All week pros at the Walmart FLW Tour on Kentucky Lake presented by Mercury and hosted by the Kentucky Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau have been discussing the concept of school size on the Tennessee River ledges. What most have agreed on is that megaschools do exist, but they are nearly impossible to entice into firing up. The biggest herds of fish along the river channel, say from 75 “dots” and up have the biggest case of lockjaw. Meanwhile, the smaller clusters, pods or minischools of bass (5 to 25 “dots”) seem to be more cooperative but always on the move.
What pros seem to differ in opinion on is whether the minischools are a result of fracturing off the megaschools or are the minischools are just now getting big enough to form megaschools.
Tournament leader Jason Lambert believes the minischools fractured from the primary school due to pressure. But fifth place pro Mark Rose believes the fish are still coming to the ledges and the minischools are the foundations from which megaschools will soon form. Either way, here is a look at the rest of the top five.
2. Brandon Hunter – Benton, Ky. – 66-10 (15)
Brandon Hunter stunned the weigh-in crowd with a big 24-pound, 12-ounce catch on day three, which pushed him to second place going into the final day.
Hunter wasted little time in firing up a nice school close to the launch site during the early morning hours.
“I got a good school going this morning,” Hunter says. “It was just one of those mornings where everything went my way. They were up feeding up on top of a flat in about 13 or 14 feet. I had most of what I weighed in in about an hour. That was the best start I’ve had all week. It helped me relax and from there I just bounced around graphing some other stuff and looking around for tomorrow. I did upgrade one more time later in the day, but most of my damage was done in the morning.”
3. Bryan Thrift – Shelby, N.C. – 63-2 (15)
Bryan Thrift has the distinction of being the only angler to crack the 20-pound mark every day of the tournament for a three-day total of 63 pounds, 2 ounces.
Late yesterday afternoon, Thrift culled out 12 pounds with 20 pounds of fish in a matter of 10 minutes. He returned to that spot this morning and it happened to be where Lambert and Terry Bolton were fishing as well.
Thrift (as well as Lambert) say the place they are all sharing is an example of a megaschool that has been broken and fractured by lack of current and fishing pressure.
“In practice, that place had a huge megaschool on it,” Thrift says. “But during the tournament, we all started fishing it and the fish started moving around a whole bunch, breaking off into the little groups and they would not sit still. When I pulled up there late yesterday, there was a little current and it’s like the whole school got back together and that’s when I ripped them. But today, they were broken up and moving around again. I eventually caught a couple of big ones there again today, but it was nothing like yesterday when all those fish got together to form one big school.”
4. Terry Bolton – Paducah, Ky. – 61-11 (15)
Day two leader Terry Bolton brought in 16 pounds, 14 ounces on day three to slide back to fourth place.
Bolton has picked up a few of his weigh-in fish off of community holes along the river, but he has also had to resort to fishing a few places in creeks and bays to abscond from the fishing pressure.
“The fish in those bigger schools along the river are just so hard to catch on the bigger baits I’m throwing,” Bolton says. “So the last couple of days I’ve been running a few places back in creeks where there are fewer fish, but they’re a little more willing to bite bigger baits. The problem with those places is there are so few fish on them that they’re only good for one day. They are places the fish use as they’re leaving the creeks and a lot of that is coming to an end, so they’re getting fewer and fewer each day.”
5. Mark Rose – West Memphis, Ark. – 58-8 (15)
While some believe the bigger schools are getting beat down into smaller schools, Rose is of the opinion that the smaller schools are just now getting to the point where they can form bigger schools as more fish retreat out of the creeks, bays and flats.
“I really don’t think it’s gotten hot enough yet to push most of the fish out to the river and form up those truly big, massive schools,” Rose says. “I’m having to idle a lot of places where big schools should be and if I see five fish on my screen, I stop and fish it. Those are not megaschools. But once enough of those small groups get together, I think they’ll form bigger schools.”