Day 1: Travel time to Kentucky Lake is around 11 hours. Today, it took almost 14. Traffic was a nightmare. There was wreck between Nashville & Knoxville with a truck turned over blocking West I 40. Chris and I sat there not moving for almost an hour. As soon as we got out of that jam, we ran into another about 20 minutes into Nashville that was just as bad. Then to top it all off, we got stuck in another where I65 and I24 merge. Boy was I glad to see the Gingerwood Lodge. Gas prices are bad enough without sitting on an Interstate parked. Gas prices have gotten rediculous, the cheapest on this trip so far has been around $1.80 a gal. With gas being one of the sports biggest expense, it will surely play a factor in my game plan.
Back at the Lodge, Bill and Lisa are glad to see me. Bills first question is "Are you going to win this year". I finished 5th here last season, so both our expectations are high.
Day 2: First day on the water and first and foremost is the lake level. It looks like a whole different lake from last year. The water was high last time, and this time it is low. My buddy Alan P. will join me today on the water and I find myself constantly pointing to a tree, a yard, and even a basketball goal that I caught fish off of last season. This season, all I could catch off them is a squirrel. The lake is dropping, not sure if the fish have spawned or not. We are in a back side of a full moon. The day will go tough, with the air temps reaching 90 degrees. It seems like we have skipped spring, jumped straight to summer. The water temps are in the 70's, and I have seen very little fry. I don't think the fish have spawned. I didn't see any on the beds, nor did the shallow bite seem all that good. We manage alot of fish today, but size is short of the 15" required limit. I had hoped the water would be up, but very few bushes if any, are in the water. This may be a out bite tournament, straight into a summer pattern. If so, the ledge fisherman like Dan Morehead and of course David Fritts will kill us. Back at supper, everyone says about the same, alot of smaller fish. I think I will switch lakes tomorrow.
Day 3: Forecast for today is again unseasonable warm temps, and blue bird skies. The weatherman will be correct, it is hot. Wish I could say that for the fishing. Though Alan and I manage to catch close to 20 fish today, only 2 are quality. The flipping bite seems to be going the way of the lake level, down. At supper, we talk to David Fritts. Bump makes the comment, "the fish are all over the bank" in jest. When in all actuality, the little ones are. Fritts snaps back, " By god I believe you, cuz they ain't out deep. I only managed 3 keepers to day, one being a 12" spot". We all look at each other knowing the bite will probably come to him not shallow for us.
Day 4: Today was a carbon copy in weather. I can't remember in a long time a FLW event having such sunny, calm weather. And it was H-O-T. The fishing was about the same. Today Alan and I trailered to way up the lake, which would be over a hour run by boat. We will fish the Tenn. side of Kentucky Lake today, and I remind Alan he will need TN license. He thinks he has some, since we fished Old Hickory prior. I have my doubts we will see a Game Warden up that far but better safe than sorry. After finding a little hole in the wall ramp, we proceed. I am really amazed how clear the water is up the head waters. There is a lot of shallow bushes, but most are high and dry. I find one little stretch of main river bank I like, start flipping and around the corner comes a boat. We don't pay much attention until we hear "how you boys doing", look to see one of TN finest game wardens. Alan's comment is "Oh, crap". But it was all for just a blood pressure high, as both of us are legal. He sort of worried me cause the first comment was "where is my registration numbers". I told him its a new boat, just got it and only have them on one side. He makes the comment, "what happened to the other side, they fall off?" Turns out the Game Warden is one of the friendliest I have every met, being very talkative and even going over some things with us about the river since I had never been that far up it.
I will not stay up the river long, by noon I have seen enough of things I do not like. We decide to take out, drive back closer to dam and put in to finish day. On the way, we will see one of the biggest Gobbler turkey I have ever seen in a field that earlier that morn on the trip in I told Alan I bet one lives there. Alan is impressed. Our season in NC went out yesterday, with me only getting to hunt a couple days before I left. I did manage to take on decent gobbler before I left. But back to fishing, the day will be one of the slowest yet, though I have never figured them out while driving, which we did more of than fishing today.
Day 5: The weather is ditto. I comment to Alan we will surely pay during the tournament. I just can't seem to get on any thing shallow. Alan suggest I try some Carolina rigging, but I'm just too dang hard headed even though I know it will be the most successful tactic in this event. There's got to be a shallow bite. Today will be our best day yet, with allot of fish and several keepers. Nothing big, just 15" fish, but I'm feeling much better. I think I have found a little deal that will work. Seems the lake is still dropping but not has fast. At supper, everyone makes the comment that they did better today.
Day 6: Tonto (Alan) will sleep in today, so I'm the Lone Ranger. I will try and expand my little pattern today. Things don't go as planned but I still believe I can catch a few. It will be a short day with the meeting tonite. At the meeting, everyone is talking that the ledge bite will be good. I have not even looked at it, so I hope the shallow bite will work. If only the water will come up or least stabilize, I think it will. My co-angler for tomorrow is from VA. I had hoped to get an early take off number since I have a couple small areas that I feel good about if I can get there first. Well, I draw boat # 179 out of 200, so there goes that plan.
Day 1 of Tournament: The weather today is calling for severe wind and storms. The wind forecast will be correct. I sort of like the wind factor, think it will hurt the boys out on those ledges. It takes me a couple stops to finally locate an area that doesn't have a boat already there, but we begin our fishing. It goes pretty slow, with only a few really small fish. And the carp as really taken over the creek. I tell my co-angler I have an area that is a pretty long run, but with this 25 mph wind, decide not to go to it today and just fish close. I make this decision because the water has come up atleast 8 inches over nite. I think this will improve the bush fish. It will be a mistake, as I only manage 2 keepers just over 5 lbs. The bites were still there, just hard to get keepers. As expected before the wind forecast, the ledge fisherman have them, with David Fritts leading day one. Guess the wind didn't hurt like I thought. My next day partner is from Kansas. I tell him we are just going fishing tomorrow, more shallow stuff, make a half long run, hoping the rise in water level will turn on.
Day 2 of Tournament: The forecast today is for wind and rain. Perfect spinnerbait weather. So I tie on my trusty Hawg Caller spinnerbait and hope for the best. I will run to the little area I had found way up lake only to find one of the guys in the top 15 already there. He makes the comment he caught 7 keepers in there yesterday. I will let him have it. Man, what a season of bad decisions this is turning out to be. The day goes fast, with little to show. I manage several fish that just barely will not measure, but only one that goes to the scales. I know under these conditions they will sack them and do. I just can't put my finger on it. I really fished well today, and with confidence what I was doing would work. But it didn't. Another bad finish, two in a row is a killer both mentally and physically. I know its all about confidence right now and I'm having a hard time regaining it. I'm on a roll, a bad roll. This sport is oh so humbling. I talk to Scott Martin later back at the house, and he blanked today after being in the top 10 yesterday. I think he summed it up best about how Kentucky Lake was more about timing and location than any lake he had ever fished. It is more like 6 or 8 lakes than just the two. What a difference a year makes, from finishing in the Top 5 to finishing in the lower 5th. I can't believe it, nor can I understand this slump I'm in.
Back at a gas station refueling for the long trip home, Dwayne Horton is gassing up on the other side of pumps. We are commenting on how gas prices will be the death of this sport when a local comes by making a statement that "must be nice not having to pay for those $1.90 a gal prices with all those sponsors". Dwayne quickly tells him "we pay just like you do but feel the sting twice more". We look at each other and both say at same time, "Everyone thinks we get everything free out here". Heck, I can prove it, just look at the wallet full of gas receipts I got"!
But its true, with it taking about $2.00 for every 15 miles travel now, and over $75 to fill the boat each day, gas prices will influence this sport negatively. With our next event on Lake Champlain in upper New York at over 1000 miles, I can only imagine what it will be like there. It was bad last time, so upper $2.50 range is going to happen. And its a big body of water.