PREVIEW: Kenney and Lucas Enter the MLF Realm

Photo: Josh Gassmann
Photo: Josh Gassmann

By Rob Newell - January 10, 2019

As the second day of Elimination Round of the 2019 Major League Fishing Summit Select gets underway on Oklahoma’s Lake Murray, a couple of new faces in the Select mix can be seen finding their footing in the pre-dawn darkness of MLF competition.

For starters, FLW Tour stalwart JT Kenney of Palm Bay, Fla., has found his way to the MLF Summit Select in Oklahoma to give the format a try. Kenney has won three FLW Tour events as a pro angler in his 17-year career.

“I’ve seen MLF on TV and I love the concept,” Kenney said. “No information. No practice. Just drop the tailgate and start fishing. It’s a refreshing break from our normal practice-based Tour competition. Also, I love the real-time scoring and letting the fish go right back in the water from where it was caught. When it’s lines out at the end of the day, we all know who the winner is right then. There is no bagging up fish and waiting in line to weigh in. It’s fresh, it’s innovative and I’m ready to give it a whirl.”

Kenney’s fishing experience in Oklahoma is limited to mostly Grand Lake and the Arkansas River around Muskogee.

“Most Oklahoma lakes are usually shallow and flat, but this one looks pretty deep to me,” Kenney detailed. “Deep enough to possibly have spotted bass, even smallmouth are not out of the question here. I know some Oklahoma lakes have smallmouth and that could put a whole different spin on things. To me, this is exactly what fishing is supposed to be: figuring it out as you go.”

A few boats down another fresh MLF Select recruit by the name of Justin Lucas of Guntersville, Ala., is pouring over his map. With two BASS Elite Series victories to his credit in just five seasons on the Elites, Lucas is making a name for himself in fishing’s pro ranks. This week he is diving into the MLF Select to see if the format is all it’s cracked up to be.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Lucas said. “MLF has brought some new twists to the sport that the viewers obviously like, so I’m ready to give it a try.”

While studying the map, Lucas noted water depths of 85 and 90 feet.

“Wow, that’s pretty deep for a small lake in Oklahoma,” he said. “That’s really surprising. On the mapping it almost looks like a mini Lake Martin (Alabama) given the steep bluffs on the lower end. With water like that, it might even have spotted bass in it – that would make this thing real interesting. I might have to use some of my ride through time checking out those deeper contours on the lower end just for that reason – that section of the lake intrigues me the most right now.”

Michael Neal of Dayton, Tenn., is fishing his second season of MLF Selects and has become accustomed to the MLF “lake reveal” routine. As soon as he gets his map, his eyes begin to ferret out the offshore contour spread he prefers to fish in May.

“This place is funky looking,” he reasoned. “It’s really deep. More specifically, it’s deep and steep. There are not many 10- to 20-foot flats that spread out off the bank. It’s super bluffy; everything drops straight off the bank. That’s a little odd for Oklahoma. Grand Lake has deep water too, but Grand is more flat and rolling – these are just straight drop contours.”

Neal took a second to look up from his map and steal a glance of the lake in the breaking light.

“Are those reeds?” he suddenly blurted out. “Those are reeds! Look at them all!”

“Well, that’s not good,” Neal said with a sigh. “Looks like everyone will be starting on the bank with a topwater right here by the ramp.”

 “I’ve seen how this works before,” he continued, offering his take on how the day would unfold. “When there is shallow cover available like that, you just can’t risk fishing out deep in the first period. You can bet the first guys to catch scorable bass in the first period will be on the bank. That gives them a solid start to the day and then they have some room to expand in the second period. But if you stumble out of the blocks in the first period and get trapped behind, you spend all day trying to play catch up.”

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