Lawrence locks down the win on Kentucky and Barkley - Major League Fishing

Lawrence locks down the win on Kentucky and Barkley

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Jake Lawrence went wire-to-wire again at Kentucky Lake. Photo by Matt Pace. Angler: Jake Lawrence.
April 22, 2023 • Tyler Brinks • Toyota Series

CALVERT CITY, Ky. – Local pro Jake Lawrence stood at the top of the leaderboard for the third consecutive day at the Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats Series Plains Division event on Kentucky and Barkley lakes. Adding a solid bag of smallmouth weighing 18 pounds, 9 ounces today, he brought his winning total to 57-5 to take home his second Toyota Series trophy on his home waters.

Lawrence has fished the lake for years with great success, including a triumph at the 2018 event on Barkley Lake. However, he did something a little different this time, as he primarily targeted smallmouth with the help of his forward-facing sonar. For the win, he’ll drive the $44,000 check and a new trophy just a little ways south to Paris, Tennessee.

This event was presented by Jenko Fishing and hosted by the Kentucky Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Jake Lawrence has excelled in his limited Toyota Series competition.

Winning again at home was even sweeter for Lawrence

When Lawrence last won in 2018, he also did it in a dominant wire-to-wire fashion. But that event was in June and he relied on more tried and true summertime ledge skills. This one couldn’t have been more different for Lawrence.

“This one is special. I know you say that for every win, but that one was on my home turf down by Paris,” he said. “I knew every nook and cranny down there and felt like that win was 15 years in the making. This one was different because I was doing something totally different, something I’d never done. I don’t know that I ever caught one this week in places I’ve ever fished. It was like a brand new lake to me.”

What he was doing was also unique, targeting spawning smallmouth with the help of his Garmin LiveScope and fishing the northern end of the massive fishery.

“This lake is so big that I hardly ever make it up this far,” he said of his areas that roughly stretched from takeoff at Kentucky Dam Marina to Jonathan Creek. “I was catching spawning fish or fish that were staging before or after they spawned, but they were in the same areas. I could tell on LiveScope if the bass were spawning based on how they acted because they’d hang around if they were on a bed.”

One key for his areas was having shallow water with quick access to deeper water. This was true for his smallmouth and the bonus 6-1 largemouth from the first day.

“It seemed like most of the fish were in that 4- to 7-foot range and on flatter banks, but they had to have a secondary creek channel running close to them,” he said. “It couldn’t be a 100-yard flat; everything was a couple of yards away from deeper water in the creek channel. Those fish want to do their deal and then pull back out. That big largemouth I caught the first day was the same thing and was one of the deepest fish I caught all week.”

Targeting smallmouth that were spawning offshore was the main gig for Jake Lawrence.

Lawrence used a tube and a swimbait to catch his fish, with the 3.25-inch Jenko Booty Shaker Swimbait in blueback on a ¼-ounce ball head jig. He caught some fish with the swimbait, but it was mainly a search tool and smallmouth agitator. His tube was a Strike King Coffee Tube in green pumpkin, but he utilized a 1/8-ounce Jenko Trick Tube Jig Head to fish the tube on a “Stupid Rig.”

“The head was really important because rigging it that way doesn’t hang up as much and that jig head has a great hook, so you land more of those fish,” he said. “I’d throw the swimbait on them to get them excited and then if they didn’t bite, I’d turn around and cast the tube in and get them.”

After the win, Lawrence hinted at a run at top-level professional fishing, and this victory may help speed up the process.

“It was already in the works before this, but we still need to hammer out some details,” he said. “This week, I purposely limited my practice to help me prepare for that. Instead of practicing for a week, I only spent two-and-a-half days. I want to push myself to get into that frame of mind. I’m more proud that I could do that than for winning it even.”

Both first- and second-place pros fished very similarly, unlocking a spawning smallmouth pattern on Kentucky Lake.

Bartusek rides smallmouth to runner up

Minnesota pro Adam Bartusek made the trek to Kentucky with largemouth on the mind and ended up more than impressed with the smallmouth fishing at Kentucky Lake.

“I’m not a local and came down thinking it would be all largemouth fishing,” he said. “I heard there were some smallies down here and during practice, I went out and started idling and saw beds. I caught a few big ones and said, ‘This is all I’m going to do.’ Being from Minnesota, I love catching smallmouth.”

Fishing the same pattern as Lawrence, Bartusek utilized his Humminbird electronics to locate bedding fish and picked them off with a custom-poured mini tube and Ned rig.

“If they’d miss the tube, I’d throw the Ned rig in there,” he said.

Bartusek will leave Kentucky $17,000 richer with a new appreciation of smallmouth on this Tennessee River fishery.

“I know people are talking about how Kentucky Lake is struggling, but this is one of the best smallmouth fisheries I have ever been to,” he said. “It was honestly pretty incredible how many fish I was catching, 50 to 60 a day and my thumbs are hurting so bad from catching so many. This place is unreal for smallmouth right now, but I’m sure the largemouth will be rebounding, too.”

Top 10 pros

1. Jake Lawrence – 57 – 5 (15) – $44,000

2. Adam Bartusek – 55 – 15 (15) – $17,000

3. Drew Gill – 51 – 1 (15) – $12,750

4. Ethan Fields – 48 – 6 (15) – $10,750

5. Harbor Lovin – 45 – 7 (15) – $9,750

6. Cole Floyd – 44 – 10 (15) – $9,375 (includes $1,000 Phoenix Bonus)

7. Steve Floyd – 44 – 4 (15) – $7,800

8. Matt Stanley – 44 – 1 (14) – $6,300

9. Clint Knight – 43 – 12 (14) – $5,500

10. Brad Jelinek – 40 – 6 (13) – $4,200

Complete results