JASPER, Ala. — You might say that David Kilgore tapped into local expertise on his home lake to win the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open #2 presented by Allstate on Lewis Smith Lake.
That’s only partially true. Kilgore’s winning strategy goes deeper than seasonal awareness of bass on the lake. Here are three keys strategies that extend beyond his leg up as a local.
Key #1: Sunny side up
The most obvious manmade structures on the lake are floating docks. This time of year the bass use them as holding and staging areas along migration routes. Those extend from the main lake into the backs of coves and creeks.
The textbook of bass fishing advocates taking aim at all corners of the dock used by the bass as ambush points. Here’s how Kilgore refined the tactic.
“When the sun comes up it streaks light underneath the dock,” he explained. "At a low angle it doesn’t really give the fish anywhere to set up because the sunlight stretches from one end to the other.”
Kilgore believes the strike zone becomes more concentrated and defined as the sun rises higher in the sky. It casts a bigger footprint of shade.
“My fish set up in the darkest part of the dock,” he said. “That didn’t happen until the sun’s angle created a more defined area of shade.”
That enabled Kilgore to make precise targeted casts to concentrated areas. In turn, he wasted less time casting to unproductive parts of the dock.
Key #2: Warming trend
Winter lingered longer than normal in central Alabama. That kept water temperatures in the 40s, roughly 10 degrees lower than normal. Kilgore believed warm, sunny weather before and during the tournament gave the fish a wakeup call.
“Those fish had been in cold, deep water for so long that all it took was a subtle warm spell like we had this week to send them shallow,” he said. “Living here certainly influenced my mindset to stay shallower.”
The dots of his pattern began to connect with the shady side of docks. Those were all positioned on spawning routes leading to the backs of creeks and coves. A lot of umbrella rig slinging went about on main lake points and deeper areas. Meanwhile, Kilgore was a work in the shallows. The fish were already there.
Key #3: One-two punch
The dominant lure during the tournament was the umbrella rig. Kilgore modified his rig to work around the shallow docks. He added blades to a Strike King Titanium Umbrella Rig.
The added strike appeal worked but not well enough on the final day.
“The fish were hitting and missing the bait,” he said. “I kept getting solid hits but missed hookups.”
Kilgore believed the fish were lethargic due to the cold water and sudden migration. They needed another trigger point.
He turned frustration into payback by adding a swimming jig to the equation.
“It basically was a follow up bait whenever they missed the umbrella rig,” he said.
And with that, Kilgore made another follow up. For the second time in two seasons he’s qualified for a Bassmaster Classic as the result of winning a Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open presented by Allstate.