Competing for a first-place prize of $45,000 as well as for points to qualify for the 2009 Bassmaster Classic and Elite Series, Bassmaster Central Open pros will be on Kentucky Lake Sept. 25-27 out of Paris, Tenn.
As the second of three events on the 2008 Central Open circuit, the Tennessee tournament will be pivotal in the season-long points race. The tournament's outcome will establish the points race front-runners going into 2008 season-ender at Texas' Lake Texoma, set for Oct. 30 – Nov. 1 out of Denison, Texas.
The three pros who finish at the top of the points standings after Texoma will qualify for the 2009 Classic, Feb. 20-22 on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La. The top 10 Central Open pros will be invited to advance to the Bassmaster Elite Series.
Fishing fans will be able to track the Kentucky Lake competition at www.Bassmaster.com. Live video and real-time leaderboards will be online at 2:30 p.m. CT, Sept. 25-27. Bassmaster.com also will post photo galleries and daily results.
The public is invited to attend the daily launches at 6:30 a.m. CT, and weigh-ins at 2:30 p.m., at Paris Landing State Park, 16055 Highway 79 N., Buchanan, Tenn. All events are free and open to the public.
Through the past 30 years, Kentucky Lake has hosted nine BASS pro-level events. The most recent was an Elite tournament in June, when Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., posted a four-day weight of 84 pounds, 13 ounces. The haul gave him his fourth Elite victory — more than any other pro in history — and jumped him to the top of the Elite points standings. Two months later, he won the points race to claim his fourth Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title.
The Kentucky Lake pattern that VanDam and other Elite anglers milked in June — cranking on deep-water ledges — might not be as sweet for the Open pros in September. It's more likely that the Open anglers will find more success in not camping out on the ledges — and not getting stuck on any other one game plan, according to Open competitor Sammy Burks of Joplin, Mo.
"It's going to be hard to find any one pattern that's going to work for three consecutive days," Burks said. "I think 'junk fishing' is going to play a big role in this tournament."
Burks said he's monitoring the lake's surface temperature to gauge if the shad, the main forage for bass, are on the move.
"The shad and bass have been on the ledges all summer long. It's that surface temperature that dictates when the shad disperse," Burks said. "When they do, they're going to scatter all over the lake. We might find balls of shad in 40 feet of water and 2 feet of water, on the flats, in the backs of coves and in the middle of the lake.
"And where there's shad, there's going to be bass," he said.
Burks is in seventh place in the Central Open standings and in contention for the 2009 Classic and Elite Series qualification. He likes his chances to advance in points at Kentucky Lake, where he finished 19th in a field of 109 at a 2006 Bassmaster Open.
"I have a lot of confidence going into this one," he said.
Burks is one of about 175 pros entered in next week's Open. All are gunning for the prized top spots in the standings, now led by Billy McCaghren Jr. of Mayflower, Ark., who won the season opener on the Red River in Louisiana.
Another pro shooting for top honors is Jamie Laiche of Gonzales, La., who is in a three-way tie for 10th place in the points race. During a recent scouting trip to Kentucky Lake, he found 40 to 50 fish a day, many of them keeper largemouths, he said.
"There's a lot of big bass in Kentucky. It's going to be a good tournament," he said.
Also during the Central Open, co-anglers will compete for a first-place prize of a $32,000 boat rig.
Hosts of the Kentucky Lake event include Henry County Alliance; the city of Paris, Tenn.; and Buchanan Resort. Those planning to attend the Open event can go to www.VisitHenryCo.com for information on accommodations, restaurants, activities and area attractions, such as a 60-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower.