Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 05/08/2011

Steve Kennedy

Story by Matt Pangrac and Dave Rush - Photos by Mark Jeffreys, Matt Pangrac and Dave Rush

LaGrange, GA - From the moment that the 2011 Elite Series schedule was released, Alabama’s Steve Kennedy had West Point Lake circled on the calendar. Kennedy entered the week with an extensive history on the fishery that began as a youngster fishing the lake with his father and continued through a 4th place finish at the 2005 FLW EverStart Series tournament.

Even though Kennedy hadn’t made a cast on West Point in half a decade, he admitted that he had high expectations coming into the week, especially after the first day of practice when, in a span of less than four hours, he saw two limits over 20-pounds before backing off an coasting through the remaining two practice days.

Included on almost all of the pundits watch lists, Kennedy didn’t disappoint on Thursday. With a 22-3 limit, Kennedy found himself just 1-ounce behind Day One leader Edwin Evers. After weighing-in, Kennedy said that the results were about what he expected.

Steve Kennedy

“The thing about this lake is that guys came here and didn’t realize the big fish that were in here. The weights that you always see do not show what’s in this lake, so they (the other competitors) set themselves up to be behind on Day One and I tried to show out,” he said.

After staying in the hunt on the second and third days of competition with limits weighing 10-14 and 13-2, Kennedy entered championship Sunday sitting in 4th place just a pound-and-a-half behind the leader, Ish Monroe.

“I was very confident that I had a chance to win this tournament,” said Kennedy. “The last time I fished here, I led the first day and ended up bombing the final day and blew a four-pound lead. I was thinking about that the entire day out there.”

Kennedy’s experience and knowledge of West Point paid off on Sunday, as he brought the day’s heaviest limit to the scales weighing 18-11 for a four-day total of 64-14. Kennedy edged out Oklahoma’s Edwin Evers by just over 2-pounds to claim his second Elite Series win.

“It’s just awesome to be right here,” said Kennedy behind stage. “As long as I’ve known about this tournament, I’ve known exactly what I was going to do and it worked. I’ve had opportunities all this year and during the last two or three years throwing that swimbait and following it up with the (Kinami) Flash to win so many of these events. I have not been able to get it done so that’s what makes it feel good for me right now,” he explained.

Steve KennedyThroughout the tournament, Kennedy targeted both spawning and post-spawn largemouth on a variety of different cover including laydowns, cypress trees positioned on shallow water shoals, rocky points, and clay banks. He estimated that he hit over 100 different spots on each of the first two days, sometimes making just a single cast in each location before moving.

His weapons of choice were an unnamed swimbait that accounted for the majority of his big bites as the tournament progressed, a white swim jig, and a Watermelon Seed Kinami Flash that he fished weightless on a spinning rod with 10-pound-test line.      

Kennedy used the swimbait to find the bigger bass and then followed up with the Flash if the fish didn’t take the swimbait. “Some of them you have to come back later but I got them to show themselves and follow the swimbait. Then I came back and threw the Flash on them. On a clear lake like this, you can see what’s there and see what size of fish are there,” he explained.

Aside form the win and $100,000, Kennedy also punched his ticket to the 2012 Bassmaster Classic with the new Classic qualifying structure. “I’m not a huge fan of that whole deal, but it’s pretty cool that we’re in,” he said. “I’m looking forward to going to the Red River.”

2nd Place: Edwin Evers
“I lost it yesterday,” said a disappointed Edwin Evers after exiting the stage on Sunday at West Point Lake. After leading the first two days of competition, the Oklahoma pro managed just four keepers on Saturday and fell to 3rd place.

On the final day, Evers made a strong push to regain the top position by weighing in the second heaviest limit of the day at 16-6. In the end, it just wasn’t enough and Evers finished just over 2-pounds behind winner Steve Kennedy.

Edwin Evers

“I did all that I could do today but I just didn’t get them in the boat yesterday,” he explained. “I had one 14-incher in there today and I never could find one to get rid of it. I did all that I could do but it just wasn’t meant to be.”

Throughout the four competition days, he primarily targeted post-spawn largemouth that had vacated spawning areas and were relating to logs and bushes in the water. For 14 of his 19 keepers, Evers flipped a YUM F2 Wooly Bug.

On the first day of competition, his biggest fish came on an Xcalibur EEratic Shad, and three of his keepers bit a white YUM F2 Mighty Bug that he pitched to spawning bass.

Evers said that his success at West Point boiled down to the fact that he made the right decisions and was willing to adapt to the changing conditions. “I’m just making good decisions right now and fishing like I’m capable of fishing. It’s all about decisions, and on the first day of the tournament I hadn’t even retied my flipping rod from the tournament at Pickwick. I saw a 4-pounder in a tree and just flipped out there and caught it,” he explained.

“It really clued me into the flipping deal. The lake really changed starting the third day of practice. I found the fish that I caught as the tournament progressed by flipping. The biggest key was fishing with an open mind and not being to stubborn.”

3rd Place: Ish Monroe
After a massive 21-0 limit on Friday, California’s Ish Monroe kept the momentum going on Saturday with a 14-0 limit to take the lead heading into the final day. Despite adding another 13-8 on Sunday, Monroe slipped to 3rd with 61-3.

Throughout the week on West Point, Monroe has relied on a positive attitude and instincts to remain in the hunt. Sunday was no different. “I went out there and cranked up the tunes and just started on the banks where I’ve been fishing all week,” he explained.

Ish Monroe

After a slow start to the morning, Monroe caught thee sight fish on a Big Bite Warmouth and then filled his limit out flipping a Brush Hog. Even though he was atop the leader board at blast off, he knew that it anybody’s game.

“I came from 30th all the way to 3rd on Friday, so anybody could have come in with a big bag and made things interesting. With this lake, you just never know. Steve had two big bites today and that was key. I didn’t really fish for those big bites because I just went out and had fun. Rather than throw a big swimbait and get frustrated, I decided that I wanted to fish shallow and throw a frog and a crankbait for most of the tournament.”

Aside from just having fun, Monroe said that a key to his success on West Point was the fact that he targeted shallower and dirtier water than a lot of other competitors in the area. “I caught a 5-pounder so far back in a creek that I could hardly get the boat back there,” he explained.

In addition to the Warmouth and Brush Hog, Monroe also caught fish on a Team Daiwa crankbait in Bumble Bee color. “I’m feeling good and already thinking about Murray next week,” he concluded. “I like that lake and with the conditions that we are going to have, I may be able to get on something and even sneak up and find a frog fish or two.”

4th Place: Jared Lintner
Entering West Point with less than stellar expectations, California’s Jared Lintner surprised himself with an appearance in Sunday’s final round of competition. Admitting that he didn’t know where, how, or even if he would catch a keeper on Sunday, Lintner proceeded to boat 16-1 and finish with a total weight of 60-5.

Jared Lintner

“I went good today,” said Lintner. Yesterday morning I caught them on the shad spawn bite but they weren’t there this morning. I caught a few fish on top and then missed a few. I picked up a trick worm and just started running laydowns. It was fun.”

Relying primarily on a methiolate trick worm throughout the week, Lintner also utilized a Jackall SK Pop early in the morning. He said that his lack of knowledge about West Point actually played to his strengths. ““I knew nothing about this lake coming in and I still don’t know anything about it. I think that actually helped because I was able to run whatever felt good. I like fishing like this,” he said.

“Last year I was putting a ton of pressure on myself. This year, I’m just having fun with it because that’s why we are out here.”

5th Place: Nate Wellman
Michigan Rookie Nate Wellman came to West Point with a Top 12 finish at Pickwick under his belt and added another Sunday appearance this week. Taking advantage of an early morning shad spawn for the majority of his weight, Wellman also added a quality fish out of Highland Marina each day.

“It was a pretty neat tournament,” he said. “Over the years, I’ve had several big events where I got burned by the shad spawn. Where I live in Michigan, we don’t have many shad so I don’t know that much about it. I learned from my mistakes and I got on the shad spawn this week. I fished really hard and really aggressive.”

Using an Xcalibur Zell-Pop in the morning, Wellman switched to a Bass Assault Lures Head Trip spinnerbait and ½-ounce Pro Flip jig as each day progressed. “I actually used the same jig that I fished at Pickwick Lake,” he explained. “I think that the big bass thought it was a bluegill.”

Like many other anglers who fished on Sunday, Wellman burned through many areas each day. “I was moving through 30 to 45 places a day. It was all about covering a lot of water and that’s how I like to fish.”

6th Place: Alton Jones
Leading the Toyota Tundra Angler Of the Year standings heading into West Point, Texas’ Alton Jones knew that this would be a critical week in his run to the title. With 12-12 on Sunday and a four day total of 54-8, Jones remained atop the TTAOY standings. “This tournament scared me to death,” he admitted.

Alton Jones

With his supply of fish dwindling, Jones made a calculated risk on Sunday and opted to bank on a shallow water area he located on Google Earth. “I knew that I could get over the sandbar, but I didn’t know if I could get on pad and get back out,” he explained. “The deciding factor to go for it was that I have a Yamaha SHO motor with the fastest hole shot in the industry. Sure enough, I was able to get back on pad and get out of there.”

Once he was in the area, Jones said that he found a magic tree loaded with bass. “I got 14 bites off of one tree in there,” he explained.

Jones said that throughout the week, he focused on bedding bass that he couldn’t see in the murky water. His primary baits were a YUM F2 Wooly Hogtail and YUM 4” Mega Tube. He also used an Xcalibur XCS Square Lip crankbait.

7th Place: Kevin VanDam
Final Day Thoughts: “Today was just one of those days where nothing happened right for me. I mean nothing was working out at all, I didn’t even have a bite the first hour. Finally I made a move and ran to a back of a creek and caught a few small fish, but decided if I am going to have a chance to win this thing I need to move back out to where the big ones live. The wind started blowing a little bit and I thought things were going to happen, but it just never came together.”

Pattern: “Covering a lot of water and looking or aggressive bites. The wind and cloud cover was key to getting the fish to bite.”

Baits: Strike King Shadalicious Swimbait, Strike King Caffeine Shad, Strike King Spinnerbait

Key to the Week: “The biggest thing for me this week was focusing on the shad spawn and the herring spawn. The fish were really keyed in on the bait this week, and that was what I tried to spend my time doing.”

Week in Review: “On the first day I caught a few on a spinnerbait, but after that I committed to the swimbait and the Caffeine Shad and tried to catch some bigger fish.”

8th Place: Bobby Lane
Final Day Thoughts: “Today started out with a bang-bang, I had a 4 ½ pounder and a 2 ½ pounder in the boat in the first five casts. I left it for a few minutes to go hit another bank and came back and a local was sitting on it casting right down it, so it turned out to be a pretty frustrating morning. I made a long run back up the river to a pocket where I have been catching most of my fish and ended up spending the rest of the day there.”

Pattern: Focusing on the shad spawn early and then running up the river to off colored water and fishing visible cover.

Baits: Buzzbait, Zara Spook, Pop-R, Shakey Head, Jerkbait, Frog

Key to the Week: “The important thing this week was having good line on and keeping an open mind. I used everything from 65-lb braid, to 15-pound fluorocarbon, to 12-pound mono.”

Week in Review: “All in all it was a great week. The first day really surprised me, I had no idea I could catch that much weight. You never know when you come to a new lake like this, the fans were great and the lake looks like it is making a good comeback.”

9th Place: Andy Montgomery
Final Day Thoughts: “I ran a lot of new water today and just caught a bunch of little ones. I ran up the river and spent some time in the area where I had been catching most of my fish, but just couldn’t get any quality bites today.”

Andy Montgomery

Pattern: Fishing around areas where the shad were spawning in the mornings, and then running up the river to more off colored water focusing on rock and other visible cover.

Baits: Shooter Jig with a Zoom Super Chunk, Z-Man Chatterbait paired with a Zoom Fluke or a Zoom Speed Craw

Key to the Week: Taking advantage of the shad spawn and covering lots of water in the upper end of the lake

Week in Review: “My primary deal was the chatterbait, I probably caught 80 % of what I weighed this week on that bait. I’m very pleased with my effort, even though I feel like I had the bites to win this event. The rest of the guys lost fish too, so that’s just part of it.”

10th Place: Denny Brauer
Final Day Thoughts: “Today was my slowest start of the week. I was able to catch two small ones early, but not much after that. I ended up back up the river flipping and was able to finish out my limit.”

Pattern: Fishing the shad spawn early and then running up the river and fishing laydowns and other visible cover.

Baits: Strike King Pure Poison, Strike King Spit-N-King, Strike King Rodent

Key to the Week: “This week was all about adapting each day. I wasn’t able to just rely on one bait like I would have liked to, but had to stay versatile.”

Week in Review: “We’re greedy we would always like to win, but I am really happy with the week. I really wasn’t on much, so to be able to milk nothing into a top 12 is great.”

11th Place: Ott Defoe
Final Day Thoughts: “Today was a little tougher for me. I had one really good fish that I missed three times today and finally broke it off. I had about the same amount of bites, but just didn’t get the quality today.”

Pattern: “Basically everything I caught this week was related to the shad spawn.”

Baits: Spinnerbait, Chatterbait, Jig

Key to the Week: “Understanding that the shad spawn ended early down the lake, but it seemed to continue throughout the day the further up the lake you went.”

Week in Review: “I’m really pleased with how I fished this week, overall this was a great tournament for me.”

12th Place: Bill Lowen
Final Day Thoughts: “Today was pretty brutal for me. I got in this little backwater deal where the shad were spawning and the fish were blowing up everywhere. The helicopter dropped down on top of me and blew all the water out. The shad were gone, the fish were gone and I couldn’t believe it. Even after that, I had the bites today, but I just couldn’t keep them buttoned up. It was just one of those days.”

Pattern: Flipping a jig and cranking a square bill crankbait

Baits: D&L Jig, Ima Square Bill

Key to the Week: “Being able to fish my strengths all week was a key to my success.”

Week in Review: “I went out and grinded all week and am really pleased to have finished in the top twelve.”