“This is the best fishing I’ve ever done in my life, and I couldn’t have picked a better tournament to do it in,” said Hodges, who led the Kentucky Lake event wire-to-wire. “I fished my heart out this week. I’m exhausted.”
Hodges opened the tournament in first place Wednesday with five bass weighing 19-9. On Thursday he added another five bass weighing 22-1 to maintain his lead. He then caught five bass weighing 17-12 Friday to make the crucial top 10 cut in first place.
“When I was fishing deep, I was throwing a ½-ounce green pumpkin jig with a green NetBait trailer,” Hodges said. “Most of the fish I caught were post-spawn fish, and you’d just have to drag it past them.”
Hodges said when he did fish shallow, he pitched a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver.
“I had one rod on my deck all day long today,” Hodges said. “I had my limit by 9 a.m. and culled some fish and then gave my co-angler my jig.”
Hodges, who describes himself as a weekend angler, said his victory won’t change the way he approaches tournament fishing.
“I don’t want to get into all of the travel involved with the tournament life,” Hodges said. “These pros train and practice and put all of this effort into it, and I’m just absolutely worn out. This is about as far as I want to take it. “My dad got me into fishing, and he passed away a few years ago,” Hodges added. “I just wish he could have been here to see this.”
Most of the top-10 pros who came across the stage Saturday praised Kentucky Lake and the largemouth and smallmouth bass that inhabit its waters.
“We had an absolute blast out there today,” said second-place finisher Curt McGuire of Lawrenceburg, Tenn. “Of course my co-angler won, and that’s the third co-angler I’ve been paired with on the final day who’s won. They’ve won more money on this lake than I have.”
McGuire found a ledge that was stacked with bass and threw a Citrus Shad-colored Bomber Fat Free Shad to fill his limit. McGuire said he caught fish nearly every cast on the ledge.
“I had just netted a 4-pounder for my co-angler,” McGuire said. “I threw out there and caught one, and he had to net my 4-pounder with his 4-pounder still in the net.”
Rounding out the top five pros are McGuire (20 bass, 75-11, $10,000); Sam Lashlee of Camden, Tenn. (20 bass, 65-3, $9,000 plus a $5,000 Ranger bonus); Team Gain pro Koby Kreiger of Okeechobee, Fla. (20 bass, 63-3, $8,000); and Team Bounty pro Craig Powers of Rockwood, Tenn. (20 bass, 60-0, $7,000).
Steve Stone of Paducah, Ky., caught the biggest bass of the tournament in the Pro Division Friday – a 6-pound, 10-ounce bass – that earned him the day’s Snickers Big Bass award of $300.
Overall there were 47 bass weighing 619 pounds, 11 ounces caught by 10 pros Saturday. The catch included eight five-bass limits.
Stephen Smith of Glenwood, Ark., won the Co-angler Division and $35,000, including a 519VX Ranger boat, with a four-day total of 20 bass weighing 56-2.
“We were fishing ledges in deep water,” said Smith, who earned his first Stren Series victory with the win at Kentucky Lake. “At 10:30 we backed out on a ledge and passed over it with jigs and didn’t get a bite. We ran back over it with crankbaits, and it was a massacre. I had five fish in the boat in 15 minutes and then culled three of my fish on the same ledge.”
Every fish Smith caught during the final day of competition came on a Citrus Shad-colored Bomber Fat Free Shad.
“That’s the only one I had with me, and it just happened that that’s the only color Curt throws,” Smith said. “I ended up busting mine and had to borrow one from him.”
Smith caught every fish except his kicker fish on the main lake. His biggest bass came in a bay in about 8 feet of water that dropped to 12 feet. Smith said the fish hit as soon as the crankbait dropped over the ledge.
Smith caught five bass weighing 16-13 Wednesday using a Texas-rigged green pumpkin Zoom Brush Hog while fishing with pro Ralph Laster of Lees Summit, Mo., to open the tournament in first place. He then caught five bass weighing 11-3 Thursday using the same Brush Hog while fishing with Team Bounty pro Powers to maintain his lead. On Friday he added five more bass weighing 10-2 to make the top 10 cut in second place while once again fishing the Brush Hog with pro Lloyd Pickett of Bartlett, Tenn. Finally, on Saturday, he sealed the win with a five-bass catch weighing 18-0 while fishing with pro McGuire.
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Chuck Loerzel of Yorkville, Ill. (19 bass, 55-9, $4,000); Barry Baldwin of Dayton, Ohio (19 bass, 50-5, $3,250); Frank Pempek of Bridgeport, Ohio (16 bass, 40-13, $2,500); and Brandon Hunter of Benton, Ky. (15 bass, 37-5, $2,000).
Chad Porter of Paducah, Ky., caught the biggest bass of the tournament in the Co-angler Division Wednesday – a 6-pound, 6-ounce bass – that earned him the day’s Snickers Big Bass award of $150.
Overall there were 29 bass weighing 73 pounds, 3 ounces caught by nine co-anglers Saturday. The catch included two five-bass limits.
The next Stren Series Central Division event, hosted by the Columbus Visitors and Convention Bureau, will be held June 6-9 on the Columbus Pool in Columbus, Miss. Boats will launch from Columbus Marina in Columbus and the final weigh-in will be held at the Wal-Mart located at 1913 Hwy. 45 N. in Columbus.
After four qualifying events are complete in each of the Stren Series’ five divisions, the top 40 pros from each division will advance to the $1 million Stren Series Championship in Mobile, Ala., Nov. 8-11 for a shot at $140,000. The highest-finishing pro from each division at the championship will also earn a spot in the $2 million 2008 Forrest Wood Cup, where they will compete against top pros from the Wal-Mart FLW Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Series, Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League, Ranger Owners Tournament Championship Series and TBF (The Bass Federation) for bass fishing’s biggest prize – $1 million.
The top 40 co-anglers from each Stren Series division will also advance to the championship, where they will fish for as much as $70,000. The highest-finishing co-angler from each division at the championship will then advance to the 2008 Forrest Wood Cup.
FLW Outdoors historically maintains a 98 percent live release rate in all of its bass tournaments.
Named after the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, Forrest L. Wood, FLW Outdoors administers the Wal-Mart FLW Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Series, Stren Series, Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League, Wal-Mart Texas Tournament Trail presented by Abu Garcia, Ranger Owners Tournament Championship Series, Wal-Mart FLW Walleye Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Walleye League, Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Series, Wal-Mart FLW Redfish Series and Wal-Mart FLW Striper Series. These circuits offer combined purses of nearly $43 million through 241 events in 2007.
Wal-Mart and many of America’s largest and most respected companies support FLW Outdoors and its tournament trails. Wal-Mart signed on as an FLW Outdoors sponsor in 1997 and today is the world’s leading supporter of tournament fishing. For more information about Wal-Mart, visit Walmart.com.
For more information about FLW Outdoors and its tournaments, visit FLWOutdoors.com or call (270) 252-1000.