Entering the final day of competition at the Bass Pro Shops PAA
Tournament Series presented by Carrot Stix on Tennessee’s Old Hickory
Lake with a sizable lead of 7.09 pounds, Steve Kennedy knew that if he
could catch a limit of any size on Saturday, he would have a good shot
at notching his second PAA Tournament Series victory in as many years.
Kennedy did just that, bringing five bass to the scales weighing 9.86
pounds. It wasn’t much, but it was enough. With a three day total
weight of 44.27 pounds, the Alabama pro edged out a hard charging Gary
Yamamoto by 2.46 pounds.
Along with the trophy, Kennedy took home a 2012 Nitro Z8, equipped
with a Mercury 225 OptiMax engine with a retail value of over $40,000.
He also pocketed an additional $1,250 in cash.
“I was very concerned,” said a relieved Steve Kennedy after the
conclusion of the weigh-in which was held at the Bass Pro Shops in
Nashville. “When we started this morning, I knew that we had a check-in
time that was over an hour earlier than it had been on the first two
days. On Thursday and Friday, I caught the majority of my bigger fish
really late in the day.”
Compounding his concerns was the fact that the weather on Saturday,
which featured calm winds and heavy overcast skies, was a complete
change from the sunny skies and moderate winds that greeted the
competitors on each of the first two days.
Kennedy struggled early, suffering through a barrage of lost fish
that he hooked on an intentionally unnamed swimbait that he has relied
on for several top finishes over the past two years. “I had four or
five bass that were over three pounds just choke my bait today, and I
couldn’t hook any of them for some reason. I know that it sounds crazy,
but I bet that I had over 50 fish bump that bait today.”
Had it not been for a key bite that he was able to capitalize on, the
weigh-in would have been a nail biter. “I had just lost a four pounder
that was sitting up under a tree,” explained Kennedy. “When I skipped
my bait under the very next tree, I landed one that was close to four
Each day of the event, Kennedy made a 30 mile run upriver. He stayed
on the main river channel and keyed on bluff walls that had a variety
of cover. His best areas were bluffs that featured trees leaning off of
the bank and barely touching the water.
On Thursday, Kennedy tried a plethora of baits in an attempt to
locate the quality fish that he knew were holding in his areas. He
threw a deep swimbait, crankbait, football jig, and swimming jig, and
finally figured out the winning formula midday. “I caught three fish
over three pounds on the first stretch of bank that I went down with my
swimbait,” he explained. “The bite was as good as I’ve ever seen it.”
For the rest of the tournament, the swimbait was his main weapon,
although one of his keepers on Saturday came on a jig.
“Nobody was fishing the main river up there,” he said. “The shad
were coming up and spawning in the mornings, and I think that pulled the
fish up higher in the water column. When all the shad were up there, I
just couldn’t get bit. I think that the fish stayed there all day,
because I could go back through those same areas and catch them in the
While Kennedy was struggling to put five keepers in the livewell, Gary Yamamoto, who entered the day in 8th place and was over 10 pound behind Kennedy, was piecing together a potentially historic comeback.
“Today, I fished the same general areas that I’d been fishing for the
past two days,” explained the veteran Texas pro. “Everywhere I went
the fish were one size bigger than they had been. “
Starting the day off with a surface bait, Yamamoto said that he
thought the cloudy conditions would be perfect for a strong topwater
bite. “I was catching keepers, but when I moved to the docks I
immediately started catching bigger fish. It was a really strange day,
because fish on boat docks usually bite better when it’s sunny.”
Upgrading throughout the day, Yamamoto’s 17.73 pound limit on
Saturday boosted his total weight to 41.81 pounds and was anchored by a
6.19 pound largemouth. In addition to the $300 Big Bass Of the Day
award, he walked away with a Humminbird 898c SI, valued at $1,500 for
Big Bass Of the Tournament.
Yamamoto threw a Sugoi Splash on top, but his primary bait throughout
the week was a green pumpkin Senko with a nail weight in the tail that
he fished around docks. “I’m proud and happy that I was able to make it
this far,” he said. “I guess I had a really good tournament.”
Dean Rojas also made a surge on Saturday, bringing in the second
heaviest limit of the day weighing 16.57. Although he moved up from 4th place to finish in 3rd
place with a total weight of 41.27, the Arizona pro was left wondering
what might have been had he not stumbled on Friday by falling one bass
short of a limit.
“I made a bad decision yesterday morning and started in the wrong
area. I went for the gusto and tried to catch another big sack and it
didn’t work out,” he explained.
On Saturday, Rojas said that the overcast conditions played to his
advantage. “I went back to the same areas and just caught them. I
usually don’t regret anything in a tournament, but after catching them
today, I regret the decisions that I made yesterday morning.” Rojas
relied primarily on a Spro Bronzeye frog in Killer Gill color and also
flipped a Big Bite Baits Fighting Frog.
Hendersonville, Tenn. local, Tim Messer, fell from second place to fourth place on Saturday with a total weight of 38.67, and Mark Menendez rounded out the top five with 35.29.
For full results and great photos, visit Fishpaa.com.