Pro-staff Contributor: Jeff Gustafson
It seems like just yesterday that I was hauling my boat down to Florida for the first FLW Tour event of the season at Lake Okeechobee. That was early February and now six events later, a bunch of practice days and thousands of miles traveled and just like that, the season is over.
The last tournament of the 2014 season went down at Kentucky Lake, out of Paris, Tennessee. After a good tournament at Pickwick a few weeks earlier, I was eager to get out on Kentucky for the three-day official practice. Kentucky Lake has a reputation as being one of the best lakes in the United States, with big numbers of quality fish. And it fishes much like Pickwick, where offshore structure fishing is the primary pattern.
After Pickwick, I left my boat at a friend’s place in Memphis and flew home for a week and a half. My Dad returned with me to practice for the tournament and help me out with the big drive back to Canada. He had signed up to fish the tournament on the co-angler side but was too far back on the waiting list and never ended up getting into the event. We had a great time prefishing and exploring the lake together though!
Over the course of the three-day practice period I managed to get a look at about 70 miles of this gigantic lake! I spent the first day in the south end, the second day in the north end, near the dam and on the third day of practice I ended up fishing relatively close to Paris, TN where the tournament would launch out of.
For the tournament, I made the decision to spend my time fishing close because I had found three or four good schools and I would be able to maximize my fishing time. Each day I found a few good schools of fish but I actually felt like the ones that I found near Paris were the least obvious and might not get as much pressure from other anglers.
Throughout the practice I used a lot of the same baits that I used at Pickwick – a ¾ oz football jig, deep-diving crankbaits and 5-6” inch swimbaits. I added one other bait to my arsenal that proved to be effective as well. The weekend before our tournament at Kentucky Lake there was a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on Lake Chickamauga, another lake farther up the Tennessee River. It was revealed online that several of the top finishers in that event were using bucktail jigs to catch their fish.
When I got down to Kentucky Lake I made up a few ½ and ¾ oz bucktail jigs of my own and throughout the practice they were by far my best bait. It was pretty cool. I was casting them out, letting them sink to the bottom in 10-25 feet of water and “stroking” them back to the boat. The fish were smoking them! I was fishing them on a G. Loomis NRX rod (7’3” MH 873C) with 12 pound fluorocarbon (Sniper FC) and a Shimano Chronarch CI4 reel (6.4:1). This is the same rod that I fish my football jigs on and it is just very versatile, a pleasure to fish with really.
When the tournament started, the bucktail jig bite kind of died on me. It was like the fish were not as aggressive. I caught a couple of my weigh fish each day on it, but I probably caught more fish in the tournament on the football jig. I ended up having two solid limits (17-7 and 18-4) and ended up finishing in 40th place, which earned me $10,000!
After a tough start to the season in those first couple events, it felt good to end on a strong note, cashing a check in the last four tournaments. I ended up finishing 64th in the Forrest Wood Cup points race, which was pretty good considering I had a big hole to get out of after those first two derbies. I’m looking forward to getting back out there again next year with my goal being to qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup!
Huge thank you to my all of my sponsors who make it possible for me to live my dream and get to fish the FLW Tour, it’s been fun!
Jeff Gustafson is a professional angler living in Kenora, Ontario on the shores of Lake of the Woods. Outdoor writer, fishing promoter and host of “Fishing with Gussy.” You’ll see him fishing the FLW Tour representing krugerfarms.com and Lund boats among others. You can follow him on Twitter (@GussyOutdoors) and like him on Facebook (facebook.com/gussyoutdoors).