PARIS, Tenn. — No lake in the country is more famous for ledge fishing than Kentucky Lake, but the normally bountiful offshore structure has become less dependable this time around.
In years past, some ledges would have big schools of bass and overnight, those schools would reload. As Day Two got underway at Kentucky Lake this year, anglers were worried about the spots they fished on Wednesday.
"Usually, the shell beds are pretty dependable," said Greg Vinson. "The pressure has been getting to them this year and you have to work a little harder. You have about a two-hour window in the morning to catch them and then it gets tough the rest of the day."
Vinson placed 19th on Day One with 19 pounds, 14 ounces, but wasn't able to get nearly the number of fish that he did last year.
"I'm fishing shallower this year," Vinson said. "I'm fishing 6 to 10 feet deep and the numbers aren't there, but I'm still catching a good fish now and then. I've got some deeper ledges that I'm going to check today, but I didn't have time yesterday because I had to work so hard to get a limit."
Fortunately for Vinson, he has that back-up area. For many of the other Elite Series anglers fishing in the Tennessee Triumph, their spots they found in practice were devoid of the big schools when they arrived for competition.
Count Brent Chapman in that group. After three days of practice, he has located four areas that held fish, including one he was really excited to fish. The first day of the tournament held a big surprise for the Kansas angler.
"I found a spot Tuesday where I thought I could blow their doors off," Chapman said. "I just couldn't do it yesterday. Out of the four schools I found, I ended up fishing my Number Four spot."
The spot held enough fish for Chapman to amass 18 pounds, 12 ounces, a good enough stringer to put him in 21st place. Part of the reason Chapman cited for the tough fishing has been the lack of current.
Current usually keeps the fish returning to the same key areas, maintaining a certain amount of predictability for the anglers.
"In the past, they have typically stayed in the same places, but that was with current," Chapman said. "Here, you only have current for part of the time and they seem to be moving around a lot. Without current, you don't get a lot of bites and when you find them biting, you have to capitalize and catch what you can."
Like Chapman, Alton Jones had found a bunch of areas to fish only to have them fizzle out come tournament time, but unlike Chapman, his last area didn't bail him out. With 10 pounds, 8 ounces on Day One, Jones finished the day in 79th place in the standings.
"I had five schools of fish, but none produced yesterday," Jones said. "I'm still scratching my head. Typically, ledge fishing is some of the most consistent fishing of the year, but not this time on Kentucky Lake."
Despite his struggles, Jones did have a comparison for ledge fishing that most hunters would find enlightening.
"Ledge fishing is kind of like when you are duck hunting," Jones said. "There might be ducks all over the sky, but there is one spot they are coming into. That's what you are looking for — that one place all those fish are funneling to."