LEESBURG, Fla. – Some anglers will tell you they are a slow fisherman. That when it comes to fishing, they can drop it down into granny gear and just creep along slower than anyone else – and that’s fine. But in bass fishing, there are two levels of slow; what everyone calls slow, and Kennie Steverson slow.
How slow does Steverson fish? He literally got passed by all the turtles on the Harris Chain of Lakes en route to winning the Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats Southern Division event this week.
For the record, Steverson’s scorecard for the event included a Day 1 catch of 24 pounds even, a Day 2 catch of 27-11 and a closing round catch of 20-2 for a total of 71-13.
What’s amazing are the extremes Steverson went through during the week in terms of distance and time. Each day he traveled to Lake Apopka, roughly 60 miles per day, round trip, for a total of 180 miles on the week. With 260 boats in the field, and so many locking through Apopka’s tiny three-boat lock, the wait times were roughly 1 1/2 to 2 hours to get through the lock. Each day, Steverson averaged just 3 hours of fishing time in Apopka. Since each official tournament day is 8 hours long, across three competition days he had a total of 24 hours to fish, but only fished 9 of those hours – basically just one-third of the allotted hours to fish.
“The primary reason I made the commitment to Apopka was because I was boat No. 2 on the first day of competition,” Steverson said. “If I had been middle-of-the-pack or higher, I honestly don’t know that this tournament would have played out this way for me.
“I got a bunch of bites in Apopka in practice, but didn’t set on them; so I really didn’t know what I had,” he said. “But once I drew boat two on Day 1, I knew I could be the first through the lock and have first pick of the water down there. I had to go, it was like a guarantee that no one else would be on the stretch I wanted to fish.”
Anyone who has tournament fished knows that when making long runs, especially through locks, when you finally get to your water and you’re the first one there; you can’t help but be just a little jacked up when you land. With so much fishing time sacrificed, the tendency is to fish fast and cover water – but, not for Steverson.
Once he hit the Power-Poles and came to a screeching halt in the shallow reeds of Apopka, that was it. That’s where he was fishing. All told, Steverson’s best stretch was maybe 100 yards long. But he didn’t fish all 100 yards each day. Instead, he slowly digested only 30 to 40 yards of it per day.
“I would put my poles down and not pick them up for 30 minutes,” he said. “I would not move and pick every inch of everything I could reach apart.”
Steverson explained that’s the only way he can cope with the fishing pressure the Harris Chain has seen the last several years.
“Once you use your trolling motor to move, it’s over,” he explained. “When that prop hits the grass, they’re not going to bite. Once I use the trolling motor to get into position and pole down, I’m literally twiddling my thumbs for the first 10 minutes. I mean, I’ll fish, but I’m sort of going through the motions because I know it takes those fish about 10 minutes to settle down from the trolling motor and boat noise.”
Once he went to work, Steverson needled the hay grass and reeds with a standard 6-inch Yamamoto Senko on a 1/2-ounce weight, tied to 65-pound-test Fitzgerald Vursa Braid. The power end of the business was done with a 7-foot, 6-inch Fitzgerald All-Purpose rod with a Fitzgerald Stunner reel.
Each day there was a magic window when the fish would bite. Today, that window happened about 2 hours into the day, right before a wicked cold front blew through Central Florida, ushering in a 20-degree air temperature drop and a biting north wind.
“For about an hour, just before that front, they bit pretty good,” he said. “Once that wind turned out of the north, it blew into my area and it was over.
“I’m a slow fisherman by nature anyway,” he said. “So, these Florida bass sort of suit my style because you can’t rush them. I’ve learned to take my time, let them get comfortable and pick them apart as slow as possible, even when I only have 2 1/2 hours to fish.”
For his win, including the Phoenix MLF Bonus, Steverson took home a total of $102,000 and leaves the Harris Chain with an early lead in the Toyota Series Southern Division points.
1. Kennie Steverson – 71 – 13 (15) – $102,000 (includes $35,000 Phoenix Bonus)
2. Eric Panzironi – 64 – 07 (15) – $27,500
3. Jared Lintner – 63 – 14 (15) – $18,000
4. Ron Nelson – 63 – 00 (15) – $16,000
5. Cory Johnston – 61 – 11 (15) – $15,000
6. Chad Mrazek – 57 – 04 (15) – $11,500
7. Ken Thompson – 55 – 10 (13) – $10,000
8. Darold Gleason – 52 – 11 (15) – $8,500
9. Rodney Marks – 51 – 13 (15) – $7,500
10. Tyler Sheppard – 50 – 12 (15) – $5,500