Jay Kendrick of Grant will fish his 3rd pro season with FLW starting in January. He’s very excited about what the new season holds for him.
He fished the FLW Costa series 3 years ago in his bid to come back as a pro after a long layoff. He moved up to the top tier FLW Tour last season.
He won the Costa on Guntersville, then led the first day of the FLW Tour tournament on Guntersville nearly 2 years ago.
He found bass “stacked up” on a bridge each time and he hammered them with a swimbait. It’s one of his favorite baits.
“I got to fish Guntersville last Friday and I threw the swimbait and had a moderate degree of success,” Kendrick said.
Kendrick is a nurse anesthetist. Betweek work, fishing professionally and sponsor obligations, he has little time to fish his home lake.
“I don’t get to fish it as much as I would like,” he said.
He’s gone 9 days for each FLW tournament and there are 7 tournaments on the Tour, 8 if an angler makes it to the FLW Cup championship. Kendrick also has about 3 weeks a year of sponsor obligations and he captains for the DAR High fishing team, of which his son Camden is a member.
“It’s just fun for me to get to spend time with my teenage son,” Kendrick said. “That can be a hard thing to do when kids get to be teens. I have him as a captive audience when we’re practicing or fishing.”
For his own fishing, Kendrick goes into the FLW season aiming for consistency.
“I fished for a long time without a big win until winning that tournament on Guntersville,” Kendrick said. “If you can be consistent, if you can be in that upper percent, I think it sets you up to have a shot to win.”
So many things go into professional fishing and everything must align almost perfectly to actually get a win, Kendrick said.
“Any little mechanical failure, a missed fish, a big weather change, a lot of things can offset you,” he said. “But if you’re consistent, an opportunity will present itself.”
He led the first day of the FLW Tour event on Guntersville 2 years ago.
“Conditions changed and I dropped the lead,” he said. “But I was in position to make that run.”
He said most FLW tournaments are in late winter and early spring.
“It’s not June and balmy,” he said. “The weather can vary widely in our tournaments. You can start the tournament with it 70 degrees and it might be 28 on the last day.”
The 2019 FLW Tour schedule is:
January 10-13 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Brookeland, Texas
February 7-10 – Lake Toho, Kissimmee, Fla.
March 7-10 – Lake Seminole, Bainbridge, Ga.
March 28-31 – Grand Lake, Grove, Okla.
April 11-14 – Cherokee Lake, Jefferson City, Tenn.
May 2-5 – Lake Chickamauga, Dayton, Tenn.
June 27-30 – Lake Champlain, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
Aug. 10-12 – FLW Cup, Lake Hamilton, Hot Springs, Ark.
“I am really looking forward to Toho,” Kendrick said. “My youngest son and I made a pre-tournament trip there. I’d heard the hurricanes that came through had really changed the lake, blowing out the lily pads and some of the other vegetation. We fished it 3 days and sure enough, the landscape has changed. It is usually a pre-spawn event and I like the way it fishes.”
Kendrick is also looking forward to fishing Champlain. Typically, sacks of big smallmouth win this tournament.
“If you catch a limit of 3-pound smallmouth on Champlain, you’ve just had an average day,” Kendrick said. “You have to find those 4-pound and larger fish to be a factor.”
It’s a large body of water and almost all the fish are found offshore.
“You might go out and the wind is blowing 20 miles per hour and there are 4-foot waves and you can’t fish the spot where you found the fish the day before,” Kendrick said. “There are a lot of issues that come into play in this tournament.”
He noted that a couple of new lakes are on the schedule this year, Grand Lake and Cherokee Lake, that FLW hasn’t traditionally fished. The season opens on Rayburn, which has been a hot lake lately.
“It’s similar to Guntersville with a lot of grass, a lot of shallow flats and a deep main river channel,” Kendrick said. “I don’t know if they have any magic bridges, but I am looking forward to finding out.”
Lots of anglers are excited about Chickamauga, just up the river from Guntersville.
“I have a love-hate relationship with Chickamauga,” Kendrick said. He lived in Chattanooga for several years while doing anesthesia training at Erlanger Hospital.
“They called it ‘the Dead Sea’ when I lived there,” he said. “The grass had been eradicated from one end of the lake to the other.”
The grass is back now, Florida-strain largemouth have been stocked and it is one of the top ranked bass lakes in the nation.
Kendrick expects it to fish “like a typical Tennessee River lake.”
A big change on the FLW Tour this year is there will be no co-anglers. Kendrick is for having co-anglers in the Costa series but not for the Tour. He said the co-anglers can affect the outcome of a tournament on the pro side and he doesn’t think that should be a factor at the top level of the sport.
“If the pro is throwing a spinnerbait and the co-angler catches 3 fish on a Rat-L-Trap, the pro is going to put down the spinnerbait and pick up a Rat-L-Trap,” Kendrick said.
The downside to not having co-anglers comes in the travel.
“I had a co-angler travel with me and practice with me last year,” Kendrick said. “It helps defray some expense when you split a hotel room or your co-angler picks up the tab for half of your fuel costs.”
He also noted that the days might be a little long for the pros all alone in their boats with no one to talk to.
“We might kind of be like Tom Hanks in ‘Castaway’ and want a volleyball to talk to by the end of the day,” he said.