Toyota Series pro Jake Lawrence of Paris, Tennessee, brought a five-bass limit to the scale Saturday weighing 18 pounds, 9 ounces, to lead wire-to-wire and win the Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats at Kentucky and Barkley Lakes Presented by Jenko Fishing and earn the top prize payout of $44,000. Lawrence’s three-day total of 15 bass weighing 57-5 earned him the victory by a 1-pound, 6-ounce margin over second-place angler Adam Bartusek of Cokato, Minnesota, who weighed in 15 bass totaling 55-15 to earn $17,000.
Lawrence has fished the lake for years with great success, including a triumph at the 2018 Toyota Series event on Barkley Lake. However, he did something a little different this time, as he primarily targeted smallmouth with the help of his forward-facing sonar.
“This one is special. I know you say that for every win, but that one was on my home turf down by Paris,” Lawrence said. “I knew every nook and cranny down there and felt like that win was 15 years in the making. This one was different because I was doing something totally different, something I’d never done. I don’t know that I’ve ever caught one in the places I’ve fished this week. It was like a brand new lake to me.”
What he was doing was also unique, targeting spawning smallmouth with the help of his Garmin LiveScope and fishing the northern end of the massive fishery.
“This lake is so big that I hardly ever make it up this far,” he said of his areas that roughly stretched from takeoff at Kentucky Dam Marina to Jonathan Creek. “I was catching spawning fish or fish that were staging before or after they spawned, but they were in the same areas. I could tell on LiveScope if the bass were spawning based on how they acted because they’d hang around if they were on a bed.”
One key for his areas was having shallow water with quick access to deeper water. This was true for his smallmouth and the bonus 6-1 largemouth from the first day.
“It seemed like most of the fish were in that 4- to 7-foot range and on flatter banks, but they had to have a secondary creek channel running close to them,” he said. “It couldn’t be a 100-yard flat; everything was a couple of yards away from deeper water in the creek channel. Those fish want to do their deal and then pull back out. That big largemouth I caught the first day was the same thing and was one of the deepest fish I caught all week.”
Lawrence used a tube and a swimbait to catch his fish, with the 3.25-inch Jenko Booty Shaker Swimbait in blueback on a ¼-ounce ball head jig. He caught some fish with the swimbait, but it was mainly a search tool and smallmouth agitator. His tube was a Strike King Coffee Tube in green pumpkin, but he utilized a 1/8-ounce Jenko Trick Tube Jig Head to fish the tube on a “Stupid Rig.”
“The head was really important because rigging it that way doesn’t hang up as much and that jig head has a great hook, so you land more of those fish,” he said. “I’d throw the swimbait on them to get them excited and then if they didn’t bite, I’d turn around and cast the tube in and get them.”
After the win, Lawrence hinted at a run at top-level professional fishing, and this victory may help speed up the process.
“It was already in the works before this, but we still need to hammer out some details,” he said. “This week, I purposely limited my practice to help me prepare for that. Instead of practicing for a week, I only spent two-and-a-half days. I want to push myself to get into that frame of mind. I’m more proud that I could do that than for winning it even.”
The top 10 pros on Kentucky and Barkley lakes finished:
1st: Jake Lawrence, Paris, Tenn., 15 bass, 57-5, $44,000
2nd: Adam Bartusek, Cokato, Minn., 15 bass, 55-15, $17,000
3rd: Drew Gill, Mount Carmel, Ill., 15 bass, 51-1, $12,750
4th: Ethan Fields, Breese, Ill., 15 bass, 48-6, $10,750
5th: Harbor Lovin, New Concord, Ky., 15 bass, 45-7, $9,750
6th: Cole Floyd, Leesburg, Ohio, 15 bass, 44-10, $9,375
7th: Steve Floyd, Leesburg, Ohio, 15 bass, 44-4, $7,800
8th: Matt Stanley, Alexandria, Tenn., 14 bass, 44-1, $6,300
9th: Clint Knight, Lewisburg, Ky., 14 bass, 43-12, $5,500
10th: Brad Jelinek, Lincoln, Mo., 13 bass, 40-6, $4,200
Complete results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.