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.

KBF Beaver Lake Tournament Recap – It’s Alive!

Dead Sea? Not on this particular Saturday in April when a fickle Beaver Lake decided to give up some nice bass to an armada of kayak anglers battled high winds and a 100+ bass boat tournament.

In the tournament preview it was clear that past kayak fishing tournaments on Beaver Lake have not produced big numbers, and catching a limit usually put you in the top 20. Not this year. The fish are moving up to spawn, were active up shallow and anglers took advantage.

All but eight of the 73 of those entered carded a fish (89%) and a whopping 38 (52%) anglers turned in a limit. These are outstanding numbers not only for Beaver Lake but for any fishing tournament. The only bigger shock than the number of fish caught was a 22.25″ largemouth bass caught by Nathan Henthorn. The tail was so torn and bloodied it was likely a 23″ fish if it hadn’t just spawned out. At the weigh-in many were surprised to see a bass of that size out of Beaver.

Nathan Henthorn's 22.25" Beaver Lake pig.
Nathan Henthorn’s 22.25″ Beaver Lake pig.

First place went to Dwain Batey with 89.50″, second to Craig Wood with 89.25″ and third to Nathan Henthorn with 87″ on the board.

Top 10 Finishers
  1. Dwain Batey (AR)
  2. Craig Wood (AR)
  3. Nathan Henthorn (OK)
  4. Jerry Cornelius (MO)
  5. Justin Coon (MO)
  6. Cody Milton (AR)
  7. Jose Rodriguez (OK)
  8. Gary Kasper (OK)
  9. Jason Cossey (AR)
  10. Carson McBride (AR)

The top 20 was made up of 11 anglers from Arkansas, 3 from Oklahoma, 2 from Missouri, 2 from Kansas, 1 from Texas, and 1 from Tennessee.

View complete tournament results for the KBF Beaver Lake event here.  

Tournament Recaps

Dwain, Craig and Nathan provided some details of how they finished in the top spots:

Dwain – My first bite of the morning was on the Skirmish Baits M9 squarebill in the Army Green Craw color, and it was the 21.50” kicker fish. That bite alone really helped me keep my head in the game the rest of the day. I managed to get my first 3 fish on that bait, but as the day went on the bite shifted away from the crankbait and I started putting fish in the kayak with a shaky head. I was using a Netbait 6 inch straight tailed worm in a green pumpkin/blue swirl, but my key was using a spike-it marker to put some orange on the bait to closer match the crankbait color I was using. Rather than putting the orange on the tail, I marked about the first ½” of the head of the worm with the orange to put the focus near the hook. I was catching my shaky head fish around docks in Prairie Creek. Late in the day I managed to catch one last fish on the M9 that give me a cull up of 1/4” which turned out to be my margin of victory in the end.

Nathan – After doing some Google Maps research, I decided to put in at Horseshoe Bend and fish some of the coves across the main lake from it. My plan was to try to fish for the winning fish and leave the little spotted bass and spinning rod alone. I picked up a good 18.5 inch fish on Skirmish M9 in Goldilocks early. Shortly after I caught the 22.25 and the 18.75 on back to back casts to the same tree. Those fish hit a Booyah jig with a Zoom Z Craw trailer. Unfortunately, after that it was a bunch of small fish for me, and I caught keepers on a variety of baits, mostly the jig and squarebill though.

Craig – I pre-fished three key areas on the south end of the lake with gale force winds all day was able to rule out two last weekend. I couldn’t have been so effective without my Hobie Pro Angler in those conditions. I decided to go to a spot that produced several chunky bass in pre-fishing. It paid off, and a hundred yard stretch netted my entire length for the tournament. Slowtown custom jigs was the bait used.

On To The Next Event

I finished with a small limit of 69.50″ and 26th, just couldn’t find the right fish on the day. Overall it was a great KBF event in Arkansas and hope to see more in the future on Beaver Lake. There is another KBF event in Bella Vista on June 3 which is a night tournament, should be an interesting time! Check it out.

 

Spring Buzzbait Bass Fishing Setup

Beaver Lake Spotted Bass on a Booyah Buzzbait
Chunky Beaver Lake Spotted Bass on a Booyah Buzzbait

This time of year is when to pursue the spring buzzbait bite early and late to catch bass who are cruising the shallows searching for spawning areas, defending nests or just entering post-spawn, which makes spring and fall key timeframes for buzzin’ the bass. (This previous article for Booyah talks about fall buzzbait fishing)

Because a buzzbait can trigger big bites and reeling in the bass from a long distance, it’s important to me to have the right setup. As a kayak angler I’ve got to have the right equipment to cast the buzzbait long distances with accuracy and then the power to get that fish in the boat quickly. Being closer to the water in a kayak creates a problem of leverage that you have to solve with a few simple keys.

Gear Setup

My primary spring buzzbait setup starts with a 7’3″ medium-heavy rod with a fast action tip.  The tip gives me the ability to zing the bait long distances, and the medium-heavy rod allows for a powerful hookset. To ensure I can retrieve all types of buzzbaits and keep them moving with ease, I use a 7:2:1 gear ratio reel.

Next comes one of the most important factors for spring buzzbait fishing – the line. I’ve been using PowerPro #50lb braid in moss green tied directly to the buzzbait. Because of long casts involved, braid allows for a strong hookset and the ability to reel the fish in quickly. In Northwest Arkansas, ask for PowerPro braid at Southtown Sporting Goods in Springdale and Hook Line and Sinker in Rogers and Bella Vista.

For spring buzzbaits, Booyah is my primary brand of baits. Try the Booyah Buzz, which comes with a clacker in addition to the blade. I will use some with clackers and will cut the clacker off some others for a different sound. I’ve not tried the Pond Magic buzz, but they look interesting for smaller bodies of water.

Good luck and catch some bass this spring on a buzzbait!

 

Beaver Lake KBF Tournament Preview

I had a recent opportunity to visit in person with B.A.S.S. Elite angler Ott DeFoe and he made it clear what a challenge Beaver Lake can be for anglers. As I introduced myself at the beginning of the conversation I said that I was from Arkansas and that Beaver Lake was my home lake. Ott’s face immediately dropped and he quipped, “I’m sorry to hear that.”

Van Hollow on Beaver Lake.
Van Hollow on Beaver Lake.

We spoke for a while about how to attack some of the key features of the lake like deep water floating docks and rocky points and bluffs, and it all really came back to the lake can be good…but it can be fickle from day to day which frustrates the Pros and the Joes. It’s a beautiful reservoir, but I often refer to it as the “Dead Sea” because you can also have some really tough days on the water.

Beaver Lake is well known around the country due to it being an annual stop on the FLW tournament circuit. This weekend, the Kayak Bass Fishing (KBF) Trail makes a stop on Beaver, a full two weeks before the FLW fishing pros come to town.  What’s in store for this event? I polled some top Northwest Arkansas kayak anglers to get their thoughts – Jason Underdown, Jeff Malott and Dwain Batey.

Beaver Lake KBF Roundtable

Beaver Lake level is down for the year, but up fairly dramatically from recent rains. How do you think this will affect the fishing?

Underdown – I don’t feel it will affected it too much, the water was recently down 13ft. below normal pool and recently has risen to only 7 feet below normal pool. This allows more cover to be under water and more flats to be accessible for spawning.  If anything it may help individuals that were lucky enough to get out on the lake when it was low and mark some spots on their charts that may now be underwater.

Mallot – As the water rises and warms the bass will move toward the banks and back of pockets. The spawn is upon us so they want to move anyway, the rising water only helps. 

Because of the rising water, anglers can find very clear water and stained water, where do you think most will gravitate to?

Batey – I think most people will fish clear water, but that may not prove to be the best strategy.

Mallot – I like a slight stain in the water so mid lake would be my go to area. This is one of my favorite things about Beaver Lake, you can find your water color and fish your strength most times of the year.

Being a KBF event, there will be several newbies to Beaver Lake, what advice or words of wisdom would you share with them?

Batey – I have fished Beaver one time last year for the AKA event (which I won) and my last trip here fore that was in 2008 before I ever fished from a kayak, when my partner Alan Heavener and I won a fund raiser tournament for the University of Arkansas fishing team. I also haven’t been on the lake since my win last year…so I guess my best advice is not to pre-fish! (laughing)

Underdown – This lake changes from day to day, so don’t think the spot you pre-fished will be the same two days later. Stick with what you are confident and comfortable with and don’t listen too much to any fishing reports. Secondary points in coves and creek arms will more than likely be the best producers for pre-spawn bass.

Prediction on winning overall length and big bass?

Mallot – I think something in the mid 80s will win, so let’s say 85″ and for big bass I will say 20.5″.

Batey – 84.5″ for total and 21.75″ big bass.

Underdown – Bass have been pretty decent size this last six months or so on Beaver Lake thanks to flooding last year so I’m going with 85-90″ to win and a big bass of 21″.

Beaver Lake Kayak Tourney Trends

Historically, Beaver Lake has been very stingy for kayak tournaments, living up to the “Dead Sea” title.

In 2015, the Arkansas Kayak Anglers held their Beaver Lake roadrunner event in early May. Most of the 50 anglers (76%) carded a keeper in this tournament, while only one in five anglers turned in a limit. 72″ won the event, with 17.75″ taking big bass. I finished 9th with a modest 66″ on the day.

Later that year, the Arkansas vs Oklahoma border battle was held in September on Beaver Lake. On this day, only five of the 48 anglers (10.4%) turned in a limit, with 37.5% of the field not carding a keeper. A small 66.5″ limit won first place on this tough Dead Sea day at Beaver, with a sub-par 15.75″ taking big bass. I took 3rd place with a paltry 61″ on my card, but was happy with a limit on that tough outing.

In early spring of 2016, the Arkansas Kayak Anglers road runner on Beaver Lake posted better results. Only 21% of anglers turned in a limit, while almost one-third of the field did not card a fish. Sizes were bigger this time around, with first place scoring 82.5″ and big bass being a legitimate 19.5″ – a really nice fish on Beaver Lake. I managed 15th on this frustrating day with 57″ total.

What will happen this year? Swepco Lake results far exceeded previous data, so maybe we’ll see the same on Beaver. We’ll find out Saturday.

This tournament also really matters to local anglers, points not only count for KBF, but this is also a Natural State Kayak Anglers (NSKA) points event. Someone can really bolster their AOY chances with a big win on Saturday. Good luck, wear your PFDs and deploy visibility flags!

 

YUM Thumpn’ Dinger Scores at Night

First round of night fishing for the year and hit a jackpot with this FAT 21.25″ largemouth. Caught in transition from deep water to spawning areas by hopping the YUM Thumpn’ Dinger along the bottom.  Gear setup: 3/0 Owner Worm Hook, 1/4 oz Reins tungsten weight, 15 lb P-Line CSX, Dobyns worm rod, Shimano Citica reel.

Bass are moving up for spawn, caught this tank just after dark on a YUM Thumpn' Dinger rigged Texas style.
Bass are moving up for spawn, caught this tank just after dark on a YUM Thumpn’ Dinger rigged Texas style.

Observations from the KBF National Championship

Kentucky Lake Largemouth Bass
Kentucky Lake Largemouth

Last week I competed in the Kayak Bass Fishing National Championship on Kentucky Lake for the first time, which was also my first time on Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake. During my days pre-fishing and during the tournament itself, I came to a few conclusions. (admittedly, some more obvious than others)

  1. These lakes are huge, particularly for a kayak angler. We knew going in this was the case and would need to do a lot of scouting. During pre-fishing I probably spent almost as much time in the Tacoma as I did on the water. This is a lesson learned for next year, narrow the scope of water and spend more time scouting fewer areas.
  2. There are a lot of parts of Kentucky and Tennessee that look like the good parts of Arkansas. And…a lot of parts of Kentucky and Tennessee that look like the bad parts. We appear to all be in this together.
  3. 362 kayak anglers is a big field, even on Kentucky Lake. Every angler there is a good fisherman, which meant they can also read a topo map. The result was that anglers weren’t as spread out as I had hoped, the good water in many cases was very crowded with kayaks pounding the fish for a week. Those that found good water away from the crowd were rewarded.
  4. Top baits for me on Kentucky Lake during the week were a Bomber Deep Flat A crankbait, Booyah Buzz 1/2 oz buzzbait, Rebel Teeny Foxy Shad Pop-R, ned rig, Goldens Paddletail on drop shot and YUM Thumpn’ Dinger texas rigged.
  5. Ledges. I’d heard a lot about ledges and ledge fishing.  I think this worked for a lot of folks, but I just really couldn’t get it to happen for me. Might be the wrong time of year, so may try it again my next trip over there. Still was fun to say I’d fished the famous ledges on Kentucky Lake.
  6. Mom and Pop’s Pizza in Big Sandy is AWESOME. Definitely what is needed after a long day on the water. Check them out next time you are near the south end of the lake. Protip – pay the extra $1 for cheese on the breadsticks.
  7. The captains meeting the first night was a good event and was important to hear the rules and such. The captain’s meeting the second night seemed completely unnecessary, particularly when they moved it back from 4:00 to 6:30 and people had to wait around for an extra couple of hours instead of getting rest and preparing gear for the next day.
  8. I’ve never encountered a bigger bunch of rude, obnoxious and aggressive boaters than I did on Kentucky Lake. I’m hearing this as well from many other KBF anglers. Stories of invading fishing space, attempts to swamp kayaks and dangerously close fly-bys were common. Come on man.
  9. I made a huge mistake this week and really did a lot of exploring to get to know the lake’ instead of my usual strategy of looking for a particular type of water. Although I do know the lake better by fishing in about 10 different areas, it kept me from learning the area I needed to as well as I should have. Lesson learned for next time.
  10. Day one, I roll up an hour early to my selected spot, 449 miles from home and after a week of looking around for the prime location to begin. What do I see? Fellow Natural State Kayak Anglers member Jeff Mallot sitting there in the exact place I’m headed. Small world. If only I’d gotten there two hours early…ha!
  11. Lake Barkley looks really really good. People had told me to go fish there and I tried it. Loved how it looked. I just couldn’t catch fish there. Maybe next time.
  12. If you lose your assault paddle out of your yak on the crest of the big bridge crossing the lake, it will be gone by the time you go back to get it.
  13. Crazy Chicken night (every Tuesday) is definitely worth the $9.43 at Paris Landing State Park Lodge.
  14. There is a lot of talk about how long it took to judge fish and get final results out. I agree that this was a bit frustrating, but really, if you aren’t in the top contenders, it doesn’t matter that much to get your rank after a day or two. I’m more concerned about talk I’m seeing from some about wanting to implement a cut day after day one, or raising the fish limit to 15″ to limit the number of fish to be scored. In my opinion, this is supposed to be a fun, rewarding event, and both of those changes could really reduce the fun of the overall event for most anglers. People like to catch and card fish, and people like to know they will be fishing two full days before they travel. These changes would depress attendance, I know I may not pay the entry fee and travel over there for only one day. For the ‘hardcore’ anglers asking for these changes, guess what? Fewer participants means less entry fees which means less prize money for you to win. Hopefully everyone will see the big picture that a huge event where everyone has fun is the best thing for the sport.
  15. Can’t wait for next year!

Swepco Lake NSKA Recap

Winter had one more blast of icy air to launch the Natural State Kayak Anglers into the 2017 season on Swepco Lake. With air temperatures at 29 degrees at take-off and water temps ranging from 68-75 degrees across the hot water lake, it was an interesting setup for the day.

As discussed in this previous article, historically Swepco Lake has not been friendly to recent kayak tournaments. This year was a different story as many fish were caught, including several big ones. Of the 61 anglers who entered, 85% turned in a score-able fish and 44% turned in a limit. Overall a great day of fishing on Swepco Lake, evidenced by 260 fish caught which included eight big fish at 20+ inches.

First place went to Rob Barnica with 89″ and second to Baron Meek with 88.5″ who both fished most of the day up around the discharge area near the power plant. I came in third place with 87.25″ while David Preston took fourth with 83.75″ and Ethan Dhuyvetter with 82.5″ was fifth.

Top 10 finishers:
  1. Rob Barnica
  2. Baron Meek
  3. Jason Kincy
  4. David Preston
  5. Ethan Dhuyvetter
  6. Roy Roberts
  7. Robert Murphy
  8. Justin Wright
  9. Rance Richardson
  10. Wayne Johnson

Rance Richardson won big bass with 21.25″. View complete NSKA – Swepco Lake Results here.

Rob, Baron and David did not provide a tournament recap, but here are mine and Ethan’s look back at the day.

Jason – A week or so out from the tournament I was feeling pretty solid on a game plan, but that was thrown out when the weather took a nasty turn that weekend. Knowing they had the generators running most of the night before it was clear that bass would be feeding early up toward the discharge but I decided to avoid the crowd and to try and find more unmolested water down on the dam end of the lake.

I wasted some time throwing a bit of topwater and tried a few other different things but did not really get settled in until mid-morning and figured out that a combination of some different YUM plastic baits (Thumpn’ Dinger and Kill Shot) on Owner hooks was the way to go. Most fish were in 12-8 feet of water and bit on a slow-moving presentation.  The bite was good until about 11:30 when the clouds began to break up and then once the sun fully emerged the bite shut off for me. As a last gasp effort to pick up a couple of inches I went up to the discharge area for the last hour but couldn’t cull a fish.

Ethan – I decided to fish this event because I thought it would be a great way to meet people and get out on a lake I’ve never been to. I was very hesitant because of the cruddy weather we had the day prior but opted to fish last minute. Having never fished a kayak tournament, I was a bit nervous that I would screw something up, but Jeff explained everything well so I had no issues.

When I got out, I figured an A Rig would work but after hearing the water temp, I quickly put that down and started tossing a jig. A football jig and a drop shot Roboworm accounted for all my fish. The fishing seemed to be best when there was cloud cover. I was catching my fish on transition banks in 5-10 ft of water, they all seemed to be pre-spawn to me which I found odd with the water temps as high as they were.

 

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