Carved out of the western edge of the Appalachian range before it meets the Ohio basin, eastern Kentucky’s lakes are deep and clear, its waterfalls tall and its unbroken forests seem to never end. The KBF TRAIL and KBF Pro Series had never competed on Laurel River Lake near Corbin, KY, and when they did on May 14-15, 2022, the lake did not disappoint.
The lake’s healthy Smallmouth and Largemouth fisheries showed up in numbers on the Ledlenser leaderboards on Fishing Chaos, rewarding KBF anglers who made the trip with beautiful catches and unforgettable views. With clear weather in the forecast, it was a recipe for a great KBF weekend.
It was nearly a clean sweep of all the weekend events for Gene “Flukemaster” Jensen, but for one costly error. Jensen finished second to Tim Isaacs in the Saturday KBF Trail tournament, but had his Saturday catch disqualified because he fished ineligible water. Jensen would recover and take first place in the Sunday KBF Trail event. In the end, both veteran KBF anglers earned their first KBF Trail victories and Jimmy McClurkan would have a strong finish to win the KBF Pro Series trophy.
Trail I Saturday, May 14
Tim Isaacs won Trail I on Saturday with an 86.25″ limit. Isaacs had posted his winning limit by mid day, and had to keep fishing, hoping to upgrade, while the field behind him threw its best at the leaderboard. Gene Flukemaster Jensen held 2nd place with 83.25”. 2021 TN Challenge Series champion Jimmy McClurkan also posted a limit of 82.75” before it was over, as did Eric Cormack, who surged in to 3rd place with 83”. Jensen would upgrade to 84.75” before the end, but as the day wore on it appeared Tim Isaacs would hold on for the win. When Jody Queen’s 5th place limit of 80.75” came in, the last major threat had passed, and Isaacs had his first ever KBF Trail victory.
Isaacs achieved victory by fishing a homemade lure.
“I make a 1/8 oz. round head jig with a weed guard and a thin skirt, and trail it with a 3” green pumpkin Keitech swimbait. I threw that lure all weekend long and caught all of my fish on it. I caught my fish in everything from 3’ of water to 40’ of water. My biggest on Sunday came from near a sheer rock wall. The lake reminded me of Summersville Lake back home [in West Virginia]. I just loved it. My son [Jason] talked me into fishing the event, and if KBF ever goes back I will be there.”
Top 5 Trail I (Saturday)
- Tim Isaacs 86.25”
- Eric Cormack 83”
- Jimmy McClurkan 82.75”
- Jody Queen 80.75”
- Jason Isaacs 80.75″
Trail II Sunday, May 15
Gene Jensen would have finished second in the KBF Trail on Saturday but his catch was later disqualified. As he explained in a live KBF Facebook video:
“I didn’t ask the marina ‘Do you allow kayaks back there?’ They allowed bank fishing [but] they didn’t allow kayaks. I got DQ’d for fishing an out of bounds area. I didn’t know it was out of bounds.” Jensen then graciously explained “What I feel the worst about is I didn’t give the 2nd place guy Jimmy McClurkan his ten minutes to talk” during the awards ceremony.
While Jensen’s error cost him his Saturday limit and valuable points, he fished a different area on Sunday, and an area that was in bounds. Because the Sunday Trail is a separate event, his catch that day stood.
Jensen came out strong but found himself in second place after two hours of competition. In the early going on Trail II, William Stuntz held a 1″ lead over Gene Flukemaster Jensen. After filling an early limit, Jensen found the upgrades he needed by adjusting his strategy. He had 82.5” by mid-day, and would cull and upgrade again. Jensen’s success resulted from the fact that he noticed how the lake’s falling water levels affected the bite:
“When I arrived on Monday, the lake was high. It dropped 2.5 feet during the week, and those bass that were on beds moved on. The bass had spawned shallow, and on Saturday the males were still shallow, guarding beds that were on dry land. I caught most of my fish Saturday on a fluke, but on Sunday, the fish had backed off. The shad were spawning, so I targeted those areas, and had my limit in 30 minutes.
Reflecting on his weekend in the context of his tournament season, Jensen remarked:
“The last time I fished a lake like this, I didn’t do well. It was nice to figure it out. I will fish the KBF Trail at Pineview in Utah next month. I’m looking forward to it. For now, I just want to do the best I can do.”
In the bigger picture of points standings, Isaacs moved into a tie for 9th place, in the 10th overall spot of the Farwide AOY standings. Isaacs also cashed a check for Dakota Lithium Big Bass, with a 19.75″ Smallie.
On the Pro Series side, McClurkan’s victory moved him into the top 10 in the AOY race, where he occupies 8th place. As he explained in a KBF Live video, he learned of the fluke bite from fellow competitors, and it worked for him on Saturday during the first Trail.
“I fished hard for two days. And yes, Gene [Jensen] caught them on a fluke. He called me and I brought him some flukes. Day 1 [of the Pro Series] was 100% on a fluke….on Day 2, I threw a black wacky rig and I caught three fish at the first point I stopped on. I switched to a shaky head in about 10 feet of water, and caught a massive amount of fish.” With about one hour left, McClurkan landed a Smallmouth that measured over 17”, and it was the cull that sealed his eventual victory, his first ever win in the KBF Pro Series.
Top 5 Trail II (Sunday)
- Gene Jensen 84.5”
- Tim Isaacs 82”
- William Stuntz 82”
- Philip Backus 81.5”
- Jimmy McClurkan 80”
Top 5 Pro Series
- Jimmy McClurkan 162.75”
- Jody Queen 157”
- Brandon Palmer 155.25”
- Jason Isaacs 151.5”
- Peter Stewart 127.50″
Dakota Lithium Big Bass: Tim Isaacs 19.75”
For complete Laurel River Lake standings, click here.
Gene Jensen is sponsored by 13 Fishing, JJ’s Magic, Motorguide, Bona Fide Kayaks, Yak Attack, Alumacraft, Seaguar, Realtree Fishing, Plano, Gamakatsu, Spro Lures, Westbrook Supply Company and Dakota Lithium Batteries.
[Editor’s Note: This article was revised to reflect the changes in the Trail I and Pro Series standings.]
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