Tourney Patterns

How Trey McKinney won at Fork, just his 2nd Elite event ever

Well first of all, he won because he’s an amazing, gifted bass fisherman. Anyone who tries to say otherwise is insulting all the amazing fishermen he fished against and has no idea what it takes to make it to the Elite Series let alone win one. And if anyone says he won it “because of FFS” – c’mon man, get over yo’ crazy self.

That outta the way, big congrats to him. Here’s how he did it.

Going in and practice

> “This tournament was one of them tournaments – I knew it was going to be a slugfest. But I didn’t know we’d have 15 bags over 30 the 1st day. Coming into it I was like, Okay that’s what need to catch – my focus was 25-30. You know you gotta hit that goal or get forgot about….

> “Practice the 1st day I just went fun-fishing and had close to 40 lbs. I was like, This is unbelievable. I had a 9-08, an 8-08, a 7-something…this is nuts.

> “It was almost a practice that was to good to be true. I figured if anything the [pre-spawn] fish would move, change, go to spawn – they had to change. It was too good.

> “…I saw a cold front coming and knew that could be the tournament…this could just be the tournament. I knew these fish were headed in to spawn. The last day of practice I felt them. I knew they were coming.

> “…gonna be harder to compete with these guys when they’re on the bank. That means there’s so many other spots they will be at. But when they first pull in there’s only so many pockets where they do it off the bat. I had 2 of those pockets, and they were protected enough where I could have 4 days. So I saw the cold front, and that’s what I needed.

> “…they will pull out, suspend, float there just as I wanted them to, at the mouth of pockets I have, so I would not burn as many fish as if they were all shallow. So if they kept moving in and moving out, that would keep them more fresh.”

Tournament and his pockets

> “[Day 1] I started at the back of [one] pocket and did not catch them. As soon as I moved out, I started catching them. I had 28 lbs in like hour and a half. So I had all day just to get 2 bites. I went and hunted for those 2 bites and ended up with 33-11.

> “The best thing I liked about [this tourney] was we had to change with them. I started out with suspended fish [and eventually] to catching them on on a wacky rig in 3-4′ [as the fish moved up]. What I liked was the versatility that was happening.

> “It was 60 degrees when we went to bed before last day – they all went shallow. They were hard to catch but they were there.

> “I was the only person in those [2] pockets. Kind of amazing in that small lake that I had as much room as I had. I knew there were enough fish in both those areas to win that tournament. The weather actually helped me in this tournament for once.

> “I look for stuff that really does not look that good, stuff that people drive on by. Little hidden points, little staging places, maybe a little bitty point…more of north-facing areas. In these north-facing pockets the water will warm up fast so those fish will be ahead. Every pocket, every place I caught ’em was north-facing….

> “I figured out how to let the fish rest. I knew I had to catch 5 more the next day and the next day. I felt like I was doing a good job of managing the fish.

> “I manage them the same way [anyone would do it] even without FFS: If I get to a place [weight-wise] where I have to catch an 8-9 lber to upgrade, I don’t need to catch any more of these fish. When I get to where I feel like I’ve gotten all I could get out of it, where it won’t help me, that’s when I start to pull out and…try to find new areas.

> “I start looking for new things: points, little bitty cut-ins, the stuff that doesn’t get as much pressure – to find one of those big ones. A lot of fish, how they set up it’s hard to tell how big they are size-wise [with FFS]. But I’ve been doing it a while so I have a pretty good estimate of what kind of size they are.”


Day 1 was a jerkbait and a Damiki rig:

> Normal and Jr-size jerkbaits (natural shad colors) – “I modify my own jerkbaits. I can make a deep one into a shallow one and a shallow one into a deep one…weight strips and floating strips to get the bait to do what I want it to do.” 12-lb Seaguar Tatsu fluoro, Lew’s HyperMag Reel, 6′ 8″ St Croix Legend Tournament Rod.

> Strike King Z-Too (AR shiner?), 1/8-oz head that had a 3/0 Gammy hook, 15-lb Seaguar Smackdown Stealth Grey Braid to 12-lb Seaguar Tatsu fluoro, Lew’s Custom Lite Spin Reel, 7′ 1″ M St Croix Physyx Rod.

Day 2 he used the Damiki too with Lowrance ActiveTarget 2, but day 3 that wasn’t working as well. By day 4 (“I knew I had to change and change quick”) he fished a jig and a Neko rig:

> Strike King Denny Brauer Baby Structure Jig (natural bream) with a Strike King Menace (gp), 22-lb Seaguar Tatsu fluoro, Lew’s Custom Pro Reel, 7′ 6″ MH St Croix Physyx Rod.

> Neko rig: 5″ Strike King Ocho (“honey candy” was his best color), 1/32-oz Strike King Tour Grade Tungsten Nail Weight, 1/0 Gamakatsu Stinger Hook, 15-lb Seaguar Smackdown Stealth Grey Braid to 10-lb Seaguar Tatsu fluoro, Lew’s Custom Lite Reel, St Croix Legend X Rod.


Obviously he used FFS fishing for suspended fish just like everyone else did so:

> “Electronics can be used shallower than what a lot of people think. When I’m fishing shallow like that [on the last couple days] I usually find a general area these fish like to sit, look around and try to find them…hard to see when they’re shallow.

> “When I find area they like, I go back and truly just fish…casting to high-percentage areas and just fishing – working those areas without [ActiveTarget] so I know what I’m doing and concentrating at the fullest.”


> “All my sponsors and all my supporters that’s believed in me and watched. The people that came down [to the weigh-in], the people who watched back home. All the new people on Instagram. Thank all you all for all the good luck and well wishes.”

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