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.

 

Lake Swepco NSKA Preview, or History Lesson?

What happens to one of Arkansas’ most well known winter bass lakes meets up with scores of kayak anglers? Swepco Lake in Gentry, Arkansas, is the first trail event of the year for the Natural State Kayak Anglers (NSKA) and historically has been stingy on tournament day.

I have competed now in three kayak fishing tournaments on SwepcoNatural State Kayak Anglers - Swepco Lake Lake and looking back at some numbers, the anglers haven’t bagged as many, or as big of fish as you might think for this premier early spring spot.

My first kayak fishing tournament there was the 2014 AKA Christmas Classic big bass event and was my first kayak tournament. On that December day there were 51 anglers on the lake, with only 31 (61%) of participants even carding a keeper. The big bass on this day was 19″ – a nice fish, but not huge for legendary Swepco Lake on a December day.  I was extremely happy to take 10th with a 16″ fish in my first event.

For March 2015 tournament recaps describe the day as very, very tough with bluebird skies and little to no wind. There were 71 anglers entered and Tim Hotchkin won this event, including big bass by blowing away the field with 80.25″ and 20″ for the big bass. Of the 71 anglers in the event, 46 anglers (65%) carded a keeper.

Anyone there in 2016 remembers how bad the wind was that day. It was downright dangerous on the water if you had a small kayak. This Swepco Lake tourney had 61 participants, with only 37 (61%) recording a keeper.  Nathan Bohannon took the win with 72″, while big bass was caught by Jason Klingman for 17.5″.  17.5 for big bass out of 61 anglers on Swepco?! (note – there was word of a 20″ fish caught but no score-able photo submitted) Only eight anglers turned in a limit on the day, with 87% of the field falling short of five fish. Was a disappointing day for me finishing 16th for the event with only two keepers.

So what do these numbers tell us about what to expect this weekend on Swepco Lake? A few takeaways:

  • A good portion of the field, approximately 40% is likely not to card a keeper on tournament day,
  • If you catch a 20″ you have an excellent chance to win big bass for this event,
  • A limit of five keepers likely gets you a spot in the top 10-12 places based on past history.

Swepco Lake may be a big bass lake in the winter months, but it can get finicky at tournament time. Why? Who knows? But the weather clearly changes this time of year and the schools are harder to find. Extremely high winds are frequent in March as well, which can make fishing difficult for kayak anglers. Maybe it is because having 60-70 anglers on that lake at once really pushes the envelope in finding unmolested bass.  Whatever the reason, there will be fish caught this weekend, including some big ones…just not very many.

 

Bending Branches Angler Pro Paddle Review – The Ultimate Kayak Fishing Paddle

As a competitive kayak fishing tournament angler I am a big believer in the importance of having a quality paddle while fishing. Other than your kayak and your PFD, it is the next most important piece of equipment you can have on the water. In this Bending Branches Angler Pro Paddle Review I’ll share some thoughts on why this is the ultimate paddle for kayak fishing.

Angler Pro Paddle Review
Pro Angler blade in Camo color.

My fleet consists of three kayaks (Wilderness Tarpon100, Wilderness Ride115, and Hobie Pro Angler 12) and four Bending Branches paddles (Sunrise, Angler Ace and two Angler Pros). Bending Branches is my preferred brand because of their superior

engineering, durability, flawless construction and they are assembled in the USA. Within their paddle lineup, the Angler Ace is a great option, but this is an Angler Pro paddle review, so we’ll focus on that model.

More Power, Faster Speed

Whether using a full paddle with my Ride115 or a half paddle on my Hobie PA12, the 104″ surface area of the blade on the Angler Pro provides maximum water displacement to help move you along  quickly or to make a turn easier and with less effort. The T-700 Carbon shaft makes a long day on the water easier on your shoulders and joints by providing just the right amount of flex to maximize your paddle stroke and minimizing strain. At only 30 oz. this paddling power comes in an amazingly light package.

Tough as Nails

When I got my first Angler Pro it was a thing of beauty, I was sooo paranoid about scuffing it or messing it up because it looked awesome. Soon though I was using it to fend off everything from rocks to docks and have really put a lot of stress on the blades. This thing is practically indestructible and still looks great. For off the water toughness, just read this previous article about how I used my paddle to help rescue someone on the side of the interstate. The blade on this paddle stands up to anything I’ve been able to throw at it thanks to multi-layer fiberglass blades.

Pro-Level Features

In addition to paddling power and toughness, the Angler Pro comes with several other elite features that make it the ultimate paddle for kayak fishing:

  • Comes either with a three hole snap-button ferrule feature allowing you to feather the blade angles, and also available with a telescoping ferrule for an adjustable length.
  • Tape measure imprinted on handle…I use mine sometimes to
    Angler Pro Paddle Review
    Chasing bass with a Pro Angler in Sea Green.

    determine water visibility by putting one end of the paddle down and measuring with the handle.

  • Stylish color options include Sea Green, Camo and RealTree Max5. I have one in Sea Grean which is a high visibility color for safety on the water and one in Camo which is a sharp, understated look.
  • The Angler Pro with a snap-button ferrule comes in sizes ranging from 220cm to 260cm, in 10cm increments. With the Plus ferrule, the Angler Pro is available in adjustable lengths of 230-245cm and 240-255cm. For larger sit on top kayaks, or taller anglers, lean toward the longer length.

Although the price of $329.95 isn’t cheap, you truly get what you pay for. And, what you get with this paddle is unparalleled performance and toughness to give you a competitive edge on the water.  I hope you enjoyed this Pro Angler paddle review and will consider it for your kayak fishing needs.

RTT Kickoff Classic Tournament Recap

This past weekend I competed in my first tournament of the season. The 2017 Razoryak Tournament Trail Kickoff Classic brought together the top kayak anglers from around the state of Arkansas for a three day online event open to fishing any public waters. This a brief recap of my 8th place finish out of 56 anglers.

First of all, congratulations to the top finishers:

  1. Dwain Batey – NSKA
  2. Rob Barnica – NSKA
  3. Terry Brown – KBA
  4. Scott Acord – KBA
  5. Justin Brewer – NSKA

The tournament was a bit disappointing to me because I felt like I had really dialed in Lake Swepco in Gentry, Arkansas, in recent weeks, catching a lot of quality fish. After a week of record high temperatures, a windy cold front moved in and turned everything upside down and I just couldn’t adjust well enough to be a top competitor. I also made some mistakes that cost me early on a couple of big fish.

Friday – Day 1

I hit Swepco on a day of very high winds and temps in the 40s steadily dropping into the 30s later in the day. Even with this, I stuck with my plan to start out with some topwater (Heddon Zara Spook) on this power plant lake and although it generated some bites, I lost the first six fish that I hooked, including a couple of large ones. It wasn’t the hooks, clearly something was off with my hookset and technique which was resulting in the bass pulling off. After this setback I was pretty dejected but remembering my pre-tournament plan I transitioned to a Norman Mad N crankbait and picked up a good sized and a mid-range keeper fairly quickly.  Later on l I hooked into an absolute monster (using a YUM Dinger) which I fought for what seemed like forever…until I pulled up a 4-5 lb catfish and I literally went on a verbal anti-catfish rant. Not wanting to give up, I stuck with this YUM Dinger approach and picked up a couple of keepers to add to my total but still only had one good sized bass. Now was the time of day where I was ready to go to my bread and butter approach with a Norman Deep N crankbait, which yielded me a 17″+ and 18″+ to round out my limit for the day, finishing with 77.25″ for day one where I was feeling pretty good in the standings until my buddy Dwain Batey submitted 90″+ that evening! For a great recap of his eventual tournament win, go give this a read. This pushed me down to 3rd for day one, which was good but I was frustrated about missed opportunities that day.

Saturday – Day Two

The cold front had really set in and temps were below or at freezing until late morning so I didn’t hit the water until around noon. As expected, nothing that worked for me on Friday was working today and I really scrambled to try and increase my limit total, trying all sorts of techniques. A pretty neat (but bittersweet) experience was sitting on the water within just a few feet of Rob Barnica as he was pulling in big fish after big fish. He was on fire with those bass and kept pulling in one after another…I believe I saw him catch four between 17″ and 21.5″ in about an hour. Although I was in the same place and throwing a very similar bait, they didn’t like my technique and didn’t bite for me. A big mistake I made on this day was spotting a big bass on a deep bed that was hard to get to, but I didn’t stay there and try to get it to bite. After putting in a bit of time on it I moved on not wanting to waste my day, in retrospect I should have stayed as long as it took since that one fish would have made my Saturday successful in upping my total. As it is, I only added a few inches and finished with 84″ on the day, culling with a couple of mid-size keepers that I caught on topwater again. (People say I’m addicted to topwater baits…)  At the end of day two I’d dropped to 5th place.

Sunday was the third day of the event, but after seeing the leaderboard after day two I could see that a win was no longer possible I decided to sit it out and spend some time at home. When the tournament ended I had fallen to 8th and finished in the top 10 which is a minimum goal for every event I enter.

A couple of equipment/setup keys I’d mention that I believe really helped in this event:

  • Was able to really give my new Shimano Citica 7:2:1 reel a workout as my main topwater and crankbait reel. It was smooth as silk and was really impressed with it.
  • As usual I used Fish Allure scented tabs on my hard baits which helped give me a good confidence boost, particularly on topwater baits.
  • Two of my keepers in my best five came on a crankbait I had never used before, but had ordered a Norman Mad N for this event to match some baitfish I’d been seeing shallow while prefishing – this definitely paid off.

All in all it was a good warm-up for the year which got me back into tournament mode and also let try out some new equipment and some new rod/reel setups under pressure.

VIDEO – Largemouth Bass on Bandit Crankbait

Caught this Arkansas largemouth bass while kayak bass fishing at Swepco Lake. Hooked it in two feet of water using a Bandit 100 in Green Speckled Craw pattern armed with Owner Stinger treble hooks. Was 20″ and weighed 5.55 pounds.

Gear setup: Hobie Pro Angler 12, Bending Branches Pro Angler Paddle, Dobyns Fury Rod, P-Line 12lb Floroclear, Owner Stinger Trebles and Fish Allure Scented tab applied to back of bait.

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