Elites hit parade rolls on

CELEBRATION, Fla. — The hits just keep on coming as the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series moves on to another big-time bass fishery at a prime time of year — Kentucky Lake in Kentucky Dam Village, Ky., on June 15-18 — for the Bluegrass Brawl.

 Elite Series stop No. 7 promises to be another memorable big-bass contest with lots of limit catches, thanks to the Elite Series' formula that combines the nation's best anglers with high-quality bass lakes at optimal times of the year.

 This time, it will be Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley during the height of post-spawn season, when the resident largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass will flock to offshore ledges and likely be especially cooperative.

 "The fishing is going to be great," said red-hot rookie Steve Kennedy of Alabama, who is leading the Toyota Rookie of the Year race and is third in the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. "I'm just drooling thinking about it."

 Kentucky Lake is home to an impressive largemouth and smallmouth fishery. Created in 1944 when the 8,700-foot-long Kentucky Dam formed a permanent roadblock for the mighty Tennessee River, it is the largest and youngest reservoir in the Tennessee Valley Authority system.

 At 184 miles long, Kentucky Lake is one of the largest man-made lakes in the world. It has 160,300 surface acres, 2,064 miles of shoreline and is connected by a navigable canal to 118-mile long Lake Barkley, an impoundment of the Cumberland River, which adds another 58,000 surface acres.

 "It's an incredible time of year to be there," said Kennedy, who has won two national tournaments on Kentucky Lake in the last three years. "It's incredible how many fish are in there. And when they stack up on those ledges in June, it's a lot of fun."

 Largemouth have been king there for decades, but Kentucky Lake is home to an outstanding smallmouth fishery that has surrendered bass up to 9 pounds, according to former BASS pro and Kentucky resident Ron Shearer.

 In fact, Kennedy caught the three largest smallmouth bass of his career during his most recent victory on Kentucky Lake. "I weighed in three smallmouth — two 4-13s and a 5-4," he said. "And I lost two other big smallmouth."

 During that mid-May 2006 tournament, Kennedy caught all three species of bass from the same offshore ledges. He plans to

return to those same ledges during the Elite Series event. "To me, it's the best ledge lake in the country."

 He plans to again employ his recent winning strategy of working a ¾-ounce football-style jig along ledges in 18 to 22 feet of water. But he expects Carolina-rigged plastics and deep-diving crankbaits to come into play on similar deep-water spots.

 "Depending on the water level, the fish could be in the bushes if the water's up, which will make the guys who want to flip happy," he added. "There will be guys flipping the bushes. I don't think they're going to win doing that, but there will be some guys who make the top 10 that way."

 Kentucky pro Kevin Wirth also will seek out ledges. "I hope everybody goes to the bushes and lets me stay out (on the ledges)," he said. "That's the way to win the tournament."

 Wirth, a veteran Elite Series competitor and past BASS tournament winner, isn't quite as enthusiastic about the fishing prospects as Kennedy.

 Because of a recent heat wave, boat pressure on the lake and bass spawning a few weeks earlier than normal, Wirth said the fish won't be as wadded together as they usually are at this time. But both he and Kennedy said the winner will need to average about 18 pounds a day to take the $100,000 prize.

 Wirth said big lures — Berkley Power worms, jigs, spinnerbaits and crankbaits — will most likely produce that kind of weight. "It is typically a really good time of year when we have post-spawn fishing out on the ledges," Wirth said.

 In addition to the $100,000 top prize, at stake are valuable points toward the 2007 CITGO Bassmaster Classic on Lay Lake in Birmingham, Ala. The Elite Series is a top-tier circuit featuring the world's top tournament pros who have earned the opportunity to compete in 11 high-profile events.

 Daily launches and weigh-ins are free and open to the public at Kentucky Dam Village, 113 Administration Drive, in Gilbertsville, Ky. Anglers launch at 5:30 a.m. CT and weigh-in at 3 p.m. CT.

 Also, the Kentucky BASS Federation Nation will hold a CastingKids competition in conjunction with the weigh-in at noon on June 17. At 6 p.m. on that Saturday, Elite angler Marty Stone will meet fans and sign autographs at the Advance Auto Parts, 3324 Irvin Cobb Drive, in Paducah. Fishing fans can catch the action from the Sooner Run on the CITGO Bassmasters on Saturday, June 24 at 10 a.m. ET on ESPN2.

 Local sponsors include the Kentucky Sports Authority.

 Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, TritonBoats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Advance Auto Parts and Theraseed.