It wasn’t the only place that anglers found fish, but many who cashed a check in the inaugural Huk Bassmaster B.A.S.S. Nation Kayak Series powered by TourneyX presented by Abu Garcia had launched somewhere along its banks. Pell City, Alabama was the host city for the event which saw over 200 kayakers launch on Lake Logan Martin, a body of water with limited ramps. It wasn’t uncommon to find over thirty kayaks at each launch and Clear Creek was no exception. It was full.
The check in for the event was held at Pell City Civic Center and the anglers were met with golf cart rides offered by the Pell City Fire and Rescue Station located next door. They were driving the competitors back and forth to parking in the pouring rain. Once inside the center, the community and B.A.S.S had set up the venue making everyone feel welcome. Steve Owens led the event, and as always, he was impressive in his management. Dwayne Walley was on hand to ensure that TourneyX functioned, providing live results so everyone could see how the day was progressing. Scott Beutjer recorded the event with his camera; images that will remind us of how big the day really was for kayaking.
Everyone in the room knew that we were a part of something that was going to change the face of kayak fishing; a milestone in the history of kayak bass fishing. You could feel the excitement and anticipation among all of the anglers as they signed in for the first time at a B.A.S.S. Nation event.
B.A.S.S. Nation Kayak Series on Logan Martin: Pre-Fishing
The water was low, it seems it had been dropped two weeks before in anticipation of more rain. Like most events, reports were all over the place from “I figured out something” to “well, at least I got to be here”. One of the most common conversations was that the white bass were chomping about everything. Even Senko’s were drawing the swarming fish.
Jim Davis, who traveled with friend Ben Rayfield, had gone out the day before to his spot and had caught a lot of little fish.
“We went way up river and checked out a few back water pockets, and caught a few good fish, but since we travel together we have to launch together and knew those areas did not hold two limits. We chose to fish Clear Creek”
Mark Edwards arrived Monday evening and checked out three ramps.
“I started just below the dam and thought it could be won there, but the current was just so strong. I made my mind up that I could catch fish in Clear Creek. I spent my next two days of practice covering Clear Creek. I went out on the main lake and the water temp was 51… and I could see fish, but they wouldn’t bite. If you got back into the pockets, the water was almost 58 degrees. And I was catching fish in those pockets.”
Friends Sam Jones and Allan Reed felt like maybe they were on to something outside of the bays and along the river channel. Gene Jenson was certain that his launch point would land him in the top, and Jake Harshman felt he had figured it out.
Jon Lessman talked about his decision to fish Clear Creek.
“Jim Davis and I fished in some of the same areas. We were probably 300 yards apart. Mark, I had seen him pre-fishing; he was maybe a quarter a mile away from me. Cory Racer (who would finish in the top ten) was just outside of the area that Jim and I were fishing. I found a drainage ditch that had just a little drop in it during pre- fishing and threw a Carolina rig in there and caught a couple of fish and thought, this is it. Everything set up just the way I wanted it to.”
Many other anglers had found patterns that would give them anywhere from seventy to the mid-eighties in inches, but everyone knew the weather was changing. The water was not going to be the same and the chances of the fish being in the same locations and acting the same was at risk. The forecast: colder, rain and rising water.
B.A.S.S. Nation Kayak Series on Logan Martin: Tournament Day, or to Quote Mark Davis, “Gameday”
The forecast was rain, and from the time anglers stepped out onto the ramps, it rained; between intermittent drops of big rain, there was more rain; then rain. And the water in places like Clear Creek was no longer clear. Thirty plus kayakers had also launched from Poorhouse Marina which also had a creek feeding the bay; it had turned from clear to chocolate milk overnight.
Eriq Siddiqi had found a choke point far from Clear Creek that would land him in fourth and Jimmy Mcclurken was just on the other side of the same spot; finishing 7th. Both were using ambush points provided by the current; like many who found success in the tournament.
Mark Edwards Day on the Water
Mark Edwards ended the event in 2nd place.
Mark Edwards had caught over 80-inches both days of pre-fishing and he struggled early in the morning.
“When it is tournament day and you only have 3 fish at 12:30, and you have fished all of your best stuff… I knew I could catch one out on the river in some pockets, but it was going to take me thirty minutes to get there.
I thought that maybe I go back to the bridge, but people were fishing it, so it was crowded. I moved back out of the creek and I went back to where I started.
The wind had picked up, I went from a jerk bait to an A-rig….I got my limit and checked the leader board, I am in 12th place. I go back up there and caught another one. And I caught 4 fish in four casts.”
Mark gave this advice, if you are fishing in water under 60 degrees and its pre-spawn; you better be fishing an A-rig!
Jim Davis’s Day on the Water
Jim Davis was also beating the conditions, but had not found fish with the baits he had used pre-fishing.
“I don’t care what anybody says, it is all about being in the right place at the right time! You know, it’s not about me being better than anybody else, or out fishing them… that’s kayak fishing, you make the wrong choice and you have to live with it for the day.
By 9:30, I hadn’t caught a fish. I moved to the rocks and they started biting. I happened to be in the right spot and didn’t know it. I passed the spot where all the fish were and came back and started to see all of the shad spinning out.
The place I was, there were rocks coming off the bank and the current was moving past it. What I think was happening, those bigger fish were sitting behind it and then running out and eating the shad, feeding up, then going back to rest behind those rocks. I was just sitting off and hammering the spot, and I was always catching little fish, and waiting for those big ones to come out. You just have to pay attention to what is going on around you. If I hadn’t seen those shad, I would have missed the bite.”
It was a very unexpected bait that helped Jim to have success on Logan Martin.
“I made the right choice that morning, got to the right spot, happened to have something in my box that mimicked what I was seeing. I had some jerk baits and other things that I thought were the right color, but I didn’t have anything that I thought was small enough. I threw the jackhammer and a swimbait, they didn’t want it. The only thing I had that was close to the bait size was a spy bait. I threw silver with a black back.
I broke it off… because I didn’t retie. And switched to a sexy shad. I don’t usually throw anything with a treble hook; I would rather have my eye poked out than throw a treble hook, but with the wind and current, plastics were not going to work.
I caught over 40 fish, and when the leaderboard went off, I was an inch and a half behind Jon Lessman. I still had a 14-incher on the board.
I moved with 40 minutes left… and didn’t catch a fish, so I went back to my spot around 2:30 and with 10 minutes left I caught a 19-incher. I took the pic, submitted and then laid all the crap down in my boat.”
Jon Lessman’s Day on the Water
Jon Lessman had also changed his tactics. His experience like Jim’s had taught him to look at the conditions and adjust.
“Tourney day, I unloaded at the end of clear creek. I went to where I caught the fish and bam, bam; I caught 2 back to back on a Carolina rigged brush hog. Not killin’ it, but hey, I would work on a limit then go after some size.
I knew with the conditions it was going to be tricky.
I had marked a lot of fish a little farther down in some narrows, but they were not there. I ended up with a five hour dead stretch. I told myself it wasn’t working. I said stop, took a deep breath, and assessed the situation… I had wind blowing me one way and I was paddling old school so I was dealing with all of the elements; the rain, wind, and current.
I told myself to go back to where I was, nothing was working. The standard chatterbait, the Carolina rig; nothing I threw, crankbait or swimbait, was working.
I decided to throw a Nate’s Custom Baits spinnerbait (a buck tail spinner bait) with a white 4-inch twisty tail trailer dipped in orange. I chucked it and bam… a twelve incher. I let the wind carry me, then I kept making circles. I was trying to stay parallel to the bank and was in clear water fishing mudlines. I would fish it slow, letting it hit the bottom, then reeling it in. Nothing special, just slow. I caught over 25 fish doing this.”
B.A.S.S. Nation Kayak Series on Logan Martin: The Winner Is…
In the end, Jim Davis had beat the competition by 3-inches to be crowned as the winner of the first BASS Nation kayak event. His adjustment to the changing conditions, and trying a bait that would seem unconventional had allowed him to stand in front of the stage in Birmingham during the 50th Anniversary of the BASSMASTER Classic!
The top thirty received a check, and the top 44 earned a spot in next year’s kayak classic.
B.A.S.S. Nation Kayak Series on Logan Martin: The Top Three
Jon is from Gallatin, Tennessee on old Hickory but moved to Madison, Alabama for the fishing. He is retired from the Army, and if you get a chance to talk with him about his life, I recommend you do so.
Jon got into kayak fishing and has always been a big fisherman, and always been competitive.
“I used to fish local tournaments when I was younger, and fished some catfish tournaments.
It was Brad Case who got me into one. In 2014 I was about to retire. We were stationed together in the same unit and I was having some difficulties and he said well come on let’s go kayak fishing. I said kayaking and fishing, ok. So we started doing it a couple of times and I said I really like this. It started getting to the point that I couldn’t load the big boat by myself and kayaking just kind of took over. I enjoyed it so much more and it became a release to some of my mental issues due to my PTSD, TBI and all the other alphabet they give you; it really became a release for all of that and started changing me mentally and physically. My wife could tell a big difference, all the other providers could see it. And I was like, this is it, this is what I have found and what I want to do. So I went full bore.
I like the kayaks because we are so close to each other. We may only talk at two or three events each year, but no one skips a beat. It is right back to “hey, how you been”… like we had just seen each other yesterday.”
Jon is a Team Bonafide member (in a Bonafide 127) and has sponsorships from HT Rods, Union Sportsman Alliance, Tourney Tag, Spro, Wicked Weights, Yak Attack, Frog Toggs (which worked well on Logan Martin), Fish Grips. He also added Dakota Lithium and Gator Guard.
Mark is from Pipestem, West Virginia where he builds transformers for TVA, Duke and other companies. More than just an avid fisherman, he also serves on the board of the West Virginia Bow Hunters.
“My first tourney in a kayak was 2016, there was a KBF open on Bluestone Lake (part of the New River) and I borrowed a kayak. On day one I was in the teens… I over slept on day two and went to a different part and only caught one or two fish. Dropped to fiftieth something place.
The next year I bought a kayak. I signed up for Stonewall Jackson lake because I saw the National Championship prize amount KBF was offering. I had a great practice. I finished 17th. I realized that day that I needed a pedal drive. I didn’t have enough confidence to practice from a kayak, so I fished from a bass boat. I didn’t even have a fish finder on my kayak. I would run over spots and try to remember exactly where I had been.
It is trying to beat the fish to me. I am trying to beat the fish not the people. When I have a hard time, I keep trying to figure them out.”
Mark is sponsored by Fishing Online, and after the event he became a team member of Native. He is currently in a Native, but is about to get an upgrade. He did share the best lure out there – in his opinion – “The best lure in fishing is confidence.”
Originally from Missouri, Jim grew up in Minnesota before picking a spot on the map and landing in Dandridge, Tennessee just outside of Knoxville. He is a retired engineer; was partners in an engineering company until they sold the company a couple of years ago. He decided to fish, mess with old cars and build trailers for a while.
“I will be busy building trailers when I get home. I started building them so I could have a lightweight trailer, but then I started selling them. (Y’all reach out to Jim if you are looking for a nice lightweight option.)
I have been kayak fishing for 15 years; what’s crazy is during the first years you couldn’t find anyone to go with you… now all you have to do is say I am going fishing.
I had a bass boat and never had time to use it… sold it and found a guy that had two used kayaks for sale. A three year old Liquid Logic Manta Ray and a Hurricane Phoenix, sold one to pay for the other one and I started fishing out of a 28-inch wide liquid logic.
I have been competitively kayak fishing for 5 years; I started fishing all of the KBS stuff and in 2016 I won angler of the year. My first tournament, one of my buddies said he was going out to Rayburn to fish a tournament, and it was snowing all across the south, so I went. Then moved into the throw together tournaments… fished KBF, tried the Hobie… I will most likely only fish the B.A.S.S. and local tournaments in the future.
I wasn’t sponsored. I fish for Frontier Outdoors but kind of took off the last year to get some things straight. This was the first time I had been out since getting flipped by two walleye boats in La Crosse, Wisconsin last year. Two boats passed me and it rolled!”
After the BASS event, I signed up with the Old Town National team and will be in a new Old Town Predator PDL with the auto-pilot.”
B.A.S.S. Nation Kayak Series on Logan Martin: Thoughts on the Experience
Great Picture of one of the hottest kayak anglers, Rus Snyders (ninth place), as he waited to go on stage.
I was at the event and was thrilled to see the excitement generated by the introduction of the B.A.S.S. series. It was a welcomed opportunity to be a part of the next stage of kayak bass fishing history. I didn’t make it to the stage, but I was fortunate to talk with the top three about what it was like, what has happened since… and I listened with a bit of envy.
Jim Davis told me,
“I keep thinking that this has got to be over soon… then there are ten more posts and all the sudden my phone doesn’t quit beeping for three more hours.
When you’re standing up there waiting to go up on the stage, it’s cool, but when you get down to the final three, and you move to the center of the stage; it gets real all of the sudden!
When they said I am going to announce second first, and he said Mark, I just blanked out. I didn’t hear a thing. And they had to tell me twice to go hold the check, and twice to go out front. I had just spaced out man!
This is what we all worked for the last however many years. I mean we all imagined it, but who would have imagined it would get this big! I never thought it would be this big!”
Mark Edwards felt the same.
“It’s overwhelming but man, I am smiling the whole way. I am floating on clouds. We all dream of it, you know, ‘I can win this thing!’ It has been surreal. You can’t knock the smile off my face. They kept showing us on the stage all through the expo and by Saturday, I walked through and people were stopping me… ’you’re one of the kayak guys’… it has just been incredible!
They took us all behind the scenes to do interviews. Then they asked the top two to go to the media room. There is a media room with banners on two walls, there are three or four podcasts everywhere. I told them I hadn’t eaten anything and they feed me. I got a big ole plate and sat there in the media room and talked with anglers about fishing.
I was riding with others in a truck to get outside and they passed a hat back. They were asking the guys in the truck with me to sign it, and I asked if they wanted me to sign it… and I signed my first autograph!”
Jon Lessman was also a bit shocked by it all.
“Being on the stage was totally unreal. There are not good words to describe it; I could try cool and neat, but there is not an adjective to really describe it. Those are not it at all. All my life I have watched that Bassmaster stage and wanted to be up there. I remember Hank Parker and all of those guys being up there.
I figured that some people would say stuff to me, but I had a lady almost maul me, she was saying that ‘you’re that kayak guy! You are our favorite, you’re so big!’ And she hugged me. It was awesome. I thought it was wild when some of the elite guys would come up and say hi and say, “you’re that kayak guy right?”