Rising to the occasion - Major League Fishing

Rising to the occasion

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A flooded playground adjacent to the launch site bespoke the high water greeting Stren anglers on Kentucky/Barkley Lake. Photo by David A. Brown.
Stren Series anglers meet high water on Kentucky-Barkley lakes
May 7, 2009 • David A. Brown • Toyota Series

Gilbertsville, Ky. – They may feel like they’re fishing in a pinball machine, but the high-water conditions on Kentucky-Barkley lakes will offer Stren Series Central Division anglers the potential to tally a high score.

As boats launched for day one Thursday, a dense fog hung over The Moors Marina, a subtle contrast to the voluminous precipitation that has made its way completely into local waterways. Indeed, recent heavy rains have kept the Tennessee Valley Authority busy regulating water levels, but there’s still a lot of flooded cover, and that gives bass plenty of new feeding areas. Anglers report that the fish are numerous and scattered.

Florida pro Matt Greenblatt has been practicing for several days. He reports murky water littered with Florida pro Matt Greenblat hopes to fool the right bass with a Gary Yamamoto Swimming Senko rigged on a shaky head.debris. Nevertheless, he’s encouraged by the high numbers of bass he’s been finding.

“The water is really high, and the fish have moved back into the bushes,” he said. “I’ve been catching 30 to 40 fish a day – I’ve just had to weed through the small ones to get to the big fish.”

Greenblatt said he’s had some luck with swimbaits, but the majority of his action has come from fishing vertically in the bushes, mostly with a Texas-rigged Sweet Beaver and a Yamamoto Swimming Senko on a shaky head.

Marion, Ark., pro Mark Rose said the high water offers diverse opportunities. He’ll try a mix of baits and tactics on day one to determine what the fish prefer.

“I’m going to do a little bit of everything,” Rose said. “I’m fishing everywhere from on top to 20 feet deep. There’s a lot of small fish in there, but who knows? Any day now some big ones could pull up.”

Dense fog hung across the Moors Marina launch site on the morning of day one.He’ll spend some time with a topwater and a crankbait, but Rose will likely concentrate on flipping flooded brush with a Strike King Rodent. Decreased visibility from fluctuating water levels has left the shallow scene noticeably turbid. However, Rose said that’s not as much of a limitation as it may seem.

“That helps the shallow bite,” he said. “People think you need the clear water, but the fish get up there and stay tight to that cover when the water’s dirty.”

Bill McDonald of Indianapolis said the water level is changing daily, so fishing with an open mind is essential. The lakes currently hold a mix of prespawn, spawning and postspawn fish, but the weekend’s lunar phase should spur a wave of big females.

“The full moon’s coming so there will be fish bedding,” he said. “I’m going for bedding fish. Not that I can see them; I’m just going to go where I think they should be. I’m going to live and die with what I came down here to do.”

Targeting the 3- to 5-foot zone, McDonald will be pitching and flipping green-pumpkin plastics. Like many With so many bass feeding in the flooded cover, flipping baits will be a popular tactic.of his competitors, McDonald plans on making a big run of up to 90 miles, so time management will be paramount. Calculating running and fishing time is always a challenge, but incoming water brings lots of floating hazards, so boaters must allow plenty of time for safe navigation.

Rose said he anticipates good catches across the board, with a handful of heavy bags: “I look for there to be a 25-pound bag and a few 20s. Overall, if (an angler) has 15 pounds a day for a couple of days, he’ll have a good tournament.”

Logistics

Anglers will take off from Moors Marina located at 570 Moors Road in Gilbertsville, Ky., at 6:30 each morning. Thursday and Friday’s weigh-ins also will be held at Moors beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday’s weigh-in will be held at the Walmart store located at 310 W. Main St. in Benton, Ky., beginning at 4 p.m. Takeoffs and weigh-ins are free and open to the public.

Headgear and rain jackets will come in handy today, especially with afternoon thunderstorms in the forecast.The Kentucky-Barkley lakes Stren Series tournament is hosted by the Marshall County Tourist Commission. The entire field competes for the first two days of Stren Series events. The top 10 professionals and co-anglers continue competition on day three, and the winner in each division is determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from all three days.

Pros will fish for a top award of $25,000 plus a 198VX Ranger powered by an Evinrude or Yamaha outboard and equipped with a Minn Kota trolling motor and Lowrance electronics if Ranger Cup guidelines are met. If the winner is not a Ranger Cup participant, Ranger will award $7,500 to the highest-finishing Ranger Cup participant in the contingency program.

Co-anglers will cast for a top award of a 177TR Ranger powered by an Evinrude or Yamaha outboard and trailer. If the co-angler meets the Ranger Cup guidelines, they will earn an additional $5,000. If the winner is not a Ranger Cup participant, Ranger will award $2,500 to the highest-finishing Ranger Cup participant in the contingency program.

On the Web

For those who can’t catch the weigh-in action in person, FLWOutdoors.com offers FLW Live, an online application that brings fans real-time weigh-in results. Today’s weigh-in begins at 3 p.m. CDT.

Thursday’s conditions

Sunrise: 5:51 a.m.

Temperature at takeoff: 63 degrees

Expected high temperature: 81 degrees

Water temperature: 66 degrees

Wind: SW at 6-8 mph

Humidity: 65 percent

Day’s outlook: partly cloudy with afternoon thunderstorms