Special to BassFan
FLW Tour angler Brandon Hunter wrapped up the best tournament of his pro career at Kentucky Lake this past weekend amassing 89-06 to place second. As a long time guide at the lake – he lives in Benton, Ky., he’s learned a thing or two about what makes big largemouth tick once the post-spawn kicks in.
Where to Look
Once the water temps hit low 70s, the post-spawn is sure to be underway and a good time to start looking at secondary ledges in the mouths of creeks. Once it hits 72 degrees, he’ll start hitting main lake ledges.
Hunter is impressively proficient with his electronics and offers a sonar solutions class on Kentucky Lake for clients that want him to spend a day on the water in their boat. He’ll help them fine tune their Lowrance units to read clearly and help instill confidence in their electronics game.
Hunter runs multiple 12-inch Lowrance Gen-3 units, two at the console mounted on a Bass Boat Technologies bracket, and one on the bow. The front graph he’ll split the screen between chart and sonar.
He uses SideScan for finding structure and DownScan to find tight groups of fish. Some anglers graph an area and leave quickly after not seeing anything when all that was needed was to approach the ledge from a different angle.
Some competitors last week commented that Kentucky Lake was “off,” but Hunter believes that all of the fishing and boat pressure spun the fish out as did the constant pinging of transducers reading bottom.
“Sure, we brought in some big weights and made it look easy, but it wasn’t,” he said.
His history on the lake helped him stay patient and focused while others scrambled. Boat positioning was key to his success.
“If it's a creek channel dumping into a river or just an edge of a river, I fish the deep side throwing up onto the flat and bringing it down,” Hunter said, adding that he tries to stay as far off the fish as possible and make long casts.
If he fires up a school that quits biting or marks a good group of fish that won’t bite, he’ll swing his boat around to the backside of the group and start casting from a different angle.
When fish are suspended off the bottom, typically they are harder to catch, Hunter says.
Today, while many anglers have enjoyed the rebirth of the hair jig with a burn-and-kill retrieve, Hunter uses the same bait to target suspended fish by ripping the jig as high off the bottom as possible to trigger those reluctant fish.
“Those fish tighter to group close to bottom, that’s the way I like to fish,” he said. “If they are really streaky looking, that means they’re active. Either they’re feeding or someone just left after catching them.
“Most times, when I’m looking at them on the DownScan, if they are a straight up and down looking dots and lots of them, they are the 2-pounders. Those bigger, white dots, especially once I’ve looked at again with 2D sonar and getting that lime green return, then I know they are a better quality fish.”
He doesn’t prefer stopping on a small cluster of fish, but if they are tightly grouped he may give them a shot. More often, he’ll consistently target the bigger schools of largemouth.
Firing Them Up
A deep-diving crankbait can fire up a school in no time, but Hunter cautions anglers to stay off those fish as you can pull the school towards you and eventually beneath your boat. He’d sooner catch them on a crankbait so he won’t put his plug down until the bite totally dies.
If that happens, he’ll switch to a swimbait or a bottom bait. A black and blue or green-pumpkin Nichols Football Jig with a 4- or 5-inch Gary Yamamoto Twin Tail grub, a plum or Junebug colored worm, and a Nichols Hair Jig are all good choices, as is a dropshot.
Despite being a 9-inch bait, the Nichols Lures Ben Parker Magnum Spoon produces when others don’t. On the final day of the FLW Tour, Hunter had one fish at noon, yet within 20 minutes, amassed a 20-pound limit on the spoon.
> Spoon: 7'5" medium-heavy 13 Fishing Muse (prototype) casting rod, 13 Fishing Inception casting reel (8.0:1 ratio), 20-pound Sunline Super FC Sniper fluorocarbon line, Nichols Lures Ben Parker Magnum Spoon.
> Jig (hair or football): 7'1" 13 Fishing Envy Black casting rod, 13 Fishing Concept C casting reel (7.1:1 casting reel), same line (14-pound).
> Swimbait: 7'6" medium-heavy 13 Fishing Muse (prototype) casting rod, same reel at jig (6.3:1 ratio), same line as spoon, 3/4-oz. Nichols Lures swimbait head, unnamed swimbait.
> Cranking: 7'11" 13 Fishing Envy Black Crankenstein casting rod, same reel as swimbait (5.3:1 ratio), same line (10- and 14-pound), Lucky Craft 3.5XD and 6.5XD.
> Dropshot: 13 Fishing Envy Black Spinning rod, unnamed spinning reel, 12-pound Sunline SX-1 braided line, 8-pound Sunline Super FC Sniper fluorocarbon line (leader), wacky-rigged 5" Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits Senko.