Kentucky Lake preview: A Pro's Approach with Kyle Fox
Kyle Fox told us before the tournament started that Kentucky Lake was one of the best places he'd ever fished — for numbers. Unfortunately, that turned out to be all too true, not only for him but for a lot of other anglers, as well. Bass were plentiful, but keepers were hard to find.
"I can't make excuses," he said after finishing the tournament in 126th place. "I was on some pretty good bass in practice and thought I'd have a decent tournament. Obviously, that didn't happen. I'm very disappointed.
"The first day the wind shifted and started bringing in a front from the north. My fish — the big ones anyway — just disappeared. I have no idea where they went. I fished every place I could think of or find but never did get back on them. They just took off, in what direction or to where I have no idea ... not a clue."
Fox said his practice bass were relating to grass and that he thought most of the other anglers were finding the same thing. But he also said that might not be the only way to catch them.
He was right about that. A few of the best finishers worked grass patterns of one sort or another. But just as many found other forms of cover and structure that were holding heavy bass. For example, one angler successfully fished bare humps and another cashed a check by fishing flats near creeks and inflows.
The Lakeland, Fla., pro's practice pattern consisted of fishing topwater baits in the morning and fast moving, shallow-running baits after the sun popped out. That was partly on target.
Several of the top finishers fished topwater plugs on their way to boating heavy stringers; at least one threw a lipless crankbait across his spots. But just as many anglers flipped plastics around, on or into the grass for their fish. It was a mixed bag.
Regardless of how the bass were caught, however, weights were well below Fox's prediction. The winning weight was about 12 pounds under his estimate of 60. His cut weight estimate of 30 pounds — based on high numbers of limits of 15-inch fish — was extremely optimistic.
The last angler to make Saturday's launch posted less than 22 pounds in the first two rounds. In fact, fully one-third of Saturday's field was made up of anglers who hadn't caught limits on both days. (Four of the final 30 only weighed eight bass to secure their spots.)
He was dead on, however, with his big bass call. Before the tournament he said it would weigh around 7 pounds. It weighed 6 pounds, 14 ounces. That's darn near perfect.
The lower weights were mostly a byproduct of an ugly wind and falling water levels. To be fair, Fox warned us about the wind. It often makes Kentucky Lake unfishable. It did just that last week.
Several fine anglers found their spots and patterns ruined by wind and the resulting muddy water. In fact, one angler — an Elite Series competitor and 2009 Bassmaster Classic qualifier — described the water at his spot as looking like a YooHoo chocolate drink.
Fox did not, however, warn us about the effects of falling water. It repositioned the bass every day, sometimes every hour. Competitor after competitor complained that low water levels moved either them, or their fish, off their chosen spot. It fundamentally altered the outcome of the tournament.
All in all, Fox had a rough preview and an even rougher tournament. His grade for this event is a D.