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.
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 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.
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.
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!