KBF Trail Kentucky Lake: Jay Wallen’s Second Place Finish

KBF Trail Kentucky Lake: Jay Wallen’s Second Place Finish

Jay Wallen was 5.25 inches behind Josh and 4.5 ahead of the next angler. Jay was fishing much farther north on Kentucky Lake, but the shallow water pattern was still the same. “I caught fish in water so shallow, they should have been laying on their sides!” He also found an early topwater bite, landing a solid limit (15 fish before 10 a.m.) tossing a Lobina Rico lure.

“I have caught a ton of fish on this lure.  I have two I have used for years”.

Jay moved after 10 a.m. and upgraded (catching 5) in a patch of grass, breaking off on his first cast throwing a Senko. He threw back into the spot and “…never felt it bite, I just saw a stalk of grass shake and assumed it was a fish. I set the hook into a 19.75-inch bass.” Jay credited the two baits (and a D-Bomb) with his second-place finish.

The Pikeville, Kentucky native who just bought a house in Lawrenceburg, KY (where he plans to live with his soon to be bride Casey) spends his days assessing and tracking coal reserves in his home state, but his weekends on the kayak tournament trails. The 2016 KBF ANGLR of the year’s (Jay Wallen) TourneyX profile is a testament to his ability on the water. Like Josh, he is always a competitor with the ability to bring home a win.

It is interesting to learn that he only picked up a kayak to be able to fish with fellow Kentuckian, AJ McWhorter, on the New River. He bought a Jackson Kayak but thought “it was stupid to fight with a paddle” so he moved to an Outback. Once he made that move, he won enough to get a Hobie PA14 and hasn’t looked back.

Jay is a now a member of the Hobie Fishing Team and lists Picasso Lures, Cal Coast, Shimano and G-Loomis among his supporters. You can also get some very helpful and “juicy” tips from his YouTube Channel, TheJwallen.

Kentucky Lake is hot!!

Kentucky Lake is hot!!

When you think of Kentucky Lake, especially in late July you tend to think about ledge fishing. The last couple of years, for me at least, the ledge bite has been incredibly scattered. This weekend I went for a more consistent bite up shallow with a hot topwater bite in the back of a major creek, hot being the key word with water temperatures around 87. The bite was so good that at times I was catching them 2 at a time!

There are more shad shallow than I have seen in a very long time, its very promising for those younger 12-15” fish. The bite I was on required weeding through many of those 12-15” fish in search of a random 18”er. A whopper plopper in practice was the best, but come tournament morning they didn’t want it. I switched up to a Lobina Lures Rio Rico and I guess that got their attention. Action was steady until the sun got high over the trees. That bite was happening in about 1’ of water on a creek flat. Once it died around 10:00 am I eased out to 3-5’ following the creek channel, fan casting a squarebill around brush. I got a couple nice upgrades from that pattern and had a decent limit but 2 small fish needed to be culled if I was going to have a shot at cashing a check.

There was one other spot about 45 minutes away where I had success in practice. I loaded up, leaving myself an hour and a half to fish. I made it to a small grassy island in the back of a creek and my first flip with a Missile Baits D-bomb I break off a good fish. Not taking the time to re-tie I grabbed a G-Loomis NRX rigged with a senko and tossed it back in the same spot, I never felt a bite but saw a stalk of grass shake and just set the hook, lucky for me there was one on and it went 19”, I followed that up with an 18, 17 and 16” out of the same little hole in this grass island. In the end 93.75” wasn’t enough for the win for the KBF Trail Event, but I’ve had a tough season and was happy to go home with 2nd. It was truly surprising to catch so many fish in 1-2’ of water with the water temps in the high 80’s and bright sun paired up with a 100+ degree heat index. Just goes to show that Kentucky Lake ledge pattern has changed a bit and to stay competitive you just have to change with what the lake gives you. A positive note is that I have seen a huge decline in carp populations, I still saw some, but nothing like years past. Thanks for reading the blog, leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

“Living on the Ledge” with Jay Wallen at Kentucky and Barkley lakes

“Living on the Ledge” with Jay Wallen at Kentucky and Barkley lakes

Topwater bites early in the morning and on overcast days are “bonus fish” to the versatile Tennessee angler.

  • Kayak bass fishing star Jay Wallen provides ledge fishing tips
  • Texas rig and Carolina rig worms and heavy jigs are key deepwater tools
  • Foot-controlled Mirage Drive on Hobie Pro Angler aids boat control

Jay Wallen, who competed in the Hobie Fishing World Championship 7 this spring, is a force to be reckoned with wherever he launches his Hobie Pro Angler 14.

By Mike Pehanich

To WIN summer tournaments often means mining big bass from deep-water “ledges.” Here kayak pro Jay Wallen reveals some of the secrets to “living on the ledge.”

Jay Wallen is a force to be reckoned with in kayak fishing wherever he launches his Pro Angler 14.  But nowhere is the Tennessee angler more feared than at the annual Hobie Bass Open held on Kentucky and Barkley Lakes each June.

His stellar kayak bass tournament record had included two third-place finishes in the Hobie Bass Open on Kentucky Lake already before his HBO victory in 2017. This past June, he notched another Top Ten finish at the event, sponsored by Hobie Cat and the Kentucky Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau, placing sixth with a 105.25-inch total.

Kentucky and Barkley lakes have tutored him well. Last year’s lessons earned him a $4,000 winner’s purse and a trip to the Hobie Fishing World Championship-7 event, held in April at Lake Vanern in Amal, Sweden.

Wallen is quick to cash in on any hot bite these classic TVA waters might offer, but year-in and year-out, the deep water “ledge” bite on the classic river-bed  and creek-bed structure separates the men from the boys in this tournament competition.

The pattern is familiar on all of the Tennessee River impoundments. Following the spawn – largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass gradually retreat to this prime structure. There they feed on roving schools of shad.

“A lot of guys like to fire up a school with a deep-diving crankbait. A swimbait can go with that, too, because you can control its depth,” says Wallen. “But my favorite ways to catch ledge bass are with a jig or a large worm, Texas-rigged or Carolina-rigged. There’s just something about feeling that bite!”

Worms and jigs so rigged give him a shot at bass even when the fish are not in a chasing mood. The beauty is that they will produce during an aggressive bite as well.

At the 2017 Hobie Bass Open championship, Wallen fished a 12-inch Texas-rigged worm behind a ½-ounce bullet sinker on his G. Loomis rods to get his ledge bite going. The bite transitioned to a ¾-ounce football jig with a Zoom Fat Albert soft plastic trailer on Day Two.  For added attraction, he dunked the tail into a garlic flavored Spike-It dip.

“A ½-ounce jig falls more slowly and seems to work better in the 15- to 20-foot range,” says Wallen. “When the sun is up and fish are holding tighter to the bottom, I go to the ¾-ounce jig.”

Texas-rigged and Carolina-rigged worms fished with heavy football jigs are among Jay Wallen’s key baits for ledge bass.

Kayak fishing has long been associated with shallow water techniques, but anglers like Wallen have brought the kind of deep-water savvy and sophistication to the game generally associated with elite levels of bass boat competition.

Wallen emphasizes the importance of boat control when working the 10- to 30-foot depths common to ledge fishing.  The challenge gets significantly tougher in open water when reservoir wind and current can influence movement of boat and bait. Wallen relies heavily on Hobie’s foot-controlled Mirage Drive for boat control.

“If it weren’t for the Mirage Drive, I wouldn’t be fishing out of a kayak,” he says. “I’ve fished other styles of kayak and drive systems, and I spent too much time controlling my boat and not enough time fishing.”

Back-up plan

Wallen’s strength as a tournament angler stems as much from the versatility and ability to adapt, as from mastery of tough techniques.

He looks for secondary ledges along the beds of the Tennessee River tributary creeks when wind and current blow him off favored main lake ledges.

And he is ever ready to cash in on skinny water opportunities in the countless arms and bays of the big impoundments.

“You can’t overlook shallow water opportunities,” he advises, noting that topwater bites early in the morning and on overcast days frequently lead to big fish. “Those are bonus fish. Any fish I can catch shallow in the morning amounts to work I don’t need to do later in the day.”

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