The first year I fished competitively, my idea of prepping for a tournament was to make sure I knew where the check-ins were. I verified that I had all of my equipment, some food and water. I looked at a map or two, planned launch and load times to make sure I wasn’t late. Fishing water I knew, this was enough.
As I started running across the country chasing the trails, I quickly learned that having enough Diet Pepsi and Beanie Weenees to survive a weekend was not adequate. At check-ins, I talked and listened to the guys who were having repeated success and learned a lot from those conversations.
I learned preparing for tournaments can consist of more than just re-tying lures, spooling line or sorting tackle. We can research online maps, reviewing Navionics or LakeMaster charts. Google Earth or the ANGLR app give you the ability to see satellite images and allow you to see current and historic water levels and flow. YouTube gives virtually unlimited access to past tournament videos, or locals giving insight on what works and when. You can even collect data with apps like ANGLR and review where and under what conditions you had success.
Before you drive to a location, you can spend hours and hours learning a body of water.
Three years ago, I had no idea any of that was available. Armed with this knowledge, I am better than I was at prepping for bodies of water I have never seen; I even thought I had it “kinda” figured out. But I honestly had no idea how to really connect all of the pieces together.
Then, I had the opportunity to sit and talk with Rus Snyders about his success during 2019. Rus had a great year, winning several events and finishing as the Tennessee State Champion and the 2019 KBF ANGLR of the Year. I have known who Rus is for quite some time, having heard stories about him creating a Plan A, B… then C and D just in case he needed it; and I thought those were just myths. After the year he had, I wanted to see how much was real. I asked him “how do you get ready?”; thinking there was not much difference in what we all do.
It took about two minutes to realize that I had ascended a mountain, reached the top and found a master; not only in building a game plan, but in continuous preparation. I sat listening and taking notes that I want to share. Well… most of them.
2019 KBF ANGLR of the Year: Efficiency in Gear and Tackle
There was a consistent theme when it came to tackle and gear; efficiency.
“I spend a lot of time planning how to manage all of the tackle. Trying to eliminate as much wasted packing as possible. The more organized you are, the more efficient you can be later on the water. I know guys who just throw stuff in their kayaks, and it works for them. I need to be more organized.
I used to fish out of a bass boat and carry everything I owned with me. You find conditions where you throw things you didn’t plan on throwing. In a kayak, you have to strategize very differently due to lack of space.”
2019 KBF ANGLR of the Year: Rus’s Tackle Storage
“I had everything on peg boards. One peg for beaver type baits, one for brush hogs, etc.. Every time a peg was full, I would have to start moving everything around to make room for more. I would pull off what I planned to use for tournaments and carry them in gallon bags. With the pegs, you start pulling them off to get to stuff on the back… then put others back on the peg, maybe looking on several pegs. I also still have a lot of stuff in Plano boxes, so I had to dig through all of that. Now I am moving to clear plastic shoe boxes; one for each type of bait. This will let me find larger bins and just drop the smaller boxes in so I can load up quicker, then when I get where I am going, it is easier to select baits to carry in the kayak.”
[I can tell you that those clear boxes can be picked up at Wal-Mart. $8.98 for 10 of them.]
“In my BlackPak, I carry two waterproof Plano 3600 boxes without dividers; one with crankbaits and lipless, one with topwater. Then another with dividers for spinnerbaits and chatterbaits. I also carry four one-gallon bags with plastics, then a small box with terminal tackle. I also carry a small binder filled with jigs.”
“Anything with treble hooks, I don’t store them with the hooks on them. They just get tangled up if you keep hooks on them. I only put hooks on around 25% of them. Also, they are open to rust. If it is raining and you open the box, then everything is wet, without hooks, there is less chance for rust.”
“When lures do get wet, I never put them back in the bag or in boxes; I let them sit out until they dry, then put them back into their storage. I see some people who are really sloppy searching for lures, then they just throw them back with the others. I have some lures I have carried for ten years.”
[I stopped listening for a second as I pictured the box of lures I have in the garage with rusty hooks and rust marks. Not a small box. Then put an asterisk in my notes… this is one to remember for sure!]
“Not having them all with hooks makes it easier to keep fresh hooks on them. When they get bent or look worn, I just switch them out.”
“I change out all of my split rings with one kind. I buy them in bulk from Jann’s Netcraft. It is very easy to add hooks to the baits using the same split ring, so I can do it quickly. You can get used to doing it easily if they are all the same.”
“I trim the thumbnail on my left thumb differently, leaving it longer. This allows me to change out hooks or split rings even faster.”
[This is the moment I realized that I was sitting with someone who thought about everything – the guy I had heard about, the legend. I mean we all have little things we learn to make lure changes easier, but… man. Then I put another asterisk in my notes… not to change how I trim nails, but to look for the details in all I do.]
Spinnerbaits & Chatterbaits:
“I individually wrap spinnerbaits in 3” x 3” bags; chatterbaits in 2”x 3” bags. This allows me to stack them in Plano boxes. It also lets me pull them out in the rain without everything getting wet.”
[I asked Rus where he picks up the bags. He showed me this link: 600 pack assorted ziplock bags.]
“I can easily find the baits I want to use since they are individually bagged. I can look through them in any conditions too.”
“The only thing I like binders for are jigs. I make my own jigs and keep them in 2” x 2” bags.
“I have a page in the binder for ¼ ounce swim jigs, one for 3/8 ounce jigs, one for football jigs…it makes it compact and efficient.”
“I keep all of my old and torn plastics. When I get a fairly large pile, or just start running low on certain baits, I pull them out along with a bottle of Mend-It. I even keep baits that have lost appendages, then pair them up to replace them.”
“Unless you are totally out of a bait, do this at home. If you allow the Mend It time to dry, the baits hold up better. They actually seem stronger. It takes a couple of hours to cure correctly. It actually seems to toughen up the plastic. They seem to stay on the hook better the second time around.”
“I did the math. I save about $600 a year. I spend around $15 a bottle, going through three a year. It takes around an hour to an hour and a half to do between 100 and 200 plastics; making about a $30 dollar an hour. If the math had equaled $10, I might not be worth the effort, but at $30…”
[I thought that me biting off old senkos or worms that had been torn was the best idea on the planet. Sometimes it works, but I had struggled with Ribbit Frogs. Once you tear the nose, they do not fish the same. Before I started putting my notes into this document, I had ordered a bottle of Mend It.]
“Super glue isn’t the same. It dries hard and the baits will just come apart or break.”
2019 KBF ANGLR of the Year: Rus’s Process and Tools For Locating Fish
We all have bad days on the water, it is inevitable. But Rus is one of the most consistent kayak anglers I have had the pleasure of fishing against. So, after we spent an hour talking about prepping his gear, I wanted to dig a bit deeper about the process and tools he uses to choose an area to fish.
“I try to find multiple options when I choose locations. If you only have one spot to fish in a certain area, especially in a multi-day tournament; those fish leave, then you have to move. I look for places with choices close by.”
“I use a 7” Hummingbird Helix G3. I used Lowrance for a long time… then switched to a Hummingbird G2 before upgrading. With the G3, side imaging makes a big difference.”
“The real advantage, is the mapping. LakeMaster… LakeMaster is the deal! The biggest thing with it is the detail.”
“I use the highlighting on the Hummingbird to find high spots on a flat. I use two different shades… for example I highlight 3-5 feet in one color, then another from 8-15 feet to see the ledges and the humps on the flats… then I can see the humps and drop offs with a quick look. It allows you to see all the sweet spots in an instant. It eliminates so much time – I can just see the spots and do not have to keep searching. I spend a lot of time fishing flats and the different colors just eliminate so much water quickly!”
“I watch videos of tournaments held in different locations. It can provide information about where to fish or what to use at different times of the year.”
“Google Earth has a lot of information. If you use your computer, not an iPad or phone, you can search archived images or the most recent.”
“Use Google Earth to find when the lake levels are down – some lakes it doesn’t really work so well, but lakes where the water will fluctuate a great deal – you can see rock piles and structures.
Pairing the Internet with Electronics:
“The good thing about a fish finder in a kayak is that it is fairly portable. All you need is a battery. So, I take the pod out of my boat and bring the finder to my computer and Google Earth.”
“I find those structures, and while I have that fish finder right next to me, I put waypoints on the fish finder while I am looking at the computer. That way, I already have waypoints before I even get to a lake. A lot of stuff will not show up on the charts, but you can find it with the satellite images.”
“This can also help you to see where grass has been, or might be… things always change with the grass, but it can help you to narrow down the places to start.”
Final Thoughts on the 2019 KBF ANGLR of the Year
The stories I had heard of Rus’s preparedness from his fellow KBFTN friends were not just tales; this guy really immerses himself into fishing. I told him I would have never put this much effort into getting ready; organizing or preparing for an event before our talk. But since he had just spent over two hours on that mountain top, master teaching student; I made it clear that I planned to use the education. Then we joked that one day I might beat him at a tournament using what he had just taught me. I also told him that by writing this, others would know more too.
Rus, being the incredibly soft spoken and kind guy that he is replied; “There are plenty of wins to go around. With all of the new opportunities, there are going to be a lot more people fishing the kayak tournaments. I am looking forward to it. I hope you win some.”
We had talked at La Crosse about him taking off the next year to do something different. He had just won AOY and wanted to spend some time in Virginia. But as our talk wound down (just a few weeks later), I could hear in his voice that his direction had changed.
Rus Snyders is someone we will have to compete against for a while, so you might want to do your homework. I can guarantee you that he is already doing his while you are reading this.