Bass Boat vs Kayak Tournament Fishing

Kayak bass fishing continues to grow in popularity and as a result, more and more glitter rocket anglers have moved into the kayak tournament scene. How does bass boat vs kayak tournament fishing compare? Is there an adjustment to transition from bass boat tournaments to kayak tourneys? Why are boaters moving into the kayak realm? Can kayak anglers compete with bass boat anglers?

Bass Boat vs Kayak - Armada of kayak anglers
Armada of kayak anglers ready to take of at a tournament on SWEPCO Lake.

Experienced bass boat and kayak tournament anglers Cole Sikes, Nathan Henthorn, Bo Sarratt and Carson McBride weighed in on the topic in this roundtable discussion. These anglers have proven their abilities on the water with tournament wins or top finishes in the Natural State Kayak Anglers (NSKA) trail – one of the largest kayak fishing groups in the country.

Why do you participate in kayak bass fishing tournaments after having competed in the bass boat category?

Carson – I always loved fishing the War Eagle Creek and wanted to explore more of it so I really wanted a kayak. Once I finally got one I found out about tournaments and now I love it.

Cole – I still fish both boat and kayak tournaments but i just love to fish because of the challenge. Every day is different and a new puzzle to solve. With kayak fishing, there are more elements to deal with so it is even more of a challenge.

Bo – I do the kayak tournaments because I fish with my uncle out of his boat in team tournaments. I bought a kayak so I could go fish on my own time and doing the kayak tournaments is just a lot of fun for me.

Nathan – I am from Oklahoma City and moved to northeastern Oklahoma after college, away from my dad and his boat. I needed a cheap and accessible way to get on the water, and fell in love with kayak fishing.

What has been the biggest adjustment in moving from big boat tourneys to kayak tourneys?

Cole – The biggest adjustment from moving from bass boat tournaments to kayak tournaments is determining the location you’ll be fishing. The obvious thing is that you can’t cover as much water from a kayak than a bass boat but wind is one of the biggest variables.  If you have 10+ mph wind from a certain direction then it typically groups the kayak anglers on one part of the the body of water which decreases the amount of fishable water.

Bo – The big adjustment for me between kayak and big boat fishing is the limited amount of stuff you can bring and not being able to move around. In our big boat tourneys we have 25-30 rods in the boat along with lots of tackle. In my kayak I can take 8 rods and my 8 small boxes I have in my black pack.

Carson – I constantly move back and forth between boat tourneys and kayak tourneys. I would say the biggest adjustment is limiting yourself to not as much water and not having as many rods. In the boat I can take 15 rods out there but in the kayak I normally only take 6 rods. I always bring my tackle crate in the boat so I normally have the same amount of tackle.

Nathan – The biggest adjustment is committing to an area like Carson said. That makes decision making about an area to fish that much more important.

Bass Boat vs Kayak - Kayaks ready for a shotgun start on Lake Fort Smith.
Kayaks ready for a shotgun start on Lake Fort Smith.
Do you prepare any differently for a bass boat vs kayak tournament? How?

Nathan – I prepare by doing much more Google maps research. And if I pre-fish, I might trailer to different locations. I don’t do a lot of actual pre-fishing because I like to have an open mind, and what caught them one day might not catch them the next, especially in the springtime. I will do more paddling around and looking at my graph than anything.

Cole – Overall, I do not prepare any differently for a kayak tournament than a bass boat tournament however you have to be more methodical in the area you’re choosing to fish. Since you’re not able to run and gun as well from a kayak you need to fish high-percentage areas depending on the seasonality and stages of fish.  If it’s a new body of water that I’m not familiar with, I like to choose an area that provides a variety of different structure and cover that are relatively close. This gives me the ability to try and determine if fish are shallow, deep, or are they relating to flats, weeds, rocks or wood and then expand on any patterns I might have discovered.

Bo – The only difference in a kayak tourney is that I have to narrow down the one area that I want to fish all day. I never do that in a big boat tourney.

Carson – I do prepare myself differently for a kayak tourney because like I said you are limited to a smaller area. I try to find a place that has a little bit of everything as far as fishing terrain goes. With the boat we have been down at hickory creek on Beaver Lake and weren’t catching them so we motored up to the dam. In the boat your only limited to as much water as you want.

Is there anything that is easier in a kayak tourney than a boat one? Harder?

Nathan – It is easier getting started fishing kayak tourneys than bass boat. Kayaks are much cheaper than bass boats!

Cole – Overall, kayak fishing is much more difficult than fishing from a bass boat.  There are only a few instances of where I think fishing from a kayak is easier. One is that you’re able to get to areas that a bass boat might not be able to which means less-pressured fish.  Secondly, sometimes it’s easier to skip baits around cover from a kayak because of how close you are to the water’s surface creating a better casting angle.

Bo – I do not think there is anything easier about fishing a kayak tourney. Wind effects more, have to deal with your phone and Hawg Trough are the main things I can think of making kayak tourneys harder.

Carson – One thing that’s easier in most kayak tourneys is length limit is 10 inches for all species but in boat tourneys depending on where your at it’s different. Beaver Lake is 15 inches for Largemouth and Smallmouth and 12 inches for Spots. That’s a lot tougher than trying to catch five 10 inch fish.  So, normally it’s easier to get a fast limit in a kayak tourney. One thing harder in a kayak is dealing with wind and conditions and also trying to measure your fish and take a picture and then submitting them rather than sticking your fish in the live well real quick and then getting back to fishing.

Bass Boat vs Kayak - Bass boats ready to motor all over Beaver Lake for a big tournament.
Bass boats ready to motor all over Beaver Lake for a big tournament.
“My advice to a boater getting into kayak tournaments is…”

Nathan – … learn how to take and submit photos correctly right off the bat. You also need to learn boat control and position. Casting angles are a little different. The wind is a much bigger factor. A kayak with a rudder is a must-have.

Cole – …just because you get a fish in the boat doesn’t mean she is getting an easy ride back to the weigh-in.  There is still work to do. You must practice handling and taking clean photos of your fish because they could flop off your board at any moment and could result in possible loss of winnings.

Bo – …is get you a couple techniques that you have confidence in and take them with you on the kayak. Get a finesse technique for tough days and some good power fishing techniques for when you’ve got wind and clouds or dirtier water and go with those.

Carson –  …to learn to fish smaller areas instead of having the mindset to be able to run all over the place. And, to learn to fish slower and more patiently.

Could kayak anglers be competitive vs boaters in the same tourney? Why or why not?

Nathan – Kayak anglers could be competitive if it’s on a lake where that angler is seasoned and has some good spots. But on a trail that has many stops it would be very difficult.

Cole – No doubt, and a few anglers proved that this past year at the Beaver Lake tournament on April 15th. I wasn’t able to fish the kayak tournament because I was fishing the Everett Team Trail bass boat tournament that same day on the same body of water. We had a little more than 150 bass boats in that tournament and it took 17.64 pounds to win. In the kayak tournament, Dwain Batey, Craig Wood and Nathan Henthorn all had just under an 18” average that day which is probably around a 3 pound average. To put this into perspective, their best 5 weighed at least 15 pounds. My dad and I placed 4th with over 16 pounds, however, these kayak guys did it by themselves without a partner. This proves that they can be competitive but on a day to day basis the bass boat guys would have an easy advantage.

Bo – If the tourney started like big boat tourneys all from the same place I don’t think they could compete, but if the kayak people were allowed to put in where they please I think it could be. I know I had an Everett tourney last year the same day there was a kayak tourney on Beaver and Dwain Batey probably would’ve gotten top 10 in our tourney with what he caught that day. I think the body of water would make a difference as well.

Carson – Yes I do think that kayak anglers could compete with boat anglers because in a kayak you fish slower it seems like and you really pick everything apart and catch more fish in a smaller area. In the boat it feels like your fishing faster and you miss fish that you could catch in a kayak. I’ve fished many kayak tourneys while there was other bass boat tourneys going on at the same time and have done as well as I could have if not better than if I was in the boat.



Thank You to 2018 Partners

A big shout out and THANK YOU to the various companies and brands who are contributing in some way toward my 2018 tournament season. These are all awesome products I am proud to use in competition on the water. Please consider them for your fishing needs.


Bending Branches – The best kayak fishing paddles available and manufactured here in the U.S.A. I have the Bending Branches Angler Pro and Angler Pro Carbon.

Stormr – Great foul weather gear and sun protection wear. From cold weather outerwear to hot summertime UV protection clothing, Stormr is my go-to for on the water protection.

Popticals – The innovative sunglasses line that folds into a compact case perfect for kayak fishing.

MTI Lifejackets – Wear your PFD! It prevents you from drowning. When choosing a PFD, I like having one that I know is very high quality and made with care in the U.S.A. I have MTI F-Spec, Neptune and Helios models.

Booyah Baits – A big part of my bait arsenal, Booyah makes awesome crankbaits, spinnerbaits, buzz baits and jigs.

War Eagle Lures – Spinnerbaits and buzz baits that are made for the Ozark waters. Anglers swear by this brand for local fishing.

Heddon Lures – Makers of the Zara Spook and Super Spook Jr., some of my all-time favorite lures to throw. If I could only throw one hard bait, it would be a spook.

Norman Lures – Some old-school hard baits that still catch a lot of fish. The Deep N, Mad N, DD22 and others have to be in the yak.

YUM – Plastics for every situation at a good price. Dingers, plastic worms, trailers, flippin’ plastics, lizards, drop shot baits, swimbaits and Money Minnows. YUM has everything you need.

Dobyns Rods – Quality rod options at an affordable price. I carry the Fury series rods in my kayak, most of which are in the $109-$119 price range.

Flambeau – These storage tackle boxes are great for kayaks because of the Zerust protection. Our tackle is exposed to the elements at all times and Flambeau boxes provide great protection.

P-Line – This is an affordable fishing line that still is good for battling bass. I use primarily the Floroclear and the CXX line on my reels.

Reins – My tungsten weight source for use with drop-shot, flipping or Texas rigging. Reins slip sinkers are the best because of the insert that protects you from fraying line.

Shimano – The best reels around, period. Shimano reels are the best option on the water for all types of fishing.

Owner Hooks – Owner makes every kind of hook I need when fishing, and they are razor sharp.

Check out these brands on Instagram for a better look at their products:

@bending_branches @stormrusa @popticals @booyah_baits @war_eagle_custom_lures @heddon_lures @normanlures @dobynsrods @yum_baits @mti_life_jackets @flambeau_outdoors @plinefishing @reinsfishing @shimanofish @ownerhooks


2018 NSKA Tournament Schedule Preview

The new year is upon us in Northwest Arkansas and that means a challenging season ahead for anglers in the NSKA Tournament trail.  This year should be big for the Natural State Kayak Anglers with seven events on beautiful Arkansas waters.

For those who have fished in NSKA the past couple of years you will notice a couple of differences for 2018. The warm and cozy waters of SWEPCO Lake are not on the schedule due to the limited parking situation. Additionally, you better get your Beaver Lake maps out, with three events on the premier lake in the area.

Before diving into each tournament on the schedule, here’s a snapshot of the NSKA Tournament events for 2018. Mark them on your calendar now:

  • March 10 – Beaver Lake South
  • April 21 – Lake Fort Smith
  • May 12 – NWA Road Runner
  • June 16 – Beaver Lake
  • July 14 – Draw Four
  • August 4 – Beaver Lake North
  • September 8 – Table Rock (Beaver Town)
NSKA Tournament Schedule Analysis

Beaver Lake South – As mentioned, in previous years SWEPCO Lake kicked off the season and bass were easy to catch in the warm waters in early March. This year will be a different challenge with Beaver Lake South up first. Water should still be a bit chilly and the bass might still be sluggish. The zone for fishing this event is the Hwy 12 bridge and south. We’ll see what the #deadsea has in store for us this year.

Lake Fort Smith – Back on the schedule for 2018 is Lake Fort Smith, a beautiful mountain lake south of the Bobby Hopper tunnel. April showers bring flowers, but they also can bring muddy waters to this usually clear fishery. One of the great things about this event is it will be a shotgun start from the ramp area which makes for a spectacle. I’m not going to lie, this is a weird lake and I used to dislike it…but really missed it last year. It has a bit of everything from deep bluffs to standing timber to creek run-ins to grass edges. Keep your head on a swivel, there’s a reason some refer to it as Snake Fort Smith.

NWA Road Runner – The glitter boat crossovers had their advantage back on Beaver Lake South, but now the hardcore kayak anglers get their turn. With a true NWA Road Runner, kayaks can be put in almost anywhere in pubic waters. Tiny lakes or rivers with secret spots come into play here as NSKA anglers will scatter across the area to pick the type of water and situation they think will produce on tournament day. That deep brushpile on your favorite body of water that only you know about might be the winning ingredient. Kayak heavy lakes like Lincoln, Siloam Springs, Wilson, Crystal Lake and Elmdale will have a part to play in the outcome. Swepco doesn’t follow the traditional seasonal patterns of the other lakes and will be off-limits for the road runner.

Beaver Lake – Access to the full lake for the June event should really allow anglers to choose how they want to fish the lake. From the clear water and smallmouth central at the dam all the way up to the river will provide a multitude of options. June is a beautiful time of year on Beaver, but is also buzzing with activity from fishermen to the party crowd. Most of the lake will be well into post-spawn time which could make things tough, but I think NSKA anglers will find a way to pull in some big limits. An added bonus to this date is that it coincides with a KBF Open on Beaver Lake same day, so anglers could fish both events should you so choose.

Draw Four – My absolute favorite event of the year is the Draw Four road runner. All participants will draw from one of four area lakes right before tournament time and that will decide where each angler will fish. The Draw Four lakes have not yet been determined, but will be announced well before tournament weekend so people can prepare. Doing well in this event means that you are able to quickly adapt to whatever water luck has chosen for you. Being in July, you better catch’em early in the day…

Beaver Lake North – This one will be the grinder of the season and a good test for anglers. Beaver Lake in August is usually in full #deadsea mode and is an opportunity to see who really can put fish into the kayak. Smallmouth up near the dam area might be the key for this time of year. By this event the Anger of the Year race should be taking shape and the top contenders may be able to seal the deal with a good day on Beaver Lake. Fishing in this one will be limited to the Hwy 12 bridge and the dam.

Beaver Town Arkansas -
Beaver Town Arkansas –

Table Rock (Beaver Town) – In my opinion the most scenic venue of the year for NSKA Tournaments. If you haven’t kayak fished around Beaver Town, you need to check it out. There are some big fish lurking in these skinny waters between Beaver Lake and Table Rock. This unique area allows you to fish current or find still waters if that’s more to your liking. Another shotgun start, this is a fun final event to bring everyone together. Each year there is also a big camp out at Beaver Town that weekend for anglers to fellowship. Watch for more details.

Looking Forward To The Season

Here’s looking toward a great NSKA season, watch the blog for more individual tournament previews and recaps throughout the year.



Popticals Sunglasses On Board for 2018

A few months ago a friend of mine recommended that I check out an innovative type of sunglasses that seemed tailor made for kayak fishing. With that, I checked out Popticals Sunglasses and was excited at what I found and agreed, these were potentially perfect high-performance options for kayak fishing.

Popticals sunglasses


This tournament season I’ll be using the Popticals PopH20 and Popticals Popgun models on the water. I’ll be doing more detailed reviews of each after getting more hours under my belt with them in various conditions.

Popticals Sunglasses for Kayak Fishing

Storage space is at a premium in a kayak, so sunglasses that are extremely high quality but can fold down into a very small storage case is ideal. The storage case is half the size of a regular sunglasses case, and has a clip that can attach to a backpack, seat, life vest, crate, carabiner – or anything else on your kayak.

The case itself is sturdy, strong and will protect your Popticals sunglasses not only from drops, but in the bottom of a dry bag, hatch, backpack or any other storage situation.

This Popticals Sunglasses hard case is a compact and durable way to store glasses when not in use. Photo courtesy of Popticals.
This Popticals Sunglasses hard case is a compact and durable way to store glasses when not in use. Photo courtesy of Popticals.
Popticals Sunglasses Lens Technology

The Popticals NYDEF lenses are made of nylon which means they are extremely lightweight. The Popticals NYDEF lenses made of nylon have the same clarity as glass lenses, allowing you to see deep into the water.  These high-performance nylon lenses have similar Abbe number and Refraction Index as glass lenses at almost 1/3 of the weight.

Popticals sunglasses are high-performance lenses which fold down to a compact case. Photo courtesy of Popticals.
Popticals sunglasses are high-performance lenses which fold down to a compact case. Photo courtesy of Popticals.
How Popticals Sunglasses Work

For a brief example of what makes these unique and compact glasses break down for easy and small storage, check out this video:

The Booyah ToadRunner Is Unleashed

The fishing world’s premier hollow-body frog manufacturer has launched their spin on a noise producing topwater frog bait – and it looks fantastic. The Booyah ToadRunner is going to be a staple in my tournament boat going forward.

The new Booyah ToadRunner will be available in 10 color choices. Photo courtesy Booyah.
The new Booyah ToadRunner will be available in 10 color choices. Photo courtesy Booyah.

The Booyah ToadRunner is the latest evolution in soft-body frogs with a noise and bubble producing tail. This new bait will remind many of the Teckel Sprinker Frog, but with a few important improvements. First, Booyah is the industry leader in frog design and are using a modified Pad Crasher frog body as the base for the lure. The legs are pre-trimmed the correct length to allow the tail to do its thing without wrapping or spinning. Finally, the tail itself has a couple of key performance features.

The Booyah ToadRunner will be perfect for situations where you want to fish a frog in either the dense grass, vegetation or other cover or can be worked efficiently across open water. Seems to be a perfect blend of a frog and buzzbait.

This promotional video featuring Jason Christie is a great way to learn more about the Booyah ToadRunner. He used a prototype of the bait in a tournament on Lake Rayburn in 2017. Check it out.

Booyah ToadRunner Tail Design

The tail is what makes the Booyah ToadRunner create the bubbles, gurgles and noise that will attract a strike. The wire form molded into the tail gives the angler the ability to shape the tail for multiple sounds and different levels of water displacement. Additionally, the tail itself is a translucent, clear plastic which eliminates a target point so the fish only targets the body. This should make for a better hookup ratio than a white or chartreuse tail.

Booyah ToadRunner Specifications

The new ToadRunner will come in 10 different color options for anglers to choose from. I’m thinking I will stick with the standard dark/black look and a lighter belly color as my primary two baits. The ToadRunner itself is 4.5″ long and weighs 7/8 ounces – compared to 2.5″ and 1/2 ounces for a traditional Booyah Pad Crasher. Booyah representatives report the bait will be available in mid-February and should retail for $9.99, which is a big savings over the Teckel Sprinker Frog which retails for $13.99 on Tackle Warehouse.


Winter Trout Fishing Tips

Arkansas kayak angler Jason Cossey shares his tips for winter trout fishing in this guest article for Kayak Fishing Focus.

People ask me what I do when I take a break from kayak fishing in the winter time. Sometimes it is deer hunting, but other times I like to fish for trout simply because it’s a sit on the bank and hang out with friends and family kind of fishing and I do not have to worry about a boat or a lot of tackle. Here’s how I like to approach winter trout fishing and have the greatest success!

To find trout in Arkansas, there are rivers below the dams, such as the White River below Beaver Dam which is my favorite place to go. Another place to do winter trout fishing is in the various small lakes that are stocked in the winter months. Check your local game and fish website for trout stocking information.

Winter trout fishing with floating egg baits can be an easy way to make a catch.
Winter trout fishing with floating egg baits can be an easy way to make a catch.
Bait and Tackle Setup for Winter Trout Fishing

1. Starting with rod and reel selection, I like a medium-medium light spinning rod with 6# monofilament for a main line. I use my favorite drop shot rod because I like to keep in practice feeling bites, it helps me get ready for the spring drop shot and finesse fishing.

2. Leader line is very important, I use 2# clear monofilament if the water has a little color you can get away with 4# but 2# always gets more bites.

3. Sinker selection, now is the time to use up some of those 1/4oz bullet and egg sinkers that have been rattling around. I also use a #10 or #12 swivel to attach this leader to my main line.

4. Hook selection is simple any #10 or #12 light wire hook. I like a wide gap hook it seems to get me better hookups.

5. Now bait…I am a fan of Berkeley power eggs because they come in their
own jar and unlike dough type baits they don’t get under your fingernails and smell up your fingers all day! Color is just about trying different options until you find a combination that works. I use two eggs of different colors most time like chartreuse and white or orange and bubblegum.

Now you have all of that stuff lined out it’s time to decide on leader length. Trout rarely feed on the bottom this is the reason 90% of all trout bait floats. I always start long on my leader and cut it according to how deep the water is and how deep they are feeding. I find that holes in a river right after a shoal is a good place to start looking for trout to congregate. When you find a school just stay on them for fast and consistent action.

Other Winter Trout Fishing Strategies

So you aren’t really keen on soaking power eggs there are other ways to catch trout, there are an assortment of lures that are old fish catchers. I always carry small rooster tails, they are one of the best ways to catch trout. Small jerkbaits and crank baits are also another way to catch em you just have to figure out how aggressive and what kind of mood they are in! I also keep on hand small marabou jigs, these tiny jigs tipped with a wax worm under a clear float can be deadly on pressured rainbows and can help you fill your limit with nice sized trout.

I hope these tips will help you with those winter time fishing blues, trout can be a fun way to spend the day with your loved ones. Great for kids and an awesome way to pass the time when it’s too cold or you just don’t feel like getting out the boat but need to feel the pull of something on your line.

– Jason Cossey

PRADCO Acquires War Eagle Lures – News

Some big news in the fishing industry and in the local lure manufacturing front was announced today. PRADCO Outdoor Brands announced they have acquired War Eagle Custom Lures, formerly based in Rogers, Arkansas. War Eagle is a very popular brand with many loyal anglers who love their spinnerbaits and buzzbaits.

PRADCO announces acquisition of War Eagle Custom Lures of Rogers, Arkansas.
PRADCO announces acquisition of War Eagle Custom Lures of Rogers, Arkansas.

When discussing the announcement with a friend, they immediately wondered aloud if the War Eagle name would survive the
acquisition. According to the actual press release distributed by PRADCO for the announcement, War Eagle appears to be remaining as an individual brand as it joins a PRADCO lineup that includes names like Booyah, YUM, Bandit, Bomber, Norman, Smithwick, Rebel and others.

“As part of PRADCO Outdoor Brands, War Eagle Custom Lures will be shipped to customers along with POB’s entire portfolio of brands from PRADCO’s distribution center in Calera, Alabama.”

As a heavy user of both Booyah and War Eagle spinnerbaits and buzzbaits, I’m looking forward to following how this plays out. War Eagle Custom Lures also produces a line of jigs, spoons and jig heads in addition to the famous spinnerbait and buzzbait offerings.  This should make it easier in the future when ordering War Eagle lures, which should at some point be available on along with some of my favorite YUM, Booyah and Norman items.

Although War Eagle Custom Lures has been based in Rogers, Arkansas, the management of the brand is staying local. According to the release:

“All product development, marketing, accounting, manufacturing and purchasing functions will be managed in Fort Smith. Brand Manager Chad Warner will have responsibility for War Eagle.”

Read the full release about the announcement on the blog site.


Fall Bass Fishing Tackle

Fishing in the fall is one of my favorite times of the year. Bass are getting ready for winter and are feeding up and they can’t resist chasing bait. This makes for some fast-moving, hard-fighting, fall bass fishing action. One of the other reasons I really enjoy fall bass fishing is that the tackle selection gets really narrow – it is easy to tell what works to catch them.

Fall bass fishing out of a kayak can be one of the best times of the year to fish. Photo –
Fall Bass Fishing Kayak Setup

Being a kayak angler means you have limited space in your boat, so it is important to understand what you will need for a day of one on one combat with some fired up fall bass. For me, this means that the spinning rods go in the garage and all the power fishing gear is in the boat.  I use almost exclusively Dobyns Fury series rods and this time of year is where the ones designed for spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, and crankbaits are featured. Fall bass fishing also calls for an upgrade in line strength, so I’ll put a little heavier P-Line Floroclear on my reels for most cases and will make sure I have 50# PowerPro braid on my spinnerbait and buzzbait reels.

Fall Bass Fishing Lures

Fall bass fishing is all about covering water – unfortunately as a kayak angler you have less ability to do so than a boater. This means you have to really focus on some baits which help you move quickly. the three key types of lures I’m going to throw to chase fall bass are:

Crankbaits – Use shad patterned squarebill crankbaits to bump along natural cover and docks where bass wait to ambush shad. I’m not sure you can reel the bait too fast this time of year, but experiment with your retrieve. Key bait: Booyah Flex II

The Booyah Vibra-Flx spinnerbait is a great fall bass fishing lure.
The Booyah Vibra-Flx spinnerbait is a great fall bass fishing lure.

Spinnerbaits – All year long I probably don’t throw a spinnerbait often enough, but when it comes to fall bass fishing, this is a key tool to catch fish. A spinnerbait works so well because it can mimic baitfish easily and its movement, flash and vibration can trigger a strike from aggressive bass. Key bait: Booyah Vibra-Flx Spinnerbait

Buzzbaits – Throwing a buzzbait can be a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. The right rod and line make a big difference in the ability to be successful with this kind of bait. I use a Dobyns Fury 734C when fall bass fishing a buzzbait. Key bait: Booyah Buzz

Go Get’em

Fall bass fishing out of a kayak is a great time to put some fish in the yak. Many anglers have moved on to hunting, the fish are hungry and the bites are big. Get out and make the most of fall bass fishing soon!


Basic Kayak Fishing Checklist

It seems like a week doesn’t go by without encountering someone new to the sport of kayak fishing. Most have done some sort of fishing before and are now moving into the kayak fishing realm, but many are starting from scratch and want to know where to begin. A great place to start is with a basic kayak fishing checklist and then to build from there.

A basic kayak fishing checklist can help get you jump-started and on the water for a good day of fishing.
A basic kayak fishing checklist can help get you jump-started and on the water for a good day of fishing. Photo:

My friends at Bending Branches and I worked up a basic kayak fishing checklist to help jumpstart the new kayak angler.

Here is a summary of the “list” itself. The full checklist and more details are available on the Bending Branches blog, go check it out.

Basic Kayak Fishing Checklist:
  1. Stable Kayak
  2. Quality Paddle
  3. Safety Gear
  4. Tackle Crate
  5. Fishing Tackle
  6. Anchor
  7. Camera

There are many other things advanced kayak anglers use, but the list above is all you need to get the most out of a fun day on the water.

My first day kayak fishing included a cooler with some water, one fishing rod, a few lures, and a rented kayak and paddle. As I spent more time fishing and going on kayak fishing trips with others, the checklist above seems to be among the most common needs for a weekend kayak angler. Every kayak fisherman sets up their kayak and has their own checklist, so I would expect that you would do the same as you adjust to your goals, fishing destination and style of fishing.

Take a moment to read the full article on the Bending Branches website and get ready to hit the water!


2017 Arkansas State Kayak Fishing Championship Recap

The Arkansas State Kayak Fishing Championship featured three very different weather scenarios over the two day period – challenging anglers to make adjustments along the way to keep catching bass. Over tournament weekend, 67 of Arkansas’ top kayak anglers scrambled across the varied waters of the largest lake on the Arkansas river system. Growing up I used to hear the expression, “If you don’t like the weather in Arkansas, just wait a bit and it will change.”  That definitely was true at the Championship.

I really struggle at Lake Dardanelle because of the dirty water and the long stretches of grass – which I am not very good with in catching fish. However, the size of the boundary area made it possible for us to spread out which was a positive, and the pavilion at Dardanelle State Park is a venue which is second to none for captain’s meetings and weigh-in. Tournament Directors Jeff Malott and Garett VanWie did an excellent job preparing and executing the event. But would the fish cooperate?

Day One – The Heat is On

Weather on opening day was going to be a pretty straightforward proposition. Mostly sunny with a high near 90 degrees made for a long, hot day on the water. Despite the heat and a crowded Saturday on the lake for kayak and boat angles alike, more than 300 bass were caught and submitted. The majority of day one competitors (91%) carded a keeper, and a really strong 35 anglers (52%) turned in a full limit. Terry Brown hooked a 21.75″ toad on a big Texas-rig worm for the biggest bass of the day. The top three after day one were Eli Powers (84.25″), Kyle Fields (80.75″), and Cole Sikes (78.25″). I was sitting in 9th place with 72.5″ and felt OK with that, because I was in a large group of anglers within striking distance for day two.

Terry Brown’s 21.75″ tank took home Big Bass for the weekend. This was a bruiser!
Day Two – Weathergeddon

Loading up to head to my spot on day two, I was rolling the dice and heading to a new spot from day one where I thought some big fish might be found because of incoming rain. And boy did it rain. Starting about 6:00 a.m. it rained off and on for the next three hours or so. At 6:45 with first cast it was raining so hard where I was that it was like being in the shower, and so dark I could hardly function for the first 30 minutes. As the rain started to move out mid-morning the temperature dropped significantly and bluebird skies took over. The weather changes definitely hurt the bite, as there were around 100 less total keepers caught on day two than day one. Only 73% (49) turned in a keeper, while the number of those turning in a limit dropped to 43% (29).

Eli Powers led the way again on day two with 84.50″ while Shane Oakes made a big move with 82.00″ and Toby Bogart turned in the third highest total for the day with 81.75″.  My day was strange, as I didn’t catch anything during the rain (weird), got into a bit of an altercation with a bass boat local, and then caught my limit post-cold front and bluebird skies. Go figure.

Final Results

If you read the info above, you probably have figured out that Eli Powers is your 2017 Arkansas State Champion with a two-day total of 168.75″. Congrats to Eli on his achievement of dominating both days! The rest of the top five shook out like this:

  1. Eli Powers – 168.75″
  2. Toby Bogart – 156.50″
  3.  Kyle Fields – 155.25″
  4.  Shane Oakes – 151.25″
  5. Garrett Morgan – 150.00″

See the full results here on TourneyX. Terry Brown’s 21.75″ toad held up to take the Big Bass side pot for the weekend! I finished with 138.00″ and 12th for the tourney which was outside my goal of the top ten, but all things considered it was a good weekend.

Angler Recaps

Some of the top anglers of the event shared their experiences from the big weekend – Eli Powers, Toby Bogart, Kyle Fields and Shane Oakes shared a recap of their tournament weekend. As usual, these anglers all did things a bit differently and figured out how to make the fish bite. Each angler also had some key moments where they overcame a negative situation or prepared themselves mentally for success.  Thank you to them for some great stories from the tournament:

Shane Oakes – 4th Place 151.25″

Dardanelle is so large and so diverse that many different methods can be effective on the same day as long as you are targeting [and finding] the shad population that hasn’t already been cherry picked by the big boats.  With this in mind I didn’t want to over think it.  Most of us have a comfort zone, and while I am all about change and learning new things I didn’t figure the state championship was the time to get outside of my comfort zone and try to learn something new.  So I went with what I am comfortable with….creek fishing.  I chased the shad up into the creeks.

I didn’t really change strategy or technique from Saturday to Sunday.  However, I did make a different type of change.  Finishing 20th on Saturday wasn’t as “consistent” as I had hoped.  I thought I had to have a strong showing on Sunday to even be close to the top 10.  Having finished in the top ten the last two Championships I set this as a goal for myself this year.  Saturday was mental mistake after mistake which I let get to me when I should have just let it go, relaxed and had fun catching fish because I caught a lot of fish Saturday…..just not the size I wanted.  I spent Saturday over-thinking and second guessing everything, simply not relaxing, not doing what I was comfortable with, and not enjoying the moment.  Early Sunday morning at the hotel I ran into another competitor whom I have fished around several different times, but have not taken the time to get to know on any level.  As we stood watching the rain and looking out into the darkness we had a lengthy, enjoyable [and turns out insightful] conversation which I hope is the start of new friendship.  Thinking more about our conversation on the drive to the launch point it became very evident what I was going to change for Sunday.  I changed my attitude.  I reminded myself at every mistake or setback that I simply needed to relax, continue to do what I know to be successful on creeks, and most importantly enjoy the moment.

As I said earlier Dardanelle is a very diverse lake, but one thing I believe is a key element to a successful day is finding the shad population throughout the lake.  You can be very successful with a wide range of techniques and baits… long as you find the shad on a spot that hasn’t been cherry picked by the big boats. Find the shad and I believe you can do well on just about any day.

When fishing a big tournament or a two-day event, definitely have a plan that accounts for where you are fishing and the weather conditions.  While there is absolutely nothing wrong with showing up and beating up a bank that “looks good” for 2 days you have to take into account the other anglers in the field.  This field was 67 of the state’s top kayak anglers.  If you are going to beat them all over a 2 day tournament you are going to have to do your homework, research, pre-fish, and be on your game with a solid plan.

Kyle Fields –  3rd Place 155.25″

I have never fished this lake leading up to this tournament and knew there wasn’t a day I could pre-fish, so I started with the map and the last few years of fishing reports for this time of year. I could see it was a nice sized lake and knew I had to find a creek to fit my style of fishing. I narrowed down a few tributaries and got with a guy local to me but who used to reside down on the lake. He told me about a spot and it happened to have a hotel near the put in.

This photo cut off the nose of Kyle’s fish, costing him a good 16.75″ bass.

I got on the water 25 minutes early and it was the longest 25 of my life since all I could hear is bait fish flickering and the bass feeding on them. I set a reminder on my phone for game time and waited. My second cast with the Loon Whopper Plopper landed me a 18 incher. I continued to fish the Plopper and collected my limit in under a hour. Being that I have struggled in getting limits this season, my heart was pounding. I knew I was in a good spot. I rode that topwater bite as long as I could, only to cull up a few inches. So then I picked up a War Eagle spinnerbait and on the first cast caught a 10″ and I thought “I am on them.”  A couple casts later landed me a 16.25″. I put it on the board and took the pic and he flopped back in the water. Giving it no thought I continued to fish. I finally pulled over and uploaded it only to find the photo of the 16.25″ was not accepted. The tip of his lip touching the board was cropped out. I didn’t let it get me down too much – just kept grinding. A few minutes later a bass boat pulled up about 60 yards from me about the time I casted and caught the rod behind me and the war eagle wend sailing into the woods. I hurried to dig for another one, only the find a size was a little smaller. Threw it a while but nothing. I then paddled my way out into the mouth of the creek, with bait fish skipping everywhere. I picked up a 18.5″ and a 16″ on a X-calibur square-bill crank. With the leaderboard being turned off on Day 1, I just knew everyone had to be on them. With my hopes high but not cocky I scrambled to the weigh-in spot about a hour early to learn I was sitting in 2nd going into day two.

Toby Bogart – 2nd Place 156.60″

Toby’s main fishing locations for the 2017 Arkansas Kayak Fishing State Championship.

I’d never fished Lake Dardanelle before the tournament. So basically I just looked at the map of the lake and figured out a spot with lots of points and shade that I’d like to fish that was also fairly close to home. for me I’ve had better luck in the past just showing up and fishing rather than pre-fishing. On day one I started out at Cane Creek close to Scranton and I figured they’d be chasing shad so I chose to throw a square bill shad pattern at every piece of cover and point I could find. I caught my first fish about 30 minutes in. I then continued to work the cover and found around 10 bass total for the day. Unfortunately, I managed to lose a rod and reel and new sunglasses around the time the sun came out, then missed a nice fish at the boat which made things worse. I pressed on and finished 7th on day 1.

The white squarebill that did the trick for 2nd place.

I decided to take a chance at Spadra creek on day 2 which started badly. When I got to the ramp it was raining pretty hard and  I backed my truck down to the water and was untying the kayak and let go of it for just a second and my kayak slid out of the truck so without thinking I jumped in the water after it. So as day 2 I started out soaked from the waist down – I was cold and miserable. I was cheered up when on my second cast I caught my first fish of the day. It was a bit of a struggle to take photos in the rain and had to renew my identifier once. I fished a long bluff close to the railroad bridge casting as close to the bluff as possible and worked the bluff all the way down and trolled back and went past the ramp where I launched. I continued down the bank stopping to fish what little shade I could find and any cover. I caught my last fish of the day around noon and was also my biggest of the tourney. I ended up quitting fishing around 2:00 and then got on Facebook to see if i could get any info on who was in what place. I saw a post from earlier that morning that showed me in second and I had caught fish since it was posted so i had a good feeling about my position. Then I dropped my yak off at home and headed to the final weigh in. My goal was to finish in the top half of the field. I never thought I’d even finish top 10, let alone second place. All of my keepers on day 1 and 2 came from the same square bill. Had a great time competing against some of the best in the state.

Eli Powers – 1st Place 168.75″

Coming into this event, I was piggybacking off of my last year finish and technique. I was confident enough with my technique from last year, that I went ahead and ordered the main bait that I would throw about two months in advance. I chose to fish the Illinois Bayou due to my experience in the area. I lived in Russellville for 4 years while attending ATU, and spent an awful amount of time on the water in this area. I knew from past experience and seasonal patterns, that October can be lights out in the water willow that surrounds the lake shorelines. I have always concentrated my efforts in the shallow portions of the lake, and I felt no different about this event.

Each morning, I knew I had to take advantage of the aggressive bite in the scattered grass before the sun got up, and try to get as many keepers as I could with fast moving baits. Once the sun gets up, those fish that are feeding in the scattered grass either move to thicker cover or slide back to deeper water. After the sun came out, that’s when I looked for the “thickets” or the thickest grass I could find. If I could see open water in between the grass, then that was too thin, and I wouldn’t even stop to fish it. Sunday threw a little curve ball in the morning bite, with the rain and wind, and allowed me to stay shallower longer, but again, after the sun came out, it was time to head to the thickets!

Saturday morning, I started out throwing an Underbite Custom Tackle ¼ oz white swim jig, and a white Texas-rigged Zoom Z-craw with a ¼ oz tungsten bullet weight through the scattered grass. With both baits, I would swim it just under the surface through and around the scattered grass patches. I fished both baits on a 7’ MH action Favorite Summit rod with a Lews reel spooled with 20lb fluorocarbon.  I was able to pick up 4 keepers this way, before the sun got too high, and the fish in the scattered grass quit biting. As soon as this happened, approximately 9:30am, I headed for the thickets, where I would punch the white Z-craw with a 1 oz tungsten punch weight into the thick stuff. I fished this rig on a 7’6” heavy action Favorite Big Sexy rod, with a Lews reel spooled with 20lb fluorocarbon. This stuff was so thick in places; I had to shake the bait in tiny openings for up to 15 seconds before it would finally slip through the thick mat. Once the bait broke through, I would snap the bait up two or three times before I would move on to the next opening. I preferred mats of grass that had water depths under them of about 2 – 4 feet. I would essentially cover an entire mat from end to end, and top to bottom with that bait and make as many pitches and flips needed to saturate the entire grass mat. This process would often take up to an hour to cover one grass mat, and typically, I would only catch one fish per mat. I went from mat to mat until the end of the day looking for just a few more good bites from each, and this was good enough to make some really good culls.

Sunday morning was blessed with storms, wind, and rain, and the opportunity to throw a big spinnerbait! I threw a ½ oz Underbite Custom Tackle spinnerbait with double large gold Colorado blades and a white and chartreuse skirt. I was able to get 5 keepers, including my 19.25 inch big bass, on this bait before the sky lightened up a little, and the bite shut off. From there, I went back to flipping and pitching the mats with the Z-craw, and was able to make a few more upgrades.

Eli’s Underbite Custom Tackle spinnerbait was key to day two’s best catches, securing 1st place for the Championship.

All in all, it was important to get the aggressive bite early, and take advantage of the nasty weather early Sunday morning, and then settle in and pick off a few more good fish once the sun got high. Having confidence that the fish were buried in that thick stuff, and having the right equipment was critical to getting them out. I fished high percentage areas, and stayed in areas, where I knew fish were. If I find any vegetation in a body of water, I always check it first, and then adjust accordingly. Dardanelle is one of those lakes that has productive grassy areas all summer and fall, and finding those critical areas will provide enough fish for several days. The water temperature was ideal, and the shad were in the same locations, so there was no doubt in my mind that I needed to fish the shallow grass.

Final Thoughts

Sounds like we won’t be back on Dardanelle for a while for the State Championship – next year heading to north Arkansas for a site hosted by Twin Lakes Kayak Anglers. It was a good venue for sure, with a healthy but challenging fish population. I’ll miss being able to recover at CJ’s Burger Boy with some other anglers after a long day on the water. Qualifying for the Championship is something kayak anglers should strive for in 2018, it is definitely a fun experience.

All of those who qualified and participated should be proud of their accomplishments! Looking forward to 2018.


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