“Hosted by Kissimmee Sports and Experience Kissimmee, the 2020 KBF Dee Zee The TEN pitted KBF’s top 11-12 anglers of 2019 in a two-day fish-off on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes in Florida. This event is invitation only. Eligible competitors ranked among the top 10 (this year 11 due to a three-way tie for tenth) in the 2019 KBF Angler of the Year points race.”
2020 KBF The TEN: Going ‘All Out’
All of the competitors praised Chad Hoover, Scott Beutjer, and the sponsors for how well the event was run. From the accommodations, to the meals prepared each day, then lunch for the next day — there was not one angler who felt that KBF and the sponsors did not go all out.
Derek Brundle, the 2019 KBF Rookie of the Year, was very excited about how KBF treated him.
“I had heard about what being a part of the TEN was like, but it was way beyond what I imagined. Catered meals every night, boxed lunches and snacks, tons of stuff on your beds, Yeti coolers, Dee Zee boxes, Columbia gifts, Yak attack stuff, Ketch boards, an Anglr Bullseye, just so much stuff.”
Rus Snyder echoed Derek. “The experience was just over the top! Chad and everyone just took care of everything. Usually that is a pain in the butt, coming off the water, getting ready and then finding food and all that stuff. I didn’t have to worry about that at all! Just getting that extra time, and it was like everyone had their own king size bed – like each had a big hotel suite.”
2020 KBF The TEN: Sworn to Secrecy
It makes me want to work harder to be in the TEN… but I am not going to lie, this was the most difficult recap I have ever tried to put together. With one or two exceptions, the anglers were as tight lipped about where they were fishing as a Florida strain bass that was shipped to the arctic circle and dropped in a pool of water.
There was information that was said to me, that I promised not to publish leaving me feeling like I had just heard confessions that I must now take to the grave. Then the next guy would tell me “he was at this lake…I was next to so and so… yeah, I talked to them while I was pre-fishing the spot he won in” but I already had promised to keep that information secret.
A redacted account of my interviews would leave the page looking like a top secret document released to the public… maybe leaving page numbers visible. So I am going to write little about where, some about how – and not much about anything!
Rus was slow to release anything about the event.
“I gave some of the smaller lakes a chance… not sure I want to mention the lake. This lake, well, I don’t want to say that either — so, just call it one of the smaller lakes. Right before I got there — well, this is off the record too…”
Then Rus gave me one of the best lessons in fronts, Florida and bass fishing far down south. But the lesson was off the record — sorry.
Ken Wood explained why he didn’t want to talk much about it during his cryptic answer.
When asked “Where did you fish the Ten?”, he replied: “.…..uhhhhh…I really don’t want to say, but uhhhh … there were some unique spots there. But they are coming back here, and just in case I make it to the TEN next year — I told everyone where I fished Lake George, and I wish I had not, so I would rather not talk about it.”
And there it was. They have confidence (or hope at least) that they will make it back there next year and want to keep their secrets secret.
Even newcomer Allen Sweat from Florida didn’t want to talk. He had won the Tenvitational fishing one of the “secret lakes”, and though I did find out later the name of that lake and who had fished around him… well, a promise is very important to me so I ain’t telling!
2020 KBF The TEN: Here’s What I Can Tell You
The event was run in conjunction with the Tenvitational which saw 32 anglers, plus seven already qualified for the Ten. The winner, if not already a member of the Ten, would become the 11th man (twelfth this year due to a tie) and compete for the top spot.
Several Anglers in the Ten did not fish the Tenvitational. Instead, they used the opportunity to get in some extra time pre-fishing.
Cody Milton commented on the decision.
“I didn’t fish the Tenvitational. Most of us at the top didn’t; it gave us more time on the water because we didn’t have to get off the water. They had to leave at three, and we kept searching. It was tough, but you got more bites early in the morning, then late in the afternoon. And if you found them in the afternoon, they were there in the morning.”
Rus Snyders shared his feelings also.
“I felt like it was going to be smarter to not focus on being in a tournament and focus on eliminating water. Several of us decided to not do it because it allowed us to go back later in the afternoon on the first day of the Tenvitational and expand on what was found earlier — develop more patterns.”
But one angler was in it, trying to get the top spot and a place in the Ten.
2020 KBF The TEN: Allen Sweat’s Tenvitational Recap
Allen Sweat, who would eventually finish 6th in the Ten won the Tenvitational to get the final spot.
“I was actually running late on the last day of the Tenvitational, so I pulled my kayak up under some palms and in some reeds, and ran to make the check-in time! They were telling me we need you at the TEN house and I was like I have to go back and get my kayak. All my stuff is there!”
Born and raised in Athens, Georgia, Alan has lived in West Palm Beach, Florida for 20 years. He is a father of four children who fishes when family and work affords him the opportunity.
“I work in finance for the aerospace industry and had to make some calls on Friday after I won the Tenvitational because I really didn’t expect to win. I had to move some stuff around. I have been bass fishing since I was twelve, but I am brand new to kayak fishing. I fished BFL, club-level, non-boater, team tournaments, etc. Last year, I basically fished challenges down here in Florida. I saw Kissimmee as an opportunity to step up and fish a larger event.
I pre-fished one day a couple of weeks before the tournament, then fished three days before the start of the Tenvitational. I spent most of that on Kissimmee, but it just didn’t feel right. I didn’t get a good read, the water color was just a little off. I went back to the spot that I had fished two weeks before, I had actually caught one close to 9-pounds.
“Basically, during pre-fishing the fish were more up spawning or in a real strong pre-spawn stage. I caught them on a black and blue jackhammer with a gambler trailer. I caught ‘em good doing it.
“During the tourney, it was warm, then it was cool in the morning and then the wind would lay flat. For me, I thought it was bad being from Florida. I had to slow down and catch them with a black and blue Gambler Fat Ace in a 6- and 7-inch length.
“It wasn’t dead fishing, but I was hitting isolated clumps of Kissimmee grass… just slow, painful fishing — the kind everyone hates when they come to Florida.
I knew that I was in an area with fish, so I didn’t leave — I just kept grinding. When the wind would blow, I went back to the chatterbait and caught some. I kept trying topwater but it never happened. I would catch my last fish at the last minute. On the last day of the TEN, I only caught five fish.”
2020 KBF The TEN: Brad Case’ Recap
Brad Case, fifth place finisher, went down on the 20th to get ready.
“Pre-fishing I caught, one… I caught two… everybody was saying ‘I caught 10 and 15’… I just said ‘go ahead. Keep catching them! Burn your spots!’
On day one I fished the same place that Matthew Scotch was fishing and it was supposed to be my primary. And I knew there wasn’t going to be any boats or air boats because the ramp was closed. The night before the TEN started, I was lying in bed thinking that I had gone to one spot, made three casts and caught one fish and I said that is where I am going tomorrow, and finished 2nd on day one in the Tenvitational.
And then I went to a different spot. Everyone asked why I was leaving fish and I said I am saving them for the TEN.
So day two of the Tenvitational, I went back to the spot where Allen Sweat was fishing and he was struggling. Ken Wood was also there and he was struggling with only three fish. I turned around and Allen caught four in the last twenty minutes!”
(Brad did tell where this was, but since I was asked not to tell, I will not say it out loud… but I will not forget it either.)
“Everyone thought I messed up and didn’t do too well.”
But Brad had just left fish for the TEN. He finished 6th day one and 3rd day two, ending up fifth overall throwing a white chatterbait with a little orange in it.
Brad said he could see the fish.
“Sometimes they wouldn’t hit the chatterbait. I would throw it on the shore and pull the bait off the shore and they wouldn’t touch it. But I would throw that worm and they would nail it. I would throw it up in the muck. I was using a Texas rigged X-Mas colored Gambler worm with an 1/8 ounce weight.”
2020 KBF The TEN: Cody Milton’s Recap
Cody Milton, the fourth-place finisher, was a bit more open about what he was seeing and where.
“I saw a lot of shiner guys within a 200-yard stretch. I saw a 9-12 caught, two sevens, a six something and 15-20 five pounders. For every 10 fish they caught I might get one bite.
I was on a giant grass spot on Kissimmee. It was really messed up, the water color in 95 percent of the lake was horrible. There were a few different areas where the water was really clear. But they were all a long way from the ramp. I went from 3-4 inch clarity to 3-4 foot with beds everywhere. It is a pretty famous spot on Kissimmee. I planned to get on one or two bed bites, and that just didn’t happen.
Day two, I got a strong west wind, and I was on the east side of the lake. And by 8 a.m. it was just as chocolate as the rest of the lake. It created a spot about a ¼ mile from where I was where the water was gin clear. I caught way more fish on day two, but never caught a female. I probably caught 20-30 fish on day two. I thought if I could get 8-9 good bites a day I could have caught 90-plus inches both days.
I thought the conditions were going to be better. I thought I was going to wear them out on a spinnerbait. But I caught them on a senko and a swimming worm.
You had to pitch the senko right at the edge of the grass or pads and let the wind pull it in, or throw it back in a little bit.
The wind got so strong that I was pedaling, Torqueedo’ing’, and paddling… dead into the west wind. I had to bail water twice as I headed across the lake, the wind was 20-25 miles an hour.”
2020 KBF The TEN: Derek Brundle’s Recap
Third place went to Derek Brundle, the KBF 2019 Rookie of the Year who is going to be a guy to watch in the future. He left Massachusetts on Saturday morning, driving out of 28-degrees to find himself in 58 degrees on Sunday morning. Brundle, Rob Pagnano and Matt Conant had driven through the night and slept at Toho Marina till the sun came up.
“We went down Saturday morning before the tournament. I wanted to leave Friday, but I had to do a show with New Canoe. We got to Toho Marina at 3:45. I crashed for an hour and a half and woke to a big bass tourney staging for the day.
We headed over to Richardson’s fish camp and launched from there. The weather was good. Pre-fishing for me that first day was terrible, I only caught a single 14-inch fish. Rob and Matt did well, they were excited because they were fishing the Tenvitational.
On the second day, we went down to Kissimmee and launched out of the state park and found some decent fish. We all caught fish there.
We planned to use Tuesday to decide if we were going to fish there or at least narrow down the spots. Everyone else seemed to be going other places, so we had either place to ourselves.
I went as far south on Kissimmee as possible on Tuesday and found some fish. My buddies did not. I told them that we can fish the Tenvitational wherever, but that we were going to this spot for the ten.
We started at Kissimmee state park, but it was a gamble. You had to wait for it to open, then we had to get off the water early to make it to check in.
Day two, I told them to pick. I was just scouting. We went back to Richardson’s fish camp and I headed south, they headed north. My day started out slow, I ran into Casey Reed and we ate lunch and talked about how it was all going.
I found some reed patches and hydrilla based off a conversation with Casey… I caught my personal best there — around 9-pounds. I was just looking down and happened to see it. I drifted off and hit my pinpoint GPS and started fishing it… threw a senko in there 30-50 times.
She picked it up once and dropped. It had been 35 minutes. I threw my chatterbait next to the bed and was just running it past her trying to get her to react. I saw her getting agitated. Now she will bite something. I had tied on a VMC spinshot with a 3.5-inch Castaic jerky jay with a 2-inch leader down to the drop shot, it looks like a little shiner or something. I pitched it in and as soon as it hit the bottom it bowed my rod.
And It was the lightest rod I have with the biggest fish I had ever seen. She took off toward the pencil reeds. I grabbed the spool on my spinning reel with one hand and leaned back with the rod in the other hand. It was only 10-pound test, so I figured I was going to lose her. For some reason she just turned and started swimming into open water.
I started to net her and she dove straight to the bottom and I thought I was going to lose the biggest fish I ever hooked!
I caught almost everything on a white chatterbait. I was throwing the jackhammer but they wouldn’t hit it, so I switched to the cheap ones and they started hitting it.
I guess it was the different vibration or frequency, but I was catching a lot of fish. Most of my fish were within a foot of the kayak.”
Derek ended up second in the Tenvitational.
“I went south to Kissimmee. I had in my mind that I was going back down to the spot I had found. The average was 16-plus. And I had caught a 21-incher as well. The conditions had not been right there, with 25 mph winds and muddy water. I heard that you had to be in clear water, but I caught 25-plus fish just running the banks, so I thought that I had found something special. The film guys were following me a bit… with Beutjer and Jensen. And the fish turned off.
What had happened was that the water went flat slack. I started bouncing around and they started hitting a senko on Kissimmee grass flats. After that, I put everything down and started throwing the senko. It was just one of those magical days. I ended fourth after day one.”
2020 KBF The TEN: Brundle’s Day Two
“On day one I was heading out and saw a school of fish off to my right. And I threw in and caught one on a chatterbait. I decided to save it for day two.
I turned on my side scan and the fish were still there… so it was lights out for the first hour. I caught 30-40 fish! Then, I went a long time without any bites.
I caught one flipping some lily pads, and they started again. I lost a good one right before I had to leave. Probably seven or eight pounds!
2020 KBF The TEN: Ken Wood’s 2nd Place Finish
Ken Wood, in his second TEN appearance, would finish 2nd by dropping all he had learned in pre-fishing during the Tenvitational and taking a risk.
The lake I fished for the TEN I hadn’t pre-fished it at all. After day two the lake I fished at the Tenvitational, I didn’t like my chances at all. I was in ninth… but two inches out of first. I was catching them on a chatterbait throwing up into the slop, some on spinnerbaits.
“Day two I only caught three fish and it took me all day. I should have stayed on my spot longer, but I am glad I didn’t because I don’t think I would have done well. I knew I did not want to go back there.
I picked a random lake I had not even pre-fished. I didn’t do well on any of the lakes I had pre-fished, so I looked at this one and it looks good. I didn’t hear anyone talk about it, so it was either good or bad.
Day one I still caught most of them on a chatterbait. Rocky Ledge Tackle out of New Hampshire, makes a spinnerbait that I was using as well. It is like a swimming spinnerbait, the wire and the head are separate, it causes it to go through the water like a crankbait.
I had one fish at 9 AM then lost one at 11 AM which crushed my spirits a bit. I was fishing a spot that looked like someone had cut out a spot to water the cows and I caught a 12-inch dink. I told myself that if I had to catch dinks I didn’t care. I was fishing in 6-inches of water as I moved back into the pocket. I caught a 12.75, then a 17-something and on the way out I caught a 20-incher on a spot that I had passed on the way in. I moved to similar spots — and I caught a ton of fish.”
2020 KBF The TEN: And The Winner Is – Rus Snyders
In the end, 2019 AOY Rus Snyders continued his winning streak by taking first at the 2020 KBF The TEN.
“I was there the Sunday before the tournament. Sunday and Monday a bunch of us just crashed a house with Jody Queen and some other folks until the TEN house was open.
Sunday afternoon I fished out of Toho marina and got skunked.
I talked to some of the guys and learned that some of the smaller lakes had as much or more potential than the bigger lakes. The Kissimmee chain just had a Bassmaster Opens event there the week before with 200 boats and it got hammered. The first couple of days of pre-fishing was behind a cold front. Only got a few bites, but found one area where I got several bites.
The rest was one bite here, one bite there.
I heard a lot about Kissimmee, I know there are big fish in this lake. But it is just so big, so I moved back to the smaller lakes.
On day one, I had the area pretty much to myself, catching them early on weightless flukes in areas where bass boats would not be able to get too.
I started punching through some weeds and then there was a field of lily pads. It was hard catching them out there, because there were just so many. The key to the lily pad bite was being super stealthy. I would stake down and fan cast, starting ten feet around the kayak, then twenty — then I would kind of move a little more. I was spooking bass. As soon as I saw that, I would just sit, look at the scoreboard and wait before making casts.
I was changing colors a lot with the water clarity and light. I was throwing creature baits – I kept a bunch of colors at my feet. If the water was clear, I would throw a green pumpkin with some sparkles… then if it got overcast I would throw darker colors. Not sure it made a difference, but I kept doing it.
On the second day, I was worried I had caught all of my fish. Pre-fishing I was seeing a lot of fish. Went back, and it was a steady rain, started off with a fluke. The first three fish I caught were 18-plus inches. And I could tell they were not the same fish I saw during pre-fishing.
I fished a log that I had bumped one day, I dropped my bait over the spot and a 7-plus pounder did a cartwheel over the log, but he wasn’t hooked. I threw right back in there and it hit it again. I couldn’t believe it.
It got caught up on the log. It was right under my kayak, but the log was 7 feet away. I finally got it loose and it was a 21.75 and close to seven pounds.
Then I went out into the pads and still needed to cull. I would go a while with no bite, then get several. I went back into the shallow later and got 20-plus.
This was the first tournament that I caught over 100 inches!”
2020 KBF The TEN: Leaderboard
It was extremely fascinating to talk with the top KBF anglers of 2019, and like I said earlier, very difficult to put together a recap. The confidence that these guys have—almost knowing they will be back next year—kept them from telling me much… but it didn’t stop them from taking the top spots.