The helms of 29 bass boats splashed into the icy waters of Kentucky Lake to compete in Murray State Bass Anglers 2015 Open Invitational Tournament early Saturday morning.
Although the two-day tournament ended with just two fish to weigh, the anglers who competed said the fun they had over the weekend couldn’t be measured.
As the boats came in at the end of the tournament Sunday, the anglers bundled in fishing gear, boots, scarves, hats and gloves all gathered near the scales to see what their fellow competitors had reeled in.
Brothers, Jason and Justin Hopkins, seniors from Western Kentucky Bass Anglers Team, took first place with a 3.91 pound fish and won the “Biggest Bass” award, raking in $1,940 in award money.
Jason said they went out about five miles before they caught the fish around 8:30 am. with a steel shad, a common wintertime bait.
Two other members, Justin Berger, senior from Freedburg, Ill., and Jake Krish, junior from Louisville, took second place – $930, with a fish weighing in at 2.37 pounds.
Twenty minutes before the tournament was over, Berger said, they went out to Jonathon Creek looking for clearer water and caught their fish from about 10 feet deep with a jerk bait.
A jerk bait is one of the most common baits anglers use. It is a hard piece of plastic with treble hooks that bobs and sinks to mimic a bait fish.
“We were so excited we caught a fish you could have probably heard us yelling from the boat ramp,” Berger said. “It’s the proudest two pounder I’ve ever caught in my life.”
Berger and Krish agreed these were the harshest conditions they had ever fished in.
Collectively, the anglers spent more than 15 hours out on the lake fishing in temperatures around 30 degrees and 10 mph winds. Sunday, it rained part of the morning, but thinned out around noon.
Dominick Schenewerk, senior from Smithton, Ill., said the extremely cold weather from the past couple weeks caused the fishing to be difficult during the tournament.
“We did our best to throw our lures right in the fishes face, but they weren’t having it,” he said. “I think I even bumped a few with the boat and they just didn’t want to have anything to do with me.”
Hosting the tournament in such harsh weather conditions was no easy task. Shenewerk said after the snow fall from last week, members tended to the boat ramp as often as possible to keep it from icing over too badly.
John Parks, titled sponsor of the Murray State Bass Anglers Team, said this is the seventh year the Murray State Bass Anglers have hosted the invitational the first weekend in March, but next year they will probably wait until later into the year because of the bad weather.
“Honestly, these were the roughest weather conditions I have seen on the lakes in 30 years,” Parks said.
Story by Mari-Alice Jasper, Assistant News Editor