Lightning struck twice last week for McKendree University’s Trevor McKinney – figuratively and literally. In practice for the Bassmaster College Series Wild Card tournament that he and partner Blake Jackson won on Alabama’s Lay Lake – his second collegiate win on the waterbody – McKinney was struck by lightning for the second time in his lifetime. Thankfully, he was not seriously injured and was cleared to continue competing in the tournament.
“It was pretty tough out there, but we figured something out the last day of practice – after getting struck by lightning,” McKinney said. “I think that put something in us to want to win even worse.”
What McKinney and Jackson figured out was a current-related Rapala® DT®-6 bite.
“We went out there and threw a DT-6 until it about fell off the rod and caught all our fish [on it],” McKinney said on the weigh-in stage after the tournament.
“When you are fishing for spots, especially on the Coosa River, current is huge,” McKinney told bassmaster.com. “And if you can find them in the current they are easy to catch, and the DT6 is the best crankbait in the world to throw at spotted bass in the current.”
“DT” stands for “dives to.” A DT-6 will dive to six feet. Fished in four to five feet of water, it will bump and grind into the bottom, deflecting off rocks and other obstructions – and that’s when you get bites. Built of balsa wood, Rapala’s signature material, DT’s swim with an inimitable tight wobble and can back out of shallow cover better than copycat crankbaits, floating up and minimizing snags.
McKinney and Jackson learned in a tournament last November that current-positioned Lay Lake spotted bass will crush Rapala DT’s. But in that contest – the 2020 Bassmaster College Classic Bracket – the teammates and best friends were competing against each other, head to head, for a berth in the 2021 Bassmaster Classic. McKinney targeted spotted bass with DT-6 and DT-10 crankbaits to edge out Jackson for the win and Classic invite. So it was a blessing this time around on Lay Lake to raise a championship trophy together, McKinney said,
“You’re going out as champions together and I think that’s pretty cool way to end your college angling career,” said Hank Weldon, Bassmaster College Series Tournament Director, before presenting McKinney and Jackson their trophy.
McKinney and Jackson’s DT-6 bite yielded two five-bass limits that weighed a combined 30 pounds, 2 ounces. “I was telling Blake, man we ought to move down here, because it seems like every time we come, we catch a bunch of fish and we catch bigguns,” McKinney told Weldon on the weigh-in stage.
“Lay Lake’s been good to ya,” Weldon said.
By winning the Lay Lake tournament, McKinney and Jackson qualified to compete in the 2021 Bassmaster College Series National Championship, setting the stage for a potential head-to-head rematch in this year’s College Classic Bracket.
“It was an awesome experience fishing the Classic,” said McKinney, who finished 31st in the 2021 Classic last month on Lake Ray Roberts in Texas. “We’re excited to go to the national championship to maybe get a chance to qualify for the bracket again. It’s just awesome.”
The 2021 Bassmaster College Series National Championship is scheduled for Aug. 12-14 on the St. Lawrence River in New York.
“It’s awesome what B.A.S.S. does for college anglers,” McKinney said. “You don’t get this opportunity fishing any other circuit.”
Rapala too provides plenty of opportunity for McKinney, sponsoring him as a pro-staffer.
“Paying attention to everything bass fishing, from high school all the way to the top, it would have been hard not to notice what Trevor McKinney was doing in the college ranks of fishing,” said Dan Quinn, Rapala Director of Field Promotions. “On top of his obvious talents on the water, he has a true passion for Rapala lures and is a stand-up guy. Trevor was an obvious add to the Rapala Pro Staff. We’ve hit the ground running and aren’t looking back. Get ready to see Trevor’s name a whole lot more in the tournament world and watching him work his DT magic!”
Quinn will likely get a bait-order call from McKinney this week. “We lost like 20 DT-6’s this week!” McKinney lamented on the weigh-in stage.
McKinney and Jackson started the championship round on a spot they found late in the previous day. Throwing Rapala DT-6’s almost exclusively, the duo targeted current breaks and hard-bottom areas in Lay’s midlake region.
“We had a couple of current breaks on the main river that we were targeting,” McKinney told bassmaster.com. “We caught them really well this morning and had all of our weight by 8:30.”
Despite his on-stage quip about the lightning strike motivating him more in the tournament, McKinney noted that lightning is a serious danger on the water, not to be taken lightly.
“Lightning is not something to mess with,” McKinney told the Association of Collegiate Anglers. “No matter what the circumstances are, just get off the water. Take 30 minutes, let the storm pass. It’s not worth taking a chance at getting struck by lightning. We were fortunate in this case, but a lot of people aren’t as fortunate. There are people every year that die getting struck by lightning, and some of them are fishermen.”
McKinney and Jackson were running back to the boat ramp ahead of an incoming storm when the lightning struck their boat. They made it back to the boat ramp, where McKinney was fully checked out by an EMS crew. All of his vitals came back as normal and he was released and cleared to resume participating in the tournament. He did not report any further illness or complications from the incident.