GILBERTSVILLE, Ky. The Bassmaster Elite Series pros seldom low-ball predictions on the weight it will take to win a tournament. In fact, those pre-tournament predictions are usually right on the money, like last month on South Carolina's Lake Murray when Mark Davis said it would take 68 pounds to win, and Fred Roumbanis won with 66-13.
Last week was an exception. The forecasts at Alabama's Wheeler Lake were almost unanimous in that it would take around 60 pounds to win. Jeremy Starks took the title with 78-10, and won by only 8 ounces over Kevin VanDam.
If the pros' estimates are low this week, the Bluegrass Brawl on Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley is going to be incredible. The 107-pro angler event, which begins with a 9 a.m. ET launch Thursday, is presented by Diehard Platinum Marine Batteries.
"Everybody is going to catch them," VanDam said. "This is going to be a phenomenal event.
"I think it's going to take 22 pounds a day to win it, judging by what the local tournaments are doing. It may take over 90 pounds to win."
Steve Kennedy has fished about 10 tournaments here over the last six or seven years. Two of them earned him $100,000 checks in FLW events. So the Auburn, Ala., pro knows a bit about the bass in Kentucky and Barkley lakes.
"I'm used used to catching 3- to 3 1/2-pounders," Kennedy said. "Right now I'm catching lots of fish less than 2 ½ pounds, but if you get a good bite it's 4 to 6. It was rare to see a 6-pounder when I've been here in the past.
"There's a year-class of fish that's a little bigger than what I'm used to seeing.
"I think the potential is there for someone to catch 100 pounds. I didn't even consider that when I was coming up here."
Kennedy's practice has been productive, especially Wednesday's.
"Today was a blast," Kennedy said. "I finally figured out something a little bit different. I realized what I was doing wrong."
VanDam is one of the favorites here. During that second-place finish at Wheeler Lake last week, VanDam mentioned over and over how much he enjoys fishing Tennessee Valley Authority lakes. Kentucky and Barkley are joined by a canal near the dams on the two rivers. Kentucky is formed by the Tennessee River; Barkley is formed by the Cumberland River. Together they cover 240,000 surface acres of water.
"These are great lakes," VanDam said. "I love fishing these TVA lakes.
"It's going to take a lot of weight to win here. I'm not really sure what I've found (in terms of big bass), but I'm catching a lot of fish."
There's a 15-inch minimum length limit on the lakes. That's another factor that should influence a higher total to win here.
"There's loads of fish in this place, but there are a lot of non-keepers," Mike McClelland said. "You can go through 40 or 50 fish that are under 15 inches. But when you get around a school of big ones, you can put 20 pounds in the boat in a hurry."
Most of the pros think this tournament will be won like at Wheeler on offshore river ledges. However, it's been a cool, high-water spring for the most part, and there's still a solid shallow-water pattern as well.
"I think there are going to be more fish caught shallow than there were here two years ago," McClelland said. "It's definitely going to be a factor for the first couple of days anyway."
Morizo Shimuzu of Japan won the last stop the Elite Series made here in June 2006. His total weight was 66-9. The way the pros were talking Wednesday, it may take that to qualify for Sunday's 12-man final and the chance to win the $100,000 first-place check.
The 9 a.m. ET launches and 6 p.m. ET weigh-ins will be held at Kentucky Dam Marina.