Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 10/06/2017
Moore, OK - When Jesse Wiggins won the final Bassmaster Southern Open on Smith Lake, Alabama’s Steve Kennedy suddenly had a date in South Carolina next March.  

Sitting in 40th place in the 2017 Toyota Angler Of the Year Point standings, Kennedy had the dubious distinction of being the “first man out” of the 2018 Bassmaster Classic qualification through the Elite Series TAOY points.   With Wiggins’ win, which triple qualified him for the 2018 Classic, Kennedy found new life and is now the “last man in.”  

Here’s what he told The BASS ZONE about his 2017 season that included an Elite Series win on Lake Dardanelle:  

“If you look back over the year, it’s been a roller coaster, for sure.  I feel like I had a great season, but the Bassmaster Classic finish didn’t count towards Angler Of the Year points.  Then I had a 104th place finish thrown in there at Ross Barnett.  On the first day there I remember wondering who the guy was in the black Costa boat (it was eventual winner Dustin Connell).  We were fishing the exact same area and he ended up winning and I ended up finishing below 100th.   I was fishing dirt shallow and he was fishing the edge.  

“On the other side, I had a win and made a bunch of money but I ended up on the bubble.  I went into the Angler Of the Year tournament in Minnesota (Mille Lacs Lake) inside the Classic cut.  After the first day of the tournament I was around 35th in the standings and I was 11 points outside the Classic.  On Day Two, I moved up to eight points inside the Classic.  On Day Three, the wind really blew in my area and I just wasn’t able to get it done.  

“I followed the points and I knew exactly what I needed to do to make the Classic. All I needed to do was catch a limit on the final day and then it didn’t turn out so hot.”

(After initially missing the Classic by a single spot, Kennedy participated in the Bassmaster Classic Bracket Challenge on Pokegama Lake.  He was eliminated in the first round of competition.)  

“When I got to the Bracket, my first two fish weighed a total of over 7-pounds and I thought that I was going to just keep rolling because nobody else had even caught a fish at that point.   That went downhill in a hurry and I never caught another big smallmouth the rest of the tournament.  

“Like I said, it’s been a roller coaster, but it’s typical that you’re going to have a year like this when you fish for a long time.  I’m not fishing little baits – I’m fishing big baits and looking for reaction bites.  When you fish the way I fished most of the season, you have big days and you have bad days.  That’s just part of it.

“I wouldn’t say that I threw one bait for the second half of the season, but most of the fish that mattered all came on a pretty similar deal.  I’m much better with that bait now than I was earlier in the season.  If I could have gotten it really dialed in a little bit earlier, it could have been awesome.  

“The first half of the year I threw a flipping jig that I was swimming quite a bit.   Once we got around those smallmouth, I picked up that swimbait.  It burned me for a day or two, but the opportunities were there in every single Northern event to do well.

(When Kennedy won this past season on Lake Dardanelle, the fishery was experiencing flooding due to recent rains.  Kennedy found access to a secluded backwater area that had depth, current, and rock.)  

“When you go back to my first win with FLW, the lake was 10-feet over full.  I had a 3rd place on the Elite Series at the Alabama River running way up there when it was flooded.  It seems like for whatever reason, when it floods I do better.  I don’t know why that is, but my theory is that a lot of guys fish holes that they know when it’s flooded and I just go exploring and figure it out.  

“The win at Dardanelle this year was neat, but I was really concerned about that event going into it.  I just gambled and ran all the way to the dam looking for something special.  I only spent about 30 minutes in that area and didn’t realize what I found until I went back in the tournament.  It was pretty awesome.  It wasn’t easy.”