Kentucky Lake was unusually stingy for the anglers who fished the Costa FLW Series Championship, but the techniques used by the top 10 pros were certainly typical of the time of year.
Topwater baits thrown on main-lake bars, flats and points, and umbrella rigs thrown in deeper areas, primarily on the main lake, were the go-tos. A few anglers also targeted shallow flats in the backs of creeks, and they mostly kept topwater in their hands when they did it. Otherwise, a few single swimbaits and vibrating jigs saw some work.
Here are more details on the baits you should have at hand if you’re on the Tennessee River in fall.
1. Bradford Beavers played the topwater game for three days, using a Heddon Zara Spook, Heddon Rattlin’ Spook and River2Sea Whopper Plopper in colors ranging from bone to silver. He says the walking baits were most productive. On the last day, he struggled early but salvaged his day by switching to a Zoom Magnum Super Fluke. Then, once the wind started blowing later in the day, he was able to catch three more on topwater.
2. Targeting a combination of deep and shallow nearly won it for Todd Hollowell. Up shallow, he rotated through four topwater baits, but a River2Sea Whopper Plopper was his main choice for covering water. Out deep, he used an umbrella rig, a single swimbait and a Carolina rig.
3. Larry Stoafer’s primary bait en route to his first Costa FLW Series top 10 was a bone-colored Reaction Innovations Vixen. He also caught three quality fish on a Keitech 3.8 Swing Impact Fat swimbait in sexy shad rigged on a 1/4-ounce Buckeye Lures J-Will jighead.
4. Tim Fox started out each day throwing the Evergreen Shower Blows 125 in bone color. He also used a 1/2-ounce Z-Man/Evergreen Jack Hammer vibrating jig – white with a white Lake Fork Boot Tail Live Magic Shad trailer.
5. In practice, Chad Foster struggled to get bites on topwater, so he located most of his fish with a YUM YUMBrella Flash Mob with the blades removed. He rigged it with Bass Pro Shops Speed Shad swimbaits and Outkast Tackle Goldeneye Swimbait Jigheads. In the tournament, he primarily used walking topwaters baits, the main player being a bone-colored Heddon Saltwater Super Spook.
6. It was a trio of baits that got it done for John Soukup. First was an umbrella rig fitted with white 4-inch Strike King Swim’n Caffeine Shads. Second was a Strike King Pure Poison Swim Jig with a Caffeine Shad trailer. Third was a Strike King Sexy Dawg in bone.
7. Though he threw several topwater baits, Bryan Thrift credits most of his success to a Damiki Rambler 120 topwater walking bait in a new color called baby rainbow.
8. Fishing a milk run of spots with vertical structure was the key to Jason Abram’s success all week. He walked a barely legal-sized Reaction Innovations Vixen (chartreuse and white) and flipped a 3/8-ounce homemade jig with a rootbeer and brown flat rubber skirt and a green pumpkin Zoom UV Speed Craw trailer.
9. South African angler Michael Matthee had a stellar U.S. debut, earning a top-10 finish and Forrest Wood Cup qualification by throwing an umbrella rig fitted with 3-inch white and chartreuse swimbaits and a bone-colored Heddon Super Spook Jr.
10. Veteran pro Bill Chapman threw a 1/2-ounce War Eagle spinnerbait in the blue herring pattern with willow-leaf blades. He also used two green pumpkin-orange jigs – a War Eagle Heavy Finesse Jig and an Eakins jig – with Zoom Super Chunk Jr. trailers.