31.May.2014 by Curtis Niedermier
Bass fishing is supposed to be unpredictable. Each tournament is supposed to be anyone’s to win. And when it’s a ledge-fishing shoot-out, modern electronics supposedly have leveled the playing field.
Yet, when Randy Haynes enters a tournament on the Tennessee River chain in summer, the results have gotten downright predictable.
This afternoon at the Country Chevrolet dealership parking lot in Benton, Ky., Mark Rose, Jason Lambert and Barry Wilson all brought more than 24 pounds to the scales in a final-day slugfest at the Rayovac FLW Series Central Division tournament on Kentucky Lake. Each probably felt like he had a strong shot at walking away the champion, and statistically they all did. The field was only separated by about 4 pounds to start the day. But, on days when everyone in the field has a stellar outing, it seems like Haynes is still just a little bit better. It’s almost feels like it’s not even fair.
Haynes strung together a three-day series of limits that went 25-01, 22-10 and 27-10 to take the champion’s trophy by a margin of 1 pound, 14 ounces. His three-day total was 75 pounds, 5 ounces.
The Counce, Tenn., pro made a big game plan change today that proved to be the clincher.
“I went south the first two days, and I had a couple good places there,” Haynes says. “It was getting beat up. Today, I went south first thing and caught a few small keepers that I just threw back, and I had only one fish in the livewell after 30 or 40 minutes.”
At that point, Haynes decided to pull the plug in Paris, point his Ranger to the north and head back to the lower end.
“I had some places I was saving, but I had to run south this morning just to not look back,” he says. “In practice I felt like Paris was where it was going to be won. The fish were thicker and fatter, which is typical of grass fish. But at yesterday’s weigh-in, as soon as I saw some of the fish that those guys fishing up north were weighing, and that they were fatter and healthier, I knew what I had to do.”
Haynes had game-planned perfectly. He’d saved a handful of key spots up at the north end, and he had about 40 schools total that he was able to fish today to put together the tournament’s largest stringer.
He relied on a handful of lures this week, but the key to the strategy was rotating through them in careful order. He started with a Strike King 10XD crankbait, then followed that up with a prototype Profound Outdoors Z-Boss 20 crankbait, which Haynes says is a more subtle lure. The subdued action helped him catch fish “behind” the 10XD. Once the crankbait action slowed, he followed up with a swimbait and a jig.
“It was unreal this week. The first day, I had 25 pounds and caught two more limits of 20 pounds that I threw back,” Haynes says. “The second day was a bit tougher. Today, I threw back about seven 4-pounders.”
Haynes found schools all over the lake. His Paris schools were in about 12 feet of water. Up north, he fished deeper, in 21 to 28 feet.
All week long, he was impressed by the sportsmanship of other anglers on the water, including the 300 or so fishing another major tournament out of Paris. According to Haynes, when he’d pull up to a spot, boaters in the other tournament would wave him in then give him plenty of space to work. That was critical to getting on “the juice” of each spot.
To prep for this event, Haynes came down about a week and a half early. All he did from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day was graph ledges.
“I felt like I hadn’t really figured this lake out yet,” he says. “So I put about 60 or 70 hours on my outboard. That’s what it takes to beat Mark Rose and Brandon Hunter and all these great ledge fishermen. You’ve got to put in the time.”
For Haynes, this win makes seven in his career with FLW. Six of those have been on the Tennessee River. Five of those Tennessee River wins have been Rayovac FLW Series events, including the 2012 event on Kentucky Lake.
For this one, he walks away with $40,000 and a new Ranger boat.
Next up, Haynes is heading to his home waters of Pickwick Lake for the fifth Walmart FLW Tour stop of the season, and he’ll follow that up with the Tour’s season-finale on Kentucky Lake.
For all the Tour pros prepping for those derbies, they’d better bring their A game, because Randy Haynes is coming to town with momentum and confidence. He’ll be too much for most pros to handle.