The KBF Central Region Trail and Pro Division event on Lake St. Clair was held May 25, 2019 out of the St. Clair Metropark in Harrison Township, Michigan. It did not take over ninety inches to make the top twenty like it did in 2018, but it didn’t disappoint. The winning lengths fell short of the popular guess of over one hundred inches, but only by one and three quarters of an inch; all of this as anglers fought wet weather and high winds.
KBF Central Event at Lake St. Clair: Weather Conditions
The wind was definitely a factor during pre-fishing and the event. One angler lost his kayak to the wind when he got out for a minute but it was eventually found, and another rolled trying to ride the waves back to the jet ski launch. A few even learned the feeling of being sick due to the rolling waves (myself included).
It was quite the ride coming off the lake on Saturday.
Eric Siddiqi, the winner of the trail event, had to cut the top off a water bottle to bail water after the waves kept coming over the bow. The lack of a seal on his older Hobie’s hatch had allowed enough water to cause the boat to start listing to one side. The day was further complicated by the fact that a bolt had come out of his Torqueedo mount due to the continuous waves. Taking on water and losing the use of his motor forced a need to start drifting back early to make sure he made it with his kayak on top of the water.
Jeremy Baker, the winner of the Pro division, was fighting the same conditions on his home lake. His plan to sight fish was affected by the unusually high water and the size of the waves, they made it difficult to see deep enough into the water and attack the beds from the right angle to trigger strikes. This was not helped by high boat traffic in the area he had chosen to target. While he did have some struggles during the day, it was not due to the weather.
KBF Central Event at Lake St. Clair: Tale of the Two Winning Anglers
KBF Central Event at Lake St. Clair: Eric Siddiqi’s Event Recap
ANGLR team member, Eric Siddiqi, headed to St. Clair just off a third place finish in the Hobie Open on Kentucky Lake the week before, and having won the Hobie Battle on the Border there last year; earning him a trip to Sweden for the Hobie Worlds in Australia. So it was with a bit of confidence he began his pre-fishing.
The days before the event didn’t allow for the best pre-fishing conditions, but they were representative of what the anglers would experience. I personally arrived on the only good day to pre-fish and met an angler at the Metroplex, Robert Moss, who said he had waited out the waves on Thursday while talking with Siddiqi before deciding to bail; as Eric headed out to fish. “That dude is nuts!” he told me. But Eric credits fishing in those conditions as part of his success on St. Clair.
“I knew if I could fish in that wind, I had a chance. Thursday really helped because I knew the conditions already. When the wind picked up, I started culling up!”
The fish had been there on Friday, and even though he knew people were catching them deeper, a 20.5 inch smallmouth early on Saturday let him know that his bite was there. The drop shot with a 12” trailing leader and a 3/8 ounce tungsten weight fished on a St. Croix rod with a Shimano C14 spinning reel was the key that helped him land 98-inches and the win. He had tubes, ned rigs, swimbaits, and heavier weighted options rigged for the day but “the drop shot was all they wanted”.
Talking with Eric at the ramp, you may not see the dedication he has for fishing. He seems a bit laid back for an angler that intensely studies maps, spends hours watching videos finding all the info he can find about bass fishing and learns all the new baits and techniques. You will not find him to be the first guy on the water during pre-fishing, but you will see him searching for places to eat at the end of the day; often leaving the water too late to find open restaurants on the road because he was covering miles of water searching for bass. He has lost 18-20 pounds this season alone by being so focused on fishing and missing a meal or two.
In his fourth full year of kayak angling, he credits this effort with the consistency he has been showing at the KBF and Hobie events. He looks for the bait, and the current flow; not dying by the luck he had during pre-fishing, but being open minded.
“I ran 12 miles chasing ledges on Kentucky Lake but they were not there, so I moved to a different bite. I prefer deep fish for their consistency.”
“They are like us, they are always going to stay close to the fridge so they don’t move far.”
Eric plans to keep doing this as long as he can and will be back at St. Clair at the end of June. He gives credit to Cal Coast, ANGLR, Fishing Online, YakAttack, Torqeedo and Lowrance for being behind him. He is also hoping to get a nod from Hobie one day (just in case they are reading).
KBF Central Event at Lake St. Clair: Jeremy Baker’s Event Recap
Jeremy Baker on the other hand was relatively unknown in the kayak bass world. He spends his weeks like most folks in the kayak tournament world doing their day job, his is installing gas services. The St. Clair win was only his second KBF event, his third kayak tournament event. His previous experience had come in bass boats in FLW BFL events and as a co-angler for over 20 years.
When asked why he jumped straight to the Pro Division he will tell you that is where he wants to fish because the “quality of anglers is not different in the kayak, most of these guys could compete on any level”. He likes “the simplicity and newness of it. It feels like you can still be a part of it all.”
Jeremy had left tournament fishing for a while (giving up the dream of being a pro), but bought a pontoon boat to carry his daughter out swimming. He started seeing “all of these fishing kayaks” on the water and started thinking it would be a way to get him back into tournament fishing. He bought an Ascend and started testing the waters, but later traded it and some cash to a young boy trying to get rid of a Hobie PA14.
The transition to kayak fishing has been less than smooth. Like anyone new to kayak tournaments you have to learn how to manage the fish after the catch. In his first KBF event last year, he finished 7th but had a 22-inch smallmouth jump off the board that may have given him the win, but he also had deductions. Jeremy seemed to know what he had to work on to win and was focused on getting better at the catch management side of kayak fishing.
“It is very different than throwing them in the live well! You have to hold the fish on the board with your oversized phone in one hand and get a pic!”
This year, he figured it out. Fishing on a spot he knows to be a spawning flat that produces every year, he found 98.25 inches of bass by throwing a St. Clair Crayfish made by Wayne Carpenter of Xtreme Bait and Tackle on St. Croix rods with Quantum reels. He fished these after trimming the tails to keep the fish from just picking them up and dropping them. He bet on this for the tournament, leaving tubes and drop shots alone as he targeted spots where he had found mostly males during pre-fishing.
You can listen to Jeremy’s interview of the event on Scott Beutjer’s Weigh In.
KBF Central Event at Lake St. Clair: Why the tale of two anglers?
“I had been watching the pro side on TourneyX all day and knew I was leading. But when I got back, I looked at the trail side and wasn’t on it.”
As they announced the winners Jeremy felt his “Happy Gilmore moment” fade, the crowd was a bit confused too. In order to compete in the Pro Division, an angler has to sign up for the trail event also. Siddiqi had won the trail event, but finished second in the Pro Division behind Baker.
KBF requires that you have a separate identifier for the trail vs pro event, and these must also be submitted to two events in TourneyX. Eric and several others had been bitten by this rule during an event on Guntersville earlier in the year. It is stated on the KBF pages, but there had been some communication trying to clarify before the event. Some discussions are following, but Jeremy is looking for the good in it all.
“The hardest thing was this is my home town lake. It is hard enough to get a win on this lake, then you get it, and there may be an asterisk on it.”
Jeremy may be an unknown at this point, but he doesn’t intend to stay that way. He is determined to follow the kayak tournament trails and be competitive. He is going to fish with the Michigan-Ohio kayak anglers and KBF.
“I plan to fish as many events as I can. I’m looking forward to the FLW championship in August.”
Both Eric and Jeremy plan to be in the Hobie BOS event at the end of June on St. Clair. If you are able, this will be an event to attend.