Kayak Paddles | The Top 3 Kayak Paddles for Avid Anglers

Whenever ranking the best of anything, there’s always some controversy about what does and doesn’t make the list. With that being said, the following is simply my opinion based on my own experience. Please take the time to visit your local outfitters and try these kayak paddles for yourself, you may find that we have different likes and dislikes on things. The bottom line, take the time to try things for yourself and give local shops your business.

Paddles are something that I thought I was done with but with my recent move to a Bonafide SS127 kayak with a Torqeedo motor, I’ve had to get a good paddle for skinny water. When I got my first kayak I remember being so obsessed with the kayak itself that I just grabbed the first paddle I saw in the store and went on my way. 

Quickly, I began to hate paddling thinking that maybe kayaking just wasn’t for me. At a paddlesports show, I spoke to some folks from various paddle companies, sharing my complaints. When they heard what I was dealing with, they all said the same thing, it’s your paddle. Granted I’m sure they wanted to sell me a shiny new paddle but they turned out to be correct. 

A light paddle designed for anglers can save your arms a lot of stress over the course of a day. Choosing the best paddle can be more important than you think. I’ve selected these three based on quality and performance, balanced with affordability. Here are my top 3 kayak paddles!

Kayak Paddles | Bending Branches – Angler Classic

I’m a bit biased here as I just recently purchased this very paddle but I’ve been so happy with my purchase I had to share it here. Coming in at a price of about $140 this paddle is extremely light and extremely affordable. When I first got my hands on the Angler Classic, I was immediately impressed with how light it was. The blades of the paddle are made with the kayak angler in mind so they’re sturdy enough to use while standing up and can easily move a large kayak like my Bonafide SS127

Kayak Paddles(1)

A couple of cool features from the Bending Branches – Angler Classic, on one of the blades, there’s a notch that can be used to retrieve lures that may be snagged on trees or rocks. 

The second cool feature, the shaft of this paddle has a tape measure allowing you to get a quick measure of your catch. This isn’t something that I use much, but it’s still cool to know when deciding on which paddle to purchase.

Kayak Paddles | Werner Paddles – Tybee Hooked

Similar to the Angler Classic in build, quality, and price, the Werner Tybee Hooked is a great choice for any angler looking for a solid paddle that won’t wear your arms down.

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This two-piece paddle is constructed to handle the abuse of angling as well as stand up paddling. 

A special feature of this kayak paddle, is the adjustable ferrule system that allows a kayaker to dial-in their paddle at the perfect angle for how they paddle or just simply their preference.

Kayak Paddles | Feelfree – Angler Paddle

The Feelfree Angler Paddle makes this list simply because of the level of quality for such an affordable price. The Angler Paddle comes in at $99 and features a fully fiberglass shaft along side fiberglass reinforced blades. 

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For a low price, an angler can get a paddle that’s lightweight and shares the features of some paddles that are almost twice the price. 

Whether you’re a veteran kayak angler or just getting started, don’t overlook this option from Feelfree!

How to Measure and Submit Bass in a Kayak Tournament

One of the most overlooked challenges when it comes to competing in kayak fishing tournaments, is measuring and photographing your fish. Catching a fish is only half the battle in the Catch, Photograph, and Release (CPR) format. 

Without fail, after every kayak fishing tournament, there will be an angler sharing the tale of a tragic mishap where their prized catch jumped off their measuring board and back into the water. Now, this is sometimes used as a great way to avoid admitting you got skunked but oftentimes, it really is just a series of unfortunate events. Some fish are easier to calm down than others and with every catch comes an unpredictable adventure. 

Over the years, I’ve competed in many kayak fishing tournaments, and through those I’ve picked up a lot of tips and tricks for successfully measuring and photographing fish. Everyone has their own slightly unique process for photographing fish but here are some helpful tips that would have really helped me in the early days.

Tethered Fish Grips

Using fish grips or any other tether that allows for a fish to stay in the water while you prepare to measure is crucial. This is a step that not only ensures that your catch isn’t harmed in the process but it also allows the fish to tire itself out further. Doing this, in theory, makes for a more cooperative fish when it’s time to place them on your measuring device. I was informed about this great trick by a friend and fellow kayak angler and I’ve been so grateful for it ever since. 

Of course this trick isn’t perfect but in my experience it’s super effective.

To use fish grips effectively, you’ll need to buy the type of fish grip that will work best for you. Throughout my local club, there are a variety of different fish grips being used. For me personally, I use the Donkey Leash from Cal Coast Fishing. This little grip is deceiving, it’s extremely strong and built in a way that prevents you from accidentally releasing a fish (I’ve only done this once but it was enough). Other anglers use the Fish Grips brand which offer a great quality product at a really approachable price. You can’t go wrong with either choice but make sure you fasten the grips to your kayak using paracord or a Neverlost leash

It may seem obvious but I’ve heard a few instances where anglers have forgotten to tie down their fish grips and a fish has taken off. A final word about these two, they grip the fish’s lip without requiring a puncture hole. This goes a long way to ensure that little to no harm is done to your catch.

Measuring and Photographing

As a kayak angler, I don’t consider myself to be any kind of photographer but when fishing competitively, you’ll need to get really comfortable using your phone with one hand. This is one part of competing in kayak fishing tournaments that’s often overlooked and underestimated. Often times we land a good fish and get pumped because we think we’ve just moved up the leaderboard. In kayak fishing tournaments, catching the fish is half the battle, the second challenge is getting a fish to cooperate long enough for a clear detailed photo that displays that fish’s length. 

First things first, be sure that your kayak is organized. If you go on the leaderboard for a kayak fishing tournament you’ll see some people have lures and gear all over the place in their photos. While this can be fine for them, you’ll be surprised at how tough it can be to get all of your gear together after landing a large fish. I find myself shaking and not able to think straight for a few seconds and if my phone and measuring board aren’t in easy to reach places, I could risk knocking some expensive gear out of the boat or potentially even losing the fish. I always keep my measuring board and phone in the same spot. If I need to use them for any reason, they’re easy to grab and always return to the same place. This may sound crazy simple and obvious but trust me, it’ll go a long way.

How to Measure and Submit Bass in a Kayak Tournament(2)

Some clubs have differing rules when it comes to photographing and measuring fish but for the sake of this article, I’m going to be basing the remainder of this section on the KBF rules. 

I won’t get into all of them, but the key rules to focus on, the fish must be facing left, mouth must be closed, the tournament identifier must be visible and able to be read. On top of these rules, you must be using a KBF approved measuring board. There are also some rules regarding where your hand placement can and cannot be in the case that a fish needs some help laying flat on the board. 

When it comes to getting a fish to lay flat on the board, always let the fish swim for a bit while tethered to your fish grips as we mentioned above. When the fish has had some time in the water, be sure to dip your measuring board in the water you are fishing. This will ensure that the board isn’t too hot and also helps prevent damage to a fish’s slime coat. Once the board is ready, I like to get my phone out and the camera activated. I use a tether for my phone so once the camera is on, I just keep it on my lap.

Now for the fish, carefully pull your catch up and release your fish grips. 

Once you do that, slowly lay the fish down on the board with its head facing left and against the gate of your measuring board. One tip is to use your feet to tilt your board. This puts the fish’s weight against the gate of your measuring board but also aids in keeping a fish’s mouth closed. When the board is tilted in a particular direction, it helps predict what direction a fish will flip should it decide to jump. 

How to Measure and Submit Bass in a Kayak Tournament(1)

I always keep my net on the gate side of my measuring board in the instance a fish jumps, hopefully I’ll catch it. 

Once your fish has calmed down and is laying still, grab your phone and snap a picture. Be sure to take a couple of photos just in case one doesn’t come out correctly. It is also a great idea after you take a photo to put your fish back on the fish grips while you make sure your photos look good and meet the submission criteria.

Uploading to Tournament Software

After you snap a clear photograph of your fish, you’ll need to submit that photo to your tournament software so that it can be judged. Be sure that location services are enabled on your camera so that your GPS location can be captured, this proves you were within the tournament limits when your fish was caught. Once the app is open, select the photo that’s clear and submit to the leaderboard. 

If you find yourself without service, apps like TourneyX have a Livewell feature which allows you to get the fish in the app to be submitted at a later time. Just remember when you put fish in there that you have to plan to leave the water a bit early in order to find a signal to fully submit those catches.  

Measuring and submitting fish can be intimidating at first, but with the right steps it becomes second nature. Like everything, practice makes perfect!

2019 KBF ANGLR of the Year October Update | Headed to La Crosse

Featured Image Credit: Scott Beutjer

The 2019 KBF season is winding down… we have seen the National Championship won by Mike Elsea on Caddo Lake, Cody Milton crowned at Bienville while a group of anglers piled up in Jeff Fader’s spot, and Clint Henderson win the first KBF/FLW event on Lake Ouachita in Hot Springs, Arkansas. 

Over 1000 anglers have driven thousands of miles; slept in campgrounds, hotels, VRBOs, Airbnbs, in the backs of trucks or in the front seat with a snoring buddy as Wal-Mart parking lot cleaners blew trash from under vehicles. Batteries have run out of juice, tires have blown or gone flat and trailer bearings have failed… vacation time has been exhausted (sick days too)… and many Waffle and Huddle Houses have been overtaken as anglers chased coveted KBF ANGLR of the Year points in five separate regions across America.

The top three KBF trail series tournaments (1800 possible points) added to their top score in a regional final (600 possible points) comprise most of the points. But the final event of the year, The Trail Series Championship to be held in La Crosse Wisconsin on October 17-19, has a potential 1200 additional points. 

With 95 points separating first and tenth place, and only 210 points between first and twenty-fifth; this is still anyone’s title to win. 

The weather forecast and rising water levels are combining to make the championship on the Mississippi River even more challenging for competitors. The current will play a factor for many anglers, affecting their ability to hold position or even reach certain spots, but the field is stacked with some solid sticks. The AOY’s from each region, past members of the “Ten”, and a couple of competitors who fished their first full KBF year are at the top.

Let’s meet the top ten as we head to La Crosse.

#10. Danny Uribe – California; 2019 Western Regional AOY

2019 KBF ANGLR of the Year(1)

Danny’s story of how he entered kayak bass fishing is one that is very familiar to those who follow the kayak fishing community. He fished out of a Ranger boat before settling into a kayak.  After years fishing with the Stren series, and getting heavy into saltwater tournaments including Bisbee’s Marlin tournaments, he was given an opportunity to work and travel with Accurate Reels and later started his own freshwater bass rod company; Uribe Fishing Products. While at a visit to a central California tackle shop for a seminar, he ran into a kayak fisherman who said that he really liked the Uribe rods for kayak fishing. 

He said ‘dude your rods are great for kayak tournaments’ and I said ‘kayak tournaments?’ and he told me about KBF so I looked it up, it seemed interesting. I really liked the idea of CPR, not putting fish in the Livewell and killing them.” 

The “man vs. man and athletic aspects” of the sport really appealed to him. 

From the get-go, you have to make really good decisions… you can’t carry 50 rods… it is way harder to win a kayak tournament than a boat tournament. You have to be very methodical… your practice has to be very good, you have to make good decisions.”  

So Danny bought a Feelfree Dorado last November and didn’t pick it up until January.  He used the weekend to learn the kayak, went to a couple of local lakes to get a better feel for it; then headed to Lake Havasu for a KBF event. 

His first time in a KBF tournament was his fourth time in a kayak.  

I hadn’t fully grasped that I couldn’t move like a bass boat.  I killed my first four hours just paddling around to end up back where I started.”  

Even though he had spent time traveling instead of fishing, Uribe landed in 7th place after settling down and focusing on fishing. The experience taught him a lot and he leveraged that experience to finish 6th on San Vincente and 4th at Otay; the only three events he was able to make this year.

So leading the AOY race in the western region, Danny loaded up his wife Rebecca and headed to Clear Lake for the regional championship. 

It was her birthday.  I went out Thursday at 6:30 and pedaled around at spots I planned to fish… on the way back I threw a swimbait and caught a fish… then I spent the rest of the day in Napa with my wife.” 

His success has landed him a spot on the Native Watercraft team (with other opportunities in the works) and he plans to fish three to four of the 6 regional events next year out of the Native Titan. He also has plans to travel to Guntersville for the KBF National Championship… but is doubtful that he will make it to La Crosse. 

It is killing me not to make it!” 

He gives credit for being able to fish first and foremost to the Lord, then his wife Rebecca who supports him even while “dragging her to Clear Lake to stay in a junky hotel with nothing around for miles”. His work designing outdoor products for companies and his rod company provides the funding.

Uribe gives high praise to the kayak community. 

I am not afraid to tell people where and what I did. Everyone is so open to sharing everything. When I fished boat tournaments, when you showed up to the awards, the only people there are the winners. When I showed up to kayak tournaments, everyone is there… everyone is chatting… I was a nobody in the kayak community… now everyone welcomes you and talks like I am one of them. There is no drama like the boat tournaments. In the kayak community, everyone is congratulating everyone… no one is bumping their chests… everyone is humble.

Note for Uribe: The offer to bring a spare Hobie for the tournament is still on the table for you Danny, if you decide to fly in!

#9. Josh Stewart – Tennessee

2019 KBF ANGLR of the Year(2)

Josh with Randy Howell at the Hobie BOS at Lake Guntersville.

Unless this is your first exposure to KBF or kayak tournament fishing in general, you know the name – if not, you will. Josh has become one of the more consistent anglers on any trail; this year alone he punched his second ticket to the Hobie Worlds, winning on Guntersville and placed second in the Hobie event of Kentucky Lake; won the KBF trail event on Kentucky Lake (read more about that tournament and Josh), placed tenth in the first KBF/FLW event on Lake Ouachita and just finished fifth in the Tennessee State Kayak Championship. He is one angler with a good opportunity to say he has been one of the KBF Ten every year. Trailing the leader by only 85 points also leaves him with a chance to be the AOY. 

In the race for the southeast region AOY, with his methodical presentation and persistence, Josh finished third behind two others in the top ten this year; Cody Milton and Rus Snyders. In addition to the Kentucky Lake win, he placed 12th at Santee Cooper and 8th at Chickamauga; allowing him the opportunity to fish for AOY and hopefully compete in the Ten next year.

He is already qualified for the Hobie TOC, the National Championship and is smashing them on all trails across Tennessee. He fishes as a member of the Jackson Kayak Team, the YakAttack team, and is on the pro staff for Hog Farmer Bait Company and All Pro Rods

Josh will be in La Crosse for the KBF trail championship. Last year at an Open on the same water, he finished 6th under similar water conditions, so he is a favorite to take home the win. 

Stewart is a humble guy who credits his grandmother with teaching him how to fish in the creeks close where he grew up and says his mom is now involved; she is trying to learn more to beat him.

#8. Erick Simien – Texas

2019 KBF ANGLR of the Year(3)

Erick, like Danny Uribe, is enjoying success in his first full year on the KBF trail.  

He had fished last year’s National Championship after qualifying through the NTXKC – a KBF partner organization. 

I finished awful (at Caddo)… but pre-fishing was amazing, I had plenty of opportunities, they just kept coming unbuttoned. I only had two fish in the kayak and they called me ‘two fish Erick’”.  

He said that he tried to slow down and use a wacky rig, but got frustrated and moved to a jig

He openly shared how he ended up in a kayak, and his story is similar to others too. 

I fished all my life, grew up fishing. I quit drinking a little over eight years ago and needed something to decompress… I wanted something to get off the bank and my wife surprised me with an older model Ascend for Christmas. In the first few months, I could only sit in it for a few hours, but it got easier. I finished 2nd in a north Texas trail event and wanted to get a better kayak, so I sold it and picked up a Diablo Amigo.” 

Erick is still shocked by his 2nd place finish in the KBF Texas Regional behind Matthew Scotch.   But with solid finishes, 2nd on Ray Roberts, 13th on Belton, and 4th on Toledo Bend, he found his way into the Texas regional championship on Lake Fork where he finished 5th on day one. He was able to move up on day two. 

I didn’t catch my first fish on day two until 11, then 12:30 caught my second.  I had gone to a place and saw a gator earlier, I went there and caught my last four fish.”  

After day two, he had moved into 3rd place in the tournament and into 8th in the KBF AOY standings. 

Erick is unfortunately not going to La Crosse. His job selling hair care products to hairstylists only allows him so much vacation time, so he is out. “I would love to quit and just go kayak fishing” but for now, he like the rest of us has to work. He has no sponsors… “my wife tells me I need to get better at posting on Instagram”… so he plans to work on that next year. 

When I asked if he planned to chase the points next year, he shared some concern that with the realignment of the KBF regions he may not be able to make as many events with only one being close in Texas. 

I liked it being in Texas. I may do it on a shoestring budget… do some camping… I will see at the last minute what’s going on.

#7. Richie McMichael – Kansas; 2019 Central Region AOY

2019 KBF ANGLR of the Year(4)

Richie is not unfamiliar with having success on the kayak trails; entering a couple of KBF events in 2017 before diving into KBF for 2018, finishing 7th in the AOY race. He fished in the Ten at Bienville and was quick to repeat what a lot of us have said at one time or another. 

I wish I had a do-over at the event. My goal was to win AOY last year, but the event on Lake Erie killed me… and I didn’t end up well at Bienville.”  

This year he has won the Central Region AOY, finished 5th on Lake Fork during the Hobie BOS event (qualified for the TOC) and is currently in the same position he held at the end of last year.

A 6th place finish at Big Hill, an 11th place finish on the Madison Chain of Lakes, a 4th place finish on the Mississippi River and 3rd at Mark Twain shows his ability to win and be competitive… and that he knows how to find them on water that will be in-bounds for La Crosse. Richie is in position to get another chance at the Ten (though not at Bienville next year) but may not make it to La Crosse. He appraises commercial real estate for the county and has some training that he may not be able to reschedule. 

I am hoping they understand, but when they are paying for it, it is hard to say that I am not going to make it.

When asked how he ended up fishing in the kayak, his story sounds a little familiar.  

I was burnt out on the boats. You can break even at best. A buddy of mine, Josey Stillman, started the Northeast Kansas Kayak Anglers and another buddy of mine kept wanting to fish it. I kinda resisted it for a while, I still had a bass boat in the garage and didn’t see the point of the whole kayak thing. I ended up breaking down and giving it a try. You have to do it and see what it is like to really understand. I didn’t do any research. I went to Bass Pro and bought an Ascend and started doing it. I didn’t stay in it long… a guy came down from Nebraska in a Hobie and was pedaling all over the lake and holding position… by the next tournament, I had a Hobie… now I have the 360 ordered and am waiting for it.”  

Richie fished with the Northeast Kansas Kayak Anglers, winning AOY several times but now fishes a lot of the Moyak tournaments. He likes that the club seems to be growing and is getting some sponsor attention. 

I have caught bigger limits out of a kayak than I ever did in boats. I cover tons of water, cover as much as you can… then slow down. Slow down and get upgrades late in the day… slow down and catch the stubborn fish. A lot of people try to finesse them to feed, I just don’t do the finesse. I am more junk fishing at times; jigs, spinnerbaits and cranking.

I asked if he had any sponsors and he replied that it was just he and his wife. 

I think the attention is lacking for the guys who are not on any big sponsorship. I am kinda a quiet guy, haven’t really done the whole ‘getting on teams’. I’ve just been fishing. A buddy owns a company, I am going to try and do something with him.”  

So, if you’re looking for a solid angler to represent you, consider giving Richie a call.

#6. Dylan Fuqua – Illinois

2019 KBF ANGLR of the Year(5)

I met this young man at the Hobie Open last year.  He and his father had just picked up his kayak and traveled down to fish. They had been fishing on Lake Barkley without success on day one, and I offered some advice. What I didn’t know that day was that he had picked up his kayak swinging a baseball bat. 

Dylan is schooled online but wrestled and played football with a school (“I got tired of being in a cast”); and played travel baseball with one of the best teams in Illinois for over five years, as pitcher and shortstop. His dad had introduced him to the kayak community… he liked “fishing and competing, so you put fishing and kayaking together, I was in!” Dylan wanted a Native Titan 12. His dad told him “hit a home run at your first at-bat, I will get you one”.  Young Mr. Fuqua now fishes out of a Native Titan.  

That determination comes through in conversations with the fifteen-year-old and is evident in his accomplishments this year. He calls the Santee Cooper event his first real KBF tournament; with a 2nd place finish in the trail event and being the first winner on the KBF Pro Tour speaks to how real it has become for Dylan. He also won the Madison Chain tournament, placed 6th on the Mississippi River and followed that up by landing in 10th at the Central region championship.  He now sits in 6th place overall for KBF AOY and will be in La Crosse… well, he has to miss five days of driver education classes (something most of us would not have missed and all he is allowed to miss) in order to attend, but “one of the spots I fished is in-bounds so hopefully there are some good ones there”. 

Though he fished a lot of tournaments without catching limits, Dylan has proven that he can hold his own with the best. Despite that fact, he was not allowed to fish the FLW events because he was not 18, he still came to both events to be around the anglers. He jokingly talked about the events. 

Those are the rules. I kept getting emails saying I was qualified, but they were just teasing… my baseball coach always told me to play against someone better to get better. If you lose, you gotta suck it up and try again later.”  

He is hopeful that there will be a chance for him to fish on the Pro events using what he calls his style; “power finesse” – throwing Texas rigged creatures and ned rigs. 

I like fishing bluff walls, throwing a ned rig, letting it fall and reeling it in… throw it out and reel it in… finesse lures fished fast.

FishUSA talked with Dylan and he is now on their pro-staff, but he credits his dad with being his biggest supporter. 

My dad helped me a lot this year. Getting me to all the tournaments, getting me there on time and helping me pay for things. I love him. It has been a fun year.

#5. Rus Snyders – Tennessee

2019 KBF ANGLR of the Year(6)

Rus Snyders with Steve Owens.

The Tennessee State Kayak Championship was held on October 12-13th on Lake Chickamauga.  93 anglers showed up to fish Friday evening and Saturday with hopes of being crowned the state champion. Rus Snyders took home that honor and now heads to La Crosse to try and establish himself as the AOY for KBF. 

He has had a good year with wins during KBFTN events, a 3rd place finish at Santee Cooper, 13th at Guntersville, 11th at Chickamauga, 3rd at Kentucky Lake (read about KY lake and Rus here), and 4th at Lake Lanier. He was 10 points ahead of Cody Milton for AOY going into the Southeast Regional Championship; Cody finished 4th and Rus landed in 8th, allowing Cody to win AOY. Both guys are now in reach of the top spot.

I have had a pretty consistent year. Ever since getting in a kayak, I have been more consistent; I was not doing that in a bass boat. The difference is, I used to fly down the lake to the next spot, in a kayak, before you say it is not working… you just buckle down and try new techniques, keep an open mind. I didn’t realize until recently that I have been able to get a limit on every single TourneyX event. A lot of this year I was fishing for points, my goal was to get AOY in the southeast. I picked Santee Cooper over the Hobie event to try for points.

Rus is one of the most solid anglers fishing KBF this year, and is known in Tennessee as one of the best-prepared kayakers; going to an event with plans A, B, and C in case something doesn’t pan out. He may not be one of the most recognized anglers in all circles, but that is only because he hasn’t dedicated the time to chasing points until this year.  

This consumes your free time if you chase it. I had fun chasing it this year. I am doing it for fun and to be part of the community… I could be out making money, but I enjoy this… but I have to get back at work soon. I am not certain about committing to next year yet. I am 100% certain that I am doing the National Championship and both Kentucky Lake tournaments; the Hobie and KBF.

Rus is a team member at Hook1 and carries iRod as a sponsor. If you need some power washing done in the Nashville area, give Rus a call or check out his site; If you want to learn from a guy who is capable of finding fish, he also has a guide service; look for Those will most likely need to wait until after La Crosse; he is planning to win it.

#4. Derek Brundle – Massachusetts; 2019 Northeast AOY and Potential Rookie of the Year

2019 KBF ANGLR of the Year(7)

This seems to be the year for new introductions into the top ten for KBF. Derek has only been in a kayak a couple of years, but today he sits in 4th place for AOY and has a 50-point lead over Danny Uribe for rookie of the year. The facilities manager for a social services company in the Boston area had one goal in mind when he started the season; make it to the National Championship. He punched his ticket to that event during the April state challenge, then won the May challenge… then never looked back. 

This is my first year in KBF – it been great, that’s for sure. I have been fishing my whole life but recently got into kayaking and got a chance to get on team NuCanoe. I was fishing local clubs and directing one of the local clubs for NEBassin and just wanted to get into the next level. I wanted to fish the larger-scale tournaments on these larger lakes. I used to fish in a bass boat, but it sat in the yard after I bought the NuCanoe, so I sold it. We even bought a camper so my wife can travel with me to the tournaments.

On the northeast trail, Derek missed the Lake Anna event before starting with a 6th place finish on Lake George where he had an 83-inch limit of smallmouth on his first five casts (then caught 25 more fish from the same spot), this was followed by a 4th place finish at the Chesapeake, then another 4th place finish at Winnipesaukee finished out the trail. At the Northeast Regional Championship, Derek lost to Casey Reed by two inches but sealed the AOY title with the 2nd place finish.

Research (and a black and blue jig) is the key to his success.  

I watch a lot of YouTube, the old FLW and Bassmaster videos, and look to see where they are fishing. I go on google earth and zoom down to eliminate water, using it to get waypoints and to choose where to fish. I pay attention and look for things in the background… then use Google Earth to find them.

This year he concentrated on offshore fishing. His ‘go-to’ now is to find something offshore, the fish will reload and he can keep catching them. The rougher the day, the nastier the weather, the fishing seems to pick up offshore. If he can keep my pursuit out there on the water and upright, he feels like he is in it. He uses a Motor Guide on his kayak to “anchor” and hold the spot.

Derek is a guy who pours his own jigs and says that if he has a box of 100 jigs, 80 of them will be black and blue. When we spoke, he was getting some ready before the 19.5-hour drive to La Crosse.  

My wife is going with me, so we are going to drive straight through to be there by Wednesday.

There are a few sponsors he wanted to mention; Tightlines World Wide, Larry the Lizard custom baits, McCain hi-performance and Thrasher Sports Apparel. He already has plans to attend all of the northeast and mid-Atlantic events for the 2020 season. But for now, La Crosse… then, perhaps the Ten?

#3. Cody Milton – Arkansas; 2019 Southeast AOY, 2018 KBF AOY

2019 KBF ANGLR of the Year(8)

One of the most unassuming anglers you will meet in a kayak, Cody greets you with a smile, and then generously shares the knowledge he has acquired during his time on the trails.  

He also recognizes the skill in others and offers praise to his competition. I had the pleasure of fishing close to Cody a couple of times this year and was a little surprised by how much water he covers during a tournament; picking apart cover, picking apart the competition. And if you get a chance to see him launch and reload his kayak in the “Cody Milton/FishUSA” van… don’t pass it up. But do not underestimate him, this dude can flat catch ‘em.

Last year, he took on the best and before the season ended – before it was announced, everyone knew who had won the 2018 KBF AOY. This year, the field is stacked up and isn’t as clear; but Cody is always a threat to find fish and best the competition. A 4th place finish at Santee Cooper started off the season, then a 6th place finish at Guntersville and 2nd at Chickamauga (read about that win and more about Cody) left him 10 points behind Rus Snyders for AOY. At the Southeast Regional Championship held in Alabama, Rus was 13th and Cody 14th on day one. Day two saw Cody find them and he finished that day three places ahead of Rus; with his total inches enough to finish 4th overall with Rus in 8th. The win sealed his bid for the southeast AOY. Cody also finished 4th in the East-West Harbors event in the northeast region to add points for the KBF AOY. 

He grew up in a fishing family and that may have helped develop his skills, but having talked with him on several occasions, it is easy to see why he is successful. He studies, and studies and then covers a ton of water pre-fishing to test what he found during that study. Not everyone you speak with will discuss the information they gained by talking with local biologists. His success has gained him some recognition, and put him on a few teams; FishUSA, Accent Fishing, BRD jet – kayak wraps, Proangler Hub, Anglr and All Pro Rods.

Since Cody is definitely going to La Crosse, you should keep your eyes on the leaderboard; he is going there to win.

#2. Casey Reed – Virginia

2019 KBF ANGLR of the Year(9)

We are not sure when we first met, we couldn’t remember as we talked, but are certain that we will always remember the day we fished at Bienville in the location where Jeff Fader had crushed them all day during the KBF Tenvitational this year. It was one of those days that defines what our kayak community is about and who we are. (read about that day)

Casey Reed is not a newcomer to KBF. He is one of the guys you might see no matter what corner of the United States there is a tournament; he puts in the miles and the time to be competitive. He first fished KBF the year they began the National Championship and has been fishing since. Last year, he was 11th in AOY points going into the Tenvitational with a shot to make the Ten. In 2019, he mentions as his best year, Casey finished 5th in the southeast event at Santee Cooper, 1st at Lake Anna, 24th at Lake George, 6th at the Chesapeake event, 22nd at the East-West Harbors and finished third in the northeast behind Derek Brundle and Russell Johnson.

I had a few good events and a few crappy events.  I sucked at both of the FLW events, but I did well at the right events. At Lake Anna, I caught over one hundred fish and had a nice limit fishing docks. At the Chesapeake, I fished tidal water for the first time, but there were docks and I was able to scratch out a limit.” 

Sitting in 2nd place going into La Crosse, Casey is doing nothing but planning for the event. 

I want to fish some of the pro events next year, but I am just focused on this year right now… I’ve worn myself thin with work and fishing.” 

And like many of us, he has run out of vacation time. 

I have been begging to be able to hit the next two events, but my boss works with me. They watch the trackers from work and support me. My boss used to tell me if I didn’t finish in the top ten percent, I’d have to buy him lunch.  After a while, the guys started betting among themselves.”  

He will tell you that he is either rigging his kayak, fishing, sleeping, or working at the Liberty University Snowflex Center. “Before I started fishing, I used to snowboard a lot. They built this place in my backyard and I have been there ever since. I was pretty darn good at it, won a little here and there.” 

Casey started in a Pelican sit-in kayak that his girlfriend had bought him for his birthday. It wasn’t long before he was rigging it up with flush mount rod holders, an anchor trolley… then he started seeing other rigs and began upgrading kayaks. He now fishes out of an Old Town Predator PDL and is on their pro-staff, is a member of the Dakota Lithium team and just signed a deal to work with FishUSA.

This guy is hungry for a big win and has the skills to make it happen. Casey will be giving his all to take this one home… his boss may just be buying dinner.

#1. Matthew Scotch – Texas; Texas Region AOY

2019 KBF ANGLR of the Year(10)

Matthew Scotch is one of two Texas anglers in the top ten, but he stood alone this year when it comes to performance.  

It feels that this Culinary School trained chef has definitely made the right choice when he moved to kayak fishing and guiding. In what has been an unprecedented season, Matthew not only dominated the Texas region, he pulled out a 2nd place finish to end with three wins on the KBF trail! 

Where do we start? 

NTXKC events; Lake Lewisville – 2nd, Lake Gilmer – 3rd, Lake Worth – 5th, Ray Hubbard – 1st, Lake Grandbury – 1st.

KBF events; O.H. Ivie – 1st, Ray Roberts – 1st, Toledo Bend – 1st, Sam Rayburn – 2nd, Belton – 5th and then 4th in the Texas regional championship on Lake Fork.

Then we add a tie for second place, 3rd place finish on Lake St. Clair in the Hobie BOS (read more about this and Matthew) event and it all adds up to an incredible year worthy of recognition.  But then in addition to NTXKC AOY and the KBF Texas region AOY, Matthew shows up last weekend to win 1st place in the Lonestar Throwdown.

He was very open about what helped him be able to compete this year. 

This year Texas had a region, so we had the opportunity and I went after it… I got to fish events that were not over 6 hours away. I might fish KBF events, but with the miles to Arkansas for the new regions, I may not be able to do it again. The longer you pre-fish, the farther away… the more money it costs for events… so the traveling has been difficult…. buying fishing licenses, places to stay, food. It is great to have all of these options with Hobie, KBF, NTXKC, and others coming along, but it is still hard to travel. If the prizes were higher when you win, you might be able to afford it, but living farther south and east like Texas, it is just hard. It isn’t financially feasible for most guys to go.

Matthew is on the Hobie Fishing Team, sponsored by NRS, Accent Lures, and Mariner Sails. His guide service, Lonestar Kayak Guide or on Facebook is something to check out, but he feels that it is time for the sport to represent the anglers; showcase those who create the community.

We need to promote the stories from the events. The things that happen, the success of the anglers at the events – get them some opportunities to be able to afford more of the travel and offset some expenses at the same time.

I asked him about his approach to fishing and he seems to have a more philosophical approach to being successful on the water.

Time on the water is so important. I just take it one tournament at a time… like football, baseball or other sports… take it one bass at a time, one tournament at a time. I don’t circle dates on a calendar. I don’t spend time talking about tournaments in the past… I move on to the next… if you talk about the past, you compromise your future. There is no need to gloat, being humble is part of being successful to me. The fish today do not count tomorrow… the experience is important.” 

We talked on his way to La Crosse and he shared some of his thoughts on the event.  

There are things I like about La Crosse, the water being high levels the playing field a bit. I like to think I can pick where fish will be, so I am coming with an open mind – no preconceived notions about what to expect.

Talking with Matthew heading into this event… I’m pretty sure he has a solid plan; a plan to take it all this year.

2019 KBF ANGLR of the Year October Update: Final Thoughts

So there you go, the top guys and a little about them and how they landed at the top of their respective trails. Many guys are already on the water in La Crosse; some of us are at our jobs counting the seconds before we can roll out, some wishing they could make it. A part of me is wishing I had decided to sit on the sidelines and just watch this play out because it is shaping up to be a memorable event! But that isn’t how we are wired once we start doing this – these ten know that… we have to chase it… we have to sleep at ramps and in parking lots if that is what is required to be a part of the kayak tournament family. 

Regardless of your status for this event, follow along… it is shaping up to be an incredible finish to another great season of KBF events. See y’all in Wisconsin.

Hands-On Review of the Feelfree Lure 11.5 Fishing Kayak

Owning a Feelfree Lure as my first fishing kayak is a lot like getting a corvette as your first car. Being a new driver, you really don’t even have the experience necessary to fully appreciate everything that it is capable of. But, that’s the situation I have found myself in and I am very thankful and happy to share it with you. 

In June of 2019, I knew I wanted to get into a kayak and I knew I wanted to get into one that would be able to grow with me as I learned how to fish from a kayak. I did a TON of research and you can read more about my final list of kayaks and the complete selection process in my off the bank series here

The Feelfree Lure 11.5 is an Incredibly Fishingable Kayak

This post is going to provide a brief outline of what I have liked (and disliked) most about my Feelfree Lure 11.5 fishing kayak. I’ve spent three months fishing out of the kayak an average of once a week and I could not be more excited to share this experience with you. 

I am just going to provide a call-out list of my favorite things in no particular order to give you an idea of what has really tickled-my-fancy about this kayak so far. 

Overall, I would not hesitate to recommend this fishing kayak to anyone, no-matter where their angling skill level and experience. It’s a blast to fish from.

What I Love About the Feelfree Lure 11.5 Fishing Kayak

The Wheel in the Keel

The wheel in the keel system that Feelfree has patented is very useful. Simply grab the molded front handle and lift to about waist height and you’re ready to roll.


The wheel is fully engaged and rolls extremely well. I LOVE not having to mess with a taxi or kayak cart of any kind. I simply roll my kayak over to my car. Throw it on top. Drive. Take it off. And roll it to the water. It’s so simple, fast, and easy. I love this feature.

The Seat

First, this is a very comfortable seat and this was important to me when selecting my yak. I planned to spend a lot of time in it. Second, it’s extremely easy to adjust. I’d say it’s the most simple and easy seat to adjust on the market. There’s a small red strap towards the bottom front of the seat that hangs. I simple grab it and pull the seat up or give it a quick yank directly upwards to drop it lower. It’s so easy and simple.

Feelfree Lure

Why does this matter?

Because I love the ability to transition from high to mid to low seat settings throughout my fishing trips.

Why does that matter?

Because if I am in current or in wind, it’s very nice to be able to drop the seat super quickly and have a lower center of gravity and more aerodynamics to efficiently paddle. When I get to a spot I can quickly transition to a higher position for better fishability. It’s just awesome. 

The Appearance

This thing just looks cool. I love the unique desert camo mold that this kayak comes in. It has a nice and flat profile that just looks lean and mean compared to many of the other kayak hulls on the market. There are some very tall profiles out there. This kayak just looks clean, hydrodynamic, and stable. And, it is.

feelfree lure 1)

I simply love how this thing looks.

The Versatile and Removable Center Pod Console

As your on the water it’s very convenient to have this accessible and water sealed pod to keep valuables, chargers, phone, keys, etc. Feelfree has designed this center pod to be very flexible in use. It comes with pre-drilled and sealed holes to run wires for electronics or transducers.

It’s also very easy to remove if you’d like for storing.

I have mounted a Ram Mount X-grip to the top of mine where I keep my phone running the ANGLR app while fishing. I keep a power bank inside the main compartment and run a lightning cable up through their pre-fabricated hole. It works extremely well. I just throw my Iphone on the mount when I hit the water and I am ready to go without having to worry about power. In the future, I can even swap this pod out for the Feelfree pedal drive system. 

Feelfree Lure (2)

The Walkable Deck and Overall Layout

This one is pretty straightforward. There is plenty of room between the seat and where the center pod and elevated bow begin. I can take a few shuffle steps easily for rotating while standing in this boat without running into space issues.

Feelfree Lure (3)

I like how it’s a nice clean and clear area for standing.

I feel everything is where it should be. Rear stern storage is also very well laid-out and I can quickly access tackle and other items with plenty of storage. 

The Stability

This was very important to me as I knew I wanted to be fishing standing up often. I love to power fish and there’s just something about power fishing and covering water that doesn’t feel right sitting down. You get extra visibility for sight fishing as well when you’re standing.

This kayak feels very stable when I am standing. I go from sit to stand in this kayak constantly. Oftentimes I don’t even use anything to stabilize myself when transitioning and stand up completely un-assisted. This kayak handles all my fumbling around on my feet, rotating while standing, rookie hook-sets and all my shenanigans with ease. The hull design is very stable for standing yet it wants to move in the water. I love it.

Feelfree Lure (5)

The Built in Paddle Storage

When you’re done paddling and need somewhere quick and easy to stow your paddle, having a quick and easy place to put it is incredibly important. Think about how often you will switch from paddling to casting and you’ll have a good understanding of why this is.

Feelfree nailed their built in paddle storage.

They placed two built in locations on either side of the kayak where the paddle rests perfectly on a molded perch that is perfectly integrated into their molded handles. You can quickly secure the paddle into this slot with a built in bungee that is easy to fasten with one hand. I use this feature constantly and I have really grown to appreciate the thoughtful design.

Feelfree Lure (6)

The Molded Handles

Now, you don’t really think about handles as one of the big features of your kayak until you try to move said kayak. These things aren’t a powder puff to throw around. They have some girth. After loading this thing on top of my Ford Explorer and then unloading it the first time, I was incredibly grateful for the nice molded style handles that Feelfree provides on all four sides of this kayak. They are solid, convenient, and absolutely essential after hauling this thing around for the past three months.

Feelfree Lure (8)

Lots of Goodies Come Stock

Rod mounts. Adjustable foot pegs. Rear storage bungees. Crate straps. Rod leashes. Seat storage pockets. Tackle box storage inlays and bungees. Paddle management. Handles. Tracking. 

Feelfree Lure (9)

What I Don’t Love About the Feelfree Lure 11.5

Nothing is perfect. After fishing in this boat for the past three months, here’s the things that I’d change if I were Feelfree.

The Seat Upper Back Support Isn’t the Best

The upper seat support seams to hit your back a little bit lower in the lumbar area than it should. It can cause some discomfort after spending six hours or more on the water. Feelfree does sell an upgrade to fix this issue and I will most likely be grabbing the upgrade. 

The Standing Strap

This kayak (and many others on the market) comes with a strap to help you stand from sitting position. It is attached to the deck right in front of the removable pod in the Lure. I found this to be completely unnecessary and it mostly gets in the way. I removed it after the first two uses. Not a big deal at all. Just not something I loved. 

Tracks Need Adapters

Another minor gripe that I have run into was the track system on Feelfree kayaks. They require an adapter in order to use many aftermarket accessories. This was easily fixed with a pack of adapters I got on Amazon, but it would be nice if they were just the standard track size that played nicely with most of the other big players in the aftermarket kayak accessory space. 

Front Bow Storage Cannot Fit Rods

I’d love to be able to store some rods in the sealed front hatch of this kayak, but I haven’t found a way to get them to fit properly. This would be a nice feature when transporting and storing the yak.

Final Warning… 

I have to warn you, if you’re thinking about getting into kayak fishing, it’s very addicting. Especially in a boat like the Feelfree Lure. I have found myself constantly thinking about the next time I can get on the water and where to take the kayak next. It truly is the best anti-depressant and stress-relief I have found. I truly feel free while I am on the water (see what I did there?).

To quote my buddy Shaye Baker…

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

Fish Bump Board | The Top 3 Kayak Measuring Boards

When kayak fishing tournaments started using the Catch, Photo, Release (CPR) format, a consistent and accurate kayak measuring board was needed. In the early days, the main fish bump board used was the Hawg Trough. The Hawg Trough was great; it was light, cheap, and reliable. 

As tournaments progressed and expanded, other options have arrived offering many advantages and differences from their predecessors. While these measuring boards may not seem all that flashy, you can’t win a tournament without them, so take the time to pick out the option that works best for you.

Fish Bump Board #1: Ketch Board

I can still remember getting ready for the 2018 KBF National Championship and seeing the advertisements for the lime green KBF Edition Ketch board. At first, I saw a really expensive Hawg Trough, but after getting my hands on one in person, all of those assumptions went out the window. 

The Ketch Board is KBF and Hobie approved for their tournaments and is one of only a few approved measuring boards for these events. One thing I hear all the time from fellow anglers are comments about the price of the Ketch Board. At first glance, it is expensive. When you consider how many plastic boards you break over the years, it ends up being about two and a half of those and trust me, your Ketch Board isn’t going to break.

Fish Bump Board(1)

The first thing you’ll notice about a Ketch Board is the quality. 

Each Ketch Board is made of milled aluminum, there’s no question that this board is going to last a lifetime. If you’re someone who’s into a specific color, Ketch offers custom colors and engravings allowing anglers to build their own unique design or represent their local club. The quality of the powder coating applied allows great visibility of the measurement lines making the judge’s lives much easier.

Fish Bump Board(2)

Now, with that build quality, comes a less than buoyant product, so be sure to grab a Neverlost Leash to protect your investment. 

Ketch Boards are 100% American made, and if you ever get a chance to chat with some of the folks from Ketch, you’ll know you’re getting the absolute best quality product. Grab yourself a Ketch board, you won’t regret it!

Fish Bump Board #2: YakGear Fish Stik

The YakGear Fish Stik is a natural evolution from the classic Hawg Trough, constructed out of more durable plastic and being able to fold closed to be stowed safely out of the way. A bit of a disclaimer before going on too far about the Fish Stik, be sure to purchase the KBF and KATS approved versions of this product if you plan to use it for fishing tournaments. These boards have darkened markers and numbers making it easier for judges to review fish. 

Fish Bump Board(3)

Another key advantage to this product that should not be understated, it floats!

Fish Bump Board #3: Hawg Trough

The Hawg Trough is an absolute staple of any competitive kayak angler. I would be willing to bet that every kayak angler who competes in tournaments has had a Hawg Trough at one point in time throughout their career. 

Fish Bump Board(4)

The Hawg Trough is a cheap and reliable option for anglers of all levels and can even be customized for additional strength or to help it float in case it finds itself overboard. 

There’s not a whole lot to the Hawg Trough other than its a cheap and reliable measuring board for CPR tournaments.

Hobie Bass Open Series | Hobie BOS 2019 Lake Guntersville Recap

With a feeling that it was as much a gathering of old friends and family as a tournament including many of the top kayak anglers, the final event of the inaugural Hobie BOS season was held at Lake Guntersville on September 21st-22nd. Under the direction of AJ Mcwhorter and Kevin Nakada, with Frank Stapleton helping to keep things flowing, 81 anglers gathered at the Guntersville Town Hall for the captain’s meeting.  

Hobie BOS 2019 Lake Guntersville(1)

Russell Johnson prepping outside of the Guntersville Town Hall.

The competitors were discussing pre-fishing across the 69,000 acres of water that lay between Nickajack and Guntersville Dams, inspecting the new Hobie 360 prototype model and enjoying a barbeque and a cake that was brought out to celebrate Matt Brook’s birthday. Matt is a Hobie team member who had helped to coordinate the event and the crowd sang happy birthday before he welcomed us to the area.  

Hobie BOS 2019 Lake Guntersville(2)

Shortly after, professional bass angler Randy Howell spoke to the crowd about his impressions of kayak tournaments and the camaraderie that is prevalent among our community.  

Randy, like many bass boat anglers, has discovered the beauty and simplicity of our sport and talked about pedaling a Hobie close to his home and maybe one day, joining us in a tournament.  He also offered advice about where the fish might be found on Guntersville, his home lake, and shared stories of his success during the Bassmaster Classic. If you get a chance to hear him speak or share stories, you will find him to be quite down to earth and entertaining.

Hobie BOS 2019 Lake Guntersville: Pre-Fishing

Comments about pre-fishing ranged from “I did alright” (code for smashed ‘em) to “I couldn’t find a fish” to “I was all over them for the last two days, but not today”. Many of the anglers had spent anywhere from three to five days on the water; some had come every weekend for the last month, and all were excited by the possibilities when hitting the water.

Grass seemed to be a key factor and the lures, well, the reports seemed to show that you could throw about anything if you found the fish, but frogs were successful early; chatterbait, spinnerbaits and soft plastics were the next top choices.

Tennessee angler, Steve Owens, had several locations where he had found fish. Matthew Brannon, Jesse Halverson, and several others reported being on schools that were active most of the day; Russell Johnson and Matt Ball had traveled far south and felt they had located some fish – and hoped “they would fire up in the morning”.  Josh Stewart had come to Guntersville, had some gear issues, drove back home, then back to the lake – so he had not been on the water a lot; he was pretty quiet about what he had found but has had success on the lake in the past fishing toward Nickajack.

Hobie BOS 2019 Lake Guntersville: Day One

The water temperatures were a bit lower as the launch time neared, fish were popping across the water and hundreds of bass boats were launching for several local tournaments. Everyone expected to see a lot of traffic, but with kayaks, it is easy to get into places that they will never find accessible on tournament days. Some anglers still reported interactions with boat anglers and losing their spots to guys who could get there first.

Several anglers found success early with topwater baits. I personally had a very sensitive bite that would turn off by nine, so I fished quick and pulled 83.25-inches with a Stanley ribbit frog and a Rapala Skitterpop before the sun killed my bite, and this was true for many anglers.  

Josh Stewart caught them on frogs and senkos as he pulled in 97.5-inches on day one and was leading the crowd with the second-place angler on day one, Alabama angler, Tim Van Polen, was only 4.25-inches behind. Tim had borrowed a kayak, fished his first kayak event, and taught everyone watching that any day can be your day!

Matthew Brannon had planned to catch a limit of bass then move to a ledge. He was fishing in the same area as his wife Amanda. They were throwing spinnerbaits on day one, when it was hung in the grass, he would rip it and the fish would react. His bite turned on later than most, but he found them in a pocket and stayed after them. He was only 2.5-inches behind the second-place angler with a 4-inch lead over fourth place.

After day one, the top twenty were easily within range of the top spots, 32 anglers did not catch a limit and five anglers on the board did not record a fish. But one of the best stories of the day came from an angler who only recorded a single fish.

Hobie BOS 2019 Lake Guntersville(3)

A day-one bright spot!

Glen Landstrom had fished a frog for almost three hours, but there hadn’t been wind in the area he was fishing and the wind was key. A solid twenty-inch fish was the only opportunity, but it missed the frog after blowing up on it.  

“After twenty minutes, I came to terms and moved on. Around noon I figured with the lack of wind and high sun the fish had pushed far back under the pads, so I moved in ever so painfully slow.”  

Then Glen pulled out a 10” ribbon tail in watermelon candy color.  After feeling that the watermelon seemed to blend in with the vegetation just a bit too well in the heavily stained water, he switched to a 10” Okeechobee Craw ribbon tail and tested it by dropping it next to the front hatch.  

“I was standing… yo-yo’d it a few times… in a flash, she came up from the hydrilla and crushed it!”  

The catch, a 23.5-inch fish, was the largest of the event bit while he was testing the visibility of the lure. He thought he had found the winning ticket, and stuck with it over day one and most of day two with nothing to show for it.  

“I should have pulled out and went to search for numbers instead of size, but it is what it is.”  

Glen is a solid angler, if you check out his TourneyX profile you can see that he, like many of us do, just had a bad tournament.  

I was able to ask him a little about what he does when he isn’t fishing, and what got him into kayaking.  

“I own a flooring and remodeling company, self-employed more or less, so it takes all my free time other than the time I spend with my girls. I guess I started about 6-years ago when I lived in Florida fishing the back canals and the big O in a simple Sun Dolphin. I’ve been tournament fishing now for 4 years from a yak. I got into it simply because I sold my bass boat through the move and had to get back on the water. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of help from my fiancé Stacia Meyer procuring some sponsorship from Picasso Lures, K9 fishing line, and”

Hobie BOS 2019 Lake Guntersville: Day Two

On the second day, some anglers who had found fish continued to catch them and others struggled. Josh Stewart ended the day in fifteenth place while Steve Owens and his good friend Ryan Lambert had turned the tables. Ryan had finished eleventh on day one but was tied with Chris Walters and Adam Shepard for third on day two.  

Matthew Brannon was the only angler from the top ten on day one to make that list for day two. He caught fish all day using a Picasso Shock Blade, lipless crankbait and a Zoom Speed worm.  

Steve had been fishing with Chris Walters, and they had a few places to choose from on day two. Chris had pre-fished a small cut off the main river and the fish seemed to move in and out during the day. After day one, Chris was in twelfth place and Steve was thirty-third, but day two saw a big shift for Steve.

They had pulled into that cut and in forty-five minutes, Steve had recorded 82.5-inches after switching to an Owner brand underspin and throwing it in the grass. He and Chris talked about moving, but Chris told him to “stick with it… you might be in this”.  So the two set up a “milk run” and kept rotating through the spot all day.  After going to his truck to cool off, Steve thought they may be down in the grass, so he picked up a Rage Menace and a rod with 12-pound test on it. 

“The 15-pound test I was fishing wouldn’t let it fall into the grass, but the 12 seemed to work better. I flipped it in there and jiggled it and it dropped… next thing I know, I landed a 20.75-incher. I flipped it back in and caught a 17-incher.”  

He said he needed one more good one, and it wasn’t long before he landed a 20.25-incher.

“We were whacking them in front of a bass boat, and it wasn’t long before the boat had pulled up the trolling motor and headed out!”

Steve credited rooming with Rus Snyders and Adam Riser for setting the tone of the tournament.  

“Those guys are great! The atmosphere was just kinda chill, and it made it easier to focus on fishing. I made up my mind that I was going to listen to that little voice telling you what you should do.” 

It worked out for Steve who measured an impressive 98.25-inches.

Hobie BOS 2019 Lake Guntersville: Final Standings

Hobie BOS 2019 Lake Guntersville(4)

The top nine gather around to see how the cards will play out.

Josh Stewart, arguably the best angler on the Tennessee River system, had gone to his location on day one and found Ryan Lambert, Jordan Marshall, and others in bass boats at his chosen location. On day two, other kayak anglers who had pre-fished the area also moved to the same part of Lake Guntersville. He had only found four fish until late in the day and knew that Steve Owens was climbing the leaderboard and was a bit worried. But the Tennessee native is never one to give up and is very meticulous in how he attacks an area and found his fifth fish to hold off the charge from Owens to win the event and punched his ticket to the Hobie Worlds for the second time. 

Steve Owens had moved from thirty-third to second and Matthew Brannon landed third; both winning a berth in the Hobie Tournament of Champions. Clayton Shilling, Eric Thomason,
Ryan Lambert, Chris Walters, Jordan Marshall, Cole Kleffman, Ron Champion, and Kristine Fischer tied to round out the top ten. Five of the top ten coming from Tennessee.  

First Place: Josh Stewart

Hobie BOS 2019 Lake Guntersville(5)

Josh Stewart with AJ Mcwhorter on stage after winning the event.

Set to attend his second Hobie Worlds, in the running to be the only angler to repeat as a member of the Ten in KBF every year, an angler with an incredible list of wins and top finishes across both trails and a pretty cool dude on top of that; there is not much else to say that he doesn’t say every time he launches his Jackson on tournament day. Josh’s dedication to the sport, ability to find fish under the most difficult of conditions and his humble attitude all combine to make him one of the best in the kayak bass fishing world. He is very aware of his abilities on the water but doesn’t seem to let it go to his head and is willing to tell you how it all happens and share some of his techniques.

Sponsors have taken notice – and more should; he is a member of the Jackson Kayak Team, the YakAttack team, and on the pro-staff for Hog Farmer Bait Company and All Pro Rods.  

Second Place: Steve Owens

Hobie BOS 2019 Lake Guntersville(6)

Steve Owens with his second-place check.

A conversation with Steve Owens is easy. He is an extremely open and friendly guy who grew up with his family “a hard baseball throw from each other” along the banks of Nickajack Lake and is very active in the Tennessee kayak community when he isn’t working in maintenance at a concrete plant in Chattanooga; a plant that his grandfather had worked at for many years.    

He was crappie fishing his whole life, but had never really bass fished or been in a kayak when Ryan Lambert started talking about kayaks.  

We rode to Asheville to pick up a kayak… then I started pan fishing out of a kayak. Later, Lambert fished a tournament and told me “man, you have got to get into this!”. 

“So I bought an All-Star rod from Nik Brown who lives down the road from me, bought a Rooster Tail… threw it and caught a 16-inch bass.”  

He decided to fish a Chattanooga Bass Yakkers tournament the next weekend, four and a half years ago and has been kayak fishing since.  

“I don’t know if it is something primal or not, but I enjoy kayak fishing way more than fishing from a boat. It is like bow hunting and I feel like I have conquered something that day. It is more like you are on the fishes level when you catch them from a kayak.”   

After his initial kayak, Owens traded a 1911 Sig for a Jackson Big Rig because he needed something sturdier to fish out of; then realized he needed to get a pedal drive and bought a Native Slayer Propel and has been in a Native ever since.  

He is now on the Native Team and one of the organizers for Native’s Watercraft Tournament of Champions kayak tournament to be held on Lake Guntersville October 5th, on the Hook1 team; and pro-staff for Picasso Lures, Denali rods, Power Team soft plastics, Kayak Kushion, Line Out Custom Tackle, and Dakota Lithium.  

Third Place: Matthew Brannon

Hobie BOS 2019 Lake Guntersville(7)

Matthew Brannon with his third-place check, also held by professional angler, Randy Howell.

Matthew of Charleston, South Carolina is a kayak angler who spends more time on the water than about any of us. He is an electronics technician with the Coast Guard who spends long periods patrolling on a 418-foot national security cutter. He recently made chief and may be moving; potentially affecting his ability to fish tournaments but not to spend time in the outdoors.  

His father, a Navy man who fished semi-professionally, carried Matthew with him chasing the bass fishing trails. He had a radio talk show for a bit, rigged bass boats for people… that is where he got started in bass fishing.

“I was living where Katrina hit and had a couple of boats and fished tournaments. I sold them when I moved to Alaska… then bought a john boat to get on the water… sold it, but needed to get back on the water.”

Matthew was later in Jacksonville and saw some folks fishing from a kayak and figured it would be a fairly inexpensive way to get back on the water.  

“I went to Black Creek Outfitters to demo a Wilderness Systems Ride 135 and was going to get one.  I ran into some Hobie kayakers who convinced me to try one and ended up in a 2009 Hobie PA14.”   

Matthew is now on the Hobie team and on staff for Picasso Lures, River to Sea, Lews, Kistler Rods, Pro-Cure bait scents, Vicious Fishing and a TourneyX ambassador.

Many of you on the kayak trail recognize Matthew and his wife Amanda and can read about their adventures as the Outdoor Power Couple on the blog. Matthew and Amanda, both very active in the kayak community will be at the Worldwide Women’s Fishing Federation’s event on Lake Taneycomo October 10-13th, and Matthew says he is doing some cooking. It appears that registration is closed, but you can reach out to Kristine Fischer, Mel Ashe, or Amanda Brannon for more information.

2019 YakAttack KBF Southeast Regional in Florence, Alabama

The weather, though a bit warm, cooperated to allow kayakers to fish under blue skies with little wind in Alabama last weekend. Three Tennessee River lakes – Wheeler, Wilson, and Pickwick – were in play for the 2019 YakAttack KBF Southeast Regional in Florence, Alabama on September 6-7th for the 52 anglers enrolled. The city along the banks of Wilson and Pickwick lakes was the headquarters for the event and the city welcomed the kayakers at the Florence-Lauderdale Coliseum. At the check-in, Chad Hoover announced this venue will be the site for the 2020 KBF Trail Championship; an event to look forward to next year.

2019 YakAttack KBF Southeast Regional in Florence, Alabama: Pre-Fishing

Pre-fishing reports were all over the place. Many anglers reported catching one or two fish over the course of two days, nothing to really give confidence that there was a solid pattern, while others had found schools by Thursday evening.

Kristine Fischer had considered heading back home after a couple of long days on the water under the Alabama sun. It had taken a toll on her as she spent time searching for fish before settling into a spot that showed promise. I personally had traveled almost twenty miles, fishing three locations, to only land a fourteen-inch fish on Wheeler Lake and was wishing I had opted to watch SEC football from the couch.

Steve Leaman and Ryan Marshall, regulars on the trail, had only found small fish along the banks of Elk Creek; while Mike Elsea, Josh Stewart, Cody Milton, Jimmy Mcclurken, Chuck Mizer, and Adam Riser had found schooling bass. If everyone’s fish held up, it was set up to be an interesting tournament.

2019 YakAttack KBF Southeast Regional in Florence, Alabama: Day One  

2019 YakAttack KBF Southeast Regional in Florence, Alabama(1)

Kris Hummel – Tennessee angler fishing a scum line out of his Native kayak.

Tennessee anglers did well on day one with 5 of the top 10 coming from the state. Kris Hummel ended day one in second place fishing in water over an hour and a half from check-in on Wheeler Lake. He found 88.5-inches by mid-day fishing a Stanley Ribbit Frog across the wood.  He had studied videos and maps for weeks in preparation for the event and knew there was a good chance that this would be a successful pattern on tournament day. Kris had found the fish a week earlier fishing much slower, but soon realized they were more aggressive and wanted the frog swimming to hit it. He found the limit early and hoped the pattern would hold up for day two.

Chuck Mizer, finding schooling fish on the southwest portion of Pickwick Lake, was only a half-inch behind Kris. He had fished the lake several days over the past couple of weeks and had found fish in the grass; toward the backs of bays with topwater and senkos.

Craig Dye, still listed as a Tennessee angler now living in Georgia, was .25-inches behind him.  Craig, the Hook1 pro staff director, is always a threat. Whenever his name is on the list of anglers, you can watch for him to be a contender, and on day one – he was in the running.

Josh Stewart was tied with Craig after day one. He had been throwing a Storm Chug Bug and a frog. He found fish on the frog by fishing over leaves that had collected in the areas he was fishing. Josh had brought his Jackson Bite along because it was a much lighter boat. It allowed him to change locations often during pre-fishing, but the pattern he found was late in the week, so he focused on one area.  

Adam Riser, a Tennessee angler originally from Florence, caught 86.75-inches in a community hole he knew from his time as a kid fishing. He had spent his pre-fishing time riding around the area, and unlike other anglers, didn’t require a GPS. 

“I was just driving around a little distracted from nostalgia and fished some on all three lakes before settling on the spot.” 

He stayed in a small area throwing chatterbait, more specifically, a Jack Hammer, letting it fall to the bottom before jerking it up, then letting it fall again. There were a couple he caught on a Whopper Plopper, but he culled them as the day went on.

Places seven, eight, and nine went to Jared Atwell (an Alabama angler), Mike Elsea (the reigning National Champion from Indiana) and Jamie Dennison (one of the more consistent anglers on the KBF trail, from North Carolina).

Tenth place saw the fifth Tennessee angler, Jimmy Mcclurkan, finish with 84.25-inches of schooling fish. Jimmy found fish in a few locations during pre-fishing, but opted to spend his time chasing a group of schooling fish on the north side of Pickwick Lake. He had a quick 80-inches by throwing a Whopper Plopper over a hole in a grass bed in the back of a bay after watching three Osprey diving into the water to pull bass out of a big school, then pedaling over to them. His original plan had been to fish on the opposite side, but the birds changed his mind.  When the Plopper bite ended, he switched to a wacky rigged senko, but had issues keeping them pinned on day one.  

As the day ended, the Tennessee crew and the other top ten anglers fell short of Kristine Fischer’s impressive 94-inches. She had decided to stick it out after almost falling to heat exhaustion during pre-fishing; and showed the crowd her mettle on day one. Fishing to her strength, Kristine had found the fish and was landing them.

2019 YakAttack KBF Southeast Regional in Florence, Alabama: Day Two

Mike Elsea jumped on top of the board early before ending the day in second place fishing a two to three hundred yard stretch he found on the first day of pre-fishing. He avoided the spot during the rest of his fishing but didn’t get a “warm and fuzzy feeling” about any other spots he tried.  

“On day one, I had lost a solid 100 inches for sure… on a 3/8 ounce SinkeRSwim green pumpkin jig with the same color trailer.”  

He also lost some on topwater when they would hit and jump two or three feet out of the water or too close to the boat.  

“I have never made as many adjustments during tournament days as I did for this tournament… and I never missed any on day two. The fish I lost on day two, one broke off – one pulled off on a jig – and a 6.5-pounder just swam out of the net while I was trying to pick it up in the net!” 

He spoke of the day as one that could have been a record-setting day… he felt he should have blown this one out! 

Cody Milton of Arkansas, the KBF 2018 angler of the year, had been fishing on Pickwick both days. On day one, he had been fishing in sight of Kristine, but by nine in the morning, she had 95-inches and he had one fish on the board. 

“Feeling a little discouraged, I decided I needed to move ramps and just look at something different.”  

He found 80 inches in an hour, then went back to find the big fish and found nothing. All of his fish had come on an Accent buzzbait during day one, but he had only managed fourteenth place. On day two, he started where he had caught all of his fish on day one and had a decent limit in an hour. He found grass patches in the middle of the flat and ended up catching 94.5-inches in about forty minutes on a ⅜-ounce Accent Fishing River special spinnerbait.  Before he was done and in third place on day two, he had caught over 50 fish.

Josh Stewart’s pattern held, and he was fourth on day two. He didn’t catch the numbers of the other competitors, only nine or ten fish each day, and some of those were small coming on a wacky rig; but he found enough to stay at the top.

The other Tennessee anglers all changed positions on the leaderboard. Jimmy Mcclurkan was fifth, Rus Snyders sixth, Adam Riser eighth, and Chuck Mizer was just outside of the top ten in twelfth. Eric Cormack of West Virginia jumped to the top ten as did Larry Wood of South Carolina and Mel Ashe of Missouri.

As had been the case on day one, Kristine Fischer topped the crowd just shy of 100-inches with 99.25!

2019 YakAttack KBF Southeast Regional in Florence, Alabama: When the Dust Settled

2019 YakAttack KBF Southeast Regional in Florence, Alabama(2)

Kristine Fischer had remained consistent and topped the crowd by 11-inches to win the KBF Southeast Regional.  

Her angling abilities continue to impress all who are following the KBF and Hobie events during 2019. See her video recap of the event here and her interview with Scott Beutjer on the Weigh-In after the event. Y’all don’t miss the chance to watch and learn from one of the best anglers on the water; period. Her passion and ability are absolutely inspiring.

Mike Elsea finished second with an impressive showing, followed by Josh Stewart in third and Cody Milton at fourth. It would be difficult to find an event that did not find at least one of these four anglers in the top ten. It is shaping up to be an interesting ANGLR of the Year race!

Immediately behind was a cluster of Tennessee anglers who had been around the top on days one and two. Jimmy Mcclurkan had beaten his day one total by four inches to land in fifth, Adam Riser had used his hometown knowledge to pull a solid sixth place, Chuck Mizer was seventh and Russ Snyders at eighth.  

Alabama native Jared Atwell and Mel Ashe finished outside the top ten.  

The 2020 trail championship is going to be something to look forward to… with the totals caught over the two days; it is definitely going to be a good one!

2019 YakAttack KBF Southeast Regional in Florence, Alabama: A Few of the Anglers

2019 YakAttack KBF Southeast Regional in Florence, Alabama(3)

Mike Elsea of the Indianapolis, Indiana area is having a pretty decent year on the KBF trail. 

Any year you win the National Championship is a great start (or so I assume). But like the majority of kayak anglers, he doesn’t spend all of his time on the water. He is a biologist who works with hogs or consulting for deer and turkey management using his degree in wildlife management. But, he also does some double duty as a fitness trainer. Often his days start at 4:30 in the morning and end at 9:00 P.M.    

Mike wasn’t always a kayak angler. He had been a bass boat tournament guy, but as often happens to us all, “life gets in the way”. After time off the water, his buddy started texting him pictures of bass he caught out of a cheapo kayak. Mike bought one himself, did a bit of pond hopping before realizing he wanted to be all in and bought a Native Titan. 

“It put the fun back into it for me. When I was fishing Bassmaster events and not getting a check, it was getting too stressful.”  

He said that “life happening” was probably one of the best things that happened to him.

It might be surprising to know that he won the 2019 National Championship in his first full year as a kayak angler. He had fished challenges last year; his first “meet up” tournament coming at Toledo Bend last fall. His work ethic is very apparent in conversations with him and sponsors are noticing the young man. He is on the Native, Titan Tungsten and Torqueedo teams. Mike was very quick to credit Torqueedo with contributing to his success on Pickwick and speaks highly of the support he gets from Titan Tungsten.

2019 YakAttack KBF Southeast Regional in Florence, Alabama(4)

Left to right – Mike Elsea, Josh Stewart, Jimmy Mcclurkan (bottom) and Adam Riser 

Jimmy Mcclurkan of Dickson, Tennessee is also a newcomer to KBF and the Hobie trail events.  He fished from 2006 to 2012 as a member of the C & O fishing team, winning a BFL event on Center Hill from a bass boat, before dropping off the trail for a few years. Last August, he bought a Hobie PA14 from Caney Fork Outdoors after watching Chad Hoover on the television late one night. Now, he says, “I love the camaraderie and challenge of it all”. 

“You have to plan different and focus more from a kayak.”  

He isn’t sponsored by anyone but his wife, but is a believer in the Hobie and Ketch products and is hoping to get behind those brands moving forward.

Jimmy is a field operations manager for Batten and Shaw. The company mainly builds hospitals but will branch out from time to time. He started with another company sweeping floors, but when they asked him to move to Florida, he moved to Batten and Shaw; working his way up in the company.  

Adam Riser a former native of Florence, Alabama who lives in the Nashville area spent a lot of time when he was younger across the river playing music with the children of some of the famous Muscle Shoals musicians. He left and headed to California to play punk and hardcore music, “the angry stuff that made parents mad”.  

“I got a chance to live on the beach and play music, so I took the opportunity!”  

He used to surf before injuring his back, then he started fishing ponds in 2012 and got consumed with bass fishing. When he decided to move back to the southeast in 2013, he bought a kayak, found KBFTN and has been fishing since. 

“I got over being on the road with bands, but I get that fix now with the tournament trails… it is my meditation.”  

Rus Snyders and he are friends, and he credits Rus with helping him to learn what is the optimal pre-fishing time for himself. He is a member of the Bonafide team, the YakAttack team, affiliated with Hook1 and a pretty solid angler.

If you want a chance to meet Adam off the water, he works in Nashville on a pedal tavern where his girlfriend Jessica is the bartender. 

“I work from 9:00 A.M. to midnight Friday, Saturday and Sunday… often singing Miley Cyrus with a bunch of bachelorettes!”  

Adam is definitely one of the most interesting guys I have been able to talk with on the trail.

2019 YakAttack KBF Southeast Regional in Florence, Alabama: Day One Standings

2019 YakAttack KBF Southeast Regional in Florence, Alabama(5)

2019 YakAttack KBF Southeast Regional in Florence, Alabama: Day Two Standings

2019 YakAttack KBF Southeast Regional in Florence, Alabama(6)

2019 YakAttack KBF Southeast Regional in Florence, Alabama: Final Standings

2019 YakAttack KBF Southeast Regional in Florence, Alabama(7)

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)

Plans a Kayak Fishing Trip(3)

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.

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.

Planning to Fish a Bass Boat Tournament on Lake Martin(1)

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. 

Planning to Fish a Bass Boat Tournament on Lake Martin(2)

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!

2019 Bassmaster Eastern Open: Oneida Lake Recap

Featured Image Credit: James Overstreet

ANGLR Expert Grae Buck is on cloud 9 right now and rightfully so. Last week in the 2019 Bassmaster Eastern Open on Oneida Lake, Buck punched his ticket to the 2020 Bassmaster Classic to be held on Lake Guntersville. We sat down with Buck to discuss how his event unfolded. 

2019 Bassmaster Eastern Open: Grae’s History on Oneida

I don’t have anywhere to fish around my house. The closest place is the Chesapeake Bay and that’s still an hour and a half away. So I spend most of my time in New York if I’m just fun fishing. I’ve spent a lot of time on Oneida.

I’ve been working on Oneida for the past month. I won the BFL tournament up there at the beginning of August, so I’ve had a little time on the water up there this year and was able to expand on that during practice.

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2019 Bassmaster Eastern Open: Where Did You Target Your Fish?

The water temperature had actually dropped about 10 degrees from that BFL. It was 84-degrees when we were out there at the beginning of August and with these cooler nights it had dropped down to 72-degrees by the end of the tournament. That drop pushed the fish a little shallower. Before they were in the 8-to-12-feet range and now they’re in that 6-to-9-feet range.

Targeting the smallmouth bass on Oneida right now is all about finding where the rock is, and where that rock meets up with grass. That’s what holds the bait and the bait is what keeps all those smallmouth moving in and out of those areas. 

I probably have 300-hours of idle time on Oneida in my life, maybe more. So I have a lot of that rock marked. Once I figure out what depth they’re in and what kind of rock they’re on, I’m able to run that throughout the lake and figure out where they are.

2019 Bassmaster Eastern Open: What Did You Use?

I was throwing a dropshot with a Cornerstone Shimmy Shot in Ghost. It looks just like a shad. I actually changed to that color for the Open from the Tennessee Shad color that I used in the BFL. I was using that to mimic the perch but the shad are starting to push up shallower with this cooler weather, so that color change seemed to help get them to bite better this week. 

I threw a ned rig too to mimic the gobi. That was my one-two combo. They were definitely eating both. I was throwing that on a 1/10-ounce head that Hayabusa just came out with. That’s heavier than what they had before and it really helped me get the bait down because the last two days of that tournament were really windy.

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2019 Bassmaster Eastern Open: How Did the Event Unfold?

That wind kept the fish moving around which is what made it so tough on everybody. I fished different rock sections each day based on the wind. The first day I pulled into an area and caught all my fish except for one that I caught at the very end of the day. 

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That last one was a 4-1/4. Image Credit: James Overstreet

The second day I pulled up to where I caught 4 of my fish on the first day and never had a bite. I went to my second spot where I had caught that 4-1/4 late on day 1. 

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At that spot, I had 17-pounds in the boat by 9 o’clock. Image Credit: James Overstreet

Then on the final day, I pulled into where I had started on the first day and lost a 3-1/2 in the first 10-minutes and picked off 3 little ones just to get something in the livewell. Then, I ran to where I had caught 17-pounds the day before but never had a bite. I admit I was getting a little worried. 

But on the first two days, I had a limit so early that I was able to run around and practice to try to find some new water. There was one area that I found where my co-angler caught 3 on day 2 on a ned rig. I went in there and was able to pick them off throughout the day. Towards the end of the day, I culled twice and lost another one about 3-½ pounds. 

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I thought that was going to be the one that cost me the Classic birth, but fortunately, it did not. Image Credit: James Overstreet

2019 Bassmaster Eastern Open: The ANGLR Advantage

Using the ANGLR app, I was able to look back at my data from the BFL this year and last year. Those fish move around so much depending on the wind, so I was able to use the wind data information from past trips to get dialed in and stay on top of the fish throughout the tournament. 

2019 Bassmaster Eastern Open: Grae Buck’s Gear 


Rod: Dobyns 703 Champion Extreme Drop Shot Rod

Reel: Ardent C-Force 3000 

Mainline: 18-pound Ardent Gliss Monotex Yellow 

Leader: 8-pound Seaguar Tatsu  

Hook: Hayabusu DSR132 size 2

Bait: Cornerstone Shimmy Shot

Ned Rig:

Rod: Dobyns 722 Xtasy 

Reel: Ardent C-Force 3000 

Mainline: 18-pound Ardent Gliss Monotex Yellow 

Leader: 8-pound Seaguar Tatsu  

Bait: TRD in Green Pumpkin or The Deal

Hook: 1/10-ounce Hayabusa