Working the Knight Shift

GILBERTSVILLE, Ky. — If you watched closely during the Bluegrass Brawl weigh-ins, one of the tank handlers wearing a bright yellow BASS hat may have looked familiar.

That's because the bearded Harold Knight, co-founder of Knight & Hale Game Calls in nearby Cadiz, Ky., is a virtual household name in deer, turkey, waterfowl, and big game hunting circles, not necessarily the BASS Elite Series tournament trail.

But he could be.

That's because the likable Knight is widely regarded as one of the best bass anglers out there on Kentucky Lake and nearby Lake Barkley.

Knight backed up that statement in June 2006 when he finished in fifth place during a BASS Northern Division tournament held on Kentucky Lake. In fact, Harold finished less than three pounds away from the win and a $68,000 check.

"I fish Barkley more than Kentucky, but I do fish Kentucky a lot," Knight said. "I was born and raised in the Land Between the Lakes which is right between Barkley and Kentucky Lake.

"I consider both of them my home lakes."

He should, having fished them for 40-plus years. During that span, Knight's biggest Kentucky Lake bass weighed in at about 9 pounds while his largest from Barkley tipped the scales at 10 pounds.

While most Elite Series angler success came on Kentucky Lake this week, Knight said that a winning pattern could have been easily found on Barkley if his own recent experience is any indicator.

"Barkley Lake is red hot," Knight said. "I was on Barkley this week with an outdoor writer and I caught a 5 1/2 and a 3 1/2 (pound bass) on the same cast.

"Before the day was over, he did the same thing with two 3-pounders."

Knight noted that Barkley — which has equally good fishing and is typically less crowded — didn't receive as much attention this week from the pro anglers as its aquatic neighbor to the west.

"For some reason (it's) Kentucky Lake, Kentucky Lake, Kentucky Lake," Knight said. "Barkley definitely doesn't have the grass (that Kentucky Lake does) but I mean it's a good 'un."

The fact that Rick Clunn fished much of his week on Barkley and came into the final day in second place says volumes about the validity of Knight's comments.

That being said, he is in no way diminishing Kentucky Lake, which drew absolute rave reviews by the BASS pros.

"I'm not," Knight said. "This fishery here on Kentucky Lake is probably second to none.

"The last couple of years the grass has come back strong here and I've already fished several tournaments this year on Kentucky Lake and it's phenomenal, I'm talking about absolutely phenomenal."

On either lake, Knight says that bass catching success in the early summertime is all about the ledges.

"If you can find the current on these ledges, see where the water runs across it, it's automatic," he said.

One of the world's most popular game callers, hunters and television show personalities, Knight said that most of the ledges here are near deep water where fish will replenish themselves easier than in shallow water confines.

"I did hear a few people say that they were on the same ledge (as others this week) but if you go to that ledge, fish it for an hour, leave, and then come back, it will replenish itself," Knight said.

Harold went on to say that he's one of those fishermen who will go and wait for the fish to come to him on a ledge fishing structure pattern.

"I did that (last) Saturday," Knight said. "I sat there three and a half hours and didn't get a bite and all at once they showed up and I caught 20 1/2 pounds."

When fishing Kentucky's or Barkley's ledges, Knight relies on Bomber Fat Free Shad deep diving crankbaits in the Tennessee shad color.

Knight will also use a black/blue jig with a little green and blue mixed in along with a lively Rage trailer to achieve a crawfish look.

When conditions get really tough or the winds grow light and current is virtually non-existent, he'll often switch to a Shaky Head set-up.

After one of the nation's coolest springs in decades — which set Knight's turkey hunting action back a week to 10 days in most of the places that he hunted — recent extreme warmth for early June helped water temperatures rebound.

Knight said that water temp rise sent the fish down deeper than normal for a K-Lake tournament held at this time of the year.

Of course, that's all relatively speaking between his two home bodies of water.

"It's phenomenal how much difference that there can be between Kentucky Lake and Barkley Lake — it's unreal," he said.

"I fished a tournament a couple of weeks ago on Kentucky and the fish were 28 feet deep. (Then) I go to Barkley and the same (type of) ledges I catch them eight feet deep.

"Over there (on Barkley), eight foot is a good ledge. Further south, it seems like the shallower you fish for them the better. The further north you go, however, it gets a little deeper.

One reason that the bite pattern was deeper on K-Lake this week was due to water clarity.

"The water is clearer further north on Kentucky Lake than it is way south (toward Paris, Tenn.)," Knight said. "The further north you get on Kentucky, the clearer it gets and the deeper the fish get."

This is exactly what the BASS pros found this week, including eventual winner Kevin VanDam.

"Kevin VanDam is absolutely unreal," Knight said. "He's just a fishing machine."

So is runner-up Timmy Horton, who roared from back in the pack on Sunday to challenge VanDam's big final day lead.

In finishing 1-1 pounds back from VanDam, Horton was benefited greatly by an afternoon bite.

And truth be told, VanDam won the tournament's $100,000 top prize with an afternoon fish on Sunday since rumors back-stage were circulating that KVD only had 12 pounds in the boat at 1 p.m. before finishing up with a five bass limit of 16-9.

That afternoon bite pattern doesn't surprise Knight.

"I'm catching more fish in the afternoon than I am on the morning bite right now," he said.

Part of that afternoon success is due to the self-replenishing nature of the bass on these two lakes' numerous ledges.

"I love ledges, I'm a ledge fisherman and I look at the time (I catch fish)," Knight said. "When I start to fan a school of fish at a certain time on a ledge, a lot of times, I'll go back at that same time.

"That's when the bait is there. (And) when those shad are up on those places, you are going to catch them."

And Knight almost always does catch them, fishing well just for fun or when competing in a tournament on either of his home waters.

While Harold is certainly very good at bass fishing, he believes that he made the right career choice to move from being a barber into the hunting industry.

"I make my living in the hunting industry and I love it. I've got a passion for bass fishing, and have been doing it for years," Knight said.

"I've got a lot of friends who are professional fishermen. I'm not a professional bass fisherman. At one time I thought about hitting the circuit."

Not just because of the rugged schedule — Knight has his own rugged schedule, chasing deer, elk, and turkeys for weeks at a time — but partly because of the talent and competitiveness that exists today on the Elite Series circuit.

"These people are good fishermen," Knight said. "I'm glad I did what I did because it's a tough job (fishing for a living)."

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