Kennedy tops all in experience on Martin

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James Overstreet

ALEXANDER CITY, Ala. — Although B.A.S.S. hasn’t held a pro level tournament at Lake Martin since 2002, several pros have extensive experience on this 44,000-acre impoundment. That could give them an advantage when the four-day Bassmaster Elite at Lake Martin presented by Econo Lodge begins at Thursday.

And no one has more experience on Lake Martin than Steve Kennedy. The 48-year-old Auburn, Ala., resident grew up on this lake. His family has long had a cabin here.

“I’ve been fishing it since I was, I don’t know, three,” Kennedy said. “I probably know Martin better than any lake I’ve ever fished.”

Kennedy won a Red Man BFL event here in 1997 when he fished from the back of now fellow Elite Series pro Matt Herren’s boat.

“He got lucky and caught a 6-something out of the back of my boat,” Herren recalled. “That’s why he won. I still finished fourth or fifth.”

This is a lake dominated by spotted bass, but there are some big largemouths that can be game-changers. The weight of the spotted bass has increased in recent years with the introduction of blueback herring. But we’re still not talked about giant bass.

“I think you can get to 13, 14 pounds a day just on spots,” Kennedy said.

That’s why most pros were predicting a four-day winning weight of 50 to 55 pounds. But they also acknowledged that at least one 18-pound bag will be caught here this week.

“This place is capable of an 18- to 20-pound bag and with these guys, I think you’re definitely going to see it,” said Randall Tharp, an Alabama native, who also has tournament experience here. “But nobody is going to do that every day – nobody.”

A downpour Wednesday turned most of the lake into a chocolate-orange color from the runoff over dirt and clay banks. But that didn’t seem to affect the anglers who have been here before.

“I grew up on this lake,” said Greg Vinson. “When you have a tournament in February in Alabama, you’re going to get some crazy weather.”

Tharp has seen crazier, noting, “In one tournament we got so much rain in 24 hours that the lake came up 12 feet. The entire lake was orange. And there were some big stringers caught that day.”

A kicker largemouth is the key to winning almost every bass tournament. But at Lake Martin this week, one or two of those fish may create an uncommon separation from the field.

“I’ve been saying it will take 13 pounds a day to win,” said Vinson. “Lake Martin has a lot of solid spotted bass in it. But it has some really big largemouth. If those largemouth turn on, that could change everything. We’ll just have to see what happens.”

Takeoffs begins at 6:15 a.m. and the weigh-ins start at 3:30 each day at Wind Creek State Park.