The final day of the Rayovac FLW Series Southeast Division event on Lake Guntersville was a simply tremendous. Mark Rose and Bryan Thrift, both veterans of the Walmart FLW Tour, made valiant efforts to unseat Minnesota pro Joe Hall, but it was Jay Kendrick of Grant, Ala., who managed it in the end. Kendrick caught 33 pounds, 8 ounces on the final day of the Mercury-presented tournament for an 83-pound, 7-ounce total and his first win with FLW.
Kendrick, who is fishing the Rayovac FLW Series in hopes of qualifying for the FLW Tour, caught more than 25 pounds each day of the event and finished in fine fashion when it counted. After an 80th place finish at the season-opener on Lake Okeechobee, Kendrick will be well on his way to doing so pending a high finish at the final Southeast Division event on Lake Seminole.
A veteran of tournament competition, from the Red Man days to some time spent on the B.A.S.S. Elite Series, Kendrick managed to set himself apart from the rest of the crew fishing Guntersville’s famous bridges with a specific swimbait presentation.
“The key to where I was at was that there were baitfish there,” says Kendrick. “I could feel the swimbait bumping them. I could almost tell when I was going to get a bite today. Those big bass would track my swimbait before they ate it, and when they would be lurking around those big shad would get nervous and start hitting my line really hard – almost like a little bass. Then those big ones would just load up on it.”
Kendrick targeted bass that were suspending about 20-feet down over 25 feet of water and held his boat out over 30 feet. He says he was casting into water that was about 15-feet deep had to fizz (a technique to release air from the swim bladder) a number of fish that came from especially deep water.
“I didn’t practice the stuff I was going to fish in the tournament,” says Kendrick. “I was eliminating the shallow bite. I didn’t want to waste time in the tournament fishing for shallow fish that couldn’t win.”
Two big swimbaits produced most of the weight for Kendrick’s win. The first, and most productive of the two, was a 7-inch Scottsboro Tackle Company swimbait that he had specially made in a Houdini pearl-color. To fish the big solid-bodied bait properly, Kendrick used a 10/0 Owner Beast hook and a pegged 3/4-ounce tungsten bullet weight. His second big swimbait was a shad-colored 7-inch Basstrix Paddle Tail Swimbait, which he rigged on a 3/4-ounce Buckeye Lures J-Will Swimbait Head. Because he was making repeated casts to the same locations, Kendrick used the two in tandem, rotating through them when he felt the need. He believes the Scottsboro swimbait won out because it has a thinner, more subtle tail, that worked less vigorously in the water.
Kendrick was confident all week and happy as could be on stage after he cinched his win. Despite having a boatload of local knowledge, he didn’t need to employ all of it for the W.
“I had five places that had fish on them, but I only went to two of them in the tournament,” says Kendrick. “I just didn’t want to change what was working, and when you move you risk losing your spot or not getting the next one.”
Kendrick’s final day was a particularly impressive display – after an unproductive morning (punctuated by a heartbreaking lost fish), Kendrick had an amazing flurry as the clock ran down. He says he caught 30 pounds in 30 minutes, which is nothing short of a miracle anywhere but Guntersville. To top it off, Kendrick also tossed a bream-colored 3/8-ounce Choo Choo Lures Jig to a duck blind between his two spots for a kicker.
Considering the grumbling in practice (which seems like a distant memory at this point), Kendrick has really accomplished something. He eclipsed last year’s winning weight and the 80-pound mark for one of the most exciting wins of the season.
Top 10 Pros:
1. Jay Kendrick – 83-7 (15)
2. Joe Hall – 77-6 (15)
3. Bryan Thrift – 74-3 (15)
4. Walmart pro Mark Rose – 73-10 (15)
5. Cameron Gautney – 70-7 (14)
6. Ed Oilar – 67-4 (15)
7. Rob Digh – 65-15 (15)
8. Mark Daniels Jr. – 58-6 (14)
9. Trevor Fitzgerald – 55-15 (12)
10. Billy Brindle – 55-9 (13)
O’Donnell Holds Steady For Co-angler Win
Walmart FLW Tour co-angler Casey O’Donnell of Bradenton, Fla., landed four bass worth 17 pounds, 2 ounces, to earn the win on the co-angler side. In total, O’Donnell caught 62 pounds, 12 ounces over the course of the three-day event. For his efforts, O’Donnell took home a brand-new Ranger Z117 and an outboard to match.
O’Donnell, who recently moved to Guntersville, caught his fish on a variety of baits throughout the week, but most of his weight the final two days came on a 3/4-ounce red-colored lipless crankbait.
Top 10 Co-anglers
1. Casey O’Donnell – 62-12 (14)
2. Josh Klinghagen – 56-13 (13)
3. Alphonso Taylor – 44-8 (12)
4. Justin Sward – 42-11 (11)
5. James Brooks – 39-6 (12)
6. Thomas Rubbo – 37-3 (7)
7. Michel Purvis – 36-7 (12)
8. Wayne Boyd – 36-3 (8)
9. Mike McDaniel – 36-2 (11)
10. Nik Kayler – 35-1 (8)