in my head kept saying grind it out. Well this time I shut that voice out and tied on a ¾ oz spinnerbait. Within 30 minutes I boated 3 keepers including a 5 lb and 4 lb smallmouth. I ended up with just under 18 lbs and was sitting in 3rd place. Much better than I had ever anticipated.
Day 2 was a real grind. The fish went into short strike mode. I missed about 8-10 bites before finally putting on a trailer hook. After that, as you could probably guess, I didn’t get a bite for at least 4 hours. With 3 minutes to go I only had 3 fish and had all but given up. I’m sure that everyone has experienced those days when the drive home starts going through your head. Well my bad fortune had set in with enough time for me to plan my deer hunts for Saturday and Sunday. About the time that I was determining which stand I would hunt out of on Sunday I had a largemouth inhale my spinnerbait. Franticly, I through the fish in the live well and raced back to the weigh in. I was pretty certain that I was going to remain in check range but was totally blown away to find out that I was sitting in 10th place and made the top 12 cut.
Day 3 started out fairly well as I boated the first bite and still had 6 hours of fishing to go. 4 hours later I still only had 1 fish and my co-angler had 3. I was convinced that if my co-angler could catch his limit he would have a very good chance of winning the co-angler side. I asked him if he would like me to take him somewhere that he felt he could catch a couple of keepers. My spot had seemed to have dried up and I wanted him to do well. We ran towards the launch area and stopped on a main lake point leading into a creek. As soon as we got there the fish were feeding. I positioned the boat so that he could cast to them while I fan casted around the deeper area of the point. After boating his 4th keeper of the day it excited me to see how excited he was. Just after getting the boat back into position they began to feed again. I felt like I was watching a live event rooting him on. Every time a fish would blow up on his bait I would take a deep breath hoping that he would connect. Not paying attention to my own bait I heard a huge fish bust and turned around to see that my bait was gone. I set the hook and ended up boating one of the largest fish of the tournament (a 6lb 3oz largemouth). It’s funny how your focus changes after boating a big fish. I was back in it now and with all the activity it looked promising that I may be able to put myself into a position to grab one of the 6 All-American slots at stake. My excitement was raised after I boated my 3rd keeper. Well time was running out and we had to make sure that we weren’t late to the check in.
The weigh in for Day 3 was held at the local Wal-Mart so there was about a 2-hour delay between check in and the weigh in. When my co-angler and I weighed in we were both in first place. I was shortly dethroned but my co-angler held on to first place and ended up winning the tournament and a new boat. I couldn’t have been happier for him. Even though I missed out on the All-American by 10 ounces I was so blessed to be able to share such a memorable moment with a true gentleman. Winning is such a great feeling, but if you don’t win, being able to share in the excitement with someone that does comes close.