I don’t even know where to begin with this one. As the title states, it has defiantly been a roller coaster thus far. Did I really know what I was getting myself into when I started chasing this dream? How has the season played out so far? What Tournaments have I fished, and what ones have I missed that I had plan to fish? Whats next? Let’s get into it..
GLKFS Banner Marsh/KBL Sangchris
The season started out a little strange here in Northern IL. The first tournament of the season that I planned to fish was a local club event with KBL. The tournament was cancelled on my way down to pefish due to the upcoming weather conditions. I had put in a few weekends down on Sangchris lake where the tournament was to take place. I felt I had a solid pattern in place with a jig bite on certain structure throughout the lake. With the tournament being cancelled, I pulled an audible, and headed over to Banner Marsh in Central IL. There I meet Co-Host Jay Randall, and fellow Angler Glenn Miller. Their plan was to fish the Great Lakes Kayak Fishing Tournament which was to take place the day before the scheduled KBL Tournament. With only 4 hours of prefixing and no fish caught I figured I would be doomed, and not only that but look like a fool bombing the first tournament of the year. Low and behold it was a tough day for all, however the fish I found was enough to give me an 8th Place Finish. Top ten finishes have been my set goal this season. The Banner tournament gave me a boost of confidence that I wasn’t going to be far off from achieving such a goal.
Kbl had an online make up event due to Sangchris event being cancelled from weather. What a struggle this one was going to be. I decided to head back down to Banner Marsh as I had kind of put a pattern together that was working for some of the fish that had starting staging up on beds. Black/ Blue Flake Senko rigged weightless on a 3/0 offset hook was the ticket. I managed to catch three decent fish while down there, however I was 2 fish short of a limit and was trailing going into Sunday to make that Top Ten finish I was looking for. Sunday morning I headed out early before family came over for Easter Dinner, Yeah Easter dinner. This was the biggest obstacle around the whole make up event. I hit a local state park know as Rock Cut, figuring I could find two fish, but left with a skunk in the boat. While eating dinner all I could think about was where am I going to find two 12” fish. Thats all I needed. Went to plan C and hit the river where I had been putting in a ton of time figuring out the smallmouth bite. First cast landed me a 12 1/2” fish. Shortly after I kept bringing fish over the side of the boat and culling a few times. This ended up giving me a 10th Place finish, right were I wanted to be.
The Road to Kansas KBF Trail Event & The FLW/KBF Open
Kansas was not a stop I had planned on attending. The 12 1/2 hour drive, fuel cost, camping , etc… had me on the fence. In the end I decided to make the journey and participate as the lake looked like it was right up my alley. Big Hill Lake is a flooded valley with a ton of trees protruding right out of the water. Pitching to timber is one of my favorite things to do. Nothing beats a good jib bite. First three casts I had an 18 3/4” fish in the boat and felt I made the right choice to come down and contend with some of the best sticks in the central division. Practice went fairly well between the jog bite, and the weightless Texas rigged Senko. The day before tournament, I had found an area with many beds, and tons of big females in which I lost probably my PB Bass out of a Kayak that day. As I made a turn coming out of this area I saw two kayaks heading my way, and it was 2 gentleman I had met at the ramp that morning. Sam Jones and Alan Reed. These two guys have been a great part in my success this season, in which we will get into a little later. They went right back in there and saw the same things I saw. However the weather once again became a factor. Come tournament day we had sustained 30 MPH winds with a 2-3’ chop. This made things sketchy and that much harder to catch fish. The bed spot I had found was blown out and muddy from the wind so I went to scramble mode and hit all the other spots I had as backup plans. I managed to scrap together a decent limit with a few culls and managed a 10th place finish in the trail, and 4th place in the Pro Tour. Barely making it in there, but still managed to get my 10th place finish, and recoup some money with a $200 check for the Trail Finish. Feeling good, I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep much so I packed up the trailer, and headed towards Tennessee for the FLW/KBF Open
Tennessee is such a beautiful state to begin with, but to fish some of their water was an even bigger treat. Not to mention I was there to take part in some Kayak Bass Fishing history. I was there to partake in the first ever KBF/FLW Event. I had a week to breakdown a lot of water, and I mean a lot of water. Day 1 I managed to catch a few small fish, but it was nothing to write home about. Day 2 I was joined by my good friend Austin from Southern Lake Company. Austin had come down to pick up a boat from me and fish. We found a specific are where I had caught an 18” and he caught a 16 1/2” fish. I quickly stated we need to get out of this area, and leave it rest until tournament day. With the info I had on the specific area I knew I had to find more areas similar to it. This is what I focused on the rest of pre-fishing. I was looking for areas with current, steep breaks, and rocky bottom. I worked a Black/Blue Football Jig across these areas followed up with a Black/Blue Flake Chigger Craw trailer. Friday before the start of the extravaganza I went to check a spot with all of these features and 3 casts in I landed a 19” Largemouth. I packed up and headed out of there knowing this would be my goto area come day 1.
Day 1 was a roller coaster of emotions to say the least. I first started off hitting the spot Austin and I had found, pulling up 2 small 12-13” fish. I knew the spot was a bust and then headed over to the spot I hit Friday Morning. First few casts in I landed and 18.75” fish, and got it submitted to the leaderboard. I knew this was going to make for one of my best tournament days. Or so I thought…. about 10 minutes later I landed a 17 1/2” fish, took the picture on my red Ketch board, and then it happened. as I was going to type in the measurement of the fish, the fish flopped up off the board hitting the bottom of my phone. Up in the air it went, I tipped it, and then watched it slowly sink to the bottom of Nicakajack Lake. My stomach sank, the foul language rolled off my tongue , and my worst nightmare just became a reality. I was so beside myself I didn’t know what to do. I knew my tournament was over before it even started. I started heading back towards the launch thinking of what I could possibly do to get more fish on the board and then submitted to Tourney X. The GoPro!!! When I made it to the ramp, I found a local gentleman fishing from the bank who let me use his cell phone to call the tournament director. Spoke with him stating my problem, and the possible solution I had come up with. This was all fine with him however I had to return to my laptop to upload my photos prior to deadline which was over an hour away at the campground I was staying at. I did so leaving me short on fishing time, however I did manage to put a limit together which left me in 70 something place after day1. I wanted to quit and just pack up and go home after being on the road solo for a week and a half. I couldn’t forfeit so easy though. I stuck it out day 2 , caught my five fish, and moved up the leaderboard, and finishing in 65th place. I faced some of the toughest anglers in the country that weekend, and despite the phone loss, I think I came out pretty well being that I only got 1/2 day of fishing in on day 1.
KBF Trail Stop Madison Chain
It was redemption time, and this one was close to home. I had only fished the chain once before with Jay, and we had a pretty stellar largemouth bite. Going into prefixing I was aware that there were going to be several tournaments taking place during the tournament, but there waste lake off limits to those tournaments, and that was Lake Mendota. I focused on this certain area during prefishing, and as a matter of fact this is the lake that the tournament was won on. I focused on another steep break area that had a little bit of current, and some nice chunky smallmouth staked in the area. I was tossing the good ole Ned Rig. The color was key however. The color the sallies really enjoyed was called “New Money” by Z-Man. I would cast it out with a 1/15th oz. Ned Head and slowly drag it across the bottom where there were large boulders. The smallmouth would just annihilate the bait. I started off the day leading the tournament for most of the morning, but then my bite wore off. I couldn’t get another bite the rest of the day as I watched my name move down the leaderboard. It was a special feeling however seeing my name at the top for a chunk of the morning. I ended up taking 9th in the Trail and 2nd in the Pro Tour. Cashing in a nice chunk of change and an hourly big bass, I felt redeemed.
Paddle N FIN Ohio Meet-up
Meet-ups are much more for being with our fans, than it is more about the competition aspect. However when you throw a little tournament in there you have to feel competitive. I found a jig bite once again, and felt great about what I had put together going into the tournament. However I failed to land fish in the boat, and had two fish flop off the board when going to take photos. Those two fish would have landed me 2nd place, but I ended up in 4th. 2nd place was taken by my good friend and team mate for the event Mr. Jay Randall. Couldn’t have been happier for Jay though. The events we fished together this season he had trailed behind me, and it sure was a great feeling to see his name above mine for once. Well done Jay!!! This little story is partially crucial to the next and final installment of this post.
KBF Trail Stop Mississippi River
The Mississippi is definitely mighty and mean. What a struggle and a grind for an unfamiliar angler. I really struggled here with so many things in play, and on my mind. The week coming into this tournament the Central Division Angler Of The Year standings were posted and my name was in the 3rd place spot. This wasn’t something I really had expected. On the way to the tournament, I received a phone call regarding y grandfather being put in the hospital , and lastly I really dropped the ball on doing my homework on this body of water.
During prefishing I found a bite down south that was producing a 15-16” average. I felt this may be good enough for top ten after speaking with my room mates for the week, Alan Reed, Sam Jones, and Dylan Faqua. It seemed they all had a rough time finding the bigger fish. A majority of the field was fishing up north in Pool 9, and I was focused on Pool 10. I didn’t have any other competition down there like the others were facing in the North. I found some flooded out land that had fish holding to tree trunks and hitting my Creature Bait as I pitched it to the base of the trees.
Come tournament morning I started fishing my are with not another kayak in sight. As I worked my way over to the trees I had been fishing, I noticed a distinct water line on them. The river had dropped about a foot overnight, and pushing my fish out of the area. I scrambled, but made a decision around 8 am to head in, and pull out the Hail Mary play. I drove over an hour north until I found an area I liked and wanted to launch from. I launched the blue sky and headed toward a rocky bank . Just as I get close a local fisherman pulls right into the spot I am heading toward. Most of the time I would be frustrated, however this time I was thankful. I saw the older gentleman in the front of the boat land a decent bass on what looked like a white spinnerbait. Unfortunately I had to turn around, and head back towards the truck to get my spinnerbaits. At this point I have wasted a lot of tournament time driving, and going back to get a bait that I saw a random guy catch one fish on. I figured what the heck, as I am not doing any better with the program I had been using. Low and behold it was the lure that turned my tournament day around. Granted I only caught 12-13” fish, but I did manage a limit, and ended up in 33rd place instead of last.
Looking Ahead & Conclusion to the Madness
I have traveled all over the midwest, I have fished some of the most majestic waters in these areas, and I have competed with the best of the best, and had some of the biggest struggles one could have. I have learned many lessons not only about fishing, tournaments, but myself as an individual. The biggest thing I need to do is stay focused on the mental aspect of this game and not let all the little things get in the way. My main focus has always been helping grow this sport, and its community. I am trying to lead by example, and that’s exactly what I am going to keep doing, by pushing through these small hurdles and show others what can be done by a young guy from the midwest. Secretly I have had a mission to try and take Rookie of the year, and I am not far away. I have already achieved the goals of qualifying for the national championship, trail championship, TENvitational , and the FLW/KBF Cup. This is definitely to be continued, and watch for the midwest kid . Until next time, Tight Lines and smooth Paddlin!!!