NSKA River Road Runner Recap

Predictions prior to this year’s river focused event said that there would be a lot of fish caught, and some big limits turned in. These predictions were mostly correct regarding the Natural State Kayak Angler’s River Road Runner from the weekend. Due to the heavy canoe and tube traffic on some area rivers in June this should be called the “Ya’ll catching anything?” event. For the most part, NSKA fishermen were able to say “Heck, yeah!”

None of the groups of floaters on the river that day looked like this.

In the tournament preview article, Jeff Malott and Sam Philip almost hit big bass on the nose, while Sam was ultimately the closest in predicting the winning length.

On a sunny, breezy, day in June, 26 of 38 (64%) anglers were credited with a limit. Although there were some big fish caught, there weren’t very many.  Only five fish 17″ or larger were caught, by a total of four anglers. Having a good kicker was key to placing near the top in this event.

I was lucky enough to finish 1st for this event with 81.5″, Dwain Batey 2nd with 78.75″ and Jonathan Brewer 3rd with a solid 76.25″ limit. Big Bass was won by John Evans with a 20.25″ largemouth, while I won runner-up Big Bass with a 20″ largemouth.

The Top 10 looked like this:

  1.  Jason Kincy
  2.  Dwain Batey
  3.  Jonathan Brewer
  4.  Jeriamy Vann
  5.  Faron Davidson
  6.  Tim Hotchkin
  7.  Jose Rodriguez
  8.  Roy Roberts
  9.  Josh Sherrill
  10.  John Evans

Angler Recaps

Jason – Not knowing hardly any rivers in the area at all, I went to the Elk River, the one with which I had at least some experience. Started out throwing my favorite baits (topwater) but only caught a few small ones. After switching to a squarebill I caught a 17″ off a log, and was catching some others off wood with a ned rig. One of these bass had a large craw claw (2.75 inches! Who knew they had crawdads that big in the Elk?) in its throat that had a blue/green color to it. This clued me in to what they were feeding on, so at this point I pulled out a YUM worm in blue laminate with a claw-like tail. From that point forward I spent most of the rest of the day dragging that worm slowly around logs and wood.

Another large crawfish claw shows from the throat of my 20″ bass.

My biggest fish, a 20″ largemouth bass came off some submerged brush and when I hooked it I was sure it was a gar or catfish or something because it just would not surface. Once I caught this fish a bit after noon, I knew it might be possible to contend. About 30 minutes before the end of regulation I hooked a 15.25″ to cull a 13″ and was hoping at that point that I had enough to place a top three. Four of my top five fish came from that worm imitating the craw claw, so I was very fortunate to spot that and have a great YUM bait to turn to. The rest of that rig setup was a 3/8 oz Reins slip sinker, Owner all-purpose worm hook, 12lb P-Line CXX Floro, Shimano Curado70 and Dobyns rod.

Dwain – Last year was my first year to fish kayak tournaments and the River Road Runner event last year was by far my worst finish, so this year I really wanted to make a better showing. I had intended to pre-fish some rivers in the year between these events, but never did. So I got on trusty Google Earth and tried to find an area within bounds that looked like it was deep enough to use my pedal drive and might hold larger fish. I settled on an area of the Illinois River in Oklahoma near Watts that looked like it would be a good fit.

I started off the morning throwing a buzz bait, and it paid off quickly with a limit of fish, including my best of the day a 17.75 inch largemouth. I milked the buzz bait bite most of the day, but shortly after catching my best Smallmouth bass of the day on it I discovered an area that I could catch fish on a crankbait. It was an area about 200 yards long that was around 4 or 5 feet deep from the shore out to about 10 feet from the bank, and then also had a flat where the water became shallow between two pools. I first found the fish in the shallow area, and then followed this area up the bank. I was cranking the Skirmish Baits MP7 (a small squarebill), and it was producing both Smallmouth and Spotted Bass. I caught about 10 fish on my first pass, and one of them was a nice Smallmouth that gave me a decent cull. A second pass produced more fish but no culls, so I switched to an M9 squarebill which is a larger profile, and caught a very nice Spotted Bass on the same run with the larger bait. That was my final cull of the day, and I was more than happy to get a 2nd place finish in a river event since 99% of my fishing is on lakes. The area I found happens to be really close to my house, and I’ll probably go back during the year and refine my knowledge of the area, and up my river fishing game.

Jonathan – I chose the Elk River to fish this event this year, and started off fishing a topwater bait.  Caught a limit within the first 30 minutes and two of those I was able to use for my best five. After that they were still busting the topwater but I think they were seeing it too well so I switched to my personal go-to bait on rivers and creeks (the Wiggle Wart). I was able to add three more decent fish to my limit on that bait.  Overall, I couldn’t tell you how many fish I caught – it was a blast.

River Valley – Lee Creek

On the same day as the NWA event, those in the River Valley had an NSKA river event on Lee Creek. I’ve fished there twice now, one time was good, one time was really bad. Looks like they had a tough day out there, with only four of 16 entrants turning in a limit. The winners were:

  1.  Toby Bogart 74. 75″ (Plus Big Bass at 18″)
  2.  Scott Accord 70.25″
  3.  Lloyd Mize 66″

Congrats to these kayak anglers!


Read recent articles: Lake Wilson Fishing, Reins Slip Sinker Review

 

Lake Wilson Fishing

Was doing some Lake Wilson fishing at the local Thursday night yakpot and caught this 5.5 lb largemouth bass on a Rebel Pop-R to win Big Bass for the evening. I was fishing back in the flat where the creeks run in and was throwing a Heddon Zara Spook when this giant blew up on it but missed. Grabbed the Pop-R and threw it in there letting it sit with a couple of small twitches and then it was pulled under.

Lake Wilson Fishing - 5.5 lb largemouth while kayak fishing.
Lake Wilson Fishing – 5.5 lb largemouth while kayak fishing.

My full gear setup on the Zara Spook rod included 12 lb P-Line Floroclear, Owner Stinger Trebles, Dobyns crankbait rod and Fish Allure scented tab. For the Pop-R I had 10 lb P-Line Floroclear, Owner Stinger Trebles, Dobyns crankbait rod and my awesome Shimano Citica baitcast reel. Like always, I had my MTI life jacket on board and on my body – wear a life jacket!

Was tough that night with Lake Wilson Fishing, but this big bite made it worth the trip.

Fish Allure Tab Placement – Walking Baits

I’m a big proponent of throwing topwater lures, particularly walking baits in spring. One of the reasons I like a walking bait this time of year is that if you can work it correctly, it will stay in the strike zone for an irritatingly long time.

For hard baits, particularly topwaters, using Fish Allure scented tabs can help improve your chances of a bite. I’ve written previously about these water activated adhesive scents designed for hard baits.

It’s easy to determine where to add your Fish Allure tab to a walking bait such as a Heddon Zara Spook.  Because the tab is activated by water, I want it to stay in the water as much as possible, so I’ll place the tab on the belly, just in front of the first hook on a two treble Spook or between the first and second hook on a three treble Spook.

Below is Fish Allure pro staff member Fred “Boom Boom” Roumbanis talking about using scented tabs to catch more bass. Check out Fish Allure on Tackle Warehouse and order some today.

NSKA River Run Preview

The scenic rivers of NW Arkansas will be the site for the June 10 NSKA River Road Runner tournament. Paddlers will be choosing their fishing location from moving bodies of water within a 50 mile radius of Cabela’s. Originally scheduled for May, the heavy spring rains moved this event to June.

As anglers choose their water, the key is understanding the “scenic river” requirement. There are some important boundary rules you need to know.  Beavertown (and below Beaver Dam) is out of play. On the White River, only above (south of) Twin Bridges is in play, and on War Eagle, only above (south of) the War Eagle Mill is in play. Several other rivers mentioned below are also options for the NSKA River Road Runner.

River Run Roundtable

I don’t have much data for use in trying to determine how this will go down so I asked a couple of local kayak river rats to help with the preview – Sam Philip and Jason Cossey.

With a 50 mile radius and “scenic river” waters, what are the main rivers you think will be used by anglers?

  • Jason – The Elk, Illinois and Kings will probably be the best, but you can’t rule our the White and War Eagle.
  • Sam – Elk River, Illinois River, Kings River, War Eagle and Indian Creek.

How will river fishing affect the number of limits and the size of the fish in the limits?

  • Jason – Rivers can have big fish, but I think a 14″ limit with a 18-19″ kicker will take the top spot.
  • Sam – In general you average fish length will be smaller, however, there are several locations on the rivers mentioned where “lake” sized limits can be caught.

What is your prediction on winning limit length and big bass?

  • Jason – 72-74″ is my prediction but could go bigger.
  • Sam – I think 84-85 inches will be a good number for this event. Big bass being 20.50.

How do you think rains over the last month will affect the event?

  • Jason – Rains will bring up the levels and make them muddy, but they clear pretty fast. It will hurt smaller waters because of the muddy conditions.
  • Sam – The rains of late haven’t been enough to really affect the smaller rivers. Unless we see a large amount of rain on Thursday or Friday I don’t see it being an issue at all. The smaller rivers can clear up and level out within 24 hours.

Sam also added that he always looks forward to river events and that he’s curious to see who fishes actual scenic rivers, and who seeks out the slower, deeper waters in a few of the larger ones. Overall I’m also curious how this will play out. For me, as primarily a lake angler, I’m completely out of my element in a river event. I’ll happy if I can just get a limit.

I’m thinking some of the same things as Jason and Sam for the weekend. I’ve always fished Beavertown in river events, so will have to try somewhere else. I have a feeling War Eagle or the Illinois just into Oklahoma will produce the top limit. This year, every tournament has over-performed previous trends on winning length, but I think this time we’ll be looking to top out around 75″ for first place, partly because with a big turnout, there will be a lot of yaks in the water on these small tributaries.

NSKA Tournament Director Jeff Malott has larger expectations for the weekend. He’s predicting a 90+” limit with a 20″ big bass based on folks he’s been talking to who have been pre-fishing.

A few important reminders:

  • Captains meeting will be online Friday night, must view this! Jeff will also be doing a FB Live rules update tonight (Wed, June 7) that you should view as well.
  • For NSKA, you CANNOT fish from outside your kayak at any time. You can get out to stretch, drag your boat, etc., but casts must be made from inside your kayak.
  • 50 mile radius is as the crow flies, not by road.

Good luck to all, wear your PDF and have fun!

Read recent articles: Reins Slip Sinker Review , Fishing with Eric Jackson

 

Reins Slip Sinker – Review

It’s no secret that fishing soft plastics is a great way to catch bass, and many of my soft plastic tackle setups include a Reins slip sinker. Whether I’m throwing a Texas rig, Carolina Rig or flipping, the Reins slip sinker in tungsten is on the line.

Black Reins slip sinker in 3/8 oz on a ribbontail worm with 4/0 Owner worm hook caught this 20" largemouth bass.
Black Reins slip sinker in 3/8 oz on a ribbontail worm with 4/0 Owner worm hook caught this 20″ largemouth bass.

Why do I prefer to use a Reins slip sinker?

The way their slip sinkers are constructed makes them the smallest profile available for their given weight, which helps them navigate through cover more easily. With a 95% tungsten and 5% nickel alloy, they are the among the most dense weights available.

As someone who fishes an exceptional amount of Texas rig, having a Reins slip sinker means the weight won’t fray or weaken my line. Many lower priced weights don’t have a protective insert like Reins does, which can cause a deterioration of your line as you fish.

It sounds a bit silly, but I really like the coating on the exterior of the Reins slip sinker. The colors (black and green pumpkin) are in a matte finish and is hard as nails. Some companies have coatings that will chip or are shiny – I prefer the more consistent natural look of Reins.

Reins slip sinkers are available from 1/16 to 2.5 oz sinkers, so they have the right size no matter what you are looking for.

For more info on Reins, visit the Reins website, Facebook page, or watch this video below from JT Kenny about why he chooses Reins slip sinkers.

 

KBF Bella Vista Tournament Recap

Bella Vista, Arkansas, hosted its first ever kayak bass fishing event with the Kayak Bass Fishing (KBF) night tournament on June 3. Bella Vista lakes are accessible by members, their guests or others who purchase a public use pass from the POA. Anglers could choose from five different lakes and fished from 4:00 p.m. until midnight. Six states were represented on the water for this unique KBF Trail stop.

The tournament started off with a rain shower and thunderstorms which cleared up as the evening wore on. Anglers were fairly spread out among the five lakes, with the most at Lake Ann, which totaled 15 by my count.  After all the fishing wrapped up, we were left with a LOT of small bass and one gigantic largemouth.

Of the 39 registered participants, 22 (56%) turned in a limit, while 32 (82%) carded a keeper.  Big fish were in short supply, and smaller ones dominated the limits – with only NINE of almost 200 fish submitted being 16″ or larger. In the weeks leading up to the event, I had predicted 77″ to win the tournament, and almost got it right on the nose.

Dwain Batey took first with 76.25″, Chris Jones second with 74.25″ and Cody Milton turned in 74″ for third. Cody also took big bass with a 24.75″ monster bass caught at Lake Brittany. Watch for an article later this week for more details about how he caught this 10+ lb behemoth. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The top ten finishers were as follows:

  1.  Dwain Batey
  2.  Chris Jones
  3.  Cody Milton
  4.  Jason Cossey
  5.  Roy Roberts
  6.  Justin Phillips
  7.  Nathan Henthorn
  8.  Jason Adams
  9.  Brendan Johnson
  10.  Chad Warford

I made a very last minute decision and started out with Lake Ann, overall having a poor performance. Finishing 13th, it didn’t help that I lost at least 5-6 fish off the hook, but none would have put me on top. Overall, a scattered and not very clean tourney on my end.

Here are some recaps by the top three anglers:

Dwain – Having only pre-fished one day on Lake Ann, which didn’t impress me, I chose to fish lake Rayburn, only because someone had said it had some color to it, and wasn’t as clear as the others. (Author’s note – this may have been me, Dwain probably owes me a %)  My original plan was to switch over to Lake Brittany after dark, but based on the live scoring at TourneyX I decided that Brittany wasn’t fishing any better other than Cody’s monster of course, so I stuck it out the whole time at Rayburn. I started off fishing a Skirmish Baits prototype glide bait that has been on fire last month for me. I had heard that these lakes had a lot of small fish, and I was trying to attract above average fish. I had several fish swipe at that bait and even stuck what would have easily been my biggest fish, but it pulled off under the boat. After sticking with that bait for about two hours I finally caught three on it, including one of my best fish for the night. I finally switched over to the Skirmish Baits M9-OK (one knocker) squarebill, and filled out my limit, and started culling fish. This bait too seemed to be catching fish above average for me, and I found a few places that seemed to be holding better fish than most of the lake. After dark, I switched over to a buzz bait and caught another 15 fish or so, but only one of them would cull up for me.

Cody – I chose Brittany because of how clear the water was. I thought it would be slow during the day but have a chance at better fish at night. During the daylight hours I fished in the middle of the lake over 60-70 feet. The fish would stay suspended in 7 feet if they weren’t schooling. You could mark 3-5 fish and throw back to them and catch them pretty easy.  I used a wacky rig senko to catch all of them.  After dark I threw a jig with a black D bomb trailer. I focused on any hard bottom that was close to 60ft of water. The most hard bottom was the dam, so I just went back and forth on it. I assumed the trout had to be in that deepest area and I wanted to stay close to them. Especially after hearing of the giants that live in Brittany. Thankfully I came across one throwing directly at the boat ramp next to the dock.

Chris – I chose Ann mainly due to word of mouth from the bait store up there and I liked that it was bigger in size. I threw a popper in the rain under the trees for some keepers then when the sun came out I threw a 5-6 foot crankbait bluegill colors for a lot of fish mostly small though. 2 of my best fish came after dark on the new 110 size whopper plopper, loon(black) was the color. I noticed a lot of bait in 2 coves and I mainly focused on them. I caught about 20 fish but most were 12″ fish.

Overall this was a cool event and gave several anglers their first taste of Bella Vista fishing. The Bella Vista POA seemed pleased with the outcome and it may lead to another tournament in the future. Although it likely dispelled the rumors of lakes stocked with schools of big bass, this event did show the lakes have a good keeper sized fish population – and at least one giant.

KBF Bella Vista Night Tournament Preview

A unique event is coming to the Ozarks with the Kayak Bass Fishing (KBF) Trail stop in Bella Vista, Arkansas.  This is the first KBF event of this kind – a live night fishing tournament with a road runner format allowing anglers to choose where they fish among five of the Bella Vista area lakes.

The KBF Trail – Bella Vista tournament takes place from 4:00 p.m. until 12 midnight and will start and end from the Lake Avalon pavilion. The lakes in play for Bella Vista include:

  1. Lake Avalon – 67 acres/50 feet maximum depth
  2. Lake Ann – 112 acres/53 feet maximum depth
  3. Lake Britney – 37 acres/75 feet maximum depth
  4. Lake Rayburn – 45 acres/75 feet maximum depth
  5. Lake Norwood – 33 acres/79 feet maximum depth

From my experience in Bella Vista fishing, these lakes are well managed and most anglers will definitely catch fish. Finding bigger fish is going to be key, as they can be somewhat rare in these five lakes. Four average fish and a good kicker might win the event. All of the Bella Vista lakes are managed by the Property Owners Association (POA) and are accessible to members, guests and the general public who purchase a use permit.

Jason Adams, kayak angler from the Bella Vista area, has been key in helping establish this KBF Trail stop. We asked Jason for his insights on the area and the upcoming tournament.

What made you want to bring a KBF tournament to Bella Vista?

We wanted to bring an event to Bella Vista because not many people have fished these lakes. The lakes are very well managed and beautiful docks line the most of the banks making for great cover for bass. These lakes are very small in scale and kayaks can reach every piece of water better than a bass boat.

I approached the Bella Vista POA about allowing kayak tournaments on Bella Vista lakes about a year ago. It wasn’t not something that just happened. Once I was able to walk them through the process, they responded very favorably. Rick, the Lake Biologist, really liked the idea that the fish are photographed and released immediately. That way we can share the catch data we collect from the tournament results back to them for a better understanding of the fish population.  The overall vision was to create something that could benefit Bella Vista and kayak anglers alike. We got approval for two dates, one for this event in the spring and one in the fall. If the first one is a success, we may get an opportunity to host additional events.

We also knew we had to swim upstream by providing the kayak community something different than what has been done in the past.  We have been working on hosting an event in Bella Vista for some time when KBF announced they were looking for additional opportunities to grow the Trail events. So we jumped at the opportunity. KBF has blazed the path on creating and standardizing kayak bass tournaments with rules that are widely accepted across the nation. When someone travels to the different KBF Trail events, they know what to expect because rules are the same.

Can you explain the options for anglers to pre-fish the lakes?

Anyone can enjoy fishing at Bella Vista lakes by purchasing a fishing permit. For pre-fishing, just go by the POA office during business hours and purchase your permit in person, or call (479) 855-8000 to purchase and receive by mail. Mention you are with KBF and that you need to get a use permit. Lake Rangers patrol the boat ramps and fishing docks, and if stopped, they will ask for your permit. Its best to have your permit in advance through the POA office, but the rangers can issue permits on the spot as well. Pre-fishing permits are available for the day ($6), week ($17) or month ($39) with a kayak daily ($8) or weekly ($17) registration. Lake use permit for tournament day is payable when registering through TourneyX.

Why a night tournament, and what do you think makes a night event special?

Bella Vista lakes are perfect for night fishing. There are many docks on these lakes and the lights shimmer across the water making it a beautiful sight. The moon phase will be at 67% that night so it will be even more beautiful. The fact these lakes are small in size and are no-wake lakes makes them safer and more accessible to kayaks at night than larger bodies of water.

What are some other important aspects of the KBF Bella Vista event participants should know?

In addition to the opportunity to win prize money and spots in the 2018 KBF National Championship, there will also be a drawing for a Nucanoe Pursuit, and all participating anglers will be automatically entered. If we reach 100 registered anglers, the tournament winner will also walk away with a NuCanoe Pursuit!

There is a Big Bass Brawl for an additional $20 that benefits Heroes On The Water. This helps fund events like the one taking place on June 4th at Lake Norwood in Bella Vista, where the Northwest Arkansas HOW Chapter will be taking out veterans and first-responders for a relaxing day on the water to fish out of a kayak.

The tournament is being put on and hosted by the Fish It Forward. Fish It Forward is a non-profit organization created to put a fishing pole in the hands of kids regardless of their ability to pay. We have a strong community of volunteers in Northwest Arkansas and major supporters like the Walton Foundation.

Where can you find more information?

Event Page/Rules – TourneyX Page – Facebook Page

 

NSKA NWA Road Runner Recap

The NSKA NWA Road Runner took place on a post-front day with bluebird skies but that didn’t keep these kayak anglers from catching a lot of fish. The trend for 2017 continued with higher catch totals than in previous years. For those of you who don’t do the weekly Yakpot, it seemed to have been key for the top performers this time around.

Dwain Batey took 1st again with 93.75″ on Lake Elmdale, while Cole Sikes finished 2nd on Elmdale as well with 85.50″ and Big Bass with a 23.50″ monster.  Craig Richardson and Brayden Richardson finished 3rd and 4th with 85.25″ each at SWEPCO Lake.

A whopping 66% of the field turned in a limit, showing that when these kayak anglers can choose their spot, fish will be caught.

The top 10 was as follows:

  1. Dwain Batey
  2. Cole Sikes
  3. Craig Richardson
  4. Brayden Richardson
  5. Justin Wright
  6. Roy Roberts
  7. William Jones
  8. Baron Meek
  9. Robert Murphy
  10. David Preston

The top anglers shared their recaps on the day. Great summaries by Dwain Batey, Cole Sikes and Craig Richardson.

Dwain – There was a cold front, quickly clearing water, and ridiculous fishing pressure to deal with at Lake Elmdale, but knowing all of that I still decided I was “on them” enough to catch fish with the changing conditions and behind other boats and kayaks. My plan to fish Elmdale began with the awesome day that many of us had at the weekly Yakpot the week before, the water was high and muddy, and the fish were shallow and eating. I checked it again on Friday, and Sunday, and continued to refine my presentation each trip. I was very worried that the water would be too clear for those very shallow fish to remain that shallow by the event day, but I resisted the urge to check them again before the off limits period started. I pedaled out to my best area before start time, and was waiting there when it was time for the first cast.

I only got a couple of bites fishing through my best stuff, and didn’t put any of them in the boat. Just beyond my best area I caught a couple of 10+” to break this ice, but then I had to skip the next 150 yards of that bank because there were a series of boats and kayaks fishing that stretch. Moving on down to the next free area I finally connected with a few decent fish on the jig. Even down there I was fishing behind two bass boats that were both fishing similarly, pitching something into the same cover. Catching fish behind them really gave me confidence that I was doing something right, and different enough to catch fish with the heavy fishing pressure of the day. I made another pass down the entire stretch, and picked up a couple more fish then near the very end of it put my best fish in the boat, a 20.25″ that really anchored my bag for the day (this was at 10 a.m.).

After that I didn’t boat another fish that would cull until I found one fish away from my area on a deeper bank at 1 pm. While I had a serious game plan with several different lures, it turned out that all I needed was my jig. It was a black and blue Missile Jig, which is compact in size and profile but matched the fall rate of the larger jig I was using the week before. My trailer was a Reaction Innovations Smallie Beaver in a matching color. I wanted the smaller jig, and no kicking legs on the trailer because the fishing pressure and the clearing water put the brakes on the activity level of the bass. The cover that the fish were holding on also continued to change as the water cleared and fell. The first trip last week the fish were holding on vertical wood cover that was approx. 2 to 4 inches diameter, the next day they were on the base of the really big stumps/trees that were 2 to 4 feet diameter, but on the day of the tournament they had moved to the bushy stuff that was very sparse and was under ½ inch diameter. Another big change was, last week in the dirty water fish were biting the bait on the drop, and during the tournament you’d have to let it go to the bottom and hop/drag it some to get a bite.

After the sun got up and really showed how clear the water was, I really couldn’t believe that those fish were still up in a foot of water and biting the morning of the tournament, but I’m glad that I didn’t know until after I’d caught them, it could have ruined my confidence in the area to see that early in the day, but luckily it still looked dirty in the low light of the early morning when I was doing my damage. While everyone expects me to catch my fish on a Skirmish Baits M9 squarebill crankbait (and that’s usually the case) it’s nice to show some diversity and catch some fish on a slower bait once in a while.

Cole – I ended up choosing Lake Elmdale because it’s the lake I know the best outside of Beaver Lake and I had one of my best fishing trips while fishing the Weekly YakPot tournament the week before. From my experience in the past, Lake Elmdale doesn’t usually have an abundance of quality fish (18+”) but this year the lake has been on fire.

Conditions played a big role in my overall strategy. The sun and no wind always makes it a grind so I knew the early morning bite would be key. In the morning I tried to flip my jig by every piece of cover up shallow while I knew the bank was going to get hit hard by other weekend anglers. This worked for me but only was able to manage to catch some average 15” keepers. Once the shallow bite got tough, I started fishing out deeper on points and pockets hoping to catch a key kicker.

This move worked out well for me while I caught my kicker fish in a mouth of a pocket using a jig around laydowns that were not visible to the human eye. The fish was an 8.5″ cull and moved me from 13th to a 2nd place finish.  My key baits for the day were BassX Jigs with Zoom Ultra Vibe Speed Craw trailers.

Craig – Decided to hit Swepco because for some reason it doesn’t seem to get all muddied up after rains like some of the other lakes. Brayden and I found the fish pretty quickly in the coves, mostly in a little deeper water on secondary points and structure. As the day heated up and the sun came out, the fish moved up into the flooded vegetation in the same areas. We were able to catch them all day throwing a wacky rig.

River Valley Road Runner

On the same day as NWA events, there is another tourney for those south of the Bobby Hopper Tunnel. Congratulations as well to the NSKA River Valley Road Runner Winners:

  • 1st – Chris Nemeth with 89″
  • 2nd – Christa Hibbs with 83.5″
  • 3rd – Chris Jones with 72″
  • Big Bass – Josh Baker with 22.25″

As for me, this is easily one of my worst decision making tournaments ever. Although I caught several fish, I made a last minute decision on the lake I chose and the area of the lake where I wanted to start. On that day I used a lot of go-to techniques and caught small fish but it just didn’t work for the bigger ones. By the time I adjusted the sun was out and it was just too late. Hopefully we all learned something in this event that will help us down the road.

Thank you to Jeff Malott for putting on a well organized and fun event so that we can all have some fun.

NWA Roadrunner – NSKA Preview

The Natural State Kayak Anglers (NSKA) hit the road for the next tournament to be held on Saturday, May 13 – with a Northwest Arkansas road runner event. Because of recent flooding, the River Run was postponed until later in the season and the road runner moved up in its place. Many lakes are in play and are good options for this choose your own adventure kayak fishing tournament.

Participants may choose from almost any publicly accessible body of water within a 30 mile radius (with the exception of Bella Vista lakes) including some newly approved lakes for this season. The NSKA NWA Road Runner is one of my favorite events because it allows everyone to choose an option that fits their style, and should result in a decent overall winning total.

Choose Your Own Adventure

Here are some of the primary options anglers will be considering for tournament day:

Lake Bob Kidd – I haven’t fished this lake much but it has been in the mix each time there’s been a road runner. There are some big bass in this lake and if you like vegetation and wood structure, it is a great option.

Lincoln Lake – To me this is the undisputed “Big Bass” lake in Northwest Arkansas. On average you will catch a bigger fish here than anywhere else. If it is on, the winner will likely come from Lincoln Lake.

SWEPCO Lake fatty.
SWEPCO Lake fatty.

SWEPCO Lake – The only other lake on the list which could challenge Lincoln for large numbers of big fish. This lake’s going to be a bit warmer than some others, but hasn’t heated up too much yet for the summer. A big limit could be filled quickly here, but every once in a while these bass can get tight lipped.

Lake Elmdale – Easily accessed from I-49, this is a very popular lake, meaning it gets tons of pressure and can get quite crowded. (I counted 28 cars in the lot the last time I was there) It’s a solid lake that can at times produce good fishing, however, it has never really produced top results in a road runner style tournament. Will see what this year brings.

Crystal Lake – Gaining a lot of respect in recent tournaments, this gem of a little lake is near Decatur. I’ve fished it twice in road runners, making top five in both events. Not many giant bass like Lincoln and Swepco, but a very healthy population of keepers packed into a lake of manageable size.

Beaver Lake – Here we go…this will be interesting to see who heads to Beaver Lake and rolls the dice.  Historically Beaver Lake has factored in to the top places in road runner events – there’s no doubt it has fish and some really good ones. The person who can find some bass at Beaver might roll a seven and win this thing.

Wildcards – Some lesser known lakes are also in the mix and options for competitors: Wilson, Wedington, Lake Fayetteville, Lake Sequoya, Lake Prairie Grove and Siloam City Lake are all possibilities. (note – am told Lake Prairie Grove is currently closed)

Historical Look Back

In 2015, my first year with AKA/NSKA, the first roadrunner was earlier in the spring (April 14) and Lake Swepco was off-limits as an option. The winning angler fished the upper Beaver Lake area near War Eagle, 2nd place came from Lake Bob Kidd, 3rd place from Crystal Lake, 4th place from Lincoln Lake/Bob Kidd and 5th place from Lincoln Lake. It took close to 80″ to win this event.

In 2016, some of the same lakes produced the top results. Although I don’t have the order of finish, I do know that Beaver Lake produced the winner with approximately 86″ and Lake Bob Kidd, Siloam City Lake and Swepco Lake were in the mix for the other top finishers.

Not a real road-runner but the NWA Draw Four tournament featured Lincoln Lake, Crystal Lake, Lake Elmdale and Lake Bob Kidd. 1st came out of Crystal Lake with 2nd and 3rd coming from Lake Bob Kidd I believe.  Mid-70s was required to win this one.

NSKA Predictions

Northwest Arkansas kayak anglers Tim Hotchkin and Rob Bomstead weighed in along with me on what to expect this weekend:

What top two lakes do you think will produce the winner?

  • Jason – Based on historical data, the winner will come from Beaver Lake, Swepco or Lincoln. I’m betting Lincoln this year.
  • Tim – Swepco or Elmdale. Swepco stayed pretty clear after all the rain it’s just high from the rain. Elmdale has had alot of success lately so it will draw a lot of anglers.
  • Rob – I think Beaver or Swepco will produce the winner, although a smaller sleeper lake may surprise us all.

How does a road runner change your strategy?

  • Jason – Normally it is about finding the type of water you want to fish, but this year it is all up and dirtier than normal, so not as much of an issue.
  • Tim – It doesn’t change my strategy. If anything it helps me. I can to to whatever lake I feel confident in based on our recent weather changes and lake elevations due to all the rain.
  • Rob – Weather, water temp, water clarity, recent catches and wind all are part of the decision, however, personal confidence in a body of water and fishing how I like to fish play an important role.

Recent rains have muddied up about everywhere except Swepco, how will that affect things?

  • Jason – I think this is going to drive overall size totals higher than normal and some will catch a lot of fish. This won’t be a grind it out just for a limit in clear water event.
  • Tim – It will put a lot of stress on some anglers as their normal waters may not be fishable.  A lot of anglers may have to change their styles which could cause some anglers to try techniques they are not used to.
  • Rob – The rains definitely have changed the game plan, but good weather this week hopefully will calm things down and we should see some clearing of the water a bit.

Winning length and big bass size?

  • Jason – 86.5″ to win and a 20.75″ big bass
  • Tim – Winning Length: 78″ with a 21″ big bass
  • Rob – This group has some great anglers and I would be hard pressed not to believe someone will have them figured out. I’m going to say just over 98″ and big bass will be 22.5″

What is the key bait?

  • Jason – Spinnerbait or jig
  • Tim – Texas rigged creature bait.
  • Rob – Jig and crankbait.

Fishing with FLW Pro and Kayaking Superstar Eric Jackson

For the past couple of years I have been fortunate enough to fish with an FLW Pro in the Will Fish for Kids charity tournament on Beaver Lake and this year was pleased to draw Eric Jackson as my pro partner. Teaming up with Eric was no accident, I had requested to be paired with the world champion kayaker, pro fisherman, business man and marketer – knowing we’d have a great time talking as well as fishing.

Eric Jackson and I at the FLW Will Fish for Kids Tournament on Beaver Lake.
Eric Jackson and I at the FLW Will Fish for Kids Tournament on Beaver Lake.

Beaver Lake had just come off of a roller coaster couple of weeks of record rains and quickly rising water, creating issues for most of the pro anglers during the tournament. The night before our event threw another curve, with temps dropping to 38 degrees overnight (in May!) and 20-30 mph wind gusts during the day. Add to that a hazelnut stain in the normally crystal clear water and it was not the lake I had been used to.

Eric and I met up that morning and started out heading up an arm of Prairie Creek to check out some underwater wood structure he had

This color is not my Beaver Lake.

identified. Shortly thereafter, we were about to escape the very muddy water of Prairie Creek and head up to chase some smallmouth when his motor took a dive on us and we were stuck around the take-off point for the rest of the day.  In what was a recurring theme, Eric took this in stride and put a positive face on the situation. The rest of our day we worked around the launch area fishing some different techniques as best as we could, but just didn’t make magic happen. We boated only one keeper before we agreed to pack it in for the day and let Eric and family hit the road back to Tennessee. As expected however, fishing wasn’t the key highlight for me. I enjoyed my interaction with Eric as I picked his brain on what it is like to try and become a pro, the kayak industry, sponsorship theory and his marketing approach in general.

First and foremost that stands out to me is how positive Eric was all day long under diverse conditions. Every time we would creep our way to a new area with his trolling motor, he would be positive and declare, “This is a good spot, looks really good.” Or, if I suggested we hit a certain stretch, “That’s a good call, let’s do it.”  As we struggled to get enough bites we cycled through baits trying various things. “That’s a good idea, really might be the right thing to use,” he would say as I would move to a new bait.  No matter what was going on, he had a great attitude and made it better for his co-angler.  Last year I had met Eric at the morning take-off of the event and wrote this blog post about it: FLW Tour Pro Eric Jackson Good for Kayak Fishing – which also discussed the positive vibe this guy puts out all the time.

Eric and I moving down the creek arm before losing motor power.

This positive attitude has to have had a lot to do with the successes in his life.  Too many accolades to list here (but check them out here), he truly has had a world-class career.  He’s also been very successful in the business world, with Jackson Kayak, Orion Coolers and other brands being among the most well known and respected outdoor names. As a marketer, I was very interested to hear about his ideas about brand building, marketing and how to leverage the grassroots connections. We talked about the importance of ‘layering’ when working on content and brand messaging. Maybe the most telling aspect to me about his concepts of business is when he told me how at Jackson, he sees his warranty department as an extension of marketing. He recognizes how a company stands behind their product and cares for loyal customers means long-term prosperity.

We also discussed at length the soon to be released Jackson Flex Drive System, which is a pedal based system for Jackson Kayaks. I currently use a Hobie Pro Angler as my tournament boat but definitely plan to check out this offering from Jackson once available. It sounds like there will be a couple of really interesting features, including an easy beaching ability without drive issues. Jackson yaks are well known for quality, and I’d expect their pedal version to live up to the legacy there.

All in all it was an interesting day of ideas, marketing, and conversation – with a little fishing thrown in. Eric is clearly very passionate about his fishing career and has a clear plan on how he’s going to be a long-term successful competitor on the professional level. At the end of the day, because of his positive attitude, drive and mind for creative thinking…I tend to believe him.

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