Skip Johnson Wins FLW Tour Kentucky Lake

Skip Johnson's Winning Pattern, Baits & Gear

Experienced tournament competitors often say that it's unwise to "fish memories." Putting too much emphasis on areas of a lake that were productive in the past can prevent an angler from seeing the full picture of what's going on in the present. A long memory can sometimes be beneficial, though. Just ask Skip Johnson. The first-year FLW Tour pro relied on a recollection from 7 years ago to guide him to the winning fish in the season finale at Kentucky Lake. It was a place that held only small fish in 2007, but it was loaded with 4- and 5-pounders last week. The transplanted Californian who now resides in Michigan exploited it for an average of more than 22 pounds per day. His 4-day total of 88-10 outdistanced runner-up Jason Lambert by a little more than a pound. Unlike many in the 162-angler field, Johnson came in without a great deal of experience on Kentucky Lake. He'd fished a weekend event there in '07, however, and placed 12th from among more than 500 entrants. When practice for the Tour event got under way, he immediately set out to explore two places that he'd fished back then. The first one proved to be too close to shore with water that was all but stagnant. The second one, which had held only smallish fish in '07, was rife with the type of pigs that are needed to contend there. He was only about 2 hours into the initial practice day when he discovered it's potential and he spent most of the next 3 days just keeping an eye on it, monitoring whether it would be found by anyone else. "I had 22 or 23 pounds within the first 20 to 30 minutes I was there," he said. "I thought, wow, this is really something. It was a section of a mile-long creek channel (off the main river in the New Johnsonville area), but only about 400 feet of it was productive. The fish were in about 12 feet of water. "I stayed within about a mile of it for the rest of practice and if a boat came close, I'd hang around loitering in the area. I was banking on that one spot if it had fallen apart, I had nothing."


Johnson was in 8th place after day 1, and then he simply halved the number of anglers in front of him each day through the remainder of the event. He moved up to 4th on day 2, 2nd on day 3 and 1st on the final day. He prevailed despite losing a number of key fish that would've gone to the scale. On day 3 along he farmed three that were in excess of 5 pounds apiece, all within view of FLW TV cameras. He vowed after that day to make a bait switch that would alleviate the lost-fish issue. He switched from the jigs he threw the first 3 days to a Texas-rigged worm that provided the bruisers less leverage when they attempted to throw the hook. The change produced the desired effect and his final-day stringer was the biggest of the weekend and third-best of the event. It was headed up by a 7-02 monster that he caught at 1:30 and bolstered by a 5-pounder that bit on his final cast of the day. That last fish provided his winning margin, as it replaced a 3 1/2-pounder in his livewell.

Winning Pattern:

Johnson relied on bottom-bouncing baits, but didn't fish them slowly. He stroked the jig with firm pops of his rod and used a similar motion to make the worm hop and swim, as ledge-dwelling fish often will ignore offering that don't make somewhat of a commotion. He said some of the quality fish he lost were caused by less-than-solid hooksets with the jig. The fish would take the bait on the fall after a strong pull and he wouldn't feel the bite until the line tightened up, and that left him out of position for a slack-line set. His action came in spurts when the school would get "fired up" and there were times when he caught 15 fish in a like number of casts. There were also times when he went 3 hours or more without a bite. "They'd move around up on the flat, then back down to the creek channel and I'd have to find them again, but sometimes I'd find them and they wouldn't be ready to bite," he said. "When I'd see them stacked up (on his depthfinder), with three or four marks on top of each other, I knew they were ready to feed."

Winning Gear:

Jig gear: 6'9" or 7' medium-heavy Alpha rods, Lew's Tournament Pro casting reel (7.1:1 ratio), 12-pound Gamma monofilament line, 3/4-ounce Strike King Tour Grade football-head jig (green-pumpkin or black/blue), Zoom Ultra Vibe Speed Craw trailer (green-pumpkin or black/red flake). He used chartreuse dye to color the tips of the Speed Craws' pinchers.

Worm gear: Same rod, reel and line, 1/2-ounce unnamed tungsten weight, 5/0 unnamed worm hook, 8" Western Plastics worm (crawfish or Otay special). He enlarged the gap on his worm hooks slightly in an effort to prevent fish from throwing them.

Main factor: "Staying there and waiting out the dry spells. The hardest part of the whole week was to not panic and leave when I wasn't getting any bites."

Performance edge: "I'd have to say the most important thing was the Western Plastics worm. It's got a curl tail and it's hand-poured and it's multi-colored with tan, orange and black lines down the middle and it's really soft. When you swim it, it really puts off a nice vibration.

Kentucky Lake Winning Pattern Bassfan 7/1/14 (John Johnson)

Jason Lambert's Pattern, Baits & Gear

Tennessean Jason Lambert, who clinched the Tour's Rookie of the Year award on day 3, has quickly established himself as a big-time offshore player. He finished 8th in the previous event at Pickwick - the lake on which he resides - and was the runner-up at the Kentucky Lake Central Rayovac a week prior to that. He knows Kentucky Lake well and had a superb initial day of practice, catching eight or nine fish, the best five which would've pushed 25 pounds combined. He did little casting for the remainder of the pre-fish period, but did boat a 7-pounder on the second day. By the time day 1 of competition rolled around, he had 47 schools pinpointed. "I probably caught fish off 24 or 25 of them," he said. "The hole I was starting on was only 4 feet deep and there was some grass involved, but the majority of them were 18 to 22 feet. It was just typical ledge stuff. "I just ran waypoint to waypoint until I saw a school (on his depthfinder) that looked right. I had to make sure they were grouped up if they're all scattered out they don't really want to fire. You can see if they're active on the screen by the way they're positioned." For baits, he alternated between a giant spoon and a swimbait.

Spoon gear: 7'6" double extra-heavy Yank-Um Custom Tackle frog rod, Lew's BB1 Pro casting reel (7.1:1 ratio), 20-pound Vicious Pro Elite fluorocarbon line, Ben Parker Magnum Flutter Spoon (chrome). The spoon, which weighs 3 1/2 ounces, is 8 inches long and 2 inches wide.

Swimbait gear: 7'10" heavy-action Yank-Um Custom Tackle swimbait rod, same reel (6.4:1 ratio), same line, 1/2-ounce prototype jighead (Scrounger-style), Castaic Jerky J swimbait (green shad).

Main factor: "Covering a whole lot of water."

Performance edge: "I'd have to give it to my Lowrance unit. Without it, you don't find that many fish in that short of a time."

Kentucky Lake 2-5 Patterns Bassfan 7/2/14 (John Johnson)

Jim Moynagh's Pattern, Baits & Gear

Like winner Johnson, Jim Moynagh had virtual exclusivity on his best school of fish. "I scanned and fished a lot of ledges in practice and found lots of schools," he said. "One particular school had a lot of nice ones in it, and I found that one fishing rather than scanning." The vast majority of his action occurred during the morning hours. Many of the top finishers caught their best specimens in the afternoon, when the Tennessee Valley Authority's current-generation level was at its daily peak, but that wasn't the case for him, and he lamented that such long periods of non-production doomed his chances of picking up his initial Tour victory. He figured he caught about half of his weigh-in fish on a jig and the other half on a swimbait. He picked up a few here and there on a crankbait, but believes all of thos were eventually culled.

Jig gear: 7' heavy-action unnamed casting rod, unnamed casting reel (7:1 ratio), 12-pound Gamma Edge fluorocarbon line, 3/4- or 1/-ounce All-Terrain Tackle jig (brown or green-pumpkin), 5" unnamed twin-tail trailer (brown or green-pumpkin).

Swimbait gear: 7'6" unnamed soft-action flipping stick, unnamed casting reel (6.3:1 ratio), same line, 1-ounce triangle jighead, unnamed swimbait (shad).

Main factor: "That was a hard school to find - I didn't have a lot of competition for those fish."

Performance edge: "Probably the GPS was the most critical thing. Without that, it would've been impossible to get on that spot. It was such a distance offshore that it would've been real tough to line things up from the middle of the lake."

Kentucky Lake 2-5 Patterns Bassfan 7/2/14 (John Johnson)

Randy Haynes' Pattern, Baits & Gear

Nobody was the least bit surprised to see Randy Haynes log another single-digit finish in a summertime event on the Tennessee River. The winner of the Rayovac came within 3 pounds of posting back-to-back victories on the venue. He had issues with lost fish throughout the event - particularly on days 2 and 3 - and had just one in his box at 1:30 p.m. on the final day before staging an afternoon rally. He caught about 70 percent of his weigh-in fish on the big Ben Parker spoon, which he'd never thrown prior to the second day of practice. The others were enticed by the big crankbait that he's been throwing all summer. "I got the spoons on Monday and got my confidence up on them that day and the next one, and I figured out what I needed to look for on my Raymarine electronics," he said. "It was all about the way the fish were grouped up and how they were sitting. "Once I dialed that in, it was awesome - I was calling my shots."

Spoon gear: 7'11" extra-heavy Kistler Z-Bone rod, Lew's Super Duty casting reel (7:1 ratio), unnamed 20-pound fluorocarbon line, Ben Parker Magnum Flutter Spoon (sexy shad).

Cranking gear: 7'11" KLX offshore rod, Lew's BB1 Pro casting reel, same line, Profound Outdoors Z-Boss 20 (blue moon).

Main factor: "About 100 hours of idling on that lake this year."

Performance edge: "I have to give Raymarine a big shout-out - it's the deal. Also my Mercury/MotorGuide combination."

Kentucky Lake 2-5 Patterns Bassfan 7/2/14 (John Johnson)

Clent Davis' Pattern, Baits & Gear

Clent Davis caught a lot of quality fish - as evidenced by his 21-pounds-per-day average. However, like Moynagh, he accomplished very little after lunchtime and he never got one of the 6- or 7-pound bites that transformed bags from strong to spectacular. He caught a lot of fish over the first 2 days on a Mister Twister Magnum SinSation, a new plastic offering that's sort of a worm/Brush Hog hybrid. Over the weekend he relied on the big Ben Parker spoon and a swimbait. "I might have fished a total of 30 minutes each day in practice," he said. "I mainly just graphed and marked waypoints, and when I was in a 'community hole' sometimes I'd stand up and catch a few. "I found close to 60 schools and I'd say I fished close to 50 of the (in the tournament). The shallowest were 15 feet deep and the deepest were 28.

Spoon gear: 7'9" extra-heavy Phoenix punch rod, Shimano Chronarch casting reel (7:1 ratio), 20-pound unnamed fluorocarbon line, Ben Parker Magnum Flutter Spoon (chrome).

Swimbait gear: 8' heavy-action Phoenix swimbait rod, same reel (6.3:1 ratio) and line, unnamed 7" swimbait (shad).

Worm gear: 7'7" medium-heavy Phoenix MBX rod, Shimano Metanium casting reel (7:1 ratio), 16-pound unnamed fluorocarbon, 1/2-ounce unnamed jighead, Mister Twister Magnum SinSation (California 420).

Main factor: "Knowing what I was looking for on the electronics. If you don't know what's a bass and what's not, or if they're going to eat or not, you're in big trouble. It was easy to get fooled - they'd look like they were set up and ready to eat, and then they just wouldn't."

Performance edge: "Most definitely my Lowrance HDS-12."

Kentucky Lake 2-5 Patterns Bassfan 7/2/14 (John Johnson)

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