Grand Lake demonstrated to the Bassmaster Elite Series anglers, and viewers at home, just how fast bass begin to transition from one stage of the spawn to the next. Terrible practices, limited bites and difficult weather truly challenged the field, but when the lights turned on and the cameras were rolling the world's best bass anglers absolutely smashed them.
Bass were moving from prespawn to the spawning phase, and with Grand Lake being behind schedule due to an extended winter, it ended up providing perfect conditions when the pros battled in Oklahoma.
The same could prove to be true at Kentucky Lake. The water has been high for the last few weeks, and bass moved shallow to spawn. That may change slightly, because the Tennessee River fisheries seldom receive numerous weeks of high water. Excess water typically gets released through the locks and dams to the next lake down the chain.
This won’t be the same Kentucky Lake we’re used to seeing, because most Elites event prior to this have taken place in June when the best fishing occurs along the river channel ledges. This year it might be won in less than 5 feet of water.
BUCKET A: MARTENS
My pick: Aaron Martens
During the five previous Elite events on Kentucky Lake, Martens hasn’t missed a check. Not to mention his worst finish was 38th, and that was way back in 2006. Martens knows his way around Kentucky Lake, and even though those events were in June when the bass were deeper, I feel he is primed for a great event because he’s one of the best at nailing down the pattern.
Watch out for: Brett Hite
Hite was a huge contributor for my team at Grand Lake when he finished 16th, but I’m not picking him because of the momentum factor. I believe Kentucky Lake could play out just like Toledo Bend did a few years ago. Kentucky Lake doesn’t have as much grass as it used to, but Chatterbaits work well around bushes, shallow wood and other cover.
BUCKET B: SWINDLE
My pick: Gerald Swindle
I’d guess that Swindle is licking his chops to flip some shallow cover for the giant bass that swim in Kentucky Lake. I believe Swindle will do well doing what he does best. He found plenty of ditches and transition areas at Sam Rayburn last year, and that resulted in a Top 12. If the water levels begin to drop, I bet he’ll do the same thing and have a successful tournament.
Watch out for: Greg Hackney
Bushes + flipping = Greg Hackney. That is the easiest math problem that makes sense to me. Hackney will be in pseudo heaven with plenty of structure to flip and catch fish from. It’s also worth noting that when the Elite Series has competed on Kentucky Lake in the summer — and most events for that matter — he tends to find overlooked sections of water that end up being very productive.
BUCKET C: FAIRCLOTH
My pick: Todd Faircloth
I believe that Todd Faircloth is one of the more patient anglers in the field, and patience could be crucial this week. Running and gunning may not be the deal when fish are transitioning from one area to another. Faircloth might find an area with a good population of bass, and he likes to pick apart each piece of structure to be sure he’s caught all the bass that are willing to bite.
Watch out for: Wesley Strader
Strader loves winding a spinnerbait, a bladed jig and other moving baits to effectively cover lots of water. Other than a likely flipping bite, there might also be a productive moving-bait bite in shallow water. Even though it’s his first year on the Elites, he is very experienced on Kentucky Lake after years of competing there with the FLW Tour.
BUCKET D: KENNEDY
My pick: Steve Kennedy
Kennedy cashed a $100,000 check at Dardanelle in 2017 with a swim jig in his hand. I think that might be very productive choice for him at Kentucky Lake, too. I’m curious if Kennedy will find some shallow bars where the fish congregate as they transition from deep to shallow, and maybe vice versa.
Watch for: Bobby and Chris Lane
The Lane brothers joined Bassmaster LIVE on Saturday in Little Rock, Ark., during Grand Lake’s semi-final round of competition. They clearly indicated their excitement for Kentucky Lake because they will get the chance to fish it as they might fish their home fisheries: Shallow power fishing and flipping.
BUCKET E: A. JONES
My pick: Alton Jones
Fish will be in the spawning mode at Kentucky Lake, and Jones is one of the best with soft plastics on tour. It’s very odd seeing him in Bucket E after two events of the 2018 season, but I bet he will flourish this week, as the conditions match up well with his skill set.
Watch for: Drew Benton
Even after a tough showing at Grand Lake, I’m still confident in Drew Benton, and his ability to catch bass from shallow water. He’s been fantastic at the Opens this season, but not so much in the Elites. I know he will turn it around.