Jackson & McKinney of McKendree University Lead FLW College Fishing Event on Kentucky Lake
March 12, 2019 by Justin Onslow
Blake Jackson and Trevor McKinney of McKendree University outpaced an incredibly productive field on day one of the YETI FLW College Fishing Open to lock up the day one lead on Kentucky Lake. The duo weighed in a bag that primarily consisted of smallmouths weighing 23 pounds, 11 ounces. They hold a two-ounce lead over Bethel University’s Cole Floyd and Carter McNeil.
The top 10 of this event is absolutely stacked, and even to be in the top 20 required a bag of at least 20-1. That’s some seriously good fishing on Kentucky Lake, and Jackson and McKinney were the best of the best on day one.
After what the pair called an “awful practice,” Jackson and McKinney entered day one of the Open with one spot they felt confident in. It was a spot they found with only an hour left in practice on Monday, the afternoon before the event.
“Yesterday afternoon we made the decision to change to a different boat ramp, and we went out and made the most of what we had,” McKinney says. “We found one point where we doubled up on smallmouth, and we went back there this morning and had 20 pounds within 30 minutes. They were really there.”
In all, the McKendree standouts caught 10 smallmouth over 3 pounds on the day, and only one of the fish they brought to the weigh-in stage was a largemouth — which they found close to the takeoff ramp that culled out a 4-pound smallmouth.
“We had a blast today,” Jackson says. “It went better than I’d ever imagined it was going to go. Every fish we hooked we got in the boat. We had 10 smallmouth and the smallest one was 3 pounds. Any time you can catch that caliber of smallmouth and that many of them, it’s just a blessed day.”
That might even be an understatement considering the quality of fish weighed in on day one. The entire field of 196 teams weighed in 21 bags over 20 pounds and 21 more over 15 pounds. Kentucky Lake showed out in a big way, and McKinney and Jackson made sure it showed out best for them.
The area the duo was fishing was what McKinney calls a “magical spot,” where there’s a bunch of current near deep water. It’s a point on the lake much like many others, but this one held a big school of smallmouths that seemed to replenish as the day went on.
“We checked back later in the day and caught a couple fish and they were still there,” says Jackson of that spot.
“Once we had it dialed in, it was easy,” adds McKinney. “You could just throw right to where they were. Smallmouth are easy to catch once you find them, and they usually reload.”
The day-one leaders only relied on one type of bait to do their damage: a craw-color crankbait, specifically a Spro Mike McClelland RkCrawler mid-diving crankbait. When the school got fired up, that’s all it really took.
Catching 23-plus pounds and leading a team event isn’t all about finding one good spot, though. For Jackson and McKinney, it’s just as much about trust and confidence in one another.
“We trust each other,” Jackson explains. “You’ve got to go with your gut feeling. We made a couple decisions throughout the day, but the one that kind of sticks out with us is we came back up this way a little bit, and we went into a pocket and started fishing. We caught a few, and something stuck out that was out of the ordinary. [McKinney] said, ‘We need to go hit that.’
“It wasn’t big — it wasn’t a big point — it was something real specific. We went back there and caught our only largemouth of the day.”
That confidence in each other’s decision-making comes with comfortability and familiarity. The duo just works well together.
“We’ve fished quite a bit together,” McKinney says. “We work very well together on the water. Typically, we both have the same feel for what we’re going to do, and it’s not hard to make decisions with [Jackson]. If there’s something he wants to do that I’m not sure about, usually we’ll do it anyway. We have a lot of confidence in each other’s decision-making skills.”
If that confidence and that one “magical spot” is repeatable one more day, the McKendree duo is in great shape to take home the title on Kentucky Lake on Wednesday.
Top 10 Teams
1. Blake Jackson, Trevor McKinney – McKendree University – 23-11 (5)
2. Cole Floyd, Carter McNeil – Bethel University – 23-9 (5)
3. Blake Johnson, Ben Statly – Adrian College – 23-8 (5)
4. Dustin Jones, Dakota Cantrell – Campbellsville University – 23-5 (5)
5. Jonathan Creed, Jared Latone – Youngstown State University – 23-4 (5)
6. Clayton Winebarger, Ryan Strong – Virginia Highland Community College – 23-1 (5)
7. Kyle Palmer, John Coble Garrett – Bethel University – 22-13 (5)
8. Alex Henderson, Zach Manneback – Adrian College – 22-11 (5)
9. Tristan McCormick, Dakota Pierce – Bethel University – 22-9 (5)
10. Nolan Minor, Casey Lanier – West Virginia University – 22-6 (5)