Welcome to Bassmaster's reality series! Here we put the biggest names in professional bass fishing on small "mystery" lakes and give them seven hours to figure out a viable pattern while we log everything they do to find and catch bass.
This month it's Steve Kennedy's turn at bat. The amiable Auburn, Ala., Elite Series pro was the 2006 Advance Auto Parts Bassmaster Rookie of the Year, and stunned the bass fishing world in 2007 with his amazing four-day catch of 122 pounds, 14 ounces at the Bassmaster Golden State Shootout on Clear Lake, Calif. — setting a new all-time weight record for a BASS event (just recently broken by Paul Elias). Here's what happened Oct. 23, 2007, when Kennedy took on Lake Q, a 650-acre reservoir.
• 6:50 a.m. It's raining and 59 degrees as Kennedy and I arrive at Lake Q's remote launch ramp. He's towing a Ranger 519 bass boat equipped with a 200-hp Yamaha outboard, Minn Kota trolling motor and Humminbird and Lowrance electronics.
• 7:00 a.m. We launch the Ranger. What's Kennedy's game plan on a new lake in fall? "This area has been through a major drought, so I'm hoping the rain may help the bass bite," he told Bassmaster. "It rained 4 inches last night and it's supposed to pour all day today. The lake looks like it has risen quite a bit, but the water around the ramp doesn't look overly dirty. On other lakes I've fished in fall, a sudden influx of runoff can cause bass to move up shallower and may trigger a strong bite, especially on buzzbaits and spinnerbaits. I'm expecting to find bass in the backs of creeks and coves where fresh water is running in, but the first thing I'm gonna do is head for the dam and fish around the spillway."
• 7:08 a.m. Kennedy idles to the dam, where the surface temp is 70 degrees, digs several Kistler rods with Shimano reels out of storage and makes his first cast with a 3/8-ounce buzzbait, brand unknown. It's got an oversized offset blade, a crawfish colored skirt and no trailer hook: "I like a big, noisy buzzer in fall; this one suggests a bluegill chasing a shad and provokes some awesome reaction strikes."
• 7:12 a.m. He works the buzzer around the dam's spillway. No takers.
• 7:20 a.m. Kennedy makes a short run to a nearby cove. With his trolling motor on high, he zips down the bank, pitching the buzzer and retrieving it quickly: "I don't see any runoff flowing into the lake back here, but I want to fish here anyway."
• 7:28 a.m. Kennedy catches a nonkeeper off a stump on the buzzbait: "Hey, aren't you gonna shoot some photos of me with this trophy?" he laughs. I inform him that it's raining too hard to risk getting my camera wet.
• 7:35 a.m. Kennedy runs uplake to the mouth of a large cove, where he scans the water and locates several good-sized stumps: "Stumps are always a good sign, but in stormy conditions, bass usually won't lock into 'em, but will roam around instead."
• 7:45 a.m. As the rain continues to fall, Kennedy slips into a flooded area behind a boat dock in the back end of the cove and chunks the buzzbait at a sunken lawn chair.
• 7:46 a.m. A bass boils on the buzzbait, but misses it: "I've got the pattern: lawn chairs in 2 feet of water!" he quips.
• 7:47 a.m. Kennedy casts the buzzbait into a flooded pocket, there's a toilet-flush boil, and his rod bows under the weight of a lunker bass. He works the fish toward him and it leaps clear of the water: "Oh, man!" he exclaims, dropping to his knees. Kennedy patiently plays the fish out, lips it and hoists it aboard: The largemouth weighs 6 pounds, 11 ounces on digital scales. "All right!" he grins as he admires the beautiful bass. "That's the biggest fish I've ever caught on a buzzbait! It was in less than a foot of water in that little flooded pocket. There's some decent current back here from the runoff; a bass can sit in a little place like that and pick off bugs and stuff washing into the lake all day long. A spot like that may reload with another big fish, too, so I'm gonna hit it again before the day's over. So — now are you gonna get that camera out?"
• 7:58 a.m. There's a cloudburst as Kennedy pauses to tie on a watermelon Kinami Flash sinking worm and a chartreuse-and-white Hildebrandt spinnerbait with an alewife-pattern skirt. He pitches the worm to a flooded bush and a bluegill pecks it.
• 8:01 a.m. He runs the spinnerbait around the flooded cover without success.
• 8:04 a.m. Kennedy switches to the buzzbait and a small fish pulls it under: "Look, he pulled the skirt down!" he says as he realigns the lure.
• 8:07 a.m. "I'm gonna hang out back here in the woods till the rain lets up some," Kennedy says. "The way this lake's coming up, it'll be in the launch ramp parking lot by this afternoon!"
• 8:12 a.m. The rain subsides a bit. Kennedy moves out of the flooded cover and starts heading along the bank of the cove, casting the buzzbait.
• 8:18 a.m. Kennedy fancasts a blueback chrome Kinami lipless crankbait around the cove: "Come on, fish, bite!"
• 8:19 a.m. A bass bumps the lipless crank but doesn't hook up.
• 8:25 a.m. Back to the buzzbait. Kennedy is fishing the lure on 15-pound mono: "Most guys use 20-pound mono or braid with buzzers; I miss too many fish on this heavier line. Lighter line allows the bass to suck in the bait farther."
• 8:27 a.m. Kennedy fishes faster than any pro I've ever shared a boat with. In no time at all, he's moved out of the cove and is casting the buzzer around small main lake pockets. As he zips along with his trolling motor on high, he makes multiple short pitch-casts to cover and burns the buzzer back to the boat, hoping for a reaction strike.
• 8:33 a.m. Kennedy rigs up a 5/8-ounce green pumpkin D&L Advantage jig so he "can flip some of this shrubbery." It's rigged with a matching Kinami double-tail grub trailer with a touch of chartreuse on the tail.
• 8:37 a.m. He moves to the extreme upper end of the lake and fishes a flooded boathouse with the jig and buzzbait. No takers.
• 8:39 a.m. "See that band of clear water trapped inside this boathouse?" Kennedy points. "It's full of baitfish!" He skips the Flash worm under the structure, but can't interest a bass in his offering.
• 8:50 a.m. "Time to go old school!" Kennedy announces. He ties on a yellow Hildebrandt Snagless Sally in-line spinnerbait and tips it with a small green-and-white pork frog: "This is a classic bass bait that really moves a lot of water. I've caught some whales on it!" He casts it around flooded shoreline cover and retrieves it quickly.
• 8:59 a.m. He casts the Snagless Sally at what he thinks is cover on the bottom; when he bumps the object, it crawls away: That wasn't a stump — it was a big turtle!"
• 9:15 a.m. The rain has not let up, and now the wind is blowing 15 mph out of the south. Kennedy runs to a main lake point and cranks it with a Rapala DT10, which he's custom painted chartreuse with a brown back.
• 9:36 a.m. He tries the jig on the point, alternately crawling and hopping it across the bottom.
• 9:50 a.m. Kennedy abandons the point and makes a fast run back to the lower end of Lake Q, where he combs a shallow cut with the buzzbait. It's raining hard, and the air temp has dropped about 10 degrees.
• 9:55 a.m. Kennedy pitches the Flash worm around some submerged bushes: "I didn't want to slow down, but I may have to 'cause I'm not getting enough bites!"
• 10:00 a.m. He flips the jig around shoreline cover: "I'm starting to wonder if bass are an endangered species in this lake!"
• 10:17 a.m. Kennedy has run the shoreline in a large cove, alternating between the jig and buzzer without a bite.
• 10:21 a.m. He flips the jig into a mat of floating trash: "When a lake rises quickly, bass will sometimes get under this stuff."
• 10:23 a.m. Kennedy is cold, wet and a bit discouraged. What's his take on the day so far? "Other than the fact that the weather really sucks, the fishing's been tougher than I expected. I'm not seeing the 1- to 3-pound bass that I normally catch doing what I'm doing, and without much feedback from the bass, it's hard to put a real pattern together. My only keeper so far is looking bigger every minute! The frontal passage is negatively impacting the bite, but I still think I can catch some more good fish on the buzzbait — that's my go-to lure in fall."
• 10:31 a.m. Kennedy moves to a long point at the mouth of a large cove and cranks it with the DT10: "They aren't on points and they aren't up shallow, so where the heck are they?"
• 10:40 a.m. Kennedy continues working down the retaining wall; a small bass pulls the buzzbait under but doesn't hook up: "At least I'm gettin' some bites here!"
• 10:45 a.m. Another bass pulls the buzzbait under but fails to hook up: "I may need a trailer hook on that sucker!"
• 10:56 a.m. A nonkeeper flashes on the buzzbait as Kennedy rounds a shallow point.
• 11:05 a.m. Kennedy comes to a series of boathouses and docks, which he probes with the buzzer, Flash worm and jig.
• 11:09 a.m. He parallels another retaining wall with the buzzbait.
• 11:21 a.m. Another bass pulls his buzzbait under but doesn't connect.
• 11:25 a.m. Kennedy ties on a Flat Shad Petey crankbait, chartreuse/brown back: "This is a really light handmade lure with a Micarta lip; it works good in cold front conditions because it's small and subtle." He pitches the crankbait expertly beneath a boat dock and bumps it off the pilings.
• 11:29 a.m. He flips the jig around the dock. Nothing.
• 11:33 a.m. Kennedy moves to a nearby rock bank and parallels it with the buzzer. A huge bass boils on the lure, pulls it under and spits it out: "Did you see that boil?! That fish was as big (as) or bigger than the one I caught this morning!" He immediately ties on a 3/8-ounce Lunker Lure buzzbait with the same color skirt; this lure has a smaller blade than the buzzer he's been using. He rigs a small treble hook onto the bait as a stinger: "That oughta stick 'em!"
• 11:45 a.m. He tries the Lunker Lure around a shallow cut. Up ahead, a big shad leaps 3 feet out of the water: "Something's after him!"
• Noon. With two hours remaining in his fishing day and the rain still coming down hard, Kennedy flips the jig at a submerged stump, but hauls water: "They just aren't on this wood cover."
• 12:31 p.m. He runs the Snagless Sally down a submerged tree, but can't draw a strike.
• 12:35 p.m. Ditto the jig in the tree. "It's pretty amazing that I haven't had a bite in these trees!"
• 12:50 p.m. He motors to the back end of a cove containing several boat docks and tries buzzing the bank.
• 1:03 p.m. The weather cycles between a light mist and a toad-strangler downpour as Kennedy continues buzzing the shoreline in hopes of sticking another lunker bass.
• 1:13 p.m. The wind has shifted out of the north. Kennedy runs the buzzer past a boat dock.
• 1:16 p.m. He makes a high-speed run to the back of a shallow cove where heavy runoff is creating a noticeable current flow. He flips the jig into a current eddy and immediately a bass taps it; he sets the hook, but the fish comes unbuttoned: "I felt that one; it was a 3- or 4-pounder."
• 1:26 p.m. Kennedy backs the Ranger out of the flowing ditch. He rigs a green pumpkin/watermelon Kinami Nories Bug creature bait on a 3/0 round bend hook with a 3/16-ounce tungsten sinker: "This bait is lighter than the jig so it ought to drift nicely in current." He flips the bug into the eddy where he lost the good fish minutes earlier. A small bass chomps down, biting a couple of legs off the lure.
• 1:29 p.m. He tries the buzzer and Nories Bug around the flowing ditch, checks his watch and says, "I need to spend the rest of my time in that cove where I caught the 6-11."
• 1:45 p.m. With 15 minutes to go, he is back where he caught his sole keeper, flipping the jig around shallow cover.
• 1:51 p.m. He switches to the Flash worm, which also fails to produce.
• 1:53 p.m. Kennedy casts the Lunker Lure to the flooded pocket where he caught his lunker, and braces himself for the strike that doesn't happen.
• 1:56 p.m. Back to the boat ramp. Kennedy has boated only one keeper on Lake Q, but it was a dandy. His total for the day is 6 pounds, 11 ounces.
THE DAY IN PERSPECTIVE
"The passing cold front helped do me in today," Kennedy told Bassmaster. "I got a few strikes doing what I intended to do, namely fish around run-in areas with flowing water, but I just couldn't get many bass to bite. When a lake rises in fall, the fish can either run straight into the newly flooded cover or hang back in deeper water until conditions stabilize, which is what I think they were doing today. If I were to fish here tomorrow and the sun came out, I'd definitely flip the flooded stuff. But if it were rainy like it was today, I'd probably stick with the buzzbait and try for two or three big bites. One thing's for sure — I'm ready to get out of this rain!"
Where and When Steve Kennedy Caught His Keeper Bass
1. 6 pounds, 11 ounces; flooded pocket in the back of a cove; 3/8-ounce "brand X" buzzbait with a crawfish skirt; 7:47 a.m.
TOTAL: 6 POUNDS, 11 OUNCES