SHREVEPORT — If it weren't for the fancy Kinami Baits logo wrapped on the gunnels of Steve Kennedy's boat, you'd think he was just one of the locals pitching to the stumps in the Red River backwaters.
However, Kennedy was one of 51 Bassmaster Classic contenders and one of only two contestants fishing from an aluminum boat. Rick Clunn is the other.
While Clunn fishes from a new Tracker, Kennedy's rig is an old Triton flat bottom that he and his father bought a few years ago. The 18-footer came with only a console, but he has since added decking, livewells, carpet, electronics and other basic essentials to make it fishing friendly.
His motor is a Johnson 88 Special, one he found in his father's garage. The cowling was painted green for duck hunting and he doesn't even know its year of origin.
"I used that motor a lot when I was in college," shrugged the Alabama pro, who is competing in his fourth Bassmaster Classic. "In fact, the skag is broken from where I accidentally banged it into a pine tree in my college days."
It might be the oldest and most worn boat ever used in the Bassmaster Classic, a sign of the times now that pros can use their own boats, instead of the identically rigged high-tech boats once provided for them. The only stipulation for Classic contenders is that their boats had to be "wrapped" with a sponsor logo, which Kennedy had done the day before competition began.
The easy going Alabaman is a bit of an anomaly compared to other modern day bass pros. Although his career BASS earnings exceed $673,000 over just a few years, he prefers to do things practically, and "on the cheap."
He began his three-day Classic practice in his fiberglass high-performance Ranger rig, but with the river low and fish flocking to the backwater stumps, he knew a bigger boat would be a hindrance.
And after seeing the beating his glass boat took on the shallow stumps, he asked his father to tow the ol' aluminum to Shreveport for him to use in the tournament.
"I kept hearing that fiberglass screech and groan as the stumps dug into the hull every time I got hung on wood," explained Kennedy. "I don't have a boat and motor sponsor, so I can't afford to tear up my good stuff."
And after one practice day in his old boat, he was delighted.
"I had a blast fishing out of that boat because I didn't worry about the stumps; I just plowed over them," he grinned. "I didn't worry about tearing anything up and that allowed me to focus on the fishing."
Bassmaster Magazine fictional characters Harry 'n' Charlie, whose boating exploits in ol' "Stump Jumper" were well documented for years, would have been proud.
"This boat looks like something right out of Sanford and Son," jokes Kennedy. "But it's functional and allows me to fish the way I need to fish without any worries."