MURRAY, Ky. – Chad Grigsby has weathered the ups and downs of professional bass fishing for a decade. Up until today, the highlight of his career was a second-place finish at the 2005 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Hamilton. Over that span, Grigsby has led several Walmart FLW Tour events only to fade as the tournament progressed. Today he reversed that trend – gradually climbing from 10th to first in four days.
Grigsby located two productive offshore areas: one on the northern end of the lake and the other in Paris, Tenn. He classified the northern spot, a large muscle bar flat near Moors Marina, as a cranking spot and the one near Paris as a jig/worm spot. Each day Grigsby would begin by heading to Paris and gathering a 14- or 15-pound limit. From there, he’d return to Moors in the afternoon in search of upgrades.
But the treacherous storms on day three gave Grigsby second thoughts about running 35 miles south to Paris. So he went to Moors first. Continuing that reverse pattern on day four, the Maple Grove, Minn., resident started on his creek channel ledge near Moors. And it was so productive, he never left.
Grigsby attacked it single-mindedly by cranking a Strike King Series 6XD crankbait (“sexy shad” color) as hard and fast as physically possible. The water on top of the ledge was approximately 12 feet deep, and the 6XD would grind into the shell beds, causing a reaction strike. When the crankbait would get hung on the shells, he’d snap the rod and immediately after the bait popped free a bass would usually commit. That’s how he coaxed his three big ones during a mid-morning flurry.
“There’s a ditch that goes through it and then drops back to 15 or 16 feet,” said the Goodwill pro. “And the top where the ditch comes back up is where the big shell bed is. That’s where I caught every one of them. The three biggest almost came back to back to back.”
The area itself is large and well known as a community spot. In fact, it’s the same area where co-angler winner Richard Peek caught over 20 pounds on day two as did his pro partner JT Kenney.
His Paris spot was a deeper (19-21 feet) channel swing, and thus Grigsby used a paddletail worm (plum colored) that was made by pro Kevin Snider, who ironically took second. He fished the worm on a 3/4-ounce Secret Lures football-head jig. Both the jig and the crankbait were tied to Trilene 100 percent fluorocarbon line.
“The crankbait bite was phenomenal today, but that jig and worm are what got me here.”
Grigsby’s five-bass limit Sunday weighed 22 pounds, 13 ounces, bringing his four-day combined weight to 73 pounds, 3 ounces pounds. That 73-3 was more than enough to earn him $125,000 and his first Tour win.
“It’s everything; this is what everybody strives for. I’ve bombed in some top-10s. But that’s because my whole goal is to fish to win. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I’m tired of second; I’m glad I finally got that out of my system.”
The win came as a surprise for two reasons. In practice, Grigsby had no idea he was on a tournament-winning school. And secondly, he’s more known as a shallow-water flipper and smallmouth fisherman. Although the venue was a shocker, the pro winner never doubted his ability.
“I knew this day was coming; I thought it would have been here by now. It wears on you a little bit when you get close and can’t seal the deal. Today it just got right; the sun came out, it got calm, and everything worked out.”
Grigsby will celebrate with his friends and family, many of whom are heading north to his wife's family cabin in Hayward, Wis.
“It would have been a great week anyway. Now it’s going to be an awesome one.”
Several of the local pros pointed to Snider as the odds-on pretournament favorite, and the Elizabethtown, Ky., pro didn’t disappoint. He finished the tournament with 66 pounds, 11 ounces, earning $33,287 for second place. His day-four stringer of five bass weighed 17 pounds, 3 ounces.
Snider knows Kentucky Lake extremely well and ran up to 20 offshore spots in a day. He’d make five casts on the sweet spot, and if he didn’t get bit, he’d move on. Snider was convinced the biggest females are the most apt to bite first. He also believes the truly big fish run in small schools of two or three.
Most of the places he fished this week were on the north end of the lake. What he considered his best water never produced during the tournament. On day four he started fishing near the bank while he waited out the storm. To his surprise, he caught four 2 1/2-pounders and ended up weighing two of them.
Early in the week his best bite occurred in the afternoon on a crankbait. On day three his 12-inch paddletail worm produced best, and today he mainly used a homemade swimbait.
“I really wanted to win, but after the practice I had, I didn’t think it was possible,” Snider explained. “The lake is just not fishing like it usually does in June. I should have been connected to the bank or the spawning pockets like Chad was because the lake is about three weeks behind. They should be in about 20 feet and I was catching them in 17.”
Chevy pro Jay Yelas nearly completed mission impossible, but the offshore sacks once again stole the show. All week long Yelas flipped shallow bushes, targeting a square-mile area on the south end of Barkley. He described it as one of the best flipping bites he’s experienced in years – catching upwards of 40 bass a day.
“After practice I was embarrassed to tell my friends that I was going to fish shallow,” he said. “That’s like conceding because everybody says it’s impossible to win shallow here in June. The only reason it worked is because the lake is pretty full. If it was any lower, it wouldn’t be productive. The last couple days it dropped almost 6 inches, and I never got the big bites. But I can’t complain. To have a shot at winning shallow was just unthinkable.”
Yelas mainly used a 1/2-ounce Berkley Gripper jig with either a black-and-blue Havoc Craw Fatty or a green-pumpkin Chigger Craw. Occasionally, he mixed in a buzzbait, a swimbait or swam the jig. The best part about Yelas’ pattern is that no one else was fishing by him – neither recreational nor tournament anglers.
“We’re coming back here again next year, so stay out of my bushes,” he quipped.
Combined with his day-four total of 12-2, he finished with a cumulative weight of 62 pounds, 10 ounces. He earned $28,520.
Colson falls to fourth
Ramie Colson Jr. achieved his goal of 20 pounds per day each of the first two days of the tournament. The final two days were a different story as the severe weather made the long trek to Barkley difficult as well as changed his bite. His five-bass limit Sunday weighed 9 pounds, 8 ounces, giving him a four-day total of 61 pounds, 4 ounces. For finishing fourth, the FLW Series champion earned $23,750.
“I fish Barkley every year, and I’ll go to my grave saying that I’m going to win one of these in Barkley,” said the Cadiz, Ky., native.
Colson worked two separate patterns this week. His bread and butter was fishing creek channel drops in 8 to 10 feet of water while the boat sat in approximately 15 feet. On the tops of these drops was homemade brush that Colson planted in preparation for the event. When fishing deep, he opted for a 3/4-ounce homemade jig with a black-and-blue skirt and Zoom Big Salty Chunk as a trailer.
“I really think one of the keys to my bigger bites was the Chunk. It’s got that bigger profile.”
But he also moved up and fished the backs of creeks for an hour or two each day. These creek flats also had homemade brush, and he’d swim a 1/2-ounce Enticer jig and a Zoom twin-tail grub by them.
“I’m really disappointed. I had saved some stuff for today that didn’t produce. The clouds and rain the last two days cooled the water, and when the sun’s not out, the baitfish will not get up and feed on top, and that kind of kills the ledge bite on Barkley.”
Like Yelas, Tom Monsoor decided that he’d rather swim his signature jig than fish the offshore ledges this week. And like Yelas, he made it work. While the Chevy pro fished Barkley, Monsoor fished the banks south of Kenlake Marina on Kentucky Lake.
“I fished the entire tournament in water 6 feet or less,” said the La Crosse, Wis., native. “I just went down the bank with the trolling motor on 60 looking for active fish.”
Monsoor would fish whatever looked good on the bank – including rocks, bushes, gravel and lay-downs. He never dreamed his shallow-water program would take him to the top 10. A few surprise kickers the first day and the inclement weather surely helped.
“I just wanted to make the top 50 and stay in for the Forrest Wood Cup.”
His day-four limit weighed 13 pounds, 13 ounces and brought his total weight to 59 pounds, 6 ounces, good for $18,987.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pro finishers at the FLW Tour event on Kentucky and Barkley lakes:
6th: Mark Rose of Marion, Ark., 58-4, $16,127
7th: Tom Mann Jr. of Buford, Ga., 57-13, $15,173
8th: Cody Bird of Granbury, Texas, 54-13, $14,220
9th: Jason Christie of Park Hill, Okla., 50-6, $13,267
10th: Shinichi Fukae of Palestine, Texas, 45-2, $12,313
The sixth and final FLW Tour Major of 2011 is scheduled for Pickwick Lake in Florence, Ala., July 21-24.
Castrol pro David Dudley saw his lead in the Angler of the Year race shrink to 16 points after five events. To date, Dudley has accumulated 912 points, while National Guard pro Brent Ehrler has tallied 896 points. Behind them are Monsoor with 881points, Mark Rose with 879 points and Jason Christie with 878. This year’s AOY winner receives a $100,000 award.