Featured Image Credit: Scott Beutjer Fishing
122 anglers registered on TourneyX for the June 15th KBF Southeast Region Trail event with the hopes of catching some of the legendary bass from Lake Chickamauga. The tournament was co-sponsored by TVKA and KBFTN, two Tennessee kayak clubs, and allowed kayak anglers to launch from any public access point along its 20,790 square miles. Steve Owens, as he always will, did an excellent job of directing the event headquartered out of Dayton, TN.
The week before the event found anglers catching fish just about everywhere; on about every technique. The weather was cooperating, slightly cooler than the area had seen, and the bite was good. Fish seemed to be in the creeks, in the bays and out on the main channels. The only difference between the locations – size.
KBF Southeast Region Event on Lake Chickamauga: Pre-Fishing
Cody Milton, the second place finisher in the event (and first in the pro division), had been on the water since Wednesday trying to find the larger fish. He had found a great rate on an Airbnb with several other anglers that allowed him affordable extra days on the water.
“I like to fish at least a single day, but feel it takes two to three days to really understand what is going on. At Chickamauga, I launched from thirteen ramps during the three days before the tournament looking for hydrilla in clean water.”
He had ninety and one hundred inch days jumping between ramps before the tournament began but was still not sure which single location was ‘the one’. “There was just not as much grass as last year”, so when a friend suggested he check out a spot just outside of a large bay with a channel swinging into it, he decided to give it a try late in the afternoon. Cody found grass in 7 to 9-feet and clear water, but there was a lot of boat traffic in the .3 mile stretch. He left, still uncertain.
Kristine Fischer on the other hand pre-fished for two days, focused on two specific areas that landed her the win in the event. Before arriving, she had eliminated deep water by looking at the weather, conditions, and the fact that they were not pulling much water to create current out deep.
“I like to select just a few ramps and then expand on that area. I was debating on two launches Friday night still. I also try to avoid high traffic areas, i.e. Chester Frost. I look for areas with a lot of diversity – shallow sloughs – ledges, secondary points, docks, etc..”
These decisions helped her to find fish in the grass at a spot much farther north on Chickamauga than Cody, and gave her more confidence than her second choice; a place with two small areas holding fish. With both producing on a Texas rigged creature bait with a one-half ounce weight.
“I caught the best fish at my second spot, but it would have been a, ‘put all your eggs in this basket’ type of spot.”
KBF Southeast Region Event on Lake Chickamauga: About The Top Two
Kristine and Cody with Tournament Director, Steve Owens.
There is never any doubt when you see Kristine Fischer’s name on the list for an event that she is going to be a contender. She has been fishing out of a kayak for eight years, tournament fishing for four but says that she has fished since she “popped out of the womb”. I asked if she came from an outdoorsy family and she replied “absolutely, that’s all I knew growing up”.
She has even taken her passion for being outdoors on the road, spending her days traveling full time in an RV with AJ McWhorter. Renting her house back in her home state of Nebraska has allowed them to eliminate bills and save money to “do what we love”.
“It has allowed me to learn the minimalist ways of life and be very happy with little”, but says that it also makes tackle shipments a bit more difficult.
Like most consistent anglers at KBF events, it is easy to understand why they are at the top when you talk with them. Kristine is no exception The passion, the determination to win, and her knowledge shows when you are lucky enough to share a ramp or conversation with her during a trip. She is even willing to help other anglers by encouraging them on bad days, sharing what might work at the next event.
Kristine believes that her success is “a combination of tedious preparation and mental strength. Being able to trust your instincts and not second guess yourself so you’re making the best decisions when the pressure is on. Just like with any sport, you can have all the talent in the world but if you’re not able to execute come game day, you’re very beatable”.
Her strategies and hard work are paying off this year. She has two national level wins, including a big win on Kentucky Lake in the Hobie BOS; securing her a spot in the Hobie Worlds for 2020. Sponsors are also recognizing her talent with St. Croix Rods, Hobie, Ram Mounts, Cal Coast, Dakota Lithium, Westin and AFTCO getting behind her.
Cody has been around tournament angling for most of his life, having fished with his dad (a professional angler himself) at many different lakes. Traveling with his dad afforded him the opportunity to fish as a co-angler and learn from some of the best. On those occasions when he isn’t fishing, he is working with his family at their business(s) in Searcy, Arkansas.
If a conversation with Cody doesn’t leave you impressed with his knowledge of fishing, patterns, or techniques alone; ask him about technology, electronics and mapping.
“I was around when the first side scans or the latest technology came out and spent a lot of time learning about them when I was 12-13”, and his education shows. We had an extensive conversation about the difference between maps and why he feels that Lakemaster is superior due to the method used to collect the data vs other maps. He taught me that Google Earth can be critical to learning more about seasonal patterns. I felt like I had just entered my freshman year of college and signed up for a 5000 level course in “how to fish” without taking any prerequisites or doing any required reading.
When asked what he thinks has helped him to be so consistent, he said “several things” but in the end feels that he rules out so many things before getting to the water. He uses seasonal patterns to decide what will not work and starts studying maps long before the tournaments. He had been studying Chickamauga even before the Hobie BOS event on Kentucky Lake last month.
“I try to find places, then I look for a ramp. Using the Torqueedo helps!”
He also gives some great advice on dissecting the water while pre-fishing for kayak anglers.
“Look for extremes on every lake to understand it. I found from 66-80 degree water while moving around on Chickamauga.”
All you have to do is follow Cody to know that it is paying off. The 2018 KBF AOY has taken a check in 11 straight events and doesn’t seem to be letting up at all.
KBF Southeast Region Event on Lake Chickamauga: Tournament Day
The weather was still cooperating and boat traffic was extremely heavy as Kristine decided to fish the spot where she found the most opportunity, not the largest fish. Her Texas rigged creature bait in the grass pattern held up to land 99.25 inches of bass. This left her 6.25 inches ahead of Cody and 6.75 inches ahead of Henry Veggian who had found enough fish for third on a topwater pattern, slinging a Pop-R all day.
Cody caught his fish on a 1.25 Strike King Jig with a D-Bomb – punching grass on the main channel. He shared the spot with Mike Elsea (winner of the 2019 KBF National Championship), who managed a top ten. Mike was a full twelve inches behind the leader, but he finished well ahead of most of the field; with thirteen anglers not landing a scorable bass.
The largest fish of the event was a 23 inch Chickamauga largemouth caught by Jason Broach, earning him big bass honors.
This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert
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