How Mike Cheatham Plans a Kayak Fishing Trip with the ANGLR App

This has by far been my least productive year since I started fishing kayak bass tournaments; if you only consider wins vs. well, not wins. And there is a voice inside my head that says this is all that matters, but I know that I have learned a lot; even in finishes below .500. So I work hard at not beating myself up and remembering that I am still a better angler than I was this time last year; and less than I will be this time next year – I just haven’t got it done on tournament days this year. 

New lures, new techniques on new waters and even a new kayak are a part of the growth I have experienced. I have spent more time watching the depth finder (too much maybe?) and understanding what lies beneath the water, more time watching the weather and even more time reading maps; but I am also taking it to a new level with the ANGLR app.

I would be lying if I said I was an instant convert. I have said before that the first time I talked with Derek at ANGLR, I told him that I was not a “journal” kind of guy.  I had never kept pages of documentation about lakes or what worked. To be transparent, I prided myself on just remembering what I used in certain conditions. It was only a couple of weeks ago that I learned to fully appreciate the value of the tool. I want to recount a tournament day to explain what I learned and how I can use the data I am collecting with the ANGLR app.

Looking Back at My Data

I was fishing in a creek during a CAKFG tournament, the place where I go to regain confidence, so I knew what to expect. It was late August, an afternoon tournament on local area creeks, the water was finally down to the summer pool after a lot of rain… and I could see shadows under the water – I couldn’t have been happier with the tournament timing. I knew the fish would be scattered on these spots between the hours of 5:30 p.m. until around 7:00 p.m.; they almost always were and would be busting some serious topwater.  Now, I had pre-fished and had not found them, but knew the possibilities existed for a great day (not the science of why) and who doesn’t love some topwater action.

The thing is, I had always said “they are either there, or they are not” about the creek. And if anyone asks, I will still say that is still true. But, I learned on that August afternoon (though not until after I had pulled into a 5-inch lead over the field) variables I hadn’t paid that much attention to until reviewing my ANGLR data.  

True to what experience had taught me about my home water, I didn’t catch fish from the starting time of 4 until about 5. Then I tossed a fluke over a protruding stick and hooked an 11-inch spot. Then I made it to a point where I could hear the voices of the other anglers who had gone further up the creek and I turned around.  

5:30; I popped a Baby Bass Spook Junior over one of the shadows just below the surface…and hooked a 6 to 7-pound bass! It fought, I got it to the boat, and then it dove under the kayak and cut itself loose on the fins. I thought, “now I will skunk”. It has been that kind of year, but before 7, I had hooked a 19.5, a 17.75 and a few 12’s before finishing at almost 7:30 with a 12.5-inch bass. Then nothing. It was exactly how many days had gone on Yellow Creek, and how many more will go.  

I recorded the trip with the Anglr app, and since I never fish after dark (ever) and got to check in long before the 10:30 time; I reviewed that data. Again, just a few days before, I had fished the same location with topwater and not had luck. I wanted to understand the “they are either there, or they are not” knowledge that I had come to expect from the creek.

Plans a Kayak Fishing Trip(1)

Plans a Kayak Fishing Trip(2)

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The water temperature had been the same, the flow was lower and the barometric pressure and wind had been different a few days earlier. On tournament day, between the hours I caught fish, the wind had picked up, the barometric pressure had seen a slight drop and the flow was slowing from above (around 5:30) to below what it had been (around 7:00) the day I didn’t have luck. And a few days later – I would fish the same location with the exact lure and only have a single blowup on the spook. The water temp had dropped 4-degrees, the water had risen 2-inches, and the barometric pressure and flow were not comparable.

I realize this is a small sample set and to fully understand the creek I have fished since I was a teenager. I will need to collect more data, but now I understand it can only help me to improve and hopefully win more; the science is real. I now have a picture of what affected my day, and what conditions had allowed me to catch fish on my favorite body of water.

Gathering More Data to Further My Learning

Kayak fishing is very different than running the rivers and lakes in a bass boat. Once you choose a location, you are making a commitment to fish an area, so planning is critical. By using the ANGLR app for all pre-fishing and tournaments to record conditions; I can collect data to better interpret what may be happening in similar areas, but also on different days. Before tournaments, I can use this data as a companion to map study, videos, friends and past experience to better form a game plan; helping me to understand conditions that lead to success during different times of the year on different bodies of water.  

It may not make me a winner on day one… but as I study maps, techniques and now my ANGLR data, I will only grow my knowledge and skill. I suggest that if you are new to this technology, as I am, take it somewhere you think you understand and use it to study familiar water. In my professional (corporate America) career, I have worked very hard to keep off the radar… stay off the screen. 

You can have an extremely good life and earn a living being virtually invisible, and life is much simpler. The thought of having that visibility has always been something I avoided, never wanted that bullseye on my back.  That hasn’t changed…but now I am thankful to have an ANGLR Bullseye on my hat.

DIY Livewell | Making a DIY Livewell for My Kayak

So I recently dove head over heels into kayak fishing. You can read all about my first month in a kayak here. I’m loving it so far. I think partly because it’s so new to me, but also because it’s relatively new overall in the bass fishing world and definitely growing at an incredible pace. The appealing thing about that to me is the rate at which kayak bass fishing is evolving. There are new products and innovations coming to the market daily it seems as more and more kayak anglers’ needs are identified. For me personally, that’s very exciting. I love to tinker, customize and create, so the kayak realm is tying that passion in with my love for fishing. One innovation I’m working on is a DIY Livewell system for the back of my kayak. 

My first attempt can be seen in a video where I won a bass boat tournament out of a borrowed Bonafide SS127. It worked really well in that it kept all my fish alive but there were also a couple glaring issues that made it impractical for long term use. 

One such issue was that I had to fill the well with water before starting my trip. That wasn’t a big deal on the night I won but another night I fished a tournament out of the kayak without a bite. Hauling around 96-pounds of water for absolutely no reason for 4-hours was a real pain. 

DIY Livewell(1)

So my 2.0 version needed to have a pump-in aerator I was able to control with a switch whenever I caught my first fish. 

The second issue I identified was the treachery of trying to put a fish in my DIY Livewell without another fish escaping when I opened the lid. This was something I didn’t foresee and it made for some really terrifying moments after each catch. Luckily, that night I didn’t have to cull because I only caught 5 keepers. But had I needed to cull, it would have been dang near impossible.

DIY Livewell: Solving the Issues

I considered installing a sliding lid but the easiest, cheapest and most effective solution for that problem was to add a net around the top of the Livewell. Now when I open the lid, there is no way for the fish to jump out. I used velcro and a mesh bag that came with some flippers my dad bought my nieces for the pool. You can find that type of material everywhere now. 

DIY Livewell(2)

I installed the netting in two pieces so that I could slip the fish through the overlapping gap. 

Using no-puncture cull balls, culling the fish will now be safe and easy. 

DIY Livewell: Wiring

The power source on my boat is a YOLOtek PowerStation. Since it has a max load of 3 amps, I needed to find an aerator that wouldn’t exceed that. The smallest I was able to find locally had a 5-amp pull but I was able to find a 450 GPH Attwood pump online that only uses 3 amps. 

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Wiring the pump to my PowerStation was easy using one of the three connectors provided by YOLOtek. 

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I simply crimped two connectors onto the positive and negative wires and then connected the pump to the PowerStation.

DIY Livewell: Plumbing

I drilled a hole in the side of the cooler as high as I could to pump water in. I used a 3/4 inch hose kit to go through the wall of the cooler and down to my pump. 

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Fortunately for me, the pump intake fits perfectly into one of the scupper holes in the tank well of the Bonafide SS127 I’m currently using. 

But one thing to keep in mind if you plan to rig a Livewell like this yourself: the pump needs to be mounted below the water level. That’s not to say the pump needs to be submerged in water, it just needs to be lower than the water line on the outside of your boat. For me, dropping it in the scupper hole is perfect. But until I am actually in the boat and weight it down, the pump won’t prime.

If your boat doesn’t have scupper holes, you can attach the pump to the side in any number of ways so that you don’t have to drill a hole in the boat. Also, be sure to put some kind of screen over the intake of the pump. I just used some of the leftover mesh netting that I used earlier to prevent the fish from escaping.

I also installed an overflow using another 3/4 inch hose kit in the hopes that I could just turn the aerator on and let it pump continuously. Unfortunately, however, when testing I found that the overflow couldn’t keep up with the pump so water flowed through the edges of the lid. 

After thinking more about it, I decided that it wouldn’t be smart to let the aerator run continuously anyway. I do let the aerator in my fiberglass boat run continuously, but my motor also recharges that battery when I run around. If I did the same in my kayak, it would likely drain my PowerStation before the day’s end. 

In order to still have aeration without using the aerator connected to the PowerStation, I velcroed two D-battery powered bubble makers to the side of my Livewell. I used these on my first version and they worked really well. One might be sufficient but two give me peace of mind in a situation where one might fail. 

I have fished one small 4-hour pot tournament with this exact setup already and it worked really well. I was very pleased. I caught a fish within the first 10-minutes, slipped it through the netting and into the dry Livewell, reached behind my seat to turn on the pump using my PowerStation, filled the livewell within about a minute and turned the pump off. Then turned both bubble makers on and then proceeded to catch 4 more fish in about an hour and a half. The Livewell kept my small limit alive for the next two hours and I inevitably finished 2nd out of 7 boats and all of my fish swam off great. 

I’m excited to get a big fish into my DIY Livewell but I’m confident the results will be similar. The cavity of the cooler I used is about 24-inches long and it would take about an 8-pounder to stretch the length of it. It also holds 12-gallons of water which isn’t far from the 13-to-15-gallon norms of a fiberglass boat’s Livewell. 

So there you have it. Let me know if you build one yourself and find any alterations that work better for you. You can reach me on Instagram.

Kayak Bungee Deck Kit | Installing a Kayak Bungee Deck Kit

Featured Image Credit: Scott Beutjer

Every kayaker likes to set up their kayak in their own way but one of the most common storage accessories is the bungee cord. It’s easy to overlook the value of a bungee cord on kayaks because they seem like such a side note, but they play an important role in providing secure storage for all of your gear when out fishing for the day or even a multi-day trip. Installing a kayak bungee deck kit on the deck or other parts of your kayak can seem intimidating, but like other kayak accessories, they’ve come a long way. 

More often than not, your kayak will come with bungee cord pre-installed or at least have mounting points added. If your kayak is an exception to this, don’t fear, there are plenty of options available for any application.

Kayak Bungee Deck Kit: Finding the Right Mounting Points

Many kits come with everything you’ll need to install the kit. Before starting the install, you’ll need to take a look at your kayak and determine where mounting points can be installed without affecting the way your kayak performs or worse, creating a leak. Flat spots on the top of the kayak deck work best.

Kayak Bungee Deck Kit(1) 

Next, figure out how you want to configure the bungee cord. Most kits are designed to have the cord running from one side to another, back and forth in order to make sure there’s a good amount of tension that will keep your gear secure. Depending on the kit you select, you may need to rivet the guides to your kayak or in other kits, screw them in. Before you fasten the guides, position them where you think they’ll work best in order to visually inspect if their locations are correct and will work the way you want. When you have them in position, use a marker or a pencil to mark where holes will need to be drilled into the kayak.

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Kayak Bungee Deck Kit: Drilling the Mounting Points

Now onto the drilling. A big word of caution when drilling into a kayak, be sure that your drill settings are turned down. The plastic of a kayak is relatively soft and easy to get through, you won’t need the full power of the drill. Using the full power could lead to the drill causing unintended damage to the hull of the kayak, the last thing you want is a crack in your hull.

Once the hulls are drilled, fill each hole with a marine-grade sealant and then place the mounting points over the holes. Once everything is in place, start putting the screws or rivets into place. If using screws, get the first screw started but don’t tighten it all the way down. This helps prevent alignment issues and potentially making the drilled hole larger than needed. Using the sealant will help secure the screws or rivets and will ensure that water does not leak through the mounts.

When you’re finished securing the bungee mounting points, you can run your bungee cord through the mounts as you like. Once you’ve got everything the way you want it, secure the bungee cord with a knot and you’re ready to go! It’s that simple.

Adding accessories to a kayak can be nerve-racking, but be sure to follow the directions that come with the kayak bungee deck kit you select and you won’t encounter any issues!

Planning to Fish a Bass Boat Tournament on Lake Martin From My Kayak

So I’m doing something kind of silly this weekend. I’m entering a $1,500 pot tournament on Lake Martin with a $130 entry fee. Not seeing the silly part yet? Well, I’ll be in my kayak… there you go.

For those of you who keep up with my content on here and on my social media platforms, you already know that I have been fishing a few small pot tournaments out of a borrowed Bonafide SS127 the last couple of months and that I’ve actually won one of those.

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But that tournament only had 5 bass boats and myself in it, and that fishery has loads of vegetation near the ramp that makes fishing close to home rather easy. That was also an evening tournament and we launched on the shady side of the lake. And I was catching my fish on a swim jig, which required stealth and a slow approach, two areas where a kayak actually has the advantage.

So that tournament win, as improbable as it was, still makes sense in hindsight. The tournament I plan to fish this weekend is a whole other beast.

The Challenge

The tournament will be held on Lake Martin. I expect there to be 40 to 60 boats. The number may not reach that due to the hot weather here in Alabama and the fact that college football season is upon us. But what I’ve found over the years is that factors like that don’t affect the diehard anglers. The 10 or 12 local hammers that have the greatest chance of winning are there whether there are 20 boats or 200. 

So it’s going to take some weight on Saturday, especially in light of the past couple of weeks. A few years ago, blueback herring were introduced to Lake Martin and those of us who found out about it have been waiting with bated breath to see the impact. When I was a child, anglers would fish for spots all day on Martin and weigh-in a 7-fish limit for less than 7-pounds, regularly.  The pot tournaments this time of year through the fall would quite often be won with 11-to-13-pounds. The occasional 17-pound bag would come along, but that would be anchored by two big largemouth. That trend stayed true up until two weeks ago when it was shattered completely. 

In the last two weeks, there have been roughly a dozen bags of spots weighed in ranging from 14-to-17-pounds. I have fished Martin my entire life, the biggest bag of all spots I remember was caught by Luke Clausen in the Bassmaster Elite there 2 years ago and it tipped the scales at 15-pounds. These weights are unheard of and the obvious direct result of blueback herring. 

So for those of you who know nothing about fishing around blueback herring in the late summer and early fall, you’re not alone. I am absolutely void of any personal experience in this realm also. But from what I have heard and read over the years from other anglers, it’s a run and gun till you find them and then camp on them offshore over deep water kind of deal. Yeah, that doesn’t sound like it’s a technique well suited for a kayak fisherman. 

But, I’m still going to compete in this bass boat tournament out of a kayak anyway. 

Why Am I Doing This?

I want to challenge the status quo. I’m just curious, in the current state of competitive bass fishing, with anglers spending upwards of $100,000 dollars on fiberglass boats, how can an angler stack up in a $1,600 chunk of plastic. 

Some of these boats will have 250 horses pushing them to where they want to go and then another 112-pounds of thrust pulling them around when they get there. 

I will have a paddle. 

Some of these boats will have 48-combined inches of graph screens to scan the depths for bait and bass, I’ll have a circa 2008 non-touch screen HDS 7 Gen 1. They’ll have a partner in the boat to help tame these unruly creatures and get them into the net. 

I will have a net. 

You see, this is truly shaping up to be a David and Goliath kind of story here, minus the death and all. Though there will be danger present. One of the limiting factors of a kayak for me this weekend is the presence of pleasure boaters looking to soak up the last few sweltering days of summer. If I do venture out to some of the off-shore humps and points close to the ramp, I’m going to have to keep my head on a swivel to avoid being swamped by a passing boat or rolling wave generated from afar.

What’s My Game Plan Then?

So I’ve actually been kicking this idea around for a few weeks, and up until the recent onslaught of monster spotted bass, I was honestly pretty optimistic about my chances of catching 11-12 pounds and having the off-chance at making a run at this thing. There are a lot of tournaments held out of Wind Creek where this tournament is launching. The immediate area is rich with cover ripe for the plucking of re-tread bass should an angler chose to fish close to home. 

My game plan was to stay close early, fish a shallow pocket near the ramp with a buzzbait and spinnerbait, and then move to the docks as the sun starts to rise and skip a wacky rig around. Due to the fact that I am in a kayak with a limited range, I still plan to start my day in the same way. But, where before I might have continued fishing the docks until I had covered the entire marina, now I’m only going to give this about 2-hours and then I’m going to make a paddle out to fish for spots. 

There are a few points within a mile of the ramp where I have caught some spots before. Nothing big, but I believe that was only because there weren’t many big ones in the lake yet. I’m going to spend a couple of hours later in the morning trying to make something happen out deep. Since I will be in a kayak and the fish will likely be in the deeper water surrounding the points and humps, I plan to fish the shallow parts quickly and then position myself shallow near the buoys and throw out to deep water, to minimize the risk of a passing boat not seeing me. 

Planning to Fish a Bass Boat Tournament on Lake Martin(3)

For the herring bite, I have topwater baits, big swimbaits, little swimbaits, underspins, dropshots and spoons. 

I will have more tackle in the boat than I have taken with me so far in my first couple of months in a kayak, including 5 rods and a couple of extra reels spooled up in case of an emergency situation where I backlash one beyond recovery. I’m taking two spinning combos, a 7’0” medium-heavy with 14-pound fluorocarbon, a 7’0” medium-heavy with 30-pound braid and one big rod for bigger topwater baits and swimbaits.  

Depending on how the spot fishing is going, around 11 o’clock I plan to make the decision that will determine how I spend the rest of my day. If I’ve caught a couple of spots in the 3-pound range out deep and believe there to be a school of them, I’ll stay out deep and keep working to catch more or expand on the pattern. If I haven’t, I’m heading shallow to fish for wolf pack bass with a topwater. 

How I’m Targeting Wolf Pack Bass

I first watched Randall Tharp fish a similar pattern on Lake Ouachita in the Forrest Wood Cup several years ago. He took a Brian’s Bee prop bait, got alongside the bank, put his trolling motor on high and proceeded to cover as much water as possible in pursuit of wads of big bass chasing bluegill and bream shallow. 

I have tried to duplicate this pattern a few times in the past on Martin and actually had a little luck one day within a range of where I’ll be fishing in my kayak Saturday, so I am optimistic. It’s times like these however, that I wish I had had the ANGLR app back then. Unfortunately, I didn’t take notes on the day that I did catch a few this way nor on the few days I spent trying to do so without luck. I don’t even remember if it was in August, September or October. I vaguely remember the 5 or 6 sloughs I tried this approach in but don’t remember the ones of those where I got bit. If I had the ANGLR app back then, I would have a wealth of knowledge from those trips at my disposal right now: the date, waypoints, moon phase, wind data, air temp, water temp, water level, number of bites, etc. 

All data I desperately desire right now to aid in devising a plan of attack for Saturday. Alas, all I can do is continue to build that data now for future trips so I’m not once again kicking myself down the road. Even ANGLR’s new Backtrack feature would be super helpful right now had I taken pictures of the fish from that day that I caught a few solid ones, but unfortunately I didn’t. For those of you who don’t know yet, the new Backtrack feature can scan your photos, if you allow it to, and create waypoints from where those photos were taken on the map within your app. 

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I’ve done it and it’s really quite impressive. 

But back to fishing for wolfpack bass. The main problem with this pattern again is the limitation of a kayak when it comes to covering a lot of water, especially with nothing more than a paddle. For this pattern to work, I’m going to have to get very lucky and just pick the right couple of sloughs to do this in. I have spent hours without a bite this way only to get 6 or 7 bites in one pocket. I just have to get lucky and hit the right pocket and, who knows…

So that’s my game plan. I’ll be running the ANGLR app the entire time to be able to illustrate in a post-tournament wrap-up how this game plan played out. I’m still optimistic of a decent tournament. Winning this thing out of a kayak would be legendary, but cashing a check would be a huge accomplishment in my eyes as well. They’re only paying 1 place for every 7 entries, so given a great turnout of 40 boats, you’re only looking at the top 5 getting paid. And again there will be 10-to-12 hammers out there capable of winning on any given day. So a check alone in a kayak with the odds stacked as they are is highly unlikely. 

But if I put much stock in the odds, I wouldn’t be doing this in the first place. We’ll see what we can make happen!

Kayak Paddle Holder DIY | How to Make a Kayak Paddle Holder

Alright. You have picked up your kayak and decided it is time to make modifications to fit your personal style of fishing or travel. This is the point where we gain total creative control and can do whatever we want! Well, within reason; we can’t add an air conditioner for those hot summer days (you can add a fan though!). If you’re into those kinds of things, you can even go as far as a kayak paddle holder DIY.

With the increase in the number of companies introducing pedal kayaks to us anglers, the paddle has taken on new roles; but I personally recommend that you find somewhere to keep it handy. Just last week on Lake Oauchita during the FLW/KBF event, I talked with three anglers who either lost their motors function, broke a prop or did some damage while slamming into submerged trees running wide open in the dark. Not an issue if the water is warm and you are close to the ramp… but at least one of the guys was several miles away from the launch.

Kayak Paddle Holder DIY: Finding Your Mounting Options

I am in a Hobie PA14, so there are several options in that boat. I could have kept it in two pieces in the location behind the seat, I could have flipped the rod holders outside of the kayak or I could have just laid it beside me. As a shallow water angler, I wanted the paddle ready for quick access, so I didn’t trust the rod holders to be robust enough to not snap off when the wind blew me across a tree or into a rock wall, and I carry too much stuff with me to just lay it in the way. 

I wanted it quickly accessible, out of the way, and held firmly to the kayak. Sounds simple enough with all of the roto grips, paddle mounts, and gadgets on the market, but I am often too stubborn to go with simple options… I mean creative… yeah, not stubborn…

Kayak Paddle Holder DIY: My DIY Holder

So I channeled my inner designer, sketched up what I wanted… ok, I really just thought about it in my head, I can’t draw without CAD software… and I started digging through the internet and at my favorite outfitter, Caney Fork, for kayak paddle holder DIY options.

Hobie makes a universal mounting plate… sweet!

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I picked up some cheap paddle clips

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I then replaced the screws that came with the clips, using stainless steel versions to avoid issues with rust. 

Now I mentioned that I do not sketch without software… and although I am an engineer and the process to draw this up would have been relatively easy… it would have felt too much like I was at my desk working, so I “faked it till I made it”; and since most people don’t keep CAD software laying around, I want you to know – that approach works.

I mounted the plates to the H-rail selecting what I thought would be a comfortable angle (I sat in the boat with my Bending Branches paddle to test), then I attached the clips to the plates.

 It didn’t work.  

It was extremely awkward to pull the paddle out of the clips. So I sat there sketching a new design (again, in my head), then began modifying the original attempt.

I slowly trimmed the holders by cutting off one side.

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The next thing I did was to get another holder because I cut too far.  

I started over – I suggest you buy spares since they are cheap, or be far more careful than I was… and I cut less the second time, tested, cut slowly, tested… then, tested… then moved… and tested. I finally landed on a location that would fit the paddle, allow me easy access and hold it snugly.  

With other brands of kayaks – or even the Hobie, you can buy off the shelf options, use a gear track with YakAttack Roto Grips; or combine any number of parts to create your own design.  

Unless you want to buy or build your own 3d printer and choose the correct polymer, I have found that a Dremel whacking away at a cheap cutting board allows you to make all kinda cool stuff! I created a really scary version of a rod holder for my first kayak with those two items.  Your cuts may not be clean (unless you have a milling machine too), but the cutting board material is really durable once you are done… and the weather doesn’t damage it.

Good luck with your kayak modifications!

2019 White River Hobie BOS Satellite Event Recap

On August 24, 2019, around 95 kayak anglers from six different states descended upon the Hoosier capital to battle it out for smallmouth glory on the White River. This was a doubleheader tournament with Indiana Kayak Anglers hosting their final trail event and a Hobie Bass Open Series Satellite event. 35 anglers (many fishing both events) would enter the Hobie event in hopes of winning the coveted Tournament of Champions paid entry. The TOC is arguably the most prestigious event in kayak bass fishing with the open series qualifying 50 of the best anglers in the country to duke it out for large cash purse and the final North American Hobie Fishing Worlds team spot.

White River Hobie BOS Satellite Event: Participation Skyrockets

This event has become Indiana’s must-attend kayak tournament. Growing in number every year and with the draw of the Hobie Satellite, tournament directors opened the boundaries to include more of the river than in years past, offering up new water to explore. The level of participation this year would set the record for a kayak tournament in the state, beating last season’s dink fest battle at West Boggs where 87 anglers caught well over 500 fish. 

“The White River event has consistently been a top event for us, which is why we keep it on our schedule year after year. However, I never would have dreamed we would draw this kind of participation” states Jason Young, tournament director for IKA. 

“From the directors’ perspective, it definitely makes us feel good about what we were able to put together this year and that so many people were willing to fish with us on this day. It’s also a little bittersweet knowing that our tournament season is almost over with only our Championship and the Crossroads Kayak Bass Team Classic left, both invitation-only events.”

White River Hobie BOS Satellite Event: Pre-Fishing

Tournament director Jason Young had been receiving numerous reports from anglers almost two weeks in advance of the tournament. The river was fishing great and the veterans of this ‘must not miss’ yearly event were anticipating 95-inches to win. One of those anglers, Cole Garland, opted for a last-minute approach, arriving at a section of the river on Friday night. 

“I decided to check out a stretch of the river that I wasn’t planning on fishing on Saturday” he told me. “I just wanted to see what was going on. Fish some, note the conditions, and just kind of see how the fish were reacting to certain lures.  I ended up finding a nice pattern quickly, and I think the best fish I caught was around 18”. My goal wasn’t to catch a giant or a lot of fish though so that 18″ was enough for me.”

Local smallmouth expert, Wilderness Systems fishing team member, and host of the Smallie Talk podcast, Josh Chrenko spent most of the month leading up to the event on the river, hoping to break down the river and dial in a pattern to defend his home waters. 

“My main goal was to decide where I would spend the tournament fishing. Checking out stretches that I don’t fish near as often and eliminating them one by one” he explained. “Things like substrate, the average size of fish, and predicted traffic were my main concerns. I didn’t start trying to pattern fish until the week of the tournament. I fished twice that week, with varying success, but I had confidence heading into tournament day. My biggest fish while practicing capped out around 19-inches.”

Jason Robbins also found success during his tournament preparations from his Hobie Pro Angler. 

“During pre-fishing, I struggled a bit for part of the day but when I found out what they wanted I knew I was fishing a good stretch of river. The biggest smallmouth I caught pre-fishing was 18 ¾-inches.”

That strategy of finding one good fish on a run was enough for most anglers that were able to get some fishing in ahead of time. 

“Pre-fishing was honestly the best I’ve had in a long time. Aidan Darlington (float mate and 2017 winner of this event) and I want to take one test run on the stretch of river one week before the tournament” explains Nick Matthews. “It was a little bit of a fast walkthrough because we didn’t launch until 6:00 PM and it was a long stretch. All in all, I caught a 19-inch bass and that’s all that I needed to see to fish that stretch of river on tournament day.”

White River Hobie BOS Satellite Event: River Fishing Preparations

The river is a constant reminder that gear security is key, using tethers like those from Neverlost Gear. At the ramp I fished, one angler lost a rod and reel combo before even getting fully launched. Another angler, Lito Wulliman lost one during his pre-fishing. Cole Garland lost a combo as well during the tournament. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be the end of Lito’s pre-tournament bad luck. While prepping his kayak tournament morning he would take a Whopper Plopper hook to the knuckle. Given the situation and the placement of the hook we deemed it best to just push the hook through the knuckle and clip that barb, yours truly had the honors of performing the “surgery”.

White River Hobie BOS Satellite Event: Tournament Breakdown

With over 52 miles of river in-play, anglers would need to be very strategic in their plans. In some areas, you could only run upstream or downstream about a mile, so hitting multiple spots was one strategy. Working with a float partner(s) was another way to tackle the longer runs. The last strategy was to put in just above a dam and head as far upstream as you could and float back down. Also playing into the strategy was ensuring ample time to return to tournament HQ at Sun Valley Sports, and with Indianapolis construction, giving yourself enough time was vital.

The leaderboard would almost immediately begin lighting up with many 16 to 18-inch fish caught within the first 20-minutes. Glenn Landstrom would submit one of the earliest fish coming just two minutes into the tournament, a very nice 18.25-incher. Glenn would be one of the first to fill a limit as well and set atop the leaderboard for most of the day.

Cole’s day started out with frustration, missing many quality fish. 

“I started out catching fish right away, and my plan looked to be holding up. The pattern was what I expected, and I was feeling great about my chances. I started having a big issue though. I couldn’t keep a fish hooked! Little fish or big fish, they were spitting my lure out one after another. Several of them were nice keepers. I couldn’t figure out why though, everything should have been right, from the rod and reel to the line, to the hook and hook set. Everything. So, I decided to switch rods, switch hooks, and once I made that adjustment I didn’t have any problems. It just took me longer to adjust then it should have.”

It would be a bit of an early grind but he would eventually hook into the big bass of the day at 20.5-inches. Once he landed that fish, he started to feel pretty good about his pattern.

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The big bass of the tournament, a beautiful Indiana smallmouth.

Chrenko, who has finished in the top 5 every year since this event started, was a favorite going into the event. His knowledge of this water and the smallmouth that inhabit it makes him a threat at any river tournament. 

“I started out on tournament day fishing the middle of the water column with a fluke. My observations from practice on Friday had shown the topwater bite that I had been on seemed to have died due to a cold front moving in. I was on a semi-consistent bite with the fluke, but not the quality I was expecting. After a quick limit of 14-16-inch fish, I decided to try topwater out since that had been the predominant pattern before the front moved in. It wasn’t but about 5 casts in and I had a solid 16.25-inch smallmouth swallow my lure whole. A couple of casts later I had another nice fish, and that was about 10:00 AM.” 

Josh would continue using that same topwater approach the rest of the day. 

“The stretch I was on wasn’t known as a “trophy” stretch, but I knew there was a ton of quality fish with Alpha’s mixed in. I spent the rest of the day trying to cover as much new water as possible, targeting areas where the current was substantial, had good substrate, and specifically looked for mid-river boulders that were creating slack water behind them. I slowly but surely upgraded my limit to 87.25-inches with the last 16.5-incher being caught with about 30-minutes left, giving me a .25-inch upgrade.” 

One key fish would be the difference between the win and second place though. 

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“All in all, I had a great showing. I caught around 60-65 fish with the only mistake being a 19 to 20-inch fish that was lost right at the boat. I had a clue this fish would be there as I had seen it in the area a few days prior. It ended up being a mistake that ultimately cost me first place.”

Nick Matthew’s also found success within the first few hours of the day but would need to make a key adjustment. 

“Tournament day started off pretty well catching a 19-inch smallmouth within the first hour. However, that one fish led me down the wrong path” he attests. “I fished the with that bait until about 11:00 AM in which I didn’t have even a second fish. Then with one bait change the outcome of my tournament changed, I started to catch fish after fish and culled 2 times.”

Josh Robbins continued his pre-fishing success, picking up right where he left off. 

“I caught all my keepers before noon. I struggled the rest of the day to make any upgrades.” 

Josh would end up with 84.5-inches including a 15.75-incher that would have put him in contention for the win had he found that kicker fish.

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Josh’s big fish was 18.25-inches.

White River Hobie BOS Satellite Event: Event Wrap-Up at Tournament HQ

Anglers were treated to loaded burritos, chips, and dips upon return to Sun Valley Sports. The food they provided for the anglers was a welcome respite after a hard day of fishing. Stories of the day began to circulate amongst anglers, and many caught up with old friends. The camaraderie of the kayak fishing community is unmatched in my opinion. The top anglers waited with anticipation for their names to be called and hoped to claim the top spot and the prestigious invite to the TOC. After a few door prize giveaways from Hobie, directors Jason and Jim Orr began to call out the Top 9 for the IKA Event.

With a final limit of 88.5-inches, Cole Garland would go on to win the IKA event. Josh Chrenko would take 2nd with Nick Matthews rounding out the Top 3. These 3 would nearly repeat for the Hobie satellite with one caveat. Nick Matthews opted not to enter the event leaving the door open for Josh Robbins to round out the top 3.

This double win checked off a lot of goals for Garland this season. 

“This win was without a doubt as good of a win as I possibly could have had this year. With it being a Hobie BOS Satellite Event ran in parallel with the IKA, and having the ability to finally qualify for the Hobie TOC, the KBF National Championship, and the IKA Championship, it was the one circled on my list.”

Cole would take home around $3000 for his double win and big bass. He will join Jim and Jaxton Orr, representing Indiana, at the TOC in November on Lake Ouachita. His winning baits included a Rapala Shadow Rap and a Keitech Swing FAT impact swimbait.

White River Hobie BOS Satellite Event: The Winner’s Wild Day

After landing his 20.5-inches, the stretch of river Cole was fishing slowed way down. 

“I couldn’t find any good fish. I could only catch dinks for a few hours and they absolutely destroyed the lure I was using. So much, that I ran out of the color that they were chewing on. Also, at that time I had two 12″ dinks as my short fish.”

If catching dink after dink for a couple of hours wasn’t frustrating enough, getting summoned to the bank by a conservation officer to check his license and losing out on at least twenty casts really set the mood. Cole would get right back to fishing and find more dinks. He made a key move late in the day that would pay off. 

“I found a few spots that I knew had to hold fish. Fished the first spot, and nothing. By that time, it was 2:30, and that’s when the big “uh oh” feeling set in. Once I rolled up to the next spot though everything changed.”

The next 24-minutes would seal the deal for Cole, finally being able to cull out his two 12” fish. 

“I flipped up into that next spot and BAM, a fish bit right away. It wasn’t the type of bass I wanted though… it was a white bass. But it got me a little excited. The next cast brought a smallmouth, but a small one. I flipped-up there again, and get another bite right away. This time, it was a nice fish. The size that I expected to be in there. This one ended up being a 17.5-inch fish and I snapped the pic with around 20-minutes to go. Ten minutes went by, and I had thought about pedaling down a little further as there were a few more decent areas, but I just held my spot. There had to be more fish.”

His instinct would pay off. The old saying is you don’t leave fish to find fish and sticking to that mentality would fill Cole’s wallet and punch his ticket to the TOC. 

“I flipped back in there again and another one bit! I could tell this one was a better fish. My nerves started to kick, and I knew I needed this one just to be in contention. I ended up fighting that fish for such a long time, finally got him close, grabbed my net but it got caught up. The fish decided to take another run and peeled off some drag and then dug himself into some weeds where I couldn’t even see him. He was close to the yak, and I knew he was still on, but no dice.”

As mentioned early, using tethers to prevent lost gear is necessary on the rivers, however, sometimes it might just get in the way a bit. 

“I hook up my net to a decently long rope and a carabiner to clip it to my kayak so I don’t lose it if it ever falls out. This was causing the net to get caught up” he explained. “I took my eyes off the line quickly and unhooked it. Switched the rod to my left hand and put the net in my right. Stood up, and at this point, I finally could see maybe a 1/4 of the fish. I just went for it and reached as far as I could.  Scooped a bunch of grass and somehow the fish was in there too. Snapped the pic and submitted it with 6 minutes left.” 

Those 2 upgrades would bump him up 11.25”, the difference between first and seventeenth.

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This 18-inch smallmouth would give Cole his final cull, and a big one at that, upping his overall by six-inches.

Cole reflects, “running out of the lure of choice, getting checked by a C.O., losing a rod and reel, having a guide break on another rod, and splitting both Hobie fins made this win even more special.”

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White River Hobie BOS Satellite Event: Final Thoughts

“Without a doubt, the key to our organization’s success is the anglers in Indiana. We put together the events, but without the regular anglers and their enthusiasm drawing in more and more people to the sport, growth would be non-existent” acknowledges Young. “It’s said so often that it’s almost a cliché, but these tournaments are about competition AND camaraderie, about the people as much as the fishing, and that’s what brings more people to each event.” When I asked if he would want to host another national exposure event like the Hobie satellite he did not hesitate. “We may not have world-class fisheries like Guntersville or St. Clair, but we’d love another opportunity to host a world-class event.”

Kayak Drain Plugs | An Item Kayak Anglers Need to Know How to Use

Kayak drain plugs are something that every kayaker wants to avoid having to use. If a drain plug is needed, that means there’s water in the boat and that’s usually not a good thing. Now, unless you’re cleaning your kayak, you typically try to avoid letting water in at all costs. If you find yourself with a waterlogged kayak, you’ll be really happy that you have a kayak drain plug.

With having a drain plug, comes some key responsibilities. First and most important, each time you go out on the water, make sure your drain plug is in and fully secured. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself sinking in no time and if you’re not careful, you could sink your kayak and potentially lose it for good.

Kayak Drain Plugs: Kayaks Can Leak 

It’s not something that’s fun to discuss but it is a reality, kayaks leak. Not every kayak leaks the moment it comes from the factory but over time the wear and tear can take its toll. Another factor is any modifications or accessories we add once we buy a kayak, these additions can create access points for water to enter the kayak. When you think of a sit-on-top kayak, the hull is essentially a bucket that will hold onto any water that enters. Knowing this, drain plugs play an essential role in allowing us to drain that water after every trip, ensuring the next trip will be a safe one. 

Kayak Drain Plugs Provide Relief

Here in the Northeast, kayak storage can be a real challenge, especially in the winter. One thing that drain plugs allow us to do is to keep airflow throughout the hull which is essential if water happens to be present and temperatures fall below freezing. If you remove your drain plugs during the winter, any ice that forms won’t put as much pressure on the hull and will help prevent warping or cracking of your boat. 

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This is an advantage of having a drain plug that is often overlooked but shouldn’t be underestimated.

Kayak Drain Plugs: Adding a Drain Plug

Depending on the kayak you have or are looking to purchase, it’s possible that a drain plug doesn’t come standard. If that’s the case, you may want to consider adding a drain plug. Lucky for you, there are plenty of companies out there offering drain plug kits that will work for any kayak. Now, this will require some drilling of your kayak but the process is not as intimidating as it may seem. 

If you do decide to add a drain plug to your kayak, be sure to carefully consider where you plan to place it. First and foremost, make sure that the drain is above the waterline. While drains are waterproof, the last thing you want to do is tempt fate by giving water an easy way in if the sealant were to wear or give out. You’ll also want to be sure that the drain is on either the front or the back of the kayak so that you can easily tilt and drain the water from the hull.

There’s not a whole lot to kayak drain plugs, but they can most certainly be the difference between a good or bad day on the water.

Hobie Rod Leash: Why Kayak Anglers Should Use a Rod Leash

I have fond memories of the 2018 KBF National Championship. I was able to fish within 20-minutes of my house, on a body of water I know fairly well. Day one I had caught a good limit and was within striking distance to the leader; I had actually led most of the day. Day two, I couldn’t find a fish. I decided to head out to an old railroad bridge at the mouth of a creek where I knew there was always a limit of small fish to be caught. I rigged up a Gary Yamamoto Craw on my All Pro Rod with a Shimano Sahara spinning reel and caught a 12-incher, then a fifteen-incher. I caught the third fish in the span of fifteen minutes, dropped the rod to measure the fish and kicked it over the side of the boat. Because it was late in the tournament, I didn’t have time to cry about it. I picked up another rod, fished the rest of the day – caught an 18-incher with thirty minutes left – and ended up in 7th place. 

A week later I went back to the spot, and because I knew it so well, I was able to fish the rod and reel out with a treble hook. During 2018, in that same creek, I kicked three rods out of my kayak. On another body of water, I kicked out two more. I found myself becoming quite adept at fishing rods out of the water, but it is a skill I do not recommend you acquire… there is still a St. Croix Mojo Bass with a Sahara reel at the bottom of Nolin Lake in Kentucky that I will never see.

I have several friends who have flipped kayaks and lost all of their rods because they, like myself, did not secure rods well enough, so I have gotten better. I keep my rods in the rod holders on my Hobie PA14 and haven’t kicked one over (knock on wood) this year, but I also started “leashing” about everything I could to my kayak. Using a leash for something other than walking a dog was something I had never considered in a regular boat, but after you see friends starting from scratch with a single boat flip… or when you kick rods over every couple of months for a full year… you look for options.

Hobie Rod Leash: Why I Chose the Hobie Rod Leash

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The Hobie rod leash is a must-have for me! Photo Credit: Hobie

Hobie has a pretty cool rod leash that allows you to wrap one end of the leash around a rod (or any gear; paddle, Ketch board, cooler, etc.) and the other to be connected to the kayak. It uses a quick connect system that makes it easy to switch locations; for example, you can disconnect one rod, switch with another, and just click the old rod to the lanyard. If you are using the leash to hold dry bags, measuring boards or tackle; it is easy to disconnect and reconnect them with minimal effort. The Hobie leash is one of the most flexible systems I have seen on the market due to this quick connect capability.  

Morgan Promnitz has a great YouTube video that demonstrates how easy it is to attach the rod holder to your gear.

You don’t have to use leashes in your kayak, there is no law or rule. After all, I flipped a kayak and got all of my stuff back; I was only a foot or two off of a boat ramp in shallow water and could drag my feet until I stepped on or kicked everything… so you can take that chance and hope you are as fortunate. 

I personally am not a fan of spending an hour (or two) of my fishing time trying to use a treble hook to locate my favorite rods because I didn’t have them secured in the kayak. And I am going to bet that many of you have caught some other poor unfortunate souls rod on your favorite lake… so maybe you should consider the Hobie Rod Leash as a part of your kayak gear; it is to quote Morgan, “pretty awesome, pretty simple, and pretty cheap”.

Kayak Fishing Review: Touching Base After One Month in a Kayak

It’s been about a month since I finally jumped headfirst into a kayak. I thought it would be good to talk a little about where my heads at and how kayak fishing has measured up to my expectations so far, so without further ado, here’s my kayak fishing review.

Kayak Fishing Review: My Transition to a Kayak

I bought my first kayak and made my maiden voyage on July 21, 2019. I wasn’t in a very good boat, so I was hurting after a few hours but I had a blast. My first impressions of fishing for bass from a kayak were certainly mixed after that trip. Let’s just say I’m glad I waited a month to write my kayak fishing review!

But what I soon experienced was one of the things I had heard the most about kayak fishing, the camaraderie. I received dozens of messages from different anglers about their experiences and setups. However, it wasn’t the same chatter I’d usually hear in the bass boat world where someone would try to convince me to buy something because they were sponsored by them and got a deal for 10% off. It was way more genuine. 

“I have found that this works best for me.” 

“Let me know how it goes or if you find something better.” 

Anytime I asked a question, the kayak community would answer. And often I wouldn’t even have to ask and I would receive tips that quickly improved my experience in a kayak. It’s a whole other world from a big fiberglass boat and there’s certainly a learning curve. I think that’s what I have found to be so appealing about it. The challenge has made it so rewarding. 

Kayak Fishing Review: Why I Left My Bass Boat

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I’ve done about all there is to do from a 20-foot fiberglass boat short of fishing one of the top national tours. 

For years that was the only thing in fishing that had any allure to me. I even made it as far last year as to purchase a brand new loaded Ranger with an MSRP of $96,000 just to get priority entry into the FLW Tour. But I was unable to come up with the $35,000 for the entry fees. Much less the expenses that would come along the way fishing the Tour which would likely exceed another $30,000. 

So taking into consideration my $900/month boat payment and $140/month in boat insurance (no I’m not exaggerating), I was looking at having to work 20 weekends in exchange for 8 weeks off and put up roughly $77,480 to fish the Tour for one year. Say I had an unbelievably fantastic year on the Tour and finished 11th out of 170 boats in every single tournament. I would have “made” $77,000 ………………….. let that sink in. 

So last fall, when I finally accepted the impossibility of it all, I sold my Ranger and got pretty down on the whole sport of bass fishing. I was that close to finally reaching my lifelong dream of fishing a national tour. A dream I was sold as a child and have chased all my life. The only thing in the fishing industry that lit any kind of fire under me anymore. All of that was gone. 

So now what? 

Even as I write this I understand that these are all first-world problems. That’s not lost on me. I didn’t get to fish for a living. So what. Much less than 1% of those who try to, get to. I still had a house and a nice truck and never had to worry about my next meal. I was doing better than most in the grand scheme of things.

But I was still very frustrated. I decided to dump all my energy into fishing locally and trying to become dominate enough to actually make money around the house. Very few have done that over the years but I thought, maybe I can do that. So, I bought a 2011 Nitro with an Ultrex and hydraulic jack plate and added two basic Power-Poles and my Panoptix that I kept off the Ranger when it sold. I had a boat with all the tools that I needed to feel confident competing against anyone and I was all in for about 1/4 of what that Ranger was listed for. 

So I had made a good decision. I was being responsible and reasonable right? I fished as many local tournaments as I could through the course of the spring and then into the summer with little night derbies around the house. I think dad and I finished second in one and won another tournament in the spring. I won a few night derbies alone and we won a few together. I didn’t have the guts to keep up with the exact numbers but I feel like at best I probably broke even on what I was spending to do it.

 I do recall a stint in the night derbies where I won $600 one night and then barely missed winning the next one, lost a good fish in the next one that would have won the tournament and big fish and then bombed in the next one. So I was within just a couple ounces and one bad jump from being up a grand. Instead, after four entry fees of $30 to $60 each, boat and truck gas and oil, I was back to even from the $600 I won at the first of the month. And that’s not taking into consideration the $350/month boat payment or the $72/month insurance payment.

Kayak Fishing Review: My First Kayak

So on July 21st, I was sitting around with all this running through my head. I had only fished 3 or 4 times in July. Each time in a tournament. I hadn’t cashed any checks. I was already in for around a $1,000 bucks for the month when you factor in the boat payment, gas, oil, and insurance. 

And I had only been fishing a few times. Each of those nights filled with frustrations. Fishing was no longer my sanctuary. It was a job. And one I wasn’t even making money at. I no longer enjoyed it. I just pitched fits when I lost fish. I didn’t look around and appreciate how fortunate I was to be fishing with my dad. I didn’t talk to God on the water anymore. I was burnt out. 

Fishing had nothing else in store for me… or so I thought.

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Then enters a $300 chunk of backbreaking plastic known as Tea Cup that I couldn’t be more thankful for. For those of you who have never met Tea Cup, that’s the name my mother affectionately tossed at the Sun Dolphin Journey 12 SS that I bought at Tractor Supply that day. You sit down really low in that boat and it is brutal to fish out of for a 5’ 11”, 32-year-old man in the 250-pound range. 

But I had a ball in it. I fished from it 6 out of the first 7 days I had it. The first fish I caught out of Tea Cup was about a 2-pound spot. That fish turned my boat around and threw water all over me and put up one heck of a fight. It’s weird and silly, I know, but something just came over me when I put that first fish in the kayak. From a big bass boat, I would carelessly discard 2-pounders with a little backhand toss out of the side of the boat and more of a “next” mentality.

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I found myself just looking at that fish… proud of it. Thankful for it. 

So often we hear that it’s not the destination, but the journey. I think that is so true in both the little picture and the bigger picture. Each successful catch is essentially a destination. All the work that goes into catching that bass, the journey. All that effort to me is what makes catching a bass in a kayak so special. As for the bigger picture, fishing out of a kayak wouldn’t be half as appealing to me or as satisfying if it weren’t for all the ups and downs I’ve experienced in bass fishing as a whole over the last year. That journey has made this destination truly spectacular. 

I don’t know if kayak fishing will be the end all be all for me, or if it will just be a season in my life. And I don’t honestly care. I think I fished out of a kayak 15 or 16 times this month. And for the first time in a very long time, I enjoy fishing again and I’m not just focused on catching and winning.

Kayak Fishing Review: My First Month in Review

I have introduced my dad to kayak fishing and we had a ball catching 12-inchers in a farm pond. We are already planning trips to ponds he hasn’t fished since he was a kid and a camping trip on the creek like we used to do when I was a teenager. 

I’ve spent a day on the water with two wounded warriors from Denmark that I’ll always remember. 

I got to know a guy named Scott Beutjer through kayak fishing where I see a long and fruitful friendship and possibly even business partnership with. 

I won a local pot tournament against 5 bass boats out of a Bonafide Kayak SS127 that I borrowed from Scott. That was one of the coolest moments of my fishing career.

I also bombed in two other night tournaments out of it and still had more fun and lost less money than I did some nights when I’d cash a check out of a big boat. 

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I took my 81-year-old buddy Neal Webster out in a kayak for the first time and listened to stories from his childhood fishing out of a washtub in the middle of an inflated tractor tube and his days in the Marines standing shoulder to shoulder with 5,000 soldiers on transport ships.

Kayak fishing has also gotten my creative juices flowing again and I’ve built a Livewell system to fit in the back of a kayak. I will have a DIY article up soon on how you can build your own. I’m even considering building a few and selling them. If anyone is interested, feel free to message me on my Instagram

All of that has happened in my first month in a kayak. 

Meanwhile my Nitro has essentially turned into a giant tackle box and hasn’t left the shop. I’m even strongly considering putting it up for sale. Luckily my dad has a 2002 Ranger that we can fish team tournaments out of and I can always buy another big boat down the road if I want to. Currently, though it’s just a $422/month obstacle to walk around. 

So a lot has gone on in a month. I’m excited to see where the coming months take me. It’s just a matter of time before I venture into the actual kayak tournament scene. I’ve already thought about the coming winter months when I will be hesitant to fish from a kayak around here due to the cold water. But if I sell the boat I can use that money to take some trips down to Florida. One of the things that I can’t wait to do is tie into an 8-pounder punching in a kayak. That’s going to be epic. 

So for me, kayak fishing has been re-invigorating and so rewarding. It has far exceeded my expectations and put me on a new path in the fishing industry to find my place and my community. My only regret is not having taken the dozens of people seriously over the years who tried to tell me what kayak fishing was like. It’s just one of those things that’s hard to adequately describe. 

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Once you go, you know. And now I know.

2019 DeeZee FLW/KBF Cup Presented by YakAttack at Lake Ouachita Recap

Seventy-two anglers from twenty-two states arrived at the Bank OZK Arena in Hot Springs, Arkansas on August 8th, 2019 to attend the first ever KBF/FLW Cup event on Lake Oauchita. It was an event long in the making; a collaboration between KBF and FLW that is sure to elevate the professional side of kayak fishing while exposing a larger audience to kayak bass fishing tournaments. With DeeZee and YakAttack continuing their support of the KBF events, even the dinner and captains meeting had a feel of something bigger than any of the anglers had experienced. FLW leadership started off the event with encouraging words followed by Matt Ball leading everyone in prayer; we knew things were different long before we entered the arena after day one.

Lake Oauchita is Arkansas’ largest lake with a little over 40,000 acres of water. We found it to be a beautiful lake with rivers, creeks, ledges, submerged timber; basically a little something for everyone’s style of fishing, but rumors were that the lake could be a challenge. Arkansas kayak angler, Garrett Morgan, lists it as his brother’s favorite lake, but one they “give (him) a hard time about” because he would rather fish anywhere else. The limits were expected to be tough, and the length of those limits to be on the short side.

2019 FLW/KBF Cup: Pre-fishing Lake Oauchita

At the dinner, pre-fishing reports were all over the place. Now everyone knows that anglers can withhold a bit of information, tell a “fish lie” or two if you will, but the looks on several of the anglers faces revealed what most of us had found; the bite was not easy for everyone. The patterns, if you had one, were all over the place and the fish seemed to be piled up in locations or scattered to non-existent in others.

Georgia angler Clint Henderson had found a school that he felt held hundreds of good size bass.  He had visited the site several times during the three days he was on the water before the tournament to find the fish still there, and no other anglers except his traveling partner Jim Ware. The two had high hopes for the two days ahead. 

Casey Reed had found the pair on a spot somewhere around the southwest end of the lake he was betting to be the one, but they told him they had other fish. We stood talking about the school they were sitting on offshore, he was watching and hoping they didn’t catch any; myself certain that I was just riding around and enjoying the lake by that point.

AJ Mcwhorter on the other hand was fishing out of the new Hobie 360 on the west end of the lake and had no idea what the tournament would bring. Using the 360’s added control, he was able to position the boat in new ways that allowed for more accurate presentations. 

“That boat has me spoiled already. I was fishing in tight areas, and the fish I caught were holding in even tighter areas where making the perfect cast was critical…this boat allowed me to make subtle adjustments and stay put.”  

But he also noted that the fish kept changing; he found them on topwater over wood, then plastic over the same wood, then no fish at all.  

Dwain Batey, an Arkansas native who had never fished the lake, covered three areas looking for fish. He found them at his first launch and after moving through the other areas, decided that the first just felt better. He wasn’t sure it was as productive a spot as he needed, but it was the best he had found during the three days prior to the tournament. 

“Sometimes you pick the lesser of two evils!”

Ohio angler George Nemeth, like myself, was on the northeast shores of the lake. We had found the fish eating about anything, about everywhere, but they were small. Seventy-five inches was our expectation after covering miles of water and while we felt confident that it would happen, there was not a real pattern to the fish. Shallow and deep, schooling for a bit, standing and submerged timber… all had fish, but ours were scattered.

Cory Dreyer said he had only found a few fish over his pre-fishing time, while fellow Carolina anglers Henry Veggian and Shelly Efird had found a school that held great promise. The pair returned to the spot on another day and searched the area hoping to find a backup spot, and it was there too. Arlie Minton, who was staying with the group felt he was in the same boat with George and myself; rolling the dice.

I met Josh Stewart out running from ramp to ramp as I tried to maximize the one day of practice I had and test the three ramps I had selected. He had found some fish on the main lake, but wasn’t sure it was going to be enough to win; a statement heard again and again on Oauchita.  At the dinner table, a couple of guys admitted they were struggling too.

It seemed that this was going to be a tournament of limits. Anglers who could pull five fish on two days, regardless of size, were capable of bringing home the win.

2019 FLW/KBF Cup: Day One Kicks Off

The anglers who had found fish on previous days, caught their fish, but the top ten on day one had a few surprises. There were favorites who landed well out of the top, while some of the names familiar to those who follow KBF or kayak fishing in general were at the top… Matt Ball – the first National Champion, Mike Elsea – the reigning champ, Drew Gregory – a highly recognized angler who is always in the mix,  and AJ Mcwhorter – tournament director for the Hobie BOS had crossed the line at the top.

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Eric Jackson, FLW angler from Tennessee and owner of Jackson Kayaks in Sparta, was one of the names that wasn’t on the unofficial list of favorites, but he had been sight fishing in shallow water and turned in an incredibly impressive 97.25-inches to lead the tournament when the dust had settled. He covered a lot of water to get to his location, but it proved to be the ticket for the former world champion kayaker.  

Dustin Murguia of Illinois was the second closest competitor while reporting the bite to be “ridiculously tough”.  

In third, six inches behind Eric, Clint Henderson’s 81.25-inches was a pretty impressive showing.  He had lost a 20 plus inch fish on topwater that would have pushed him very close to the lead but the majority of his bass had come dragging a creature bait in fifteen foot of water across a river ledge. When I asked him what brand, he repeated creature bait… I feel like there is something special that he didn’t want to share, but it was working for him and if it was me, I would be a bit quiet about it too since he is heading back to the lake for the Hobie TOC.

Garrett Morgan, in spite of his dislike for the lake had spent time on fish he had found a couple months prior. He knew the water was dropping fast, and had been for quite some time. He was fishing from a very remote ramp where he thought no one else would show up and targeting deep fish. 

“The folks running the banks could do ok, but if you had seen this lake two months ago, you would know they had been pulled out into deeper pockets.”  

He and Mark Pendergraf (someone did show up to the same ramp) found success throwing swimbaits with under spins into schooling fish.  “If they stopped schooling, we kept throwing in the area…letting the bait fall into 20 or 30-foot of water, then twitch it.”  There were even a few fish that came on Alabama rigs.

Shelly Efird and Henry Veggian hadn’t lost their fish either. Shelly had earned the final spot in the top ten and Henry had landed just outside with 75.25-inches fishing on the south side of the lake. The pair had read an article with Cody Milton talking about rivers and brush piles being the main targets for the event, but felt that picking fish out of brush piles was too inefficient. 

Their pre-fishing had found what Henry described as an anomaly in the lake; “like Poe’s Purloined Letter… where you easily overlook the obvious; the answer is right in front of you.”  

They primarily found success in 8 to 10-feet of water with white Bombers and a lure Henry tossed in the box at the last minute; a Rapala X-Rap in a purple shad color. “I just had a gut feeling and brought it with me.”

2019 FLW/KBF Cup: Day Two

The day two leaderboard had a few familiar names, but many had not found the same quality of fish from day one.  It was also obvious that many who had crushed them on day one, had struggled on day two. Eric Jackson had fallen to the difficulty of Lake Oauchita and only recorded three fish, Mike Elsea, Larry Wood and many others had not been able to record a limit.

Dwain Batey, an Arkansas native, had turned it around with 84.25-inches and became the leader of day two after being 17th on day one. Dwain covered miles of water (followed by the Ketch film crew) fishing the backs of creeks pulling a Skirmish Baits Pendragon (which he had painted himself) and a buzzbait across sparse grass. He hadn’t found schooling fish, or spots with large stacks like Clint, but in a half mile spot he found three of the 6 keepers he caught on day two; his first five being the fish that moved him into the day two leader position.

Guillermo Gonzalez, a Texas angler whose name is always among the favorites for any event, was second. He had only recorded three fish on day one, so he figured something out on Oauchita that worked on Saturday. Arlie Minton was also one of the anglers who found them on day two after struggling on day one. He too had only found three fish, then turned it around with an impressive 77.5-inches after moving to shallower water and finding them on topwater.  They were not the only ones who made adjustments. Jamie Dennison, a very familiar name to the KBF trails, had figured them out, as did Marc Coats who crushed schooling fish and literally had a limit in minutes.  

Most anglers reported the same patterns and techniques were producing for them; with smaller limits and it was harder to get them to bite. The area I had been fishing was noticeably shallower for day two, so the anglers running the banks suffered a bit, and those who had not found large schools or back-up plans fell behind.  

2019 FLW/KBF Cup: Two Day Totals

Day one leader and owner of Jackson kayaks, Eric Jackson had finished in fifth place. AJ Mcwhorter, an independent sales rep for Hobie and a fishing team member, had climbed to fourth.

Arkansas native Garrett Morgan, a manager at Profile by Sanford (a company that helps people to lose weight and achieve health goals), was in third.

The second Arkansas native, Dwain Batey, who spends some time custom painting for Skirmish Baits, had rocketed to second.

And Clint Henderson, an operator at Oglethorpe Power Corp, was standing on the stage with the first KBF/FLW cup trophy hoisted above his head; the champion on Lake Oauchita!

2019 FLW/KBF Cup: The Top Five

2019 FLW/KBF Cup: 5th Place

Fifth place angler Eric Jackson is no stranger to the kayak community. Each year I have the opportunity to talk with him a Caney Fork Outdoor’s Waterpalooza; an event where he spends hours teaching folks the basics of kayaking. The 4 time World Champion whitewater kayaker, Olympian, professional tournament fisherman, and Jackson Kayak president is always happy to show new kayakers how to roll and paddle at the event held on Center Hill Lake each year. He came to this event having placed a very respectable second place on Lake Champlain.  

2019 FLW/KBF Cup: 4th Place

Fourth place angler, AJ Mcwhorter, was surprised that he as on the big stage after day two; “You don’t expect a limit of fifteen-inch fish to get a check.” As a matter of fact, the fish he found on the west end of the lake almost went untouched.  

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“I wasn’t planning on fishing the tournament. Kristine and I were just driving around the lake; the sun was setting and fish were popping… I just felt like I might catch fish.”  

AJ not only credited Kristine for the motivation and support, but also fellow angler and friend Jay Wallen for the last minute decision.

“They reminded me that not only am I a tournament director for the Hobie BOS, I am a competitive angler.  I really want to thank them for that, I really do appreciate them for doing that!”

The Hobie BOS “aims to provide a simplified ‘open- to- anyone’ format and an elite feel for kayak anglers across the country. This series is all about providing a platform for the anglers” and AJ feels that his time as an angler and tournament director for the Bluegrass Kayak Anglers is helping him to be successful.  “I first got in a kayak from Dick’s for around 200 bucks, when I was 16. I was a creek wader until then. When I was 24, I bought a fishing kayak and have been actively fishing tournaments since.”  

“We are just a couple of months away from our inaugural Tournament Of Champions back here on Lake Oauchita… I think we are doing well because I spend my time trying to earn the respect of our anglers. Being a tournament angler has helped me to understand what type of ‘experience’ anglers want, and expect.”

He is quick to credit Hobie, GLoomis, and Shimano for providing the tools he needs to be successful on the water.  

2019 FLW/KBF Cup: 3rd Place

Third place was taken by the first of two Arkansas anglers, Garrett Morgan, who admits that he would rather fish other water in the state, but was happy with how the tournament went for him; calling it his “Achilles heel”.  

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“I felt that if anyone could catch two 16-inch limits, they could win…the likelihood of pulling 90-inches both days were very low.”

Garrett started his kayak career in kayak bass fishing just three years ago in a sit in kayak from Academy Sports with two Shakespeare rods on Lake Conway… and he won. Last year, he was ranked thirteen in KBF AOY points and second in rookie of the year.

“This year, I wanted to focus on qualifying for the big events… then focus on fishing them.” And he is achieving those goals. He qualified for the Hobie TOC with a fourth place finish on Lake Fork, is qualified for the KBF National Championship for next year; and this place in the KBF/FLW Cup is only going to help him. He credits the Natural State Kayakers with allowing many beginning anglers the same opportunities; “We get to prep some of the newer anglers, making them ready to fish the bigger events.”

He is no stranger to goals, working as a coach to help others achieve new lifestyles seems to be a passion for the young man.  

“In my career, we take the time to find out about people and their lives, then help them to develop a plan to achieve new lifestyle goals… help people build confidence, then you get to watch them grow… you put up a framework, then help them work through barriers.”

Garrett spends a lot of time researching before events, studying something about fishing every single day. “I watch videos, read maps, study old tournaments… I try not to spend too much time getting caught up in social media.”  

We had quite a long conversation about that topic after discussing his sponsors and pro staff; H2:4 outdoors, She Angler Custom Baits, Wicked Weights and JP Custom Jigs

“These companies do not want to see me blasting off on social media. When you rep companies, even as promotional staff, they pay attention; Wicked Weights has been very good to me because of how I represent myself. Your portrayal of yourself is very important. These guys livelihood is based on their image and selling. They are looking for a return on investment, and who you are on social media is often all people know about you.”

Garrett wanted to make sure that he thanked some folks who support him too. “Ms. Morgan is an awesome mom and partner. I am very lucky to have her and our two girls in my life!”

2019 FLW/KBF Cup: 2nd Place

The second Arkansas angler, and second place winner Dwain Batey was shocked to find that he had gone from seventeenth to second.  

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“When they called the top ten back, I thought I was not even in the money – I had no idea I was in second. Didn’t look in the last half hour, was leading day two the last time I looked but assumed other people just didn’t have signal… when Garrett Morgan was called on stage for third, I was thrilled.”

Dwain has been fishing since he was barely old enough to hold a rod. 

“I remember not being big enough to reel and just backing up to get the fish in, but took up kayak fishing in 2015 after fishing as a co-angler out of boats for a while. “I met some people on a ramp who were kayak fishing and they convinced me to get one… I am very grateful for that. I have become a much better fisherman from the kayak… not sure what the difference is… I don’t know if it is being forced to fish a smaller area, or just closer to the water… no way for me to pinpoint why.”

Not sure myself, but he just placed second in the KBF/FLW event, was ninth in the National Championship, has won a club tournament, two KBF Southeast region one night stands, is a member of the Ketch team, and is already qualified to fish in Lacrosse this fall; so there is no denying that there is something he has figured out. Arkansas being in the southeast region for 2019 has limited his ability to cover enough miles to participate in the events, but hopes he can work it out for 2020.

Like Garrett, he compliments the Natural State Kayakers for their efforts in the state and enjoys the kayak bass fishing community.  

“The camaraderie is so different in the kayak community. When I fished boat tournaments, people might show up, take off and weigh-in without talking to each other. We also participate in ‘Fish it Forward’… we take rods and reels, clean them up (fix them), then give them to kids.”

Dwain has a bit of support too; Ketch, Hobie fishing team, Skirmish Baits, Taylor Man’s custom lures, and OMTC – Ozark Mountain Trading Company.

2019 FLW/KBF Cup: 1st Place

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The first KBF/FLW DeeZee Champion is Clint Henderson of Rome, Georgia.  

He had strung together solid limits for both days and was crowned on the biggest stage for KBF.  He had covered the areas he found during map study, FLW videos, and by searching for areas that resembled what he fished back home; and it worked. He credits Hummingbird’s Mega imaging with his success on Lake Oauchita.  

“I would float by looking for fish, then see the shadows with side imaging.  I found an area of contour that caught my eye, then saw hundreds of fish and thought there is no way they are all bass.  You see the bass as shadows with this equipment, not just a ‘rice noodle’.”

Clint had traveled from Georgia with fellow angler Jim Ware. The two, as is very common among tournament anglers, didn’t stay in a cabin, house or hotel. And while they didn’t just sleep on a ramp or in a Walmart parking lot, the two camped in hammocks. “We laid there and sweated until we fell asleep. It was very primitive. It was out of necessity to cut costs, but we were willing to make that sacrifice to be here.”  

When asked if they fished the same area, he replied that they had, but that Jim is a very solid spoon angler and was fishing higher in the water column. “He caught a lot of fish, six different species on day one, but didn’t catch the same size.”

Since last August, Clint has worked with a power company which has limited his ability to fish as many tournaments as he would like. He had to create a deficit in his PTO (personal time off) to make this event and is already trying to figure out how to make more events next year. “The job has been a huge blessing for my family, but working a swing shift interferes with my ability to make all the tournaments.” But up until then, Clint had been quite successful on the trail.

Having started kayak fishing in 2014 on the Reel Krazy Tournament Fishing trail, entering his first tournament (then placing in them all that year) and winning angler of the year before placing second to Matt Ball as the first KBF National Champion and being a part of the inaugural Ten. He was ranked sixth in the nation that year.

While he is on the National Prostaff for NuCanoe, Bending Branches team and on the staff for Omega Custom Tackle, Netbait and Powell Rod Company… it is the work he does within the kayak community that deserves a mention.  

As was evident on the stage when he was announced the champion, Clint credits his faith for the success he has enjoyed and for helping him to find a kayak “Fishers of Men” after the second place finish at the NC. “I was spoken to, so I keep him in the forefront in my life. I hope that the kayak version will get recognized by the larger organizations and go national.” He supports the Southeastern Youth Kayak Fishing that helps to get kids on the water and find gear for them to use (please check them out!). 

Clint also works to keep his children Cale (13-years old) and Cade (11-years old) active in kayak fishing. They won their age divisions two years ago during the young guns on Kentucky Lake and Cale won the KBF July Young Guns online this year. Clint recognizes them and his wife for supporting him, and cheering him on along with the rest of his friends and family; including the social media family – “my stuff is just blowing up!”

As we talked, I was very happy to have had the opportunity to meet Mr. Henderson. He seemed to be very humbled and extremely grateful for it all… his final words to me as we ended the conversation just a day after the win… “now, I am going to sleep”.

2019 FLW/KBF Cup: And Finally – A Personal Mention

I really want to mention a couple of Carolina anglers. I try not to insert myself too deep in the recaps, but this is why the kayak community is so special to me… Henry Veggian, who has taken home a check in every event, and Shelly Efird had fished together during their time on Lake Oauchita; but on day two, Henry had caught his limit (7th place) while Shelly was struggling to fill his (17th place). In what may be considered an unthinkable move, Henry cut his crankbait off the line and passed it to Shelly. I would be shocked to see this in most circles, but having cut off a spinnerbait at a local trail and passed it to a fellow angler myself… I know that it is just how this community works. We want to win, there is no doubt we are competitors, but we want to see our fellow anglers succeed too.  

When I spoke with the pair on their ride home, Shelly mentioned that his ten year old daughter Karmen was going to be disappointed that he hadn’t won. “She always encourages me to do well, wants daddy to do well because then I get to take her shopping. Her first words are how did you do, then, did we win any money!”  

 Man, I love this community!

2019 FLW/KBF Cup: TournyX Day One Results

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2019 FLW/KBF Cup: TournyX Day Two Results

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2019 FLW/KBF Cup: TournyX Final Results

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