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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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 

Dropshot:

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 

2019 White River Hobie BOS Satellite Event Recap

On August 24, 2019, around 95 kayak anglers from six different states descended upon the Hoosier capital to battle it out for smallmouth glory on the White River. This was a doubleheader tournament with Indiana Kayak Anglers hosting their final trail event and a Hobie Bass Open Series Satellite event. 35 anglers (many fishing both events) would enter the Hobie event in hopes of winning the coveted Tournament of Champions paid entry. The TOC is arguably the most prestigious event in kayak bass fishing with the open series qualifying 50 of the best anglers in the country to duke it out for large cash purse and the final North American Hobie Fishing Worlds team spot.

White River Hobie BOS Satellite Event: Participation Skyrockets

This event has become Indiana’s must-attend kayak tournament. Growing in number every year and with the draw of the Hobie Satellite, tournament directors opened the boundaries to include more of the river than in years past, offering up new water to explore. The level of participation this year would set the record for a kayak tournament in the state, beating last season’s dink fest battle at West Boggs where 87 anglers caught well over 500 fish. 

“The White River event has consistently been a top event for us, which is why we keep it on our schedule year after year. However, I never would have dreamed we would draw this kind of participation” states Jason Young, tournament director for IKA. 

“From the directors’ perspective, it definitely makes us feel good about what we were able to put together this year and that so many people were willing to fish with us on this day. It’s also a little bittersweet knowing that our tournament season is almost over with only our Championship and the Crossroads Kayak Bass Team Classic left, both invitation-only events.”

White River Hobie BOS Satellite Event: Pre-Fishing

Tournament director Jason Young had been receiving numerous reports from anglers almost two weeks in advance of the tournament. The river was fishing great and the veterans of this ‘must not miss’ yearly event were anticipating 95-inches to win. One of those anglers, Cole Garland, opted for a last-minute approach, arriving at a section of the river on Friday night. 

“I decided to check out a stretch of the river that I wasn’t planning on fishing on Saturday” he told me. “I just wanted to see what was going on. Fish some, note the conditions, and just kind of see how the fish were reacting to certain lures.  I ended up finding a nice pattern quickly, and I think the best fish I caught was around 18”. My goal wasn’t to catch a giant or a lot of fish though so that 18″ was enough for me.”

Local smallmouth expert, Wilderness Systems fishing team member, and host of the Smallie Talk podcast, Josh Chrenko spent most of the month leading up to the event on the river, hoping to break down the river and dial in a pattern to defend his home waters. 

“My main goal was to decide where I would spend the tournament fishing. Checking out stretches that I don’t fish near as often and eliminating them one by one” he explained. “Things like substrate, the average size of fish, and predicted traffic were my main concerns. I didn’t start trying to pattern fish until the week of the tournament. I fished twice that week, with varying success, but I had confidence heading into tournament day. My biggest fish while practicing capped out around 19-inches.”

Jason Robbins also found success during his tournament preparations from his Hobie Pro Angler. 

“During pre-fishing, I struggled a bit for part of the day but when I found out what they wanted I knew I was fishing a good stretch of river. The biggest smallmouth I caught pre-fishing was 18 ¾-inches.”

That strategy of finding one good fish on a run was enough for most anglers that were able to get some fishing in ahead of time. 

“Pre-fishing was honestly the best I’ve had in a long time. Aidan Darlington (float mate and 2017 winner of this event) and I want to take one test run on the stretch of river one week before the tournament” explains Nick Matthews. “It was a little bit of a fast walkthrough because we didn’t launch until 6:00 PM and it was a long stretch. All in all, I caught a 19-inch bass and that’s all that I needed to see to fish that stretch of river on tournament day.”

White River Hobie BOS Satellite Event: River Fishing Preparations

The river is a constant reminder that gear security is key, using tethers like those from Neverlost Gear. At the ramp I fished, one angler lost a rod and reel combo before even getting fully launched. Another angler, Lito Wulliman lost one during his pre-fishing. Cole Garland lost a combo as well during the tournament. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be the end of Lito’s pre-tournament bad luck. While prepping his kayak tournament morning he would take a Whopper Plopper hook to the knuckle. Given the situation and the placement of the hook we deemed it best to just push the hook through the knuckle and clip that barb, yours truly had the honors of performing the “surgery”.

White River Hobie BOS Satellite Event: Tournament Breakdown

With over 52 miles of river in-play, anglers would need to be very strategic in their plans. In some areas, you could only run upstream or downstream about a mile, so hitting multiple spots was one strategy. Working with a float partner(s) was another way to tackle the longer runs. The last strategy was to put in just above a dam and head as far upstream as you could and float back down. Also playing into the strategy was ensuring ample time to return to tournament HQ at Sun Valley Sports, and with Indianapolis construction, giving yourself enough time was vital.

The leaderboard would almost immediately begin lighting up with many 16 to 18-inch fish caught within the first 20-minutes. Glenn Landstrom would submit one of the earliest fish coming just two minutes into the tournament, a very nice 18.25-incher. Glenn would be one of the first to fill a limit as well and set atop the leaderboard for most of the day.

Cole’s day started out with frustration, missing many quality fish. 

“I started out catching fish right away, and my plan looked to be holding up. The pattern was what I expected, and I was feeling great about my chances. I started having a big issue though. I couldn’t keep a fish hooked! Little fish or big fish, they were spitting my lure out one after another. Several of them were nice keepers. I couldn’t figure out why though, everything should have been right, from the rod and reel to the line, to the hook and hook set. Everything. So, I decided to switch rods, switch hooks, and once I made that adjustment I didn’t have any problems. It just took me longer to adjust then it should have.”

It would be a bit of an early grind but he would eventually hook into the big bass of the day at 20.5-inches. Once he landed that fish, he started to feel pretty good about his pattern.

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The big bass of the tournament, a beautiful Indiana smallmouth.

Chrenko, who has finished in the top 5 every year since this event started, was a favorite going into the event. His knowledge of this water and the smallmouth that inhabit it makes him a threat at any river tournament. 

“I started out on tournament day fishing the middle of the water column with a fluke. My observations from practice on Friday had shown the topwater bite that I had been on seemed to have died due to a cold front moving in. I was on a semi-consistent bite with the fluke, but not the quality I was expecting. After a quick limit of 14-16-inch fish, I decided to try topwater out since that had been the predominant pattern before the front moved in. It wasn’t but about 5 casts in and I had a solid 16.25-inch smallmouth swallow my lure whole. A couple of casts later I had another nice fish, and that was about 10:00 AM.” 

Josh would continue using that same topwater approach the rest of the day. 

“The stretch I was on wasn’t known as a “trophy” stretch, but I knew there was a ton of quality fish with Alpha’s mixed in. I spent the rest of the day trying to cover as much new water as possible, targeting areas where the current was substantial, had good substrate, and specifically looked for mid-river boulders that were creating slack water behind them. I slowly but surely upgraded my limit to 87.25-inches with the last 16.5-incher being caught with about 30-minutes left, giving me a .25-inch upgrade.” 

One key fish would be the difference between the win and second place though. 

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“All in all, I had a great showing. I caught around 60-65 fish with the only mistake being a 19 to 20-inch fish that was lost right at the boat. I had a clue this fish would be there as I had seen it in the area a few days prior. It ended up being a mistake that ultimately cost me first place.”

Nick Matthew’s also found success within the first few hours of the day but would need to make a key adjustment. 

“Tournament day started off pretty well catching a 19-inch smallmouth within the first hour. However, that one fish led me down the wrong path” he attests. “I fished the with that bait until about 11:00 AM in which I didn’t have even a second fish. Then with one bait change the outcome of my tournament changed, I started to catch fish after fish and culled 2 times.”

Josh Robbins continued his pre-fishing success, picking up right where he left off. 

“I caught all my keepers before noon. I struggled the rest of the day to make any upgrades.” 

Josh would end up with 84.5-inches including a 15.75-incher that would have put him in contention for the win had he found that kicker fish.

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Josh’s big fish was 18.25-inches.

White River Hobie BOS Satellite Event: Event Wrap-Up at Tournament HQ

Anglers were treated to loaded burritos, chips, and dips upon return to Sun Valley Sports. The food they provided for the anglers was a welcome respite after a hard day of fishing. Stories of the day began to circulate amongst anglers, and many caught up with old friends. The camaraderie of the kayak fishing community is unmatched in my opinion. The top anglers waited with anticipation for their names to be called and hoped to claim the top spot and the prestigious invite to the TOC. After a few door prize giveaways from Hobie, directors Jason and Jim Orr began to call out the Top 9 for the IKA Event.

With a final limit of 88.5-inches, Cole Garland would go on to win the IKA event. Josh Chrenko would take 2nd with Nick Matthews rounding out the Top 3. These 3 would nearly repeat for the Hobie satellite with one caveat. Nick Matthews opted not to enter the event leaving the door open for Josh Robbins to round out the top 3.

This double win checked off a lot of goals for Garland this season. 

“This win was without a doubt as good of a win as I possibly could have had this year. With it being a Hobie BOS Satellite Event ran in parallel with the IKA, and having the ability to finally qualify for the Hobie TOC, the KBF National Championship, and the IKA Championship, it was the one circled on my list.”

Cole would take home around $3000 for his double win and big bass. He will join Jim and Jaxton Orr, representing Indiana, at the TOC in November on Lake Ouachita. His winning baits included a Rapala Shadow Rap and a Keitech Swing FAT impact swimbait.

White River Hobie BOS Satellite Event: The Winner’s Wild Day

After landing his 20.5-inches, the stretch of river Cole was fishing slowed way down. 

“I couldn’t find any good fish. I could only catch dinks for a few hours and they absolutely destroyed the lure I was using. So much, that I ran out of the color that they were chewing on. Also, at that time I had two 12″ dinks as my short fish.”

If catching dink after dink for a couple of hours wasn’t frustrating enough, getting summoned to the bank by a conservation officer to check his license and losing out on at least twenty casts really set the mood. Cole would get right back to fishing and find more dinks. He made a key move late in the day that would pay off. 

“I found a few spots that I knew had to hold fish. Fished the first spot, and nothing. By that time, it was 2:30, and that’s when the big “uh oh” feeling set in. Once I rolled up to the next spot though everything changed.”

The next 24-minutes would seal the deal for Cole, finally being able to cull out his two 12” fish. 

“I flipped up into that next spot and BAM, a fish bit right away. It wasn’t the type of bass I wanted though… it was a white bass. But it got me a little excited. The next cast brought a smallmouth, but a small one. I flipped-up there again, and get another bite right away. This time, it was a nice fish. The size that I expected to be in there. This one ended up being a 17.5-inch fish and I snapped the pic with around 20-minutes to go. Ten minutes went by, and I had thought about pedaling down a little further as there were a few more decent areas, but I just held my spot. There had to be more fish.”

His instinct would pay off. The old saying is you don’t leave fish to find fish and sticking to that mentality would fill Cole’s wallet and punch his ticket to the TOC. 

“I flipped back in there again and another one bit! I could tell this one was a better fish. My nerves started to kick, and I knew I needed this one just to be in contention. I ended up fighting that fish for such a long time, finally got him close, grabbed my net but it got caught up. The fish decided to take another run and peeled off some drag and then dug himself into some weeds where I couldn’t even see him. He was close to the yak, and I knew he was still on, but no dice.”

As mentioned early, using tethers to prevent lost gear is necessary on the rivers, however, sometimes it might just get in the way a bit. 

“I hook up my net to a decently long rope and a carabiner to clip it to my kayak so I don’t lose it if it ever falls out. This was causing the net to get caught up” he explained. “I took my eyes off the line quickly and unhooked it. Switched the rod to my left hand and put the net in my right. Stood up, and at this point, I finally could see maybe a 1/4 of the fish. I just went for it and reached as far as I could.  Scooped a bunch of grass and somehow the fish was in there too. Snapped the pic and submitted it with 6 minutes left.” 

Those 2 upgrades would bump him up 11.25”, the difference between first and seventeenth.

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This 18-inch smallmouth would give Cole his final cull, and a big one at that, upping his overall by six-inches.

Cole reflects, “running out of the lure of choice, getting checked by a C.O., losing a rod and reel, having a guide break on another rod, and splitting both Hobie fins made this win even more special.”

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White River Hobie BOS Satellite Event: Final Thoughts

“Without a doubt, the key to our organization’s success is the anglers in Indiana. We put together the events, but without the regular anglers and their enthusiasm drawing in more and more people to the sport, growth would be non-existent” acknowledges Young. “It’s said so often that it’s almost a cliché, but these tournaments are about competition AND camaraderie, about the people as much as the fishing, and that’s what brings more people to each event.” When I asked if he would want to host another national exposure event like the Hobie satellite he did not hesitate. “We may not have world-class fisheries like Guntersville or St. Clair, but we’d love another opportunity to host a world-class event.”

Kayak Fishing Review: Touching Base After One Month in a Kayak

It’s been about a month since I finally jumped headfirst into a kayak. I thought it would be good to talk a little about where my heads at and how kayak fishing has measured up to my expectations so far, so without further ado, here’s my kayak fishing review.

Kayak Fishing Review: My Transition to a Kayak

I bought my first kayak and made my maiden voyage on July 21, 2019. I wasn’t in a very good boat, so I was hurting after a few hours but I had a blast. My first impressions of fishing for bass from a kayak were certainly mixed after that trip. Let’s just say I’m glad I waited a month to write my kayak fishing review!

But what I soon experienced was one of the things I had heard the most about kayak fishing, the camaraderie. I received dozens of messages from different anglers about their experiences and setups. However, it wasn’t the same chatter I’d usually hear in the bass boat world where someone would try to convince me to buy something because they were sponsored by them and got a deal for 10% off. It was way more genuine. 

“I have found that this works best for me.” 

“Let me know how it goes or if you find something better.” 

Anytime I asked a question, the kayak community would answer. And often I wouldn’t even have to ask and I would receive tips that quickly improved my experience in a kayak. It’s a whole other world from a big fiberglass boat and there’s certainly a learning curve. I think that’s what I have found to be so appealing about it. The challenge has made it so rewarding. 

Kayak Fishing Review: Why I Left My Bass Boat

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I’ve done about all there is to do from a 20-foot fiberglass boat short of fishing one of the top national tours. 

For years that was the only thing in fishing that had any allure to me. I even made it as far last year as to purchase a brand new loaded Ranger with an MSRP of $96,000 just to get priority entry into the FLW Tour. But I was unable to come up with the $35,000 for the entry fees. Much less the expenses that would come along the way fishing the Tour which would likely exceed another $30,000. 

So taking into consideration my $900/month boat payment and $140/month in boat insurance (no I’m not exaggerating), I was looking at having to work 20 weekends in exchange for 8 weeks off and put up roughly $77,480 to fish the Tour for one year. Say I had an unbelievably fantastic year on the Tour and finished 11th out of 170 boats in every single tournament. I would have “made” $77,000 ………………….. let that sink in. 

So last fall, when I finally accepted the impossibility of it all, I sold my Ranger and got pretty down on the whole sport of bass fishing. I was that close to finally reaching my lifelong dream of fishing a national tour. A dream I was sold as a child and have chased all my life. The only thing in the fishing industry that lit any kind of fire under me anymore. All of that was gone. 

So now what? 

Even as I write this I understand that these are all first-world problems. That’s not lost on me. I didn’t get to fish for a living. So what. Much less than 1% of those who try to, get to. I still had a house and a nice truck and never had to worry about my next meal. I was doing better than most in the grand scheme of things.

But I was still very frustrated. I decided to dump all my energy into fishing locally and trying to become dominate enough to actually make money around the house. Very few have done that over the years but I thought, maybe I can do that. So, I bought a 2011 Nitro with an Ultrex and hydraulic jack plate and added two basic Power-Poles and my Panoptix that I kept off the Ranger when it sold. I had a boat with all the tools that I needed to feel confident competing against anyone and I was all in for about 1/4 of what that Ranger was listed for. 

So I had made a good decision. I was being responsible and reasonable right? I fished as many local tournaments as I could through the course of the spring and then into the summer with little night derbies around the house. I think dad and I finished second in one and won another tournament in the spring. I won a few night derbies alone and we won a few together. I didn’t have the guts to keep up with the exact numbers but I feel like at best I probably broke even on what I was spending to do it.

 I do recall a stint in the night derbies where I won $600 one night and then barely missed winning the next one, lost a good fish in the next one that would have won the tournament and big fish and then bombed in the next one. So I was within just a couple ounces and one bad jump from being up a grand. Instead, after four entry fees of $30 to $60 each, boat and truck gas and oil, I was back to even from the $600 I won at the first of the month. And that’s not taking into consideration the $350/month boat payment or the $72/month insurance payment.

Kayak Fishing Review: My First Kayak

So on July 21st, I was sitting around with all this running through my head. I had only fished 3 or 4 times in July. Each time in a tournament. I hadn’t cashed any checks. I was already in for around a $1,000 bucks for the month when you factor in the boat payment, gas, oil, and insurance. 

And I had only been fishing a few times. Each of those nights filled with frustrations. Fishing was no longer my sanctuary. It was a job. And one I wasn’t even making money at. I no longer enjoyed it. I just pitched fits when I lost fish. I didn’t look around and appreciate how fortunate I was to be fishing with my dad. I didn’t talk to God on the water anymore. I was burnt out. 

Fishing had nothing else in store for me… or so I thought.

Kayak Fishing Review(2)

Then enters a $300 chunk of backbreaking plastic known as Tea Cup that I couldn’t be more thankful for. For those of you who have never met Tea Cup, that’s the name my mother affectionately tossed at the Sun Dolphin Journey 12 SS that I bought at Tractor Supply that day. You sit down really low in that boat and it is brutal to fish out of for a 5’ 11”, 32-year-old man in the 250-pound range. 

But I had a ball in it. I fished from it 6 out of the first 7 days I had it. The first fish I caught out of Tea Cup was about a 2-pound spot. That fish turned my boat around and threw water all over me and put up one heck of a fight. It’s weird and silly, I know, but something just came over me when I put that first fish in the kayak. From a big bass boat, I would carelessly discard 2-pounders with a little backhand toss out of the side of the boat and more of a “next” mentality.

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I found myself just looking at that fish… proud of it. Thankful for it. 

So often we hear that it’s not the destination, but the journey. I think that is so true in both the little picture and the bigger picture. Each successful catch is essentially a destination. All the work that goes into catching that bass, the journey. All that effort to me is what makes catching a bass in a kayak so special. As for the bigger picture, fishing out of a kayak wouldn’t be half as appealing to me or as satisfying if it weren’t for all the ups and downs I’ve experienced in bass fishing as a whole over the last year. That journey has made this destination truly spectacular. 

I don’t know if kayak fishing will be the end all be all for me, or if it will just be a season in my life. And I don’t honestly care. I think I fished out of a kayak 15 or 16 times this month. And for the first time in a very long time, I enjoy fishing again and I’m not just focused on catching and winning.

Kayak Fishing Review: My First Month in Review

I have introduced my dad to kayak fishing and we had a ball catching 12-inchers in a farm pond. We are already planning trips to ponds he hasn’t fished since he was a kid and a camping trip on the creek like we used to do when I was a teenager. 

I’ve spent a day on the water with two wounded warriors from Denmark that I’ll always remember. 

I got to know a guy named Scott Beutjer through kayak fishing where I see a long and fruitful friendship and possibly even business partnership with. 

I won a local pot tournament against 5 bass boats out of a Bonafide Kayak SS127 that I borrowed from Scott. That was one of the coolest moments of my fishing career.

I also bombed in two other night tournaments out of it and still had more fun and lost less money than I did some nights when I’d cash a check out of a big boat. 

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I took my 81-year-old buddy Neal Webster out in a kayak for the first time and listened to stories from his childhood fishing out of a washtub in the middle of an inflated tractor tube and his days in the Marines standing shoulder to shoulder with 5,000 soldiers on transport ships.

Kayak fishing has also gotten my creative juices flowing again and I’ve built a Livewell system to fit in the back of a kayak. I will have a DIY article up soon on how you can build your own. I’m even considering building a few and selling them. If anyone is interested, feel free to message me on my Instagram

All of that has happened in my first month in a kayak. 

Meanwhile my Nitro has essentially turned into a giant tackle box and hasn’t left the shop. I’m even strongly considering putting it up for sale. Luckily my dad has a 2002 Ranger that we can fish team tournaments out of and I can always buy another big boat down the road if I want to. Currently, though it’s just a $422/month obstacle to walk around. 

So a lot has gone on in a month. I’m excited to see where the coming months take me. It’s just a matter of time before I venture into the actual kayak tournament scene. I’ve already thought about the coming winter months when I will be hesitant to fish from a kayak around here due to the cold water. But if I sell the boat I can use that money to take some trips down to Florida. One of the things that I can’t wait to do is tie into an 8-pounder punching in a kayak. That’s going to be epic. 

So for me, kayak fishing has been re-invigorating and so rewarding. It has far exceeded my expectations and put me on a new path in the fishing industry to find my place and my community. My only regret is not having taken the dozens of people seriously over the years who tried to tell me what kayak fishing was like. It’s just one of those things that’s hard to adequately describe. 

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

2019 DeeZee FLW/KBF Cup Presented by YakAttack at Lake Ouachita Recap

Seventy-two anglers from twenty-two states arrived at the Bank OZK Arena in Hot Springs, Arkansas on August 8th, 2019 to attend the first ever KBF/FLW Cup event on Lake Oauchita. It was an event long in the making; a collaboration between KBF and FLW that is sure to elevate the professional side of kayak fishing while exposing a larger audience to kayak bass fishing tournaments. With DeeZee and YakAttack continuing their support of the KBF events, even the dinner and captains meeting had a feel of something bigger than any of the anglers had experienced. FLW leadership started off the event with encouraging words followed by Matt Ball leading everyone in prayer; we knew things were different long before we entered the arena after day one.

Lake Oauchita is Arkansas’ largest lake with a little over 40,000 acres of water. We found it to be a beautiful lake with rivers, creeks, ledges, submerged timber; basically a little something for everyone’s style of fishing, but rumors were that the lake could be a challenge. Arkansas kayak angler, Garrett Morgan, lists it as his brother’s favorite lake, but one they “give (him) a hard time about” because he would rather fish anywhere else. The limits were expected to be tough, and the length of those limits to be on the short side.

2019 FLW/KBF Cup: Pre-fishing Lake Oauchita

At the dinner, pre-fishing reports were all over the place. Now everyone knows that anglers can withhold a bit of information, tell a “fish lie” or two if you will, but the looks on several of the anglers faces revealed what most of us had found; the bite was not easy for everyone. The patterns, if you had one, were all over the place and the fish seemed to be piled up in locations or scattered to non-existent in others.

Georgia angler Clint Henderson had found a school that he felt held hundreds of good size bass.  He had visited the site several times during the three days he was on the water before the tournament to find the fish still there, and no other anglers except his traveling partner Jim Ware. The two had high hopes for the two days ahead. 

Casey Reed had found the pair on a spot somewhere around the southwest end of the lake he was betting to be the one, but they told him they had other fish. We stood talking about the school they were sitting on offshore, he was watching and hoping they didn’t catch any; myself certain that I was just riding around and enjoying the lake by that point.

AJ Mcwhorter on the other hand was fishing out of the new Hobie 360 on the west end of the lake and had no idea what the tournament would bring. Using the 360’s added control, he was able to position the boat in new ways that allowed for more accurate presentations. 

“That boat has me spoiled already. I was fishing in tight areas, and the fish I caught were holding in even tighter areas where making the perfect cast was critical…this boat allowed me to make subtle adjustments and stay put.”  

But he also noted that the fish kept changing; he found them on topwater over wood, then plastic over the same wood, then no fish at all.  

Dwain Batey, an Arkansas native who had never fished the lake, covered three areas looking for fish. He found them at his first launch and after moving through the other areas, decided that the first just felt better. He wasn’t sure it was as productive a spot as he needed, but it was the best he had found during the three days prior to the tournament. 

“Sometimes you pick the lesser of two evils!”

Ohio angler George Nemeth, like myself, was on the northeast shores of the lake. We had found the fish eating about anything, about everywhere, but they were small. Seventy-five inches was our expectation after covering miles of water and while we felt confident that it would happen, there was not a real pattern to the fish. Shallow and deep, schooling for a bit, standing and submerged timber… all had fish, but ours were scattered.

Cory Dreyer said he had only found a few fish over his pre-fishing time, while fellow Carolina anglers Henry Veggian and Shelly Efird had found a school that held great promise. The pair returned to the spot on another day and searched the area hoping to find a backup spot, and it was there too. Arlie Minton, who was staying with the group felt he was in the same boat with George and myself; rolling the dice.

I met Josh Stewart out running from ramp to ramp as I tried to maximize the one day of practice I had and test the three ramps I had selected. He had found some fish on the main lake, but wasn’t sure it was going to be enough to win; a statement heard again and again on Oauchita.  At the dinner table, a couple of guys admitted they were struggling too.

It seemed that this was going to be a tournament of limits. Anglers who could pull five fish on two days, regardless of size, were capable of bringing home the win.

2019 FLW/KBF Cup: Day One Kicks Off

The anglers who had found fish on previous days, caught their fish, but the top ten on day one had a few surprises. There were favorites who landed well out of the top, while some of the names familiar to those who follow KBF or kayak fishing in general were at the top… Matt Ball – the first National Champion, Mike Elsea – the reigning champ, Drew Gregory – a highly recognized angler who is always in the mix,  and AJ Mcwhorter – tournament director for the Hobie BOS had crossed the line at the top.

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Eric Jackson, FLW angler from Tennessee and owner of Jackson Kayaks in Sparta, was one of the names that wasn’t on the unofficial list of favorites, but he had been sight fishing in shallow water and turned in an incredibly impressive 97.25-inches to lead the tournament when the dust had settled. He covered a lot of water to get to his location, but it proved to be the ticket for the former world champion kayaker.  

Dustin Murguia of Illinois was the second closest competitor while reporting the bite to be “ridiculously tough”.  

In third, six inches behind Eric, Clint Henderson’s 81.25-inches was a pretty impressive showing.  He had lost a 20 plus inch fish on topwater that would have pushed him very close to the lead but the majority of his bass had come dragging a creature bait in fifteen foot of water across a river ledge. When I asked him what brand, he repeated creature bait… I feel like there is something special that he didn’t want to share, but it was working for him and if it was me, I would be a bit quiet about it too since he is heading back to the lake for the Hobie TOC.

Garrett Morgan, in spite of his dislike for the lake had spent time on fish he had found a couple months prior. He knew the water was dropping fast, and had been for quite some time. He was fishing from a very remote ramp where he thought no one else would show up and targeting deep fish. 

“The folks running the banks could do ok, but if you had seen this lake two months ago, you would know they had been pulled out into deeper pockets.”  

He and Mark Pendergraf (someone did show up to the same ramp) found success throwing swimbaits with under spins into schooling fish.  “If they stopped schooling, we kept throwing in the area…letting the bait fall into 20 or 30-foot of water, then twitch it.”  There were even a few fish that came on Alabama rigs.

Shelly Efird and Henry Veggian hadn’t lost their fish either. Shelly had earned the final spot in the top ten and Henry had landed just outside with 75.25-inches fishing on the south side of the lake. The pair had read an article with Cody Milton talking about rivers and brush piles being the main targets for the event, but felt that picking fish out of brush piles was too inefficient. 

Their pre-fishing had found what Henry described as an anomaly in the lake; “like Poe’s Purloined Letter… where you easily overlook the obvious; the answer is right in front of you.”  

They primarily found success in 8 to 10-feet of water with white Bombers and a lure Henry tossed in the box at the last minute; a Rapala X-Rap in a purple shad color. “I just had a gut feeling and brought it with me.”

2019 FLW/KBF Cup: Day Two

The day two leaderboard had a few familiar names, but many had not found the same quality of fish from day one.  It was also obvious that many who had crushed them on day one, had struggled on day two. Eric Jackson had fallen to the difficulty of Lake Oauchita and only recorded three fish, Mike Elsea, Larry Wood and many others had not been able to record a limit.

Dwain Batey, an Arkansas native, had turned it around with 84.25-inches and became the leader of day two after being 17th on day one. Dwain covered miles of water (followed by the Ketch film crew) fishing the backs of creeks pulling a Skirmish Baits Pendragon (which he had painted himself) and a buzzbait across sparse grass. He hadn’t found schooling fish, or spots with large stacks like Clint, but in a half mile spot he found three of the 6 keepers he caught on day two; his first five being the fish that moved him into the day two leader position.

Guillermo Gonzalez, a Texas angler whose name is always among the favorites for any event, was second. He had only recorded three fish on day one, so he figured something out on Oauchita that worked on Saturday. Arlie Minton was also one of the anglers who found them on day two after struggling on day one. He too had only found three fish, then turned it around with an impressive 77.5-inches after moving to shallower water and finding them on topwater.  They were not the only ones who made adjustments. Jamie Dennison, a very familiar name to the KBF trails, had figured them out, as did Marc Coats who crushed schooling fish and literally had a limit in minutes.  

Most anglers reported the same patterns and techniques were producing for them; with smaller limits and it was harder to get them to bite. The area I had been fishing was noticeably shallower for day two, so the anglers running the banks suffered a bit, and those who had not found large schools or back-up plans fell behind.  

2019 FLW/KBF Cup: Two Day Totals

Day one leader and owner of Jackson kayaks, Eric Jackson had finished in fifth place. AJ Mcwhorter, an independent sales rep for Hobie and a fishing team member, had climbed to fourth.

Arkansas native Garrett Morgan, a manager at Profile by Sanford (a company that helps people to lose weight and achieve health goals), was in third.

The second Arkansas native, Dwain Batey, who spends some time custom painting for Skirmish Baits, had rocketed to second.

And Clint Henderson, an operator at Oglethorpe Power Corp, was standing on the stage with the first KBF/FLW cup trophy hoisted above his head; the champion on Lake Oauchita!

2019 FLW/KBF Cup: The Top Five

2019 FLW/KBF Cup: 5th Place

Fifth place angler Eric Jackson is no stranger to the kayak community. Each year I have the opportunity to talk with him a Caney Fork Outdoor’s Waterpalooza; an event where he spends hours teaching folks the basics of kayaking. The 4 time World Champion whitewater kayaker, Olympian, professional tournament fisherman, and Jackson Kayak president is always happy to show new kayakers how to roll and paddle at the event held on Center Hill Lake each year. He came to this event having placed a very respectable second place on Lake Champlain.  

2019 FLW/KBF Cup: 4th Place

Fourth place angler, AJ Mcwhorter, was surprised that he as on the big stage after day two; “You don’t expect a limit of fifteen-inch fish to get a check.” As a matter of fact, the fish he found on the west end of the lake almost went untouched.  

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“I wasn’t planning on fishing the tournament. Kristine and I were just driving around the lake; the sun was setting and fish were popping… I just felt like I might catch fish.”  

AJ not only credited Kristine for the motivation and support, but also fellow angler and friend Jay Wallen for the last minute decision.

“They reminded me that not only am I a tournament director for the Hobie BOS, I am a competitive angler.  I really want to thank them for that, I really do appreciate them for doing that!”

The Hobie BOS “aims to provide a simplified ‘open- to- anyone’ format and an elite feel for kayak anglers across the country. This series is all about providing a platform for the anglers” and AJ feels that his time as an angler and tournament director for the Bluegrass Kayak Anglers is helping him to be successful.  “I first got in a kayak from Dick’s for around 200 bucks, when I was 16. I was a creek wader until then. When I was 24, I bought a fishing kayak and have been actively fishing tournaments since.”  

“We are just a couple of months away from our inaugural Tournament Of Champions back here on Lake Oauchita… I think we are doing well because I spend my time trying to earn the respect of our anglers. Being a tournament angler has helped me to understand what type of ‘experience’ anglers want, and expect.”

He is quick to credit Hobie, GLoomis, and Shimano for providing the tools he needs to be successful on the water.  

2019 FLW/KBF Cup: 3rd Place

Third place was taken by the first of two Arkansas anglers, Garrett Morgan, who admits that he would rather fish other water in the state, but was happy with how the tournament went for him; calling it his “Achilles heel”.  

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“I felt that if anyone could catch two 16-inch limits, they could win…the likelihood of pulling 90-inches both days were very low.”

Garrett started his kayak career in kayak bass fishing just three years ago in a sit in kayak from Academy Sports with two Shakespeare rods on Lake Conway… and he won. Last year, he was ranked thirteen in KBF AOY points and second in rookie of the year.

“This year, I wanted to focus on qualifying for the big events… then focus on fishing them.” And he is achieving those goals. He qualified for the Hobie TOC with a fourth place finish on Lake Fork, is qualified for the KBF National Championship for next year; and this place in the KBF/FLW Cup is only going to help him. He credits the Natural State Kayakers with allowing many beginning anglers the same opportunities; “We get to prep some of the newer anglers, making them ready to fish the bigger events.”

He is no stranger to goals, working as a coach to help others achieve new lifestyles seems to be a passion for the young man.  

“In my career, we take the time to find out about people and their lives, then help them to develop a plan to achieve new lifestyle goals… help people build confidence, then you get to watch them grow… you put up a framework, then help them work through barriers.”

Garrett spends a lot of time researching before events, studying something about fishing every single day. “I watch videos, read maps, study old tournaments… I try not to spend too much time getting caught up in social media.”  

We had quite a long conversation about that topic after discussing his sponsors and pro staff; H2:4 outdoors, She Angler Custom Baits, Wicked Weights and JP Custom Jigs

“These companies do not want to see me blasting off on social media. When you rep companies, even as promotional staff, they pay attention; Wicked Weights has been very good to me because of how I represent myself. Your portrayal of yourself is very important. These guys livelihood is based on their image and selling. They are looking for a return on investment, and who you are on social media is often all people know about you.”

Garrett wanted to make sure that he thanked some folks who support him too. “Ms. Morgan is an awesome mom and partner. I am very lucky to have her and our two girls in my life!”

2019 FLW/KBF Cup: 2nd Place

The second Arkansas angler, and second place winner Dwain Batey was shocked to find that he had gone from seventeenth to second.  

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“When they called the top ten back, I thought I was not even in the money – I had no idea I was in second. Didn’t look in the last half hour, was leading day two the last time I looked but assumed other people just didn’t have signal… when Garrett Morgan was called on stage for third, I was thrilled.”

Dwain has been fishing since he was barely old enough to hold a rod. 

“I remember not being big enough to reel and just backing up to get the fish in, but took up kayak fishing in 2015 after fishing as a co-angler out of boats for a while. “I met some people on a ramp who were kayak fishing and they convinced me to get one… I am very grateful for that. I have become a much better fisherman from the kayak… not sure what the difference is… I don’t know if it is being forced to fish a smaller area, or just closer to the water… no way for me to pinpoint why.”

Not sure myself, but he just placed second in the KBF/FLW event, was ninth in the National Championship, has won a club tournament, two KBF Southeast region one night stands, is a member of the Ketch team, and is already qualified to fish in Lacrosse this fall; so there is no denying that there is something he has figured out. Arkansas being in the southeast region for 2019 has limited his ability to cover enough miles to participate in the events, but hopes he can work it out for 2020.

Like Garrett, he compliments the Natural State Kayakers for their efforts in the state and enjoys the kayak bass fishing community.  

“The camaraderie is so different in the kayak community. When I fished boat tournaments, people might show up, take off and weigh-in without talking to each other. We also participate in ‘Fish it Forward’… we take rods and reels, clean them up (fix them), then give them to kids.”

Dwain has a bit of support too; Ketch, Hobie fishing team, Skirmish Baits, Taylor Man’s custom lures, and OMTC – Ozark Mountain Trading Company.

2019 FLW/KBF Cup: 1st Place

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The first KBF/FLW DeeZee Champion is Clint Henderson of Rome, Georgia.  

He had strung together solid limits for both days and was crowned on the biggest stage for KBF.  He had covered the areas he found during map study, FLW videos, and by searching for areas that resembled what he fished back home; and it worked. He credits Hummingbird’s Mega imaging with his success on Lake Oauchita.  

“I would float by looking for fish, then see the shadows with side imaging.  I found an area of contour that caught my eye, then saw hundreds of fish and thought there is no way they are all bass.  You see the bass as shadows with this equipment, not just a ‘rice noodle’.”

Clint had traveled from Georgia with fellow angler Jim Ware. The two, as is very common among tournament anglers, didn’t stay in a cabin, house or hotel. And while they didn’t just sleep on a ramp or in a Walmart parking lot, the two camped in hammocks. “We laid there and sweated until we fell asleep. It was very primitive. It was out of necessity to cut costs, but we were willing to make that sacrifice to be here.”  

When asked if they fished the same area, he replied that they had, but that Jim is a very solid spoon angler and was fishing higher in the water column. “He caught a lot of fish, six different species on day one, but didn’t catch the same size.”

Since last August, Clint has worked with a power company which has limited his ability to fish as many tournaments as he would like. He had to create a deficit in his PTO (personal time off) to make this event and is already trying to figure out how to make more events next year. “The job has been a huge blessing for my family, but working a swing shift interferes with my ability to make all the tournaments.” But up until then, Clint had been quite successful on the trail.

Having started kayak fishing in 2014 on the Reel Krazy Tournament Fishing trail, entering his first tournament (then placing in them all that year) and winning angler of the year before placing second to Matt Ball as the first KBF National Champion and being a part of the inaugural Ten. He was ranked sixth in the nation that year.

While he is on the National Prostaff for NuCanoe, Bending Branches team and on the staff for Omega Custom Tackle, Netbait and Powell Rod Company… it is the work he does within the kayak community that deserves a mention.  

As was evident on the stage when he was announced the champion, Clint credits his faith for the success he has enjoyed and for helping him to find a kayak “Fishers of Men” after the second place finish at the NC. “I was spoken to, so I keep him in the forefront in my life. I hope that the kayak version will get recognized by the larger organizations and go national.” He supports the Southeastern Youth Kayak Fishing that helps to get kids on the water and find gear for them to use (please check them out!). 

Clint also works to keep his children Cale (13-years old) and Cade (11-years old) active in kayak fishing. They won their age divisions two years ago during the young guns on Kentucky Lake and Cale won the KBF July Young Guns online this year. Clint recognizes them and his wife for supporting him, and cheering him on along with the rest of his friends and family; including the social media family – “my stuff is just blowing up!”

As we talked, I was very happy to have had the opportunity to meet Mr. Henderson. He seemed to be very humbled and extremely grateful for it all… his final words to me as we ended the conversation just a day after the win… “now, I am going to sleep”.

2019 FLW/KBF Cup: And Finally – A Personal Mention

I really want to mention a couple of Carolina anglers. I try not to insert myself too deep in the recaps, but this is why the kayak community is so special to me… Henry Veggian, who has taken home a check in every event, and Shelly Efird had fished together during their time on Lake Oauchita; but on day two, Henry had caught his limit (7th place) while Shelly was struggling to fill his (17th place). In what may be considered an unthinkable move, Henry cut his crankbait off the line and passed it to Shelly. I would be shocked to see this in most circles, but having cut off a spinnerbait at a local trail and passed it to a fellow angler myself… I know that it is just how this community works. We want to win, there is no doubt we are competitors, but we want to see our fellow anglers succeed too.  

When I spoke with the pair on their ride home, Shelly mentioned that his ten year old daughter Karmen was going to be disappointed that he hadn’t won. “She always encourages me to do well, wants daddy to do well because then I get to take her shopping. Her first words are how did you do, then, did we win any money!”  

 Man, I love this community!

2019 FLW/KBF Cup: TournyX Day One Results

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2019 FLW/KBF Cup: TournyX Day Two Results

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2019 FLW/KBF Cup: TournyX Final Results

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2019 KBF Central Trail on Mark Twain Lake – Recap

The final stop for the regular season of the Kayak Bass Fishing Central trail series made its way to the Salt River Hills of north-central Missouri at Mark Twain Lake. 45 anglers from nine states would battle it out for those final points in this dog days of summer bash. KAMO (Kayak Angler of Missouri) would be the host partner club for the event.

Mark Twain is renowned for it’s beautiful scenery, and when the fishing is tough at least there is some nice nature to get lost in. Sprawling out over 18,000 acres and the water level being down 30-feet prior to the event, the anglers would really need to cover water during pre-fishing to find those key spots where the fish had transitioned to.

KBF Central Trail on Mark Twain: Alan Reed’s Approach to Pre-Fishing 

ANGLR Expert, Alan Reed, of Columbus, Indiana put in close to 3 days of pre-fishing, traveling to multiple launch points to dial in his bite. 

On my first day of pre-fishing, it took me about 4-hours to find my first bass. The sunfish were spawning and very aggressive towards any lure that came into their vicinity. I found a pattern of where they were staging and near those areas, I would find the bass.” 

On his second day of pre-fishing, Alan went up another creek arm and his pattern stayed the same. With another day of pre-fishing ahead he had his pattern dialed in and was feeling confident heading into Saturday’s event. 

“Now that I was confident in my pattern which was rocky banks with timber holding the bass, I upsized my lure to a 4-inch Snack Daddy Elite Tube and on the first cast I reeled in a 19” largemouth. I finished running the creek arm marking all the similar spots with my ANGLR Bullseye and decided to move to a different location to retest the pattern” said Reed.After putting into the water, I traveled over to the new location that met all the criteria to match my pattern. I decided to throw the tube to see if there were bigger fish in the area. Within 20 casts I I hooked into a good one right where it should have been, further strengthening my pattern to the spots within the spots.”

KBF Central Trail on Mark Twain: Richie McMichael’s Approach to Pre-Fishing

Richie McMichael from Kansas City, Kansas had one day of pre-fishing to dial in his pattern but it didn’t take him long finding limits in two areas. 

I fished the Shell Branch area early and caught a quick limit, so I packed up and went to the Little Indian area in the afternoon and caught a limit with a 19″ kicker so that’s where I decided to fish on tournament day.” 

Both Richie and Alan went into this event in the top 5 in points for the KBF Central AOY title and this event would play a key role in deciding who would be on top heading into the regional final at Table Rock at the end of September.

KBF Central Trail on Mark Twain: Tournament Day

Richie would start his tournament day off with a 3-mile pedal to his first spot at a channel swing in the back of a creek full of shad. The day didn’t start out well and he had 3 small fish jump off his board.  

“I couldn’t get the better fish to bite in that area so I decided to move to a few shallow pockets nearby. There were a lot of smaller baitfish in the smaller pockets so I picked up my fluke and senkos and started catching some better fish. By 9:30 AM I had a limit of 77″ and was able to get one more cull by about 10:30 AM.”

Reed would start his day off with a bang, landing his kicker fish and eventual big bass of the tournament. 

KBF Central Trail on Mark Twain(1)

Tournament morning, I headed out to my first spot which was where I had caught a 19” a couple days prior. Within 25 minutes, I had my kicker and big fish for the tournament at 21 inches on the tube.” 

Thrilled to get the big fish off the bat, Reed knew he had to keep his head down and fill his limit. He knew if he finished out his limit, he should be near the top of the board. By 9:00 AM, he had his limit. Between then and 12:00 PM, he had culled up twice by going back a forth between the tube and the Big TRD. After noon, he had a couple bites but nothing of any size to help.

McMichael would need to make a change mid-day to try and catch Reed.

I moved out to the main lake points and was able to get a decent fish to bite on a zoom fork tail worm but it spit the bait before I could get her in the net.”

The summer bite would prove tough for many anglers with only nineteen filling their five fish limits.

KBF Central Trail on Mark Twain(2)

In the end, Alan Reed would take the win, his first national trail win with 82.50”. 

Richie McMichael ended up settling into 3rd with 79.25”. His score would tie with Missouri native Jerry Cornelius, with Jerry edging out 2nd place based on biggest fish caught. “I ended up with 79.25″ which I was extremely happy with after hearing how tough Mark Twain Lake can be.” added McMichael. Jerry would take home 1st place honors for the KAMO portion of the event.

KBF Central Trail on Mark Twain(3)

Reed would also take home his 2nd KBF Pro Tour win of the year with Cornelius and McMichael finishing 2 and 3 respectively. 

It’s an honor to have my first Trail win. There are several great anglers at all of these events. To come out on top is very satisfying. The entire week things were falling into place and setting up for a good tournament. I show up to every tournament with the goal to win” says Reed. “It was a great event held in conjunction with the local club KAMO. The awards ceremony was nice and the local club had a cookout/pitch in and they invited us to partake in.”

Next up for the Central region angler will be the regional championship at Table Rock Lake on September 21st. Heading into the Central regional final, Richie and Alan are 1 & 2 respectively. Both are in contention for overall Angler of the Year with Richie sitting in 5th and Alan in 10th, putting both in the running for KBFs “The Ten”, an end of season shootout between the top ten anglers in Kissimmee Florida.

KBF Central Trail on Mark Twain: Top Ten from TourneyX

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Winning a Bass Boat Tournament from a Kayak | How it Went Down

I decided to fish a little pot derby out of my kayak a couple of weeks ago. We have a weekly Wednesday nighter from 6 to 10 PM on Yates Lake here in central Alabama. At the time I was fishing out of Tea Cup, the Sun Dolphin Journey SS I bought from Tractor Supply for $299. I recorded the whole brutal experience and you can watch it here. Some guys laughed when I showed up, including myself. We all had fun with it. But in my first attempt, I zeroed and that always stings. 

Fast forward to a week later and I decided to fish the Wednesday nighter again in a kayak I had borrowed from a buddy of mine, Scott Beutjer, a Bonafide SS127. You can check out the boat here in the video I put together when I picked it up.

How I Kept Bass Alive for Weigh-Ins

The previous week in the Sun Dolphin, I didn’t have room for a cooler to try to make a livewell, so I brought a wire basket that I was extremely anxious about using. I hate to kill a fish and figured it would be very difficult to keep a fish alive in a basket in the July heat in Alabama, but I had no other viable option. 

Winning a Bass Boat Tournament from a Kayak(3)

Fortunately for the fish, I lost the only little keeper bass I hooked all night. 

However, the SS127 has a large area in the back with enough room to try to rig a livewell. So I grabbed a cooler, did a little redneck engineering and voilà, I had built my first kayak cooler/livewell, which you can see me assemble at the start of this video. The 2.0 version of my livewell is coming soon. It’s almost complete and I’ll have a DIY article on the build process out to you guys as soon as possible. 

My Second Attempt to Win a Bass Boat Tournament from a Kayak

So, I set sail with my DIY livewell in tow and decided to make a little “run” to a spot where we catch fish in a bass boat sometimes. It was about 90 degrees and a billion percent humidity. Hot, muggy and miserable. I stopped to make a few casts here and there but mainly kept my head down trying to reach some water I had confidence in. 

The week prior I chose to fish near the ramp and try to keep a bait in the water as much as possible. After getting only one bite that night, I decided to try to reach a good stretch at the most optimal feeding time near sundown. 

I have seldom had a game plan come together as smoothly. I caught a solid fish near 3-pounds right away during one of my pitstops. I was literally shaking once I got the fish in the boat. 

Winning a Bass Boat Tournament from a Kayak(1)

I’ve caught hundreds of fish bigger than that one in my lifetime, but for some reason being in a kayak just changes things. 

The challenge makes each little bite a victory in itself and gets my adrenaline pumping. This lake is notoriously tough in the summer with 5-to-7-pounds winning some nights and as little as a 2-pounder winning big fish at times. So with all that in mind and after zeroing the week before, I was all jacked up and off to a great start. 

As dark grew near and I reached the supposed money stretch, I caught 4 little keepers in about 20 minutes. The most we had ever caught on that stretch in that length of time. 

My livewell worked great at keeping the fish alive (all were released and swam away great at the end of the night), but man was it sketchy opening the lid to put the fish in. Each time I cracked it to add a keeper, there seemed to be miles of opportunity for the other fish to escape (I have fixed that problem on my new setup though).

So the first two hours leading up to dark were action packed and saw one of only 2 or 3 limits my dad and I have had in about 14 tries in the Wednesday nighters this summer. 

Since I had a limit, I decided to throw a spinnerbait and buzzbait after dark in hopes of catching a big fish, though I had no idea how I would cull or even get the fish into the livewell without losing one of the others. But all of that proved moot by the end of the night. I had one more bite but missed it. I made the paddle back to the ramp and it was time to see how I faired.

Weighing In and Seeing the Results

I was excited regardless. I had managed to catch a limit in a kayak and keep all my fish alive all night. But the previous week it had only taken 9-pounds to win and I figured I had around 7-pounds so I thought I might have a chance. 

I bagged my fish, toted them to the scales and they settled in around 7 and a half pounds. I was so excited that I didn’t hear the exact weight but I knew it was more than anyone else had weighed. My big fish came in at 2.94-pounds and after a couple of other guys weighed-in, the results were in. 

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I won!! 

I beat 5 bass boats in a $30 pot tournament and you’d have thought I won the Bassmaster Classic. I was so jacked up and proud. It seems so silly. But that’s what I’m loving about fishing from a kayak. It just amplifies everything. All the work and adversity involved with it just makes fishing fun and meaningful again. 

The True Meaning of Kayak Fishing for Me

Little derbies like that or fishing on ponds and creeks that I have lost interest in, I now see in a brand new light. I’m having a blast. Feel free to join me over on my YouTube channel if you’d like to tag along or give a rookie kayaker a little advice. I know very little about the sport of kayak fishing but I’m soaking up as much as I can and loving every minute of it. 

Will I win another little derby like this from a kayak? Highly unlikely. Should I quit while I’m ahead and keep my record at 50/50? Probably. But I rarely do what I should do and don’t see it happening here either. I’m already eyeing the Tuesday nighter up on Lake Martin. 

If you decide you want to try something like this, just please be safe. If you’re fishing after dark be sure you have Coast Guard approved navigation lights like I do, wear your PFD and stay close to the bank. Obviously, make sure you’re in compliance with all other safety regulations and applicable laws. 

Have fun but don’t forget you’re a small fish in a big pond. 

As a final note, please make your best effort to keep your fish alive. We have to protect the resource. You can checkout my first livewell system here. It did the job but was inefficient. The new livewell build is going to be legit. You can find info on it here through Anglr or on my YouTube channel soon.

Kayak Trailer | An Overview to Help You Select the Right Kayak Trailer

My first kayak was only intended to be a boat to carry with our camper; allowing us to get out on the water on weekend getaways. I added a TracOne TracRac to my truck to make it possible to haul it and the camper without them hitting each other, then I would throw it in the bed (with a bed extender) once we had set up the site. It was a pretty good way to haul it, but it was a lot of work throwing a hundred-plus pound kayak on top of the rack.  I actually carried a milk crate that would make it possible for my short legs to reach high enough – which is not a pretty sight to see. I would have killed for a good kayak trailer during those days!

Kayak Trailer Options: How to Find the Right One for You

Before we go much farther, find a kayak tournament check-in and you will be able to see just about every possible type of trailer… utility, jet ski, boat, homemade, DIY kayak trailer…some you may not be sure what it really ever was, but it is functional. You will see small tires, big tires, narrow tires, fat tires; tires that most likely show air through them due to the miles they have traveled. Brand names, no names… renamed…. you name it, it is hauling a kayak to the water somewhere across the globe.

My original trailer was a Harbor Freight trailer that took me two long days to put together. It came in two boxes with what felt like thousands of nuts, bolts, and washers. About halfway through the assembly process that tested my years of engineering skills, I considered dragging it out of the garage and putting an “almost finished” for sale sign on it – but then knew I would have to fight the HOA, so I persevered. 

It was a decent trailer and served me well for almost a year; but I hadn’t considered one thing, how far and fast I would be traveling. A Tennessee State Trooper was kind enough to point out that doing 70 mph heading back from Guntersville with such a small and light trailer, with small tires, was not too safe. He was even quicker to point out that the speed limit was 45 mph, but that is another story for another time.

I hadn’t considered the safety of what I was doing. To be quite honest, I never thought I would travel farther than Yellow Creek or maybe Kentucky Lake (40-minutes from home) with the cheap utility trailer. But as I watched him writing a ticket in my rearview mirror, I thought about what he had said. Was this the best trailer to haul my Hobie PA across the states?  When I made it home, I went on a quest to determine what would be my ideal trailer.

I made a list of the things I was looking for:

#1. 12-inch Tires. 

I wanted larger tires because I planned to put a lot of miles on a trailer. I didn’t want 8-inch tires, nor did I want skinny tires that might allow the trailer to shift from side to side under the weight.

#2. The Ability to Haul Multiple Kayaks. 

My wife Joy and I love to be on the water. I wanted to be able to haul my Hobie PA, her Hobie Compass, at least one of the other Hobie’s I keep in the garage for company that may join me or to demo.  Also, if I needed to complete a float trip with folks, I wanted to be able to haul a few.

#3. I Wanted a Trailer with Substance. 

I had no plan to haul the trailer with my wife’s Nissan Sentra (which we have traded for a Frontier), I am using a full-size Titan. As functional as the Harbor Freight trailer had been, it bounced, rattled, and shook while traveling. I had lost a fender somewhere between Clarksville and Cedar Creek Lake in Kentucky; not exactly sure where.

#4. It Had to Fit in the Garage. 

One side of my garage is too full to breathe in, much less add a trailer. The other side is shorter. So I had a length restriction to consider unless I wanted to empty the garage – and I wanted to be fishing instead of digging through all that stuff.

#5. I Wanted it to Look Kinda Cool. 

Ok, so maybe this is not a real quality to search for in a trailer but I wanted it to look like it was meant to be a kayak tournament trailer… I know that makes me a bit shallow, but I had seen trailers at events that were pretty awesome and I caved to that desire.

Your list of “wants” may, and will most likely be different based on space, needs, or the amount you want to spend. But regardless of the trailer you choose, you need to understand how to set up your vehicle for towing. Reese Hitches has a fairly informative page with links that can educate you about the differences. 

Also, make sure your trailer has lights and the correct wiring for your vehicle. If you are comfortable with searching yourself, this link can get you started. If not, contact someone locally to help.

In Tennessee, we are not required to register all trailers. Make sure to follow your state and local requirements when it comes to registration. The last thing you want is to pay money for a ticket that you could use to buy a toolbox or rod tubes for your trailer.

So without further ado, let’s walk through a few trailer options…

Kayak Trailer Options: The Bed Extender

A lot of guys still carry theirs using bed extenders like the Boonedox T-Bone or any number of other versions like the MaxxHaul, and it can be as simple as throwing it on top of your car or you can add a ladder rack (or just the bed of a truck).  

Kayak Trailer(1)

Casey Kunder’s T-bone bed extender.

Kayak Trailer Options: The Utility Trailer

You will find many guys trailering their boats using this method; there is nothing wrong with it and is where I started; with a converted utility trailer.  

Kayak Trailer(2)

The mod can be as simple as just throwing your kayak on it (like Donald Guthrie above) to some fairly elaborate setups.  

I had assembled the trailer then added some 3-inch PVC to serve as runners for the kayak.  In an effort to allow multiple kayaks to be hauled, I added a truck rack. Many anglers have done the same; there are even kits that are meant to be used on utility trailers for this purpose.  Malone has several options for converting trailers like the utility trailer cross bar system.

A friend of mine, Jay Minor, had used his trailer to haul kayaks on the weekend, then would throw sides on it to haul trash or leaves when he needed to clean up around the house. He eventually added a Malone cross rails conversion kit, removed the sides, and created a nice kayak trailer that he still uses today. It still allows him to remove the bunks if he needs to do some work around the house.  

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Jay Minors Trailer with the cross rails conversion kit!

Anthony Shingler hauled his Jackson on an old utility trailer that I often worried wouldn’t make it home. Its sole purpose was to be a kayak trailer, he had attached a cooler and PVC also, but the real issue to me was the tire size.  It had 8-inch tires and he was constantly wearing them out running mile after mile each weekend. Those tires left us sitting at ramps changing them… which is why I knew that I wanted to have larger wheels on my “dream” trailer.

Again, there is nothing wrong with using utility trailers. They can be modified to fit whatever your needs; even adding camper shells to use it to sleep in. Just make sure that before you build a tiny house to haul along with you, that you know the weight limitations of the axle, tires and the hitch you will be using to tow it.

Kayak Trailer Options: Boat/Jet Ski Trailers

These trailers are perfect for kayaks; they are smaller, lighter than a bass boat trailer, and tow really well. Most kayaks are in the 10 to 14-foot range, so there is little more to do than adjust the bunks on the trailer. A quick search on Craig’s List or the Facebook Marketplace (even just watch local kayak club pages) will turn up a few very reasonably priced versions. I know some guys who bought them for a hundred bucks, then put a hundred more in them; now they have a virtually new trailer. If you are looking to haul more than a single kayak, you can add kits like the cross rail conversion kits, or you can go with a larger trailer designed for a full-size boat.

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Shingler has finally converted from the old utility trailer to a jet ski trailer. 

Jeremy Hines, a guy who fishes with our local club, has taken a full-size trailer and modified it.  It has a truck box, a ladder rack to haul more boats and he took the time to paint it; an extremely nice trailer that he bought then put some elbow grease into. 

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He took the time to bring his vision of what a trailer should be for him to life.  

You can do as much, or as little as you choose. I would recommend if you buy a used trailer, especially one that had been submerged in water, that you check the bearings. Grease them, replace them or at least check them. It is hard to find an auto parts store that carries the bearings for your specific trailer open on Sunday on a remote country road… trust me on this one, it is very hard!

Kayak Trailer Options: Trailers Designed For Kayaks

The availability of trailers designed specifically for kayaks is growing at the same rate as the interest in kayak fishing is growing. There are companies that offer several different models of trailers. These are lightweight and fairly sturdy; with many configurable to meet your needs and the number of kayaks you want to haul. Malone is one of the most recognized names with many models, and Yakima has some nice offerings including the new Easy Rider. There are many companies across the states that recognize the need to offer more robust trailers for anglers; many willing to build custom designs for you.

I personally chose one of those companies, Tennessee Trailers, after doing quite a bit of research. It had larger tires, could haul multiple kayaks, had some substance to it (a heavy-duty trailer), fits in the space I had available and looks pretty cool. I chose a galvanized version for extended durability; I don’t ever want to buy another kayak trailer, and this one should last.

The only problem I’ve had with the trailer is that one of the fenders collapsed while driving home from Wisconsin. I was driving through Illinois at about 70 mph (ok, maybe more) when I heard a “BANG” and looked up to see the trailer raised up in the air over my tailgate. I stopped to find that a deer had run into the trailer and crushed the fender against the wheel. The kayak was untouched, with just a bit of deer on it, and the trailer was still completely functional. I contacted the folks who built it, they fit me in, and I was back on the road in no time with a new fender. Had I not opted for a more substantial trailer, or been hauling the small utility trailer when this happened, I am certain the outcome would not have been so positive. 

You do not have to use a kayak trailer, there are days where I do not because it is too remote where I am launching.

There are a lot of anglers who will never switch to trailers and will be perfectly content. But if you are going to haul one of the larger kayaks on the market, or carry friends and family along on the trips; you might want to consider a kayak trailer. It just makes it so much easier to launch. I can get all of my gear ready, then back down and push it off; then when I come back, I can pull it on the kayak trailer and move out of the way to unload the gear. 

Either way… if you do get a small utility trailer… when you get pulled over for going too fast the correct reply to “Do you think it is safe to go this fast with that little trailer?” is not “oh yeah, it handles 85 pretty easy”… just some parting advice.

2019 YakAttack KBF Trail and Pro Tour on Kentucky Lake Recap

Featured Image Credit: Kayak Bass Fishing

Saturday, July 20, 2019, 61 anglers launched on from the banks along Kentucky and Barkley Lakes for the KBF Trail Event headquartered out of the Paris Tennessee Fairgrounds. Anthony Shingler of Clarksville, TN (Director for CAKFG) helped the tournament to run smoothly and got everyone headed home safely after awards with very little delay. 

The boundaries were the same that anglers had seen during the previous KBF National Championships on the two bodies of water, so it was not unfamiliar to most kayakers. The big difference in this tournament; the legendary ledges of Kentucky Lake were not the productive spots that most had come to expect; the fish were swarming on bait in the backs of pockets for those who finished on the top of the leader board. 21 anglers didn’t record a fish, and 21 measured less than a five-fish limit; the top 19 produced limits, but only a few truly figured them out.

KBF Trail Kentucky Lake: Pre-Fishing

Pre-fishing for the event, a Virginia native and winner of the first Hobie BOS event of 2019 on Lake Chickamauga, Nathan Green, reported that he was new to the water and looked for fish deep. He, like most folks, didn’t find them there, so he headed into some shallow backwater hoping for the best; on tournament day, he, unfortunately, was below 19th place – the last place to measure a limit.  

Jay Wallen used to be a bass boat tournament angler and first fished the lake in 2006. He says it is a very different lake. “Back then, you could look on almost any decent looking ledge and catch 30-40 bass and weed through the small ones.”  

Josh Stewart also mentions changes to the reservoir. “The shallow creeks where I grew up used to be clear and blue all the way out into the mouths and into the bays, now, it has a green tint to it.  Maybe from the carp, not sure.”

A local tournament the week before had also taught some in the crowd that the fish were not behaving as they normally do in the hot July sun. Docks didn’t produce, ledges were sporadic, and flats were loaded with Asian Carp. Early topwater bites were producing about as many Gar as bass, and they were far outsizing the targeted species. If you found the shad feeding on fry in shallow water, you had a chance.

KBF Trail Kentucky Lake: Josh Stewart Brings Home the Win

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Josh Stewart, a native of Waverly, TN who now lives in Murfreesboro and is always a competitor (having finished 2nd in the National Championship two years ago on Kentucky Lake), was handing out lessons to those unfamiliar with the water. With a 99 inch limit, a full 5.25 inches ahead of the next competitor Jay Wallen, he dominated the event fishing waters that were literally in his backyard growing up.  

Using a Chug Bug he found during a tournament at Lake Guntersville earlier this year, Josh was able to pull an early limit. When he added a 7-inch Yamamoto Senko to his lures for the day, he landed the big fish of the tournament, a fat 23-inch Kentucky Lake largemouth. There was a fish he landed on a jig, but he was targeting the shallow bays around the New Johnsonville area and the fish were chasing the bait, so he gave them baits to chase.

Josh is far from new to kayaking. He has been in one for many years after buying one to spend the summers on the water. After a while, he started thinking, “Hey, I might be able to win a tournament” so he signed up for a RiverBassin Tournament in 2015. He was not prepared for the tournaments and struggled to find bass.

“I didn’t even have a measuring board. I stopped by Caney Fork Outdoors to pick one up, then caught a bunch of hybrids.”  

He fished his second event, a KBF open on Kentucky Lake in 2015 without much luck, but since then has grown to be a highly recognizable name on the leader boards. His success is not measured in one or two wins (he has many more), but in the fact that he is always one to watch on any body of water. His list of accomplishments continues to grow and he still remains very humble about his ability. He is already qualified for the Hobie TOC, the National Championship, the regional championship… and sponsors have taken notice; 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.  

If you get a chance to talk with Josh about growing up in the area, do so. He is extremely passionate about sharing the stories of his grandmother teaching him how to fish in the creeks close by. He gives her much of the credit for his success and love of being on the water and now shares the water with his mom and uncle who are fishing some online events.

KBF Trail Kentucky Lake: Jay Wallen’s Second Place Finish

Jay Wallen was 5.25 inches behind Josh and 4.5 ahead of the next angler. Jay was fishing much farther north on Kentucky Lake, but the shallow water pattern was still the same. “I caught fish in water so shallow, they should have been laying on their sides!” He also found an early topwater bite, landing a solid limit (15 fish before 10 a.m.) tossing a Lobina Rico lure. 

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“I have caught a ton of fish on this lure.  I have two I have used for years”.

Jay moved after 10 a.m. and upgraded (catching 5) in a patch of grass, breaking off on his first cast throwing a Senko. He threw back into the spot and “…never felt it bite, I just saw a stalk of grass shake and assumed it was a fish. I set the hook into a 19.75-inch bass.” Jay credited the two baits (and a D-Bomb) with his second-place finish.

The Pikeville, Kentucky native who just bought a house in Lawrenceburg, KY (where he plans to live with his soon to be bride Casey) spends his days assessing and tracking coal reserves in his home state, but his weekends on the kayak tournament trails. The 2016 KBF ANGLR of the year’s (Jay Wallen) TourneyX profile is a testament to his ability on the water. Like Josh, he is always a competitor with the ability to bring home a win.

It is interesting to learn that he only picked up a kayak to be able to fish with fellow Kentuckian, AJ McWhorter, on the New River. He bought a Jackson Kayak but thought “it was stupid to fight with a paddle” so he moved to an Outback. Once he made that move, he won enough to get a Hobie PA14 and hasn’t looked back.  

Jay is a now a member of the Hobie Fishing Team and lists Picasso Lures, Cal Coast, Shimano and G-Loomis among his supporters. You can also get some very helpful and “juicy” tips from his YouTube Channel, TheJwallen.

KBF Trail Kentucky Lake: Rus Snyders Brings Home a Third Place Finish

Rus Snyders ended in the third-place position with 89.25 inches. Rus was also fishing in shallow water but had opted to fish north on Barkley Lake. He caught some on a big worm, but most came by throwing a black and blue swim jig toward the bank over cover, then swimming it out a bit and letting it drop into the cover. If he pitched the baits, the fish didn’t seem to respond. He did find some on a RivertoSea S-Waver swimbait after finding a giant shad tail sticking out of the mouth of a two-pound bass. As the day progressed, Rus Texas rigged a green pumpkin Z-Hog Junior and flipped it around cover to finish his day.  

Rus was happy to find them in the clear water and shallow as he is not a fan of ledge fishing. He finds that he “is much better at working a bank pretty fast; tearing apart structure… (he has) more confidence in the shallow water.”  

Rus moved to Tennessee from California seven years ago. He used to guide in Northern California most of the year; when he wasn’t, he was fishing bass boat tournaments but felt that he never clicked with the tournament crowd. It was after moving to Tennessee that he made the switch to kayak tournament fishing.  

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“I moved to Tennessee with a boat but kept seeing all these people in kayaks. I had no idea how many rivers there were within one and a half hours of where I live”. 

And Rus is one of those guys you always know has a chance to win. Anyone who describes him and how he fishes uses the word “prepared”. During the National Championship, a fellow competitor told me that Rus “has a plan, then a Plan B… then C”.  When I asked him how he prepares, he was willing to share.

“Kayak fishing has made me a better fisherman – before I would run all over the lake, find spots and hit the patterns; keep trying the same things. The kayak makes me find multiple options and types of patterns. Flats, wood, deep, and shallow to keep the options open. I look for areas with lots of options. If I find them fishing shallow during pre-fishing, I look for what else is close and fish different lures just to feel the area – learn the layout.” He is truly a student of the areas he chooses to fish.

If you need some power washing done in the Nashville area, or just want to talk fishing, reach out to Rus’s business Nashvillepowerwash.com.  If you would rather just learn from a guy who is doing well on the tournament trail and learn from him about the local area, he also has a guide service; look for him at http://www.kickfishing.com. You can learn a bit more about Rus over at Hook1 where he is a team member and he also credits iRod as a sponsor.  

Jimmy Mcclurken tied with Russ Snyders at 89.25 inches, but lost the tiebreaker to Rus who had the larger bass in his limit; leaving Jimmy in 4th place.  Jimmy had posted 103.25 inches the week before in the local CAKFG event, beating out Josh Stewart 1.5 inches (who posted 101.75 inches).  Mcclurken has been having quite a bit of local success, so you might want to keep an eye on this guy too.

KBF Trail Kentucky Lake: Overall Results

KBF Trail Kentucky Lake: Trail Results

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KBF Trail Kentucky Lake: Pro Results

KBF Trail Kentucky Lake(5)

Kayak Safety Tips | The Top Three Kayak Safety Tips from Mike Cheatham

Featured Image Credit: Scott Beutjer Fishing

I have lost people I cared about who left home to enjoy some quiet fishing or boating thinking they would be back soon, so the first time I set my butt in a kayak, I was overly cautious. Not because I couldn’t swim (a lot who drown can) but because I knew the odds of rolling a kayak are higher than flipping my Bass Tracker. I am also very aware that I am not as young as I once was, so the thought of chasing a kayak across a creek didn’t appeal to me.

I was less than one foot off a ramp when I first flipped a kayak a few months later. The entire contents of that boat ended up in the water, including me. I was fortunate that I caught myself before I went under, but then the ramp was so slick I fell hard. Very hard. I didn’t hit my head on anything, I didn’t break anything on my body; but what if I had done either? What if I had banged my head against that concrete ramp when I slipped? What if I had broken an arm or leg, and had been farther from the ramp?  

The second time I fell in the water, I was trying to step out of the boat. I was a few miles up a creek trying to get out to take a bio break. I stepped out and, in an effort to avoid mud, I placed my foot on a rock. The rock shifted, my foot slid, the kayak pushed away from shore and I was quickly in the water. I found myself face down in the creek, again fortunate that I was conscious and able to get out of the water quickly.  Both events happened before I truly registered what was happening to me. Never did I think I would flip a foot from a boat ramp, nor did I see my foot slipping on that rock. Just like many who are lost every year, accidents happened in spite of my best preparation.  

But there are three kayak safety tips everyone should follow:

Kayak Safety Tips #1: Wear Your PFD 

Once you bought it, and it is required to have with you, it is absolutely free to wear it.  It doesn’t cost you a single penny to put it on, zip it up or strap it. It requires minimal effort and can save your life.  You may just slip somewhere and it can keep you above water. This is the most important tip out of the three kayak safety tips!

A very good friend of mine had tied his boat to a building while he and his brother fished.  They had stepped from the boat, and it drifted off. He swam after it. Not far, not fast; and he never came home.  He wasn’t wearing the PFD he was required to have with him.  

Kayak Safety Tips(1)

If you are a kayak tournament angler, you are required to wear it.  

I wear mine so much now that I have even driven home with it still zipped up, taking it off in the garage.  I made sure to find one that was comfortable so that I would not consider it a nuisance, definitely not an option. I will say this one again. Wear your PFD!

Kayak Safety Tips #2: Let Someone Know Where You’re Going, Especially if You Are Out Alone

There are so many things that can happen, not all catastrophic, and I personally would rather have someone know where to start looking for me.  

Oftentimes, we kayak folks will find some remote ramp where our vehicle can get stuck, our kayaks can flip or we just get lost and there is not enough cell signal to call your friends or family. I walked a long way late one night to get to a main road after burying my truck in a creek bed, then I waited, hoping that someone would eventually come by, and pull me out… and it was a long wait. I had not told anyone where to look.  

Even worse, on another trip I was out in twenty degree weather and found myself lodged on a submerged tree in eight foot of water, about fifteen yards off shore. I couldn’t get out, I couldn’t reach the stump… I told myself that this was bad. Eventually I was fortunate enough to rock the kayak enough to dislodge myself. But this was the first time I told myself “this is how people end up on the news”; no one knew I was on Percy Priest, and I hadn’t seen another soul on the water and I could have flipped before I came loose. 

Kayak Safety Tips(2)

With today’s technology, you can use Find a Friend or Find my Phone.  

My wife Joy keeps tabs on me while I am on the water using Find My iPhone. It not only gives her a sense of security knowing that I am there, she is able to locate me and knows where I last was if I do not make it home when I am expected. Now I know some of you will not like someone keeping tabs on you, but that night I waited for someone to come by was a REALLY long time, so I am all for using whatever tools are available to make sure I get home. I give my wife access to TourneyX, iAngler and my ANGLR app so she has as much information as possible in case I am too late.

Kayak Safety Tips #3: Watch the Weather 

I am going to expand that even more and say watch the weather, look at weather forecasts during the day, watch for storms, understand the wind speed and its direction. We are out, many times on large bodies of water, in small boats that can become difficult to manage in storms and high winds.

The second time I said “this is how people end up on the news”, I was fishing a tournament on Lake Cumberland in Kentucky. I had watched the weather, knew there was a risk of 30-mph gusts and heavy rain; and I went anyway. Had I taken a few seconds to study the maps closer, and understand that I had chosen a bay (in an effort to protect myself) that the wind was going to blow directly into… I could have spared my friend and myself the hour of trying to get back to the ramp. We were less than a half mile away but with every foot forward, we went five back.  The waves were white capping at about three feet and at one point my Hobie turned sideways and I knew it was over. 

Somehow, I pedaled through that, and tied a rope to my buddy – he did not have a pedal kayak – and pulled us through it as the waves crashed over the front. We moved to another bay where there was virtually no wind, lucky to have made it out upright; and alive.

Kayak Safety Tips

Most weather apps are free, just like the ANGLR app which is combined with a variety of lake maps, so you can find a safer place to launch and fish on days where the tournament “must go on”.  

I know that others will have things that are important to them, all of mine coming from my experience, but I share these kayak safety tips with everyone I introduce to kayaking. I don’t do it to scare them but to educate them. Many of the new kayak anglers I meet come from either never being in a boat or from much larger bass boats, and I feel better giving them the knowledge of “what might happen”.  

And one last thing about kayak safety tips (or to repeat number 1)… wear your PFD. It is free to do so. Any of the experiences that taught me, could end worse for the next person. With that PFD on, you at least have a chance.