Lessons from legends: Ken Cook

In late fall of 1988, B.A.S.S. held an Invitational on Bull Shoals Reservoir. I remember it clearly. It was one of my best showings to date, early in my career.

Gary Klein won the event by shaking a worm in schools of suspended spotted bass, over super deep water. It was a strategy that separated him from nearly everyone in the field and gave him almost unlimited locations to execute the pattern.

Lucky for me, his Day 1 draw was Ken Cook.

Setting the stage 

This was back during the draw tournament era, when competitors shared a boat, each having control for half the day. 

There was a lot of “salesmanship” involved back then — guys trying to convince their partners to ride with them and to fish on their spots. Being relatively new to the game, I was impressionable … to a point.

On Day 1, I drew a guy that wasn’t on any fish. He was more than willing to ride with me, and I was thankful for that opportunity. But lacking any real experience on highland reservoirs — especially at winter pool — I wasn’t sure my patterns would hold up.

The first was throwing lipless crankbaits over shallow flats in the back of silted-in creeks … places where a few baitfish schools still lingered. The other was throwing a buzzbait at isolated wood. 

As it turned out, that first day went pretty well. I caught enough fish to reach the top 20 in a field of more than 300 anglers.

I drew Ken Cook on Day 2. And after spending the first day with Gary Klein, Ken was dialed in on the spotted bass bite. I told him I’d like to start on my fish in the morning, then I would yield to his areas the rest of the day. He agreed.

The lesson

The morning went well. Although I agreed to ride with Ken in his rig, I still managed two key largemouth from my spots — one was a 4 1/2-pound buzzbait fish. With that one, I knew I would make the money. Fishing was that tough.

Once the sun got above the tree line, we moved to Ken’s areas to target spotted bass suspended over deep water.

When we got there, Ken showed me exactly what he was doing. His lure setup consisted of a small, straight-tail worm, Texas-rigged with a 3/16-ounce bullet weight (unpegged). He tied it to 8-pound mono on a medium-action spinning outfit, approximately 6 1/2 feet in length.