June 02, 2015
PARIS, Tenn. — With half of the 2015 Bassmaster Elite Series season in the history books, the schedule now makes a major shift back to the Eastern United States for the Zippo BASSfest at Kentucky Lake presented by A.R.E. Truck Caps, June 3-7.
The tournament itself will feature a major shift in rules and formatting from a normal Elite Series event, with 111 Elite pros being joined by 13 invited anglers from the Bass Pro Shops Open circuit.
The full field of 124 anglers will fish the first two days on Kentucky Lake. Then on Day 3, any angler not ranked in the Top 50 will be eligible for a one-day Second Chance tournament on nearby Lake Barkley.
The Top 10 finishers from the Second Chance tournament will earn $10,000 and rejoin the original Top 50 on Day 4 for the resumption of the main event at Kentucky Lake. Only the Top 12 anglers will advance to Day 5.
The winner will receive an automatic berth into the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro and $100,000.
“BASSfest is a unique event that brings in dominant Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens anglers pitted against the world’s best Elite Series anglers,” said B.A.S.S. Tournament Director Trip Weldon. “Last year, one of those (Open) guys, Jacob Wheeler, walked off with the title and a Bassmaster Classic berth.
“For this event, 10 anglers have a shot at redemption on Lake Barkley once the initial cut is made on Kentucky Lake. The Top 10 from the Second Chance on Barkley not only garner a 10K payday, but move back into the fold for Day 4.”
The field is likely to find good fishing on Kentucky Lake — a mammoth 160,309-acre Tennessee River fishery that has been on a major upswing the past few years. Since February, anglers have been winning local tournaments with five-bass limits that often topped the 25-pound mark.
“The bass population on Kentucky Lake has been as strong the past two years as it’s ever been,” said Bobby Wilson, chief of fisheries for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. “We had a really good year class during a period of high water a few years back, and that seems to have made all the difference. Aquatic vegetation has also become more prominent on the lake, and that’s helped the fishing in several different ways.”
The talk about bass fishing on Kentucky Lake usually starts with its ledges. The fishery is nationally known for outstanding offshore ledge fishing, and local guide Steve McCadams said he expects anglers to flock to those areas during the event.
He said a wide range of baits are likely to produce good fish.
“Big crankbaits, jig-and-craw combos, Texas and Carolina rigged worms and big swimbaits usually top the popularity list on the ledges,” said McCadams, who began guiding on Kentucky Lake in 1972. “With the ledges, there are times when a school of fish might lay dormant for most of the day only to have a feeding spree and blitz up on a shelf in hot pursuit of shad. Things can change in a hurry.”
The only trouble with fishing ledges on Kentucky Lake is they’re sometimes a little too crowded. For anglers who don’t want to battle the traffic, McCadams said there will be options.
After recent heavy rains across the Mid-South region, the fishery is several inches above normal summer pool. That means the buckbrush, weedbeds and blowdowns on the shoreline will be flooded and likely holding fish.
“Kentucky Lake offers a good shallow bite right now with a lot of shoreline cover attracting schools of fry that have hatched out within the last month or so,” McCadams said. “The abundance of baitfish on the shallow structure always seems to hold fish here this time of year.”
The Tennessee Valley Authority has been generating lots of water in attempt to bring the lake back to normal summer pool. That’s creating a stronger current than usual, and it could be good for all anglers, no matter how deep they’re fishing.
“It really is a lake where several different patterns and depths can produce fish at the same time,” McCadams said. “I suspect the winner will have to land a limit weighing 25 pounds or so on a daily basis, although fishing pressure might diminish the top stringers on the final day or two.”
Daily takeoffs for the Kentucky Lake portion of the event will be at 6:15 a.m. from Paris Landing State Park with weigh-ins scheduled back at the park for 3:15 p.m. Also, on Friday, the Top 50 anglers will be onsite at the state park for Bassmaster University — free fishing seminars given by the pros.
Takeoff and weigh-in for the Second Chance tournament at Lake Barkley will be at Lick Creek Recreational Area, with takeoff set for 6:15 a.m. and weigh-in set for 2:30 p.m.
Open anglers taking part in BASSfest are: Scott Barnett, Mansfield, Tex.; Stetson Blaylock, Benton, Ark.; Troy Broussard, Beaumont, Tex.; Brian Clark, Haltom City, Tex.; Gary Clouse, LaVergne, Tenn.; Shin Fukae, Palestine, Tex.; Darold Gleason, Leesville, La.; Chris Johnston, Otanobee, Calif.; J.T. Kenney, Palm Bay, Fla.; Logan Sherre, Kamack, Tex.; Jess Tacoronte, Orlando, Fla.; Chad Wiley, Pineville, La.; Craig Workman, Fort Worth, Tex.
The local host for the event is the Paris Henry County Alliance.