Lawrence sets the pace with a mixed bag on Kentucky and Barkley - Major League Fishing

Lawrence sets the pace with a mixed bag on Kentucky and Barkley

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Jake Lawrence sacked nearly 20 pounds for the lead on Day 1. Photo by Matt Pace. Angler: Jake Lawrence.
April 20, 2023 • Tyler Brinks • Toyota Series

CALVERT CITY, Ky. – After a hiatus for a few years, Kentucky and Barkley lakes were back on the Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats Plains Division schedule and local favorite Jake Lawrence jumped right back to the top of the leaderboard with a limit weighing 19 pounds, 3 ounces on a breezy spring day.

The winner of the 2018 Toyota Series event on Barkley Lake, Lawrence knows the fishery very well, and showed it as he put together the best bag of the day, which consisted of four solid smallmouth and a kicker largemouth.

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

As good as planned for Lawrence

Before the event, Lawrence offered his insight on the fishing on his home lake and things went just as planned for him, maybe even a little better. He believed smallmouth would be a factor in the event and that held true as most of the top finishers had success with the bronzebacks.

“Today went about as good as it could,” he said. “I lost a few that would have helped some, but overall it was a great day. I’m doing something I’ve never done on the lake, which is really cool.”

Without disclosing too much, he said he’s fishing a typical springtime pattern but figuring things out as he goes and fishing new water.

“I’ve fished here my whole life, I grew up here, but I’ve never caught them like this on the lake,” he said. “The bite seems to be getting better every day. I figured it out in practice and it was borderline, but today it was happening everywhere I went.”

On a day when limits were somewhat scarce, Lawrence caught plenty of bass. He estimated he caught 30, at about a 5-to-1 smallmouth to largemouth ratio. But one of those largemouth was a giant that weighed 6-1, just a few ounces shy of the day’s big bass.

“I caught a lot more smallmouth and that big largemouth was kind of a fluke,” said Lawrence, adding that the big green one came fishing the same way as his smallmouth did. “My bite is wind-dependent, but you need some wind and not too much. I’m thankful I survived the day with how bad the wind got.”

Hailing from the Paris, Tennessee, area on the southern end of the massive fishery, fishing the Kentucky Lake’s northern end is a rarity for him, but it’s working out fine so far.

“I hardly ever fish up this way, but playing the weather and knowing it would be windy, I stayed close,” he said. “I fished between the ramp and the bridge.”

Clint Knight knocked out a solid limit for second place. Photo by Matt Pace

Knight settles in second

Lewisburg, Kentucky’s Clint Knight finished the day in second place with a limit worth 17-15. Knight has three Top-10 finishes in Phoenix Bass Fishing League events on the lakes in the past year, including a fifth-place showing this past weekend and a third in March. He’s capitalized on that knowledge and the fishery’s improving smallmouth bite to secure a spot near the top of the leaderboard.

“I got lucky and found some of those big smallmouth,” he said. “The lake has been fishing good for smallmouth this year and it’s full of big ones right now. I found quite a few of them and if they stay put, it could be a really good week.”

Knight didn’t get into full details on his program, but shared that he’s primarily fishing shallow with a swimbait.

“The wind today helped because when it got rough out there, they started to bite better,” he said. “I started off searching for prespawners, but it appears that most of them are postspawn fish right now.”

Surly and Johnson split Strike King co-angler lead

Weighing identical bags, Taylor Surly and Chase Johnson came to the scales with 13-8. Johnson had a limit, while Surly had just four bass, including the Berkley Big Bass of the day, a 5-15.

Arkansas’ Surly fished with local pro Bill Schroeder III and was thrilled to have the big one in his bag.

“Any day you can catch one over 5, it’s a good day,” he said. “My partner was great and he had me around fish all day. We each only had four keepers, but we caught fish all day long with many short fish mixed in. We primarily targeted smallmouth, but found a few largemouth there with them.”

Fishing with pro Brent Anderson, Johnson of Quincy, Illinois, was able to bag a solid limit that included all of the keepers he caught on the day.

“I caught seven or eight, but only five were big enough,” he said. “Brent caught five as well. He was a great guy and we had a good time out there; we each caught one here and one there throughout the day.”

Top 10 pros

1. Jake Lawrence – 19 – 3 (5)

2. Clint Knight – 17 – 15 (5)           

3. Adam Bartusek – 17 – 8 (5)                

4. Kevin Meunier – 17 – 4 (5) 

5. Drew Gill – 16 – 1 (5)              

6. Eli Brumnett – 15 – 8 (5)     

7. Cole Floyd – 15 – 6 (5)          

8. Ethan Fields – 15 – 6 (5)      

9. Sam Moll – 15 – 3 (4)             

10. Stephen Whitesell – 15 – 2 (5)      

Complete results