By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
The scenario that was predicted prior to last week's Lake Cumberland FLW Tour proved to be true: The massive Kentucky impoundment's big smallmouths would be huge difference-makers, but with an 18-inch minimum-length requirement, it'd be next to impossible to catch a limit of them each day.
You'd better have had a plan B.
Lots of stuff was effective for enticing bites from Cumberland's smallmouths, largemouths and spotted bass – just not all the time and definitely not in every location. The weather changed constantly and the fish altered their routines accordingly, and it was left to the anglers to make the necessary adjustments that would keep them in tune with their quarry.
Following are some pattern details for the competitors who finished directly behind winner Scott Martin.
2nd: Barry Wilson
> Day 1: 5, 16-14
> Day 2: 5, 13-12
> Day 3: 5, 14-09
> Day 4: 5, 13-02
> Total = 20, 58-06
Barry Wilson's runner-up finish was his best showing in 5 1/2 years as a Tour competitor (his previous high was a 4th at Beaver Lake in 2013). He pulled most of his weight from a pre-spawn staging area that attracted new fish as the event progressed, which made him at least somewhat of an exception to the rule regarding daily change-ups.
He found the place on the afternoon of the first day of practice, when he hooked largemouths weighing 4 1/2 and 5 pounds.
"Over the next two (practice) days I caught one keeper and three fish total, and I was fishing hard on the same kind of stuff," he said. "That place was all I had, really, so I just started learning it through the course of the day by spending time on it."
The location was an inside bend on a creek with depths ranging from 4 to 14 feet, and the bottom was dotted with some type of green vegetation. Most of his action took place in the latter part of the day, after the water had warmed from 60 or 61 degrees in the morning to about 64.
A squarebill crankbait produced most of his bites, with a ChatterBait playing a secondary role.
"I knew I had to stay there and go for broke. I felt like it would replenish, which it did, but it got harder to catch them."
> Bladed jig gear: Same rod, reel and line, 1/2-ounce Z-Man ChatterBait (white), YUM Pulse swimbait trailer (white).
Main factor in his success – "Finding that place was No. 1, and then staying there and learning it and having patience with it."
Performance edge – "With my Lowrance unit, I could use my sonar to see what looked like fish, and then check and see if they were bass with the DownScan. And I always have my HydroWave on when I'm fishing – I use the 'power pattern' with the volume low and I put it on a 15-second delay. I think that made a difference."
Terry Bolton got onto a spinnerbait bite after a tip from fellow pro Dan Morehead.
3rd: Terry Bolton
> Day 1: 5, 15-13
> Day 2: 5, 14-03
> Day 3: 5, 14-15
> Day 4: 5, 12-06
> Total = 20, 57-05
Terry Bolton has long been a tough competitor to beat in his state of residence, particularly on his home water of Kentucky Lake. He came to Cumberland with only a few previous visits on his ledger, but found a pattern that worked after a tip from fellow pro Dan Morehead.
"I started out flipping a tube in practice and got seven bites on one stretch, and then Danny told me that they were biting a big spinnerbait," he said. "On the first day of the tournament I pulled up on the stretch where I'd had all the bites on the tube and started throwing the spinnerbait.
"I had one fish when I started, and by the time I got to the end of the stretch I was culling."
He focused on channel swings in the vicinity of the steepest banks leading back into pockets. He targeted mostly woody cover – bushes or laydown logs – and took 20 largemouths to the scale.
"Some of them were around rock, but a lot of them were around wood," he said. "I'm sure some of them came off bushes that I couldn't see under the water.
"It was pretty much of a slow-roll type of deal with the spinnerbait, I was trying to get it out there to the deeper stuff."
> Spinnerbait gear: 6'10" medium-heavy Lew's Custom Lite rod, Lew's Custom Pro casting reel (6.8:1 ratio), 20-pound Sufix monofilament line, 3/4-ounce Accent or War Eagle spinnerbait (chartreuse/white or white with silver and gold double willow-leaf blades).
Main factor in his success – "Danny told me they'd bite that spinnerbait and I had a good place to throw it."
Performance edge – "It was a combination of things, but that rod and real throws that bait so well and the feel is so good. I could cast that big bait and not have to worry about it backlashing."
Matt Reed turned his his second straight top-5 finish.
4th: Matt Reed
> Day 1: 5, 17-15
> Day 2: 5, 10-12
> Day 3: 5, 14-03
> Day 4: 5, 13-01
> Total = 20, 55-15
Matt Reed, a longtime Bassmaster Elite Series competitor who's in his first year on the Tour, logged his second consecutive top-5 placement after beginning the season with two non-money finishes. He primarily threw a jerkbait that proved appealing to all three species – he weighed eight largemouths, seven smallmouths and five spots.
"I was in a big creek that had a lot of secondary points and little pockets," he said. "The best points were the flatter ones – most of the lake is very steep. The fish could either be on the point or on the trees in the back of the pocket.
"If they were in the pockets, they were suspended in the trees that had grown up when the lake was pulled down (for dam servicing)."
He was constantly on the move to new locales with similar features.
"I had to cover new water every day and I couldn't repeat anything," he said. "With a pattern like that, I knew I couldn't be the second man there that day – if there were boats there, I'd go somewhere else."
> Jerkbait gear: 7' medium-action Temple Fork Outfitters rod, Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris Platinum casting reel (6.8:1 ratio), 10-pound Bass Pro Shops XPS fluorocarbon line, SPRO McStick 110 jerkbait (blue bandit).
Main factor in his success – "The biggest thing was not going anyplace where I'd caught one before."
Performance edge – "That rod has a real fast tip, which allowed me to snap the jerkbait real hard. I had to snap slack into the line, I couldn't get lazy with it, but I'd have to make it pause between every move. They'd bite it on the hesitation."
Scott Canterbury had two patterns that produced quality fish.
5th: Scott Canterbury
> Day 1: 5, 14-08
> Day 2: 5, 14-12
> Day 3: 5, 14-03
> Day 4: 5, 12-00
> Total = 20, 55-07
Scott Canterbury developed two patterns in practice – throwing a jerkbait for smallmouths on main-lake points and flipping for largemouths in pockets and the point where the water started to take on a slight stain. The latter approach became more predominant as the tournament wore on.
"It's been a weird year for me so far," he said. "I haven't really had consistent practices and I've had to scrap and scratch for whatever I could get. It worked out really good this time – I made good decisions and I had confidence in what I was doing."
His flipping program was centered on rock transitions. He had no success on steep-walled places – he needed a more gradual slope with some trees or bushes.
"I'm sure a lot of those fish were spawning and a lot were getting ready to," he said. "I could never go back through the same places and catch them again."
> Flipping gear: 7'6" heavy-action Halo flipping rod, Ardent Apex Grand casting reel (7:1 ratio), 20- or 25-pound P-Line fluorocarbon line, 1/2- or 5/8-ounce Dirty Jigs Scott Canterbury Flippin' Jig (the go to), Netbait Paca Chunk Sr. and other various chunk trailers (green-pumpkin).
> Jerkbait gear: 7'2" medium-heavy Halo Series II rod, same real, 10-pound P-Line tactical fluorocarbon, Megabass Vision Oneten+1 jerkbait (GP pro blue or pro blue skeleton).
Main factor in his success – "The biggest thing that paid off was having a backup plan."
Performance edge – "I've got good stuff all the way around and I've got confidence in everything I've got."