BENTON, Ky. – After 13 years of tournament fishing without a major win, Terry Bolton didn’t have a monkey on his back. He had a full-blown gorilla.
Appropriately, Bolton’s first victory came on the waters he grew up on – Kentucky Lake, site of the season-ending tournament of the EverStart Series Central Division, which Bolton has fished since its inception in 1998. Since 1995, Bolton has racked up 29 top-10 finishes in various FLW Outdoors tournament trails, but until today, victory has remained elusive.
Indeed, Bolton’s Kentucky Lake record is stellar, with 20-plus of his 29 top-10s on either Kentucky Lake or its neighbor Barkley. He caught 16 pounds, 4 ounces on day three to enter the final day in third place, and he knocked it out of the park on day four with a jaw-dropping limit that weighed 21 pounds, 5 ounces. That sack included a 5-pounder and a crowd-pleasing 8-pounder that brought his two-day total to 37 pounds, 9 ounces.
Although Bolton may have a history with Kentucky Lake, his victory this week came after intense practice following the recent FLW Tour event on Wheeler Lake.
“Ever since I got home from the Wheeler Lake FLW event, I’ve fished a whole lot – four or five times a week,” Bolton said. “I’ve been keeping up with the bass and staying in tune with the movements of the fish.”
Even though Bolton stayed in the top 10 the duration of the tournament, he started to get worried on day two, when he slipped into the finals in eighth.
“After the second day, I really thought I was in trouble,” he said. “I decided to do things differently this year, knowing that the ledges in the river channel were holding bigger fish. They just happened to show up on one I know really well.”
Bolton said the lake had been subjected to a lot of pressure, causing the fish to move on those ledges. Bolton picked up on that, noticing that the fish had moved off the bottom on the final day.
“I just hopped the jig in front of them, and they bit,” he said. Bolton caught his tournament-winning bass on a 10 1/2-inch Zoom Ole Monster worm and a 5/8-ounce homemade jig without a weed guard.
Bolton realizes that with his Kentucky Lake background, deep-water fishing is his speciality, and the deep-water fishing on Kentucky Lake is at a peak in June. The fish are invariably found on the ledges, but the key for Bolton was knowing how to adjust.
“I spend a lot of time ledge-fishing,” he said. “It’s something you become accustomed to – realizing how the fish adjust, reading the screen on your depth finder. It’s getting harder to fool (the fish), the more people who are out there.”
Bolton says that even though the win was a long time coming, he always knew it would eventually be his turn. As for this week, once the first two days were under his belt and he was in the finals, he says he felt a calm come over him, and he knew he had a chance.
“I’ve always heard that once you learn how to win, it’s contagious,” he said. “I always knew I had the ability.”
Bolton also finished the season ranked fifth in Central Division points standings, earning a trip to the 2005 EverStart Series Championship.
McGuire earns best-ever finish
McGuire led day three with an 18-8 limit and brought in 14-10 today – a lower weight, but still the second-heaviest pro limit brought in on day four. Like most everybody else, McGuire fished ledges all week with a jig.
“I was fishing really slowly, working a jig with slow hops,” he said. “If you could find one rock or small brush pile, the fish would be stacked in it.”
McGuire said the ledges were huge but the spots he was fishing were relatively small, and he was making one cast to each ledge. He said that even though he registered his heaviest weight on day three, that was actually his toughest day. It continued to be a challenge on day four, with the fish changing positions on the ledges, and he credits his co-angler partner Chuck Rounds with showing him how to catch them.
“They moved up off the bottom, and I couldn’t figure out how to catch them,” he said. “This morning I thought, ‘Something is bad wrong.’ It frazzled me – got me off my game. Chuck is how I figured out they were on top.”
McGuire used a green pumpkin football-head jig to catch most of his bass, though he did find some success on a crankbait and 10-inch ribbontail worm.
McGuire ranked 30th in year-end points standings, also earning an EverStart championship berth.
Frasier battles wind for third
He described the waves in his area as wind-induced 4-foot rollers, and as such he experienced some equipment problems that hindered his final-day performance.
“It affected my ability to fish,” he said. “The boat trouble and the locals killed me.”
Frasier was the only final-round pro to fish Barkley Lake this week, and the Kentucky-Barkley regular says he prefers it that way.
“I fish Barkley,” he said. “Shawn (Penn) and Terry (Bolton) are Kentucky Lake fishermen. I like the shallower, stained water.”
Though he was fishing a different lake, Frasier too was targeting ledges, looking for a boat-sized area holding fish.
“Every ledge, there’s always one sweet spot,” he said. “When you get on it, you know it. One of my ledges was inside a bay, and I caught two 5-pounders on it.”
This was Frasier’s second EverStart top-10.
Penn takes fourth place
Eddyville pro Shawn Penn brought in a two-day total of 28 pounds, 6 ounces to take fourth place and $7,950. Penn is a BFL LBL Division heavyweight who has fished upper-level tournament trails regularly in the past but chose to keep it close to home in recent years in support of his family. As such, Penn typically fishes only one EverStart event a year – the Kentucky-Barkley one – and he is often among the final-round anglers.
“I want to watch my kids grow up,” he said.
Penn has scored 22 top-10 finishes on Kentucky-Barkley in the BFL and EverStart Series.
Davis earns another top-10
In 2005, William Davis of Russellville, Ala., has scored five top-10 finishes on three different tournament trails, and he earned his second EverStart top-10 this week with a fifth-place finish on Kentucky Lake.
Davis led days one and two but struggled a bit on days three and four compared to his opening-round performance. His two-day total weight of 28 pounds earned him $7,450.
“Wednesday I probably caught 30 keepers, catching them on every cast,” Davis said. “It slowed way down and totally changed, but the key to being successful is being open-minded.”
Davis ended the season ranked sixth in Central Division points and will also compete in the EverStart championship, which will be held in his neck of the woods on Pickwick Lake.
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top 10 pros on Kentucky Lake:
6th: Sam Lashlee of Camden, Tenn., 27-8, $6,450
7th: Rodney Tidwell of Murray, 27-4, $5,450
8th: David Curtis of Trinity, Texas, 23-13, $4,950
9th: Billy Schroeder of Paducah, 22-10, $4,450
10th: Kelly Albert of Goodlettsville, Tenn., 16-1, $3,950
Curtis wins points race
No. 8 Kentucky Lake finisher David Curtis capped off an awesome year with the 2005 Central Division points crown. Curtis earned 756 points over the course of four events in which he finished in the top 10 three times. He’s also the 2005 Wal-Mart Texas Tournament Trail points champion.
The top 40 pros in the year-end EverStart Central Division points standings will receive an automatic invite to the 2005 EverStart Series Championship, slated to take place on Pickwick Lake in Florence, Ala., Nov. 2-5. The total purse for that event is $1 million.