Jay Kendrick sits at No. 10 in the FLW Tour Angler of the Year race with no finish below 37th in any of the four events this year. He staged a huge rally at Lake Cumberland to achieve that season-low placement.
The Alabamian was 129th after weighing in a 7-03 bag on day 1. He then moved up 92 places with a day-best 18-04 on day 2 to earn a $10,000 check and keep himself on the top tier of the points list.
He fished the same places in Otter Creek, just a couple miles up from the dam, on both days. Upsizing his swimbait was the key to his second-day turnaround – he swapped out a Keitech 3.8 in favor of a 5-inch Scottsboro Tackle offering in the pearl white color.
"I'm not a highland lake smallmouth expert by any means, but I found a pretty good school in practice on like a 3-mile stretch of the creek," he said. "I was catching a mixed bag of all three species (largemouths and spotted bass in addition to the bronzebacks).
"The smaller swimbait is what I'd been catching them on, but on the first day of the tournament all I got bit by were spots and largemouths – I couldn't get the smallmouths to bite. It seems so counterintuitive because that was the day a lot of guys caught big bags of smallmouths."
Mired so far down the standings sheet, he decided that he'd throw a bigger bait for the duration of day 2 in a desperate attempt to climb into check range. It worked.
He caught 10 smallmouths that exceeded the 18-inch minimum that day, throwing back a limit in excess of 15 pounds. He believes he made a culling error when he got rid of a 3-11 largemouth that kept his haul from topping 20 pounds.
"When I got back in they had to measure one of my smallmouths and I shouldn't have had anything even close to 18 (inches), they all should've been between 19 and 20. When it's that fast and furious, you hate to pull out the balance beam and lose the time it takes to do that. In any case, I'll be investing in a new culling system."
When he got home, he discovered that the bait he'd thrown on day 2 created a nearly perfect "match the hatch" scenario.
"I opened up my livewells to air them out and there were three dead baitfish in there that I think were alewives," he said. "They had a silver back with a pearl-looking belly and they looked just like that natural white swimbait."
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