PARIS, Tenn. — It’s typical to hear some poor-mouthing and sand-bagging before any major tournament. But this was different Tuesday evening. And it was unanimous.
In the 2 ½ days of practice this week, Kentucky Lake is fishing differently than many veteran Elite Series anglers have previously experienced.
“It’s extremely different,” said Kevin VanDam, who has a long history of success on Tennessee River impoundments and Kentucky Lake in particular. “The lake is fishing a lot tougher than I expected.”
Having said that, VanDam emphasized that it will still probably take around 90 pounds to win the four-day Zippo BASSfest at Kentucky Lake presented by A.R.E. Truck Caps.
“If you find one of those spots, you can catch ‘em in a hurry,” he said. “There are just not many of them out there. To see the weights we normally see here – across the field – it’s not going to happen this week.”
There is a lot of current flowing through the lake, more than VanDam has previously seen. And there have been dark, overcast skies for most of practice. Some sunshine when the tournament begins Wednesday might improve things. But it’s hard to imagine that blue skies would suddenly put together the puzzle that is Kentucky Lake right now.
The 70 miles of ledges in this 160,000-acre lake are typically loaded with big schools of fish this time of year. But the consensus Tuesday night was those big schools of big bass are few and far between.
“Instead of finding like 20 schools, I’ve found a couple,” said Aaron Martens. “I’ve never seen it like this. I really don’t know how to explain it.”
Skeet Reese echoed those thoughts, saying, “This is as tough as I’ve ever seen it. It’s not fishing like a typical TVA lake this time of year, and I don’t know why. I used to think I knew something. But this makes me question what I really know.
“We’re supposed to have some sun (Wednesday). I’ll be interested to see if that triggers something.”
Mark Davis has noticed another unusual characteristic of Kentucky Lake’s ledge-fishing now: A big school will be on a spot one minute, then gone the next.
“I found some good schools of fish, but they come and they go,” Davis said. “It’s kind of weird. It’s not like a timing thing, as far as being there when they’re biting. They leave. They’re gone. Then they show back up.
“I’m concerned. When it’s on, it’s as good as it can get. But it’s feast or famine for me.”
Davis said he has managed to catch “good stringers” of bass every day in practice, but much of his success has occurred late in the day, from 5 o’clock until sundown, well after daily tournament check-in times.
“It’s misleading,” Davis said. “I found a big school yesterday afternoon. I made five throws and I caught five big ones. I go back today – nothing. There’s not a fish on the locator.”
Don’t misunderstand what these guys are saying. No one is questioning the quality of this bass fishery. It’s undoubtedly up there with any other lake in the U.S. in terms of both quality and quantity. That hasn’t changed. It’s simply fishing differently than what many of the pros are accustomed to here. And that could change as the week progresses.
“This is the greatest ledge fishing lake in the country, by far,” VanDam said. “It’s got a lot more options than Guntersville or Chickamauga or Pickwick or any of them. This will be a good event, and some guys will do real well.
“But it’s not like a guy is going to have 20 schools of fish found, like we’ve had in the past. I’ve got my work cut out for me.”