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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…..as 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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Check out these recent articles: Kudos to Dobyns Rods for Service, Skin Cancer and Kayak Fishing

 

2017 Tournament of Champions at Lake Fork – Preview

As the temperatures turn cooler and the leaves begin to reveal their fall colors, the time is at hand for many of the nation’s top tournament kayak anglers to descend on legendary Lake Fork for the Yak4It Tournament of Champions (TOC) presented by Mariner Sails. This invitation-only event pits the best kayak anglers from various qualifying groups around the country. Year five of the TOC will potentially be its biggest and most competitive event – and as always requiring the biggest keeper size in tournament kayak fishing at 14” long.

Competition will begin on Friday, November 3, for anglers who are trying to fish their way in to the exclusive Main Event that weekend. Because the TOC is not open to the public for entry, this is a last chance to earn the right to compete for the big prize over the weekend. This will be my third year pre-qualified for the Main Event through AKA/NSKA, and I’m glad I don’t have the pressure that’s on these anglers to make it happen in the one day qualifier. Those who are not pre-qualified and want to give it a go, check out the Open sign up page on iAnglerTournament.com.

The weekend of November 4/5 brings the Main Event which is for all the marbles and the bragging rights. In 2015 and 2016, there was a total payout in cash and prizes of more than $23,000 – meaning lots of cash and prizes to be claimed by successful anglers. A similar prize pool should be available in 2017 and will be a career highlight for the winner. Anglers already qualified for the Main Event should register at iAnglerTournament.com prior to the event date and will need to attend the captain’s meeting on Friday night at 7:00 p.m.

There will be several changes this year to the event based on angler feedback to make it smoother and a better angler experience. The biggest change is moving the scoring over to the iAnglerTournament app allowing for mobile photo submissions, live leaderboard, and speeding up the flow of weigh-in. Some other notable changes are the extended off-limits period, opening the lake to any public launch site, and there will be a change to the identifier process to simplify the photo taking process. More details about the event itself will be made in coming weeks. Follow the news at the TOC Facebook page.

What Makes TOC Special?

For me, it is because it is different than any other event I fish all year long. For a more big-picture perspective, I asked the tournament director, Cody Prather. “The Yak4it Tournament of Champions is a special tournament that has grown through the commitment of anglers from across the country into one of the highest level events that kayak bass fishing has ever seen,” he explains. “I consider this a very organic tournament because no one person has made it one of the best events we have. It has been cultivated, embraced, and influenced by every angler from every region coming out to help it grow. It is a meeting place for anglers to see old friends, make new friends, and share a passion for a sport we a love. The Tournament of Champions really stands out because it is not always easy to earn a spot, and there is a lot of prestige in that invitation.”

What Will It Take To Win?

In short, maybe a little or maybe a lot will take home the main prize. Both have been true in past events. One of the things that make this tournament difficult is the requirement for a 14” keeper, which is generally larger than most kayak circuits. The TOC in 2015 only 43 of the 91 entrants (47%) even recorded a keeper, and only three anglers (3%) turned in a limit. Clinton Holstein took first place with 90.75” in this one-day tournament. Fish were more cooperative in the 2016 two day event. On day one, 84 of the 122 (69%) recorded keeper and 13 anglers (11%) turned in a limit. On day two it got tougher, with only 40% turning in keepers and 3% with a limit. Only four anglers had a limit on both days. Aaron Spry took the top spot with 91” on day one and 89” on day two totaling 180” for the weekend.

What about big bass? Yes, Fork has them. Last year the largest bass turned in was a 25.50” behemoth and there were 35 bass 20” or larger turned in.

Cody Prather, tournament director, believes this could be a breakthrough year. “Lake Fork is historically known as one of the best big bass lakes in the world, and there have been a lot of big fish caught during the Tournament of Champions,” said Prather. “In the past, it has been hard for anglers to break that 90 inch mark during the tournament because we have never hit the perfect conditions. I think this year we have the potential for it to take a two day total of over 200 inches, but I bet it takes at least 194 inches to win. Look out for a big bass to push 26 inches to take the Big Bass prize.”

About Lake Fork

Pedal drives beware what lurks beneath the water at Lake Fork. Photo credit: Lake Fork Resort

This will only be my third trip to Lake Fork, so I in no way have it figured out. It’s a big lake in a kayak, with many creek arms feeding an always windy main lake area. With more than 80% of the original timber still standing in the lake from when it was flooded and stocked in its first few years with more than 735,000 fish, it makes a fantastic fishing habitat and is known for growing giant double-digit bass. Talking with successful anglers from previous years, there doesn’t seem to be a reliable spot or pattern to depend on, it will be important to figure out the conditions during tournament week in order to find the fish. Weather conditions have made fishing difficult during the last two trips with a severe cold front in 2015 and post-front bluebird skies in 2016. Owners of pedal-powered kayaks beware – last year many Hobie drives (and a few PDL prop blades) were wrecked by the underwater stumps and trees. The tournament home base is the Lake Fork Marina & Motel, which is a nice little fishing haven – read my review from last year.

A Brief History of the TOC

2016 Yak4It Tournament of Champions winner Aaron Spry.

One of kayak bass fishing’s premier events sprung from humble beginnings. The Professional Kayak Anglers Association (PKAA) with Rob McFarren began the event in 2013 as the “PKAA True Tournament of Champtions” which included 22 anglers from the area. The next year, Beau Reed and Capital City Kayak Fishing (CCKF) took over the TOC and made some key changes, creating the “Tournament of Champions” and making it an invitation-only style event. This is where the TOC took off and gained in participation – bringing together elite kayak anglers and had 52 anglers in 2014, and showed even more growth in 2015 with 91 entrants. Beau Reed passed it to current tournament director Cody Prather for the 2016 event, which grew to a field of 122 top kayak fishermen.

What is in store for 2017 and what will the field look like?

Unfortunately KBF also has a competing event scheduled on the same weekend at Toledo Bend, which could draw some anglers away from TOC. Cody Prather believes TOC will see similar participation levels thanks to many who have committed to return and due to some new club affiliations and promotional partners. “It is much more difficult to earn an invitation to the TOC than it is to qualify for the KBF National Championship,” Prather explains. “I personally consider the TOC to be the true National Championship event in the country because it truly represents the top anglers in the country.”

I as a participant also agree that TOC has an important place in the kayak fishing landscape and I’m pleased to have earned the right to fish both in the TOC  at Lake Fork in November and in the KBF National Championship next March at Kentucky Lake. This year I’ve fished four KBF in-person events and 14 online KBF challenges and really enjoy the KBF events. Hopefully both the TOC and KBF can continue to thrive many years into the future.

What Will Happen

Who knows which angler will win, or if they will be peddle or paddle, or if many limits will be caught? I do know a few things will happen at TOC:
• There will be many, many slices of pie eaten at Tiffany’s restaurant
• Someone will be stock-blocking the shelves at the tackle shops
• Many Hobie drives will lose a battle with a tough Texas tree
• Big ones will be caught, and some will get away
• Anglers will greet, meet and compete at a world-class event

Watch for post-event coverage after the TOC on kayakfishingfocus.com

Kudos to Dobyns Rods for Service

I have been using Dobyns Rods for the past three years and am very happy with their affordable Fury series of rods – most of which are $109.99 retail.  These rods have caught a lot of fish and some really big fish for me.

I carry the following rods from Dobyns:

  • FR702SF – Flukes, dropshot, shaky heads
  • 765FLIP – Flippin’
  • 734C – Buzzbaits, spinnerbaits, small swimbaits
  • 705CB – Crankbaits
  • FR663 – Texas rig, jigs, Carolina rig

Excellent Service

This past Sunday I was out fishing and broke the tip off of one of my key rods which I will need for the Arkansas State Championship less than a week later. Oh no! I contacted Dobyns on Monday and explained the situation. Their staff was great in taking care of me and getting a new rod out immediately so I could have it for Lake Dardanelle. Sure enough, the replacement arrived on Thursday and is ready to go.

Kayak anglers need a reliable and quality rod that won’t break the bank. I cannot more highly recommend the Fury series for affordable quality!

 

2017 Arkansas Kayak Fishing State Championship – Preview

Lake Dardanelle will once again be invaded this year by the top kayak anglers in Arkansas as they compete for the 2017 Arkansas Kayak Fishing Championship on October 14 and 15. This will be the second time around for the State Championship on Dardanelle and should be a good one.

One of the interesting things about this venue is the ability for anglers to choose from a wide variety of water to fish, stretching from the Hwy 109 bridge near Clarksville all the way to the Illinois Bayou spillway at Russellville. There is a definitive advantage that should be had by those in the KBA circuit in central Arkansas, these are home waters for many of them. I’m still very unfamiliar with most of Dardanelle and hope to check out some new spots prior to tournament day. What I find interesting is the consistent response I get every time I ask someone about Dardanelle – basically they say something like “Hard to figure them out, different every day.”

This map marks the boundary lines for the 2017 Arkansas Kayak Fishing State Championship
Past History on Dardanelle

Equipped with all of these options of where to fish, anglers experienced pretty good results compared to the average local club events. Of the 66 registered anglers, 79% (56) carded a keeper, while 29% (19) turned in a limit. It took a very solid 83.75″ by Jason Cossey to win last year, with three anglers breaking the 80″ mark. Terry Brown caught the biggest of the day with a 21.25″ largemouth (which I’m guessing was on a worm).

I’ve heard from many how difficult October can be on Dardanelle with fish in transition to fall patterns, so it will be interesting to see how this year compares.

2017 Championship Details
As qualifiers descend on the Dardanelle area, here is some info to help you get the most out of the event:
  • Pre-fishing is CLOSED and will open up on Friday, October 13, don’t fish on Wednesday or Thursday!
  • Garett VanWie and Jeff Mallot are the tournament directors in case you need help or have a question.
  • Captains meeting is Friday night at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday morning at 5:30 a.m. – you need to attend ONE of these.
  • There will be a Big Bass side pot for those interested in the fatties, it is an additional $10 due in cash at the meetings.
  • Natural State Custom Furniture is once again making some awesome trophies which are sponsored by Ozark Kayak.
  • YUM baits is awarding a bonus $500 gift card to 1st place, $150 gift card to second, and a $100 gift card to third place.
  • H24 is sponsoring the tournament HQ site, and Village Adventures is sponsoring the TourneyX leaderboard.

Another big change is going from a one day to a two day event. Tournament director Jeff Malott explained, “The “fish in” has been on Saturday in years past, however, with low participation we decided to change the main event to a two day cumulative format. Staying on fish for two straight days will help determine a deserving State Champion.”

This burning boat on Lake Dardanelle means nothing in regard to the event, but who doesn’t like a good action photo? Source: Rivervalleyleader.com

Championship Advice

The previous two Arkansas State Championships have been won by Jason Cossey, will it be three in a row? Jason was willing to answer a few questions in advance of the 2017 event:

What is the secret in preparing for a State Championship event?

Cossey –The secret to preparing for a championship is cleaning your gear and making sure you get the tackle side of things squared away. I always start with new fresh line, sharp hooks and check all your eyes on your rods for wear and tear. You need to have an open mind and confidence in yourself, and your gear that will take you through the day. Diet is another biggie, plan on getting snacks and drinks with electrolytes to keep you pushing through the day! I usually drink a bottle of Pedialite before and after each event.

This year is a two day event instead of a one day tournament, how would/should this change an angler’s approach? 

Cossey – This year with the tournament being two days I think managing your fish is important, not relying on day one fish to carry you over to day two. Instead of beating up the fish in one area, catch a decent limit on what you know then go hunt new spots for the next day or find a big fish out off shore that way if needed you can revisit spot one on morning two. Just because there are 15″ fish on a stretch doesn’t mean you should catch every one on day one.
What advice do you have for first time participants?
Cossey – My suggestion is simple. Soak up info given to you from reliable sources. But avoid chatter, look for your strong suit and go with that. Don’t change styles or baits you have confidence in because you heard that Joe snatched a 21″ out of a certain creek on Tuesday on something you never throw…you will be sad at the end of the day. And calm down, I will get in my boat, say a prayer and relax a minute before I start fishing. It’s easy to get all jacked up, but you gotta look at it the same as if you are fun fishing on a Wednesday.
Good Luck and Have Fun
Qualifiers who haven’t signed up should do so on TourneyX and get ready for the weekend. Hopefully we’ll have some time to fellowship and tell fish stories before and after being on the water this weekend.

Tournament Recap – KBF Bella Vista 2

Kayak anglers from several states descended on the seven small lakes nestled in the Ozarks around Bella Vista, Arkansas. The second KBF tournament in Bella Vista this year yielded more than 200 bass, but few giants.

Bluebird skies and fish in transition toward fall patterns didn’t make it easy on the field. Of the 41 anglers who entered, 35 (85%) carded a keeper while 24 (59%) turned in a limit. These results were expected as Bella Vista lakes are known for an abundance of 11-12″ bass. Big bass were harder to come by with only seven of the 202 (3.5%) being at least 18″ in length.

I was lucky enough to win the event with 73.5″ including a 20.50″ kicker. Travis Ueke took second place with 72″, Dorman Hughey placed a close third with 71.75″ and James Harding finished fourth with 69.25″.  The largest bass of the day went to Travis Ueke with a 21″ largemouth.

Lake Avalon. Photo by Marc F. Henning

The top ten finishers:

  1. Jason Kincy (AR)
  2. Travis Ueke (MO)
  3.  Dorman Hughey (MO)
  4.  James Harding (MO)
  5.  Jason Adams (AR)
  6.  Hans Bentz (MO)
  7.  Joshua Martin (KS)
  8.  Jason Cossey (AR)
  9.  Chris Jones (AR)
  10.  Chris Connolley (AR)
Angler Recap Roundtable

Some of the top finishers shared their experience in Bella Vista including what lake they went to and what worked for them:

Where did you go, what lakes did you fish?

Jason – I was actually driving to Loch Lomond, but about halfway there I turned around and headed to Lake Windsor, just felt that was where I needed to go.

Travis – We went to Lake Avalon. We were going to launch at Lake Windsor but there were a few people there unloading so we wanted to get out on the water and looked at the other place we wanted to fish and decided to go there.

James – I went to Lake Windsor.

What worked for you to catch fish?

Jason – As the norm, I started the day with some topwater and picked up a few on a Heddon Zara Spook. Mid-morning I switched over to a Texas rig YUM worm on steeper banks and caught a few more. Slowly as the day went on I was able to cull by .25″ at a time it seemed. Finally around 12:30 I caught my kicker with a YUM Dinger up shallow and that made all the difference.

Travis – No real major keys to finding them…it was early so I decided to throw a jig, which I typically throw about 90% of the time.  I got a bite on my third cast up along a brush pile. A couple of casts later I got another 12″ fish, so I worked it a little as well as throwing a top water which didn’t prove to work. I then went back to the jig and caught the 21″ fish in about 5 ft of water…so needless to say I worked docks with a jig most of the day. I tried a handful of other things however, but the jig worked for me.

James – Started with some topwater early but had no takers. Then I saw a bass up shallow feeding, so with that observation and the clear water conditions I picked up the spinning rod with light line and started skipping a wacky rigged Zoom finesse worm under any overhanging tree branches which provided shade. I would then slowly drag the worm back to the kayak. Bites were light. The two larger bass were in the very back of coves in a few inches of water.

Any particular fishing story related to the day?

Jason – Early on I mixed in some drop shot fishing with my topwater and twice lost decent fish when my knot tying my leader to my braid broke loose. This has never happened before and was very frustrating, so much so that I put the dropshot away for the day. Back to the drawing board with my knot!

Travis – Really no particular story, but it was a wonderful place to fish, truly a gem in Arkansas.

James – After figuring out there were some quality bass in the backs of coves, I paddled to the back of one.I skipped my worm towards a hollow laydown , a very large bass picked up the worm and headed into the hollow log only to escape out the backside throwing the bait.

Any observations about Bella Vista or the lakes in general?

Travis – My observation of the area is that it seems to be a great place to fish not only for boats and of course kayaks, but it seems like a great place to banks fish for the kids of the community!

James – Thanks to Bella Vista for opening the lakes up for the tournament. Several homeowners came down to ask about the kayak anglers on the lake, giving me the opportunity to educate them on kayak fishing. I hope to return to the beautiful community of Bella Vista again sometime.

More Tournaments in Bella Vista?

By all accounts after two KBF events this year in the Village, anglers really enjoyed the variety of lakes to choose from, the ample availability of pavilions and ramps and the high numbers of keeper bass. As a local, I was proud to welcome so many out of town visitors to these beautiful local waters. Hopefully KBF will be back in Bella Vista in 2018.


Recent articles: Bending Branches Pro Carbon; Booyah Flex II Review

 

KBF Bella Vista Lakes 2 – Tournament Preview

The Kayak Bass Fishing (KBF) trail is back for another event on the Bella Vista lakes of Northwest Arkansas. This time around all seven lakes are in play – here’s an analysis of each Bella Vista lake and what we might expect out of the upcoming event.

Back in June, there was a rare KBF night Tournament in Bella Vista, with only five of the seven lakes open to anglers. Let’s look back at some of the tournament results.  As usual in Bella Vista kayak fishing, a lot of fish were caught but big ones were harder to come by.  Of the 39 entered anglers, 32 carded a fish, with 56% turning in a limit. The big story of the event was a 24.75″ monster caught at Lake Brittany. Read the complete recap of the last Bella Vista KBF event here.

Cody Milton's 24.75" largemouth from Lake Brittany in the June KBF Bella Vista tournament.
Cody Milton’s 24.75″ largemouth from Lake Brittany in the June KBF Bella Vista tournament.

This KBF Bella Vista kayak fishing tournament is different in a couple of ways from the one in June. First, it is a daytime event instead of a night tournament. Secondly, all seven Bella Vista lakes are in play for anglers.  Here’s a breakdown of each lake.

Bella Vista Lakes

Lake Rayburn – First lake on the list because in the June tournament, this is where the winning limit (76.25″) and many of the top 10 limits were produced. Great population of bass, and like all of Bella Vista, most are in the 12″-13″ range. But there is enough size here to win if you can catch the right ones.  As a no-wake lake you rarely deal with any boats and it is not a highly pressured body of water which should produce some limits. As a 45 acre lake it is very fishable by kayak.

Lake Ann – Other than Lake Brittany (see below), Lake Ann produced the most size in the June tournament. Lake Brittany does allow boats to speed around a bit of its 112 acres, but overall there are rarely more than two or three on the water at a time. This is one of the most beautiful lakes in Bella Vista due to the bluffs and surrounding hills and has a really nice ramp area. Fish are more plentiful here than some but does get some pressure. There’s fewer overall bass than Rayburn but you have a better chance at a good one.

Lake Brittany – This is the go big or go home lake in Bella Vista. As already mentioned, this 35 acre lake can produce giant bass. It’s only one of two lakes in the area which also stocks trout, helping feed up those largemouth. But these fish are smart and can be finicky at times. This is also a no-wake lake and is fed by two creeks coming in from the opposite end of the dam. A good limit caught from this lake will be in contention and odds are on this lake producing the big bass winner. Below is a video of me catching a 22″ largemouth this year on Lake Brittany:

Lake Windsor – The second largest lake in the village (220 acres) is a motor allowed fishery. Because the lake is not large and allows bass boats it gets a lot of pressure but has a decent fish population of all sizes. It can be hit or miss, particularly if there are a lot of boats in the water on a given day.  I’ll admit, I’ve had more than one kayak vs boat altercation on these waters. About half the shoreline of this lake consists of seawalls and man-made edges – so hope there aren’t any water skiers. Like most lakes, the average bass here is in the 12-13″ range with some larger ones mixed in.

Lake Avalon – This is one of the older lakes in the Bella Vista area and lives up to the trend of having a good fish population with some of a good size mixed in.  Most of this lake’s 67 acres is developed shoreline but is a great kayak lake because of it’s no-motor use policy. It’s also very convenient to the weigh in location which is the Lake Avalon pavilion. The main feature of this lake is the dam on the far end of the ramp and lots of small docks. Being a no-wake lake, it is lightly pressured.

Lake Norwood – I’m the most unfamiliar personally with this lake, although many swear it has the most dense fish population. It’s a scenic little lake with mostly natural shorelines and 33 acres of generally very clear water.  There are some underwater caves somewhere on this lake that supposedly hold some good bass, but I’m not sure where this is. It’s a no-wake lake which rarely has a boat in the water.

Loch Lomond – Saving the best for last, Loch Lomond is the biggest lake in the village at 477 acres and has a mixture of developed shorelines with docks and some natural shorelines. This also the only Bella Vista lake with a marina, found in a cove near the dam. Widely recognized as the best fishing lake, there is a good amount of pressure and boaters. However, due to the lake’s configuration, there are many arms of the lake which are no-wake areas which keep the skiers and pleasure boaters at bay. Every bite you get at Loch Lomond can be a 11″ bass or a six pound fish, but it can be fickle and like all the lakes is dominated by smaller bass. There are three good ramps on this lake for easy access.

Enjoy Bella Vista Kayak Fishing

Although these lakes are accessed by members, 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.

Sign up now for the KBF Bella Vista Lakes 2 Tournament on Tourney X or visit the event Facebook page for more information.


Recent articles: Grinding: Hickory Creek Recap, Shimano Chronarch MGL Review

 

 

Skin Cancer and Kayak Fishing

Recently, my wife had been after me to visit a dermatologist and get checked out. “Make me an appointment,” I said. “And I’ll go.”  So, she did, and I went. I’m glad that I did – and thankful.

Anyone who fishes with me often knows I am fairly serious about wearing sun protection while on the water, so I didn’t expect to have any problems. Sometimes I get razzed by buddies about my pants or long sleeves and buff on a hot summer day, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized it is important to take more care of myself.

Wearing a buff, UV sun shirt and UV gloves is a common way to stay protected while fishing.
Wearing a buff, UV sun shirt and UV gloves is a common way to stay protected while fishing.

 

The dermatologist’s exam only took a few minutes and was a pretty simple exercise. It involved looking over my skin starting with the toes and up to my temples. After about 15 minutes, the doctor reported that I had two possible skin cancer growths and that they needed a biopsy. A few days later, I got the call – yes, I had two different types of skin  cancer…wow.

Luckily for me, neither one was the most dangerous type (Melanoma), but they still were cause for concern and needed removed immediately. The first was a fairly deep and well-developed Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) cancer on my right wrist, requiring a very deep surgical removal from the wrist and some major stitches. I will have to go back and maybe have another procedure on this wrist in a couple of months to ensure complete removal. This type of cancer rarely results in fatalities, but can cause health issues if not addressed

The second type of skin cancer I had was a Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) which can develop into a deadly form if not properly treated. More than 8,800 people die annually from this type of skin cancer. Incidents of this type have increased by 200 percent in the last decade. This one was on my leg and was shallow enough to be scraped and burned off, leaving what looks like a burn wound.

The aftermath of having a deep Basal Cell Carcinoma removed from my left wrist. Also knocked me out of fishing action for a while so it could heal.
The aftermath of having a deep Basal Cell Carcinoma removed from my left wrist. Also knocked me out of fishing action for a while so it could heal properly.
Skin Cancer Prevention While Fishing

First things first, go to a dermatologist, and go soon if you haven’t been in recent years for an exam. Get off to a good and healthy start! Even though I have recently been diagnosed and treated, I’ll need to go back yearly to ensure new malicious growths don’t appear.

Clothing – Wearing the right UV protective clothing can provide excellent protection from harmful rays. Consider long-sleeve UV performance shirt, a buff and gloves. Stormr makes a great line of UV Shield wear that I like to use. When covering up, remember that not all material will protect against UV rays.

Headwear – The dermatologist told me during my visit that many anglers come in to visit and need to get skin cancer removed from the temples, forehead, back of the neck and even the scalp. This skin is thinner and more likely to leaves scars after removal than other parts of the body. A cap used with a buff or a wide-brimmed hat are good options to protect this area. And don’t forget your sunglasses.

Sunscreen – It’s inevitable that an angler may not have the right UV clothing or chooses not to be covered up. In this case, always wear SPF 15 or greater sunscreen and re-apply every two hours. A lot of fishermen won’t use sunscreen for fear it will apply scent to line or lures which will prevent the bite. Because of this I prefer to use Sunsect SPF 15 which is non-greasy, non-scented and will dry cleanly after applying. I visited with an FLW Tour Pro who uses Sunsect brand sunscreen for this very reason. (plus it repels bugs and mosquitos!)

Know Your Enemy

Even though I’ve been fairly consistent in wearing sun protection since I began fishing about three years ago, I wasn’t as diligent when much younger and am paying for it today. This chart from University Health News shows what some of these look like. The scary thing to me is that the spots or areas I was concerned about were not cancer at all, and a couple of spots that I thought were NOTHING were the actual cancers. Go to a dermatologist who knows what to look for!

Know your enemy, this chart shows three types of skin cancer. Source: University Health News
Know your enemy, this chart shows three types of skin cancer. Source: University Health News

At the end of the day I was lucky and should be fine going forward. Not every angler who spends hours and hours on the water is so lucky. Don’t take the chance.  For you and your family’s sake – get checked, and protect yourself.

 

Grinding – Hickory Creek Recap

The 2017 finale for Natural State Kayak Anglers was an exercise in patience and perseverance on a pleasant August day in the Ozarks. I love Beaver Lake, it is a beautiful body of water and we’re fortunate to have such a great reservoir this close to home. I also love it when we have kayak tournaments at Beaver, it really is great practice to tackle other large bodies of water such as Table Rock, Dardanelle and Kentucky Lake. The only problem is that Beaver can be at times…well…the Dead Sea.

As I wrote in the tournament preview, Beaver hasn’t been friendly to kayak tournaments in August and September – giving up only FIVE limits in a past event on this nationally known fishery. Surely this year would be different!

Nope. 

Of the 38 anglers who hit the water for a 5:45 start, only FIVE once again turned in a limit (15%). A solid number of anglers (30) did card a keeper, which isn’t a bad number overall. On a day when any keeper was a good keeper, Terry Brown swooped in from the KBA to take first place with 70.50″ while Carson McBride hit a buzzer beater (more on that later) to finish second with 70.25″ for the day, and I was lucky enough to finish third with 68.50″.  Decland McDonald ruined the dink-fest by catching a 20″ largemouth for Big Bass, and John Evans had second Big Bass with 19.25″.

Here are the top ten finishers:

  1. Terry Brown
  2. Carson McBride
  3. Jason Kincy
  4. Dwain Batey
  5. Roy Roberts
  6. Declan McDonald
  7. Jason Thomas
  8. Rance Richardson
  9. Cole Sikes
  10. Wayne Johnson

Congrats to all anglers for sticking with the grind and working all day long. Also congratulations to Dwain Batey who took NSKA Angler of the Year honors – he had a great season!

Angler Tournament Recaps

Below are some summaries of how the top finishers found their fish:

Terry Brown – I launched at the start from the ramp in Hickory Creek recreation area and paddled 2.5 miles to the pin shown in the map below first thing Saturday morning. I started out working topwater but had no luck, so after an hour of trying various other things I picked up the T-Rig Zoom Ole monster (Junebug) and pitched at wood cover along the bank, caught my first one in 2 or 3 casts, and another one on the same point a couple mins later, the pattern held up all morning, had a limit pretty quick, caught a few more and culled up my bag and just fished my way back to the ramp with only a couple of misses and two lost fish on the way. Simplicity wins the day.

The winning spot was a 2.5 mile paddle from the launch ramp. Putting in the work can yield results.
The winning spot was a 2.5 mile paddle from the launch ramp. Putting in the work can yield results.

Carson McBride – I put in at the ramp close to the swimming area in Hickory Creed park. I know that area very well and knew of a shallow hump that goes way out that is covered in brush. I got to my spot early and waited for the start time. I was hearing lots of fish bust everywhere around me. I tried to get on a topwater bite and a squarebill but it wasn’t working. I knew fish were moving and active, so I picked up my swim jig and fished up shallow and quickly picked up a 13.75 and not long after my kicker 18.75, then caught another 13.00 and 10.00 and 10.25. I tried to cull all day long but it wasn’t working. I had the lead all day long and was under pressure just trying to catch one. At 2:59 I caught a 14.50 incher which gave me a 4.50 inch cull and put me up to second place at the last minute.

Jason Kincy – I also launched at one of the Hickory Creek rec area ramps and had identified an area with buck brush that was just off a creek channel and started out there. Like everyone else I started out with topwater and didn’t do very well for the first couple of hours. It seemed to me that the fish just weren’t shallow so I paid attention to activity off-shore and if there were shad flipping the surface within range I attacked it with a Heddon Zara Spook with a Fish Allure scented tab to try and draw up some bass. This method caught me three of my keepers, including my two largest. This ended about 9:30 and then I went back to working areas around bushes and docks and picked up a few more on a Pop-R and on small texas rigged worms. Once the sun came out around 10:30, I had a hard time catching anything else. Was happy on the day to finish third, but lost three fish that I believe could have put me in first place.

NSKA River Valley

South of the tunnel 10 anglers competed at Clear Creek and had definitively better results than their NWA counterparts:

  1. Chris Nemeth 86.50″
  2. Shane Oakes 86.25″
  3. Christa Hibbs 77.50″

Big Bass was a tie between Shane Oakes and Chris Nemeth for 19″. Congrats to all of these anglers, as well as the NSKA River Valley Angler of the Year – Christa Hibbs!

Final Thoughts

I really want to thank Jeff Malott for being the tournament director for NSKA, this is a lot of work and adds a lot of fun for the participants. Although Beaver Lake can be a tough venue, I hope we can continue to have tournaments out there. Also, after a year heavy with road runners and online tournaments, it was a really great experience to launch from the same area. My first year fishing, almost all events were like this and it is great. These are always the best tournaments from a competitive standpoint, but also for the camaraderie of being around others. I met a couple of new faces on the water and chatted with them about the day and now have connected on Facebook. I was also about 50 yards from Carson when he caught his buzzer beater and was whooping and hollering. Relationships and being around other anglers is a great part of the sport, next year I hope we have more events where we’re all in the same vicinity.

The Arkansas State Championship is next up at Dardanelle in October! Time to get your Arkansas River on.

 

Shimano Chronarch MGL Review

You have to hand it to Shimano. They’ve developed a long standing tradition for making excellent fishing gear that’s inspired fanaticism among their faithful followers. Earlier this season Shimano retired their Chronarch CI4 baitcaster and moved to the new Shimano Chronarch MGL.

Shimano Chronarch MGL Review
The Shimano Chronarch MGL is a joy to fish with.

Incoming full disclosure: I’m always a sucker when it comes to quality gear. While I’m not currently associated with a rod or reel manufacturer, it does afford me the freedom to play the field seeking great and reasonably priced equipment. What can I say? I like to fish around. So, when I had an opportunity to test out the new Chronarch MGL I leapt at the opportunity. But, will the new Chronarch MGL live up the Shimano name or fall short?

Shimano Chronarch MGL Review – Style and Specifications

I dislike reviews that focus heavily on a rod or reels appearance. Substance over style, I like to say. That being said, as guys, when we go out on a date our first impression is largely based on how the date looks. That’s the attention-getter. The date’s mannerisms largely determine if there’s any staying power. I find that equally true for our equipment. Out of the box the Chronarch MGL looks sexy. Its small aerodynamic profile looks sleek and ready for business. The Chronarch sports a gray casing with very small red to purple accenting flakes. The magnumlite spool and micro adjustment wheel features a no nonsense black finish.

For the gear head in all of us, the Chronarch MGL showcases an eight bearing system, a lighter 14 gram spool to aid in casting, and oversized brass Micro-Module Gearing. The smaller teeth in those gears enable more surface convergence area which, coupled with the aforementioned attributes, means you get a farther reaching cast and experience the patented smooth Shimano retrieve. The Chronarch also features a centrifugal breaking system adjustable from the outside, which ranges in sensitivity from 1 through 6 in sensitivity. External adjustment systems have always been a big deal to me. We’ve all been on the water those days where the wind is swirling. Sometimes you’re fishing with the wind and other times against the wind depending on the hour or minute. I like to have a quick, on the fly, adjustment system that swiftly adapts to those changing conditions.

I spooled up the Chronarch MGL (7.1 gear ratio) with 16lb Sunline fluorocarbon and I was impressed with the amount of line the reel held. Not so much that you felt like you were wasting line buried in the magnumlite spool and not so little that you felt like a wayward tree cast would leave you overly short on casting distance. In my mind, it hit the sweet spot perfectly.

I paired the Chronarch MGL with a Duckett Terex 7’ MH, and later the new Duckett Triad 7’3” MH. This is my main workhorse setup and, suffice it to say, I’ve put the reel through its paces over the last month. The initial setup and adjustment didn’t take long and Shimano includes documentation to help aid you if you’re not familiar with adjusting their reels.

Shimano Chronarch MGL Review – Performance

On the water I was quickly impressed with the Chronarch MGL’s comfort. It palms easily in your hand, even if your paw doesn’t measure up to NBA standards. Another big plus for me is it features an oversized handle.

Performance wise the MGL is a remarkable reel. Its smooth retrieval made it a joy to fish with. I immediately noticed, due to the aforementioned spool and gearing, it casts an impressive distance with a 3/8oz jig. Going from light to heavy in lure weight the MGL handled each challenge like the pro it is. From lightly weighted Senko’s to heavy flutter spoons the MGL pulled off each feat perfectly. Pitching into cover worked flawlessly and the Chronarch MGL delivers power to wench out a fish in heavy cover. I also found after a small quick adjustment I could also easily skip a jig under cover.

When it comes to a baitcaster’s drag some people prefer to forgo it all together. Tighten it down and horse’em out was my motto until I noticed I was ripping large holes in the fishes mouth and the hook would then easily fall out when the fish jumped. This made me re-evaluate my stance on drag. I’m happy to report that the MGL’s drag system is also top notch. It’s easily adjustable on the fly, via the star wheel, and it performed flawlessly. Translation? For me, it’s meant more fish pulled in and fewer rage rants shouted across the water.

The Chronarch MGL’s price point is around $280 to $300. It fills in the gap between very high end and modestly priced reels. Its components and performance left me very impressed, and feeling the price tag is certainly worth it. Matter of fact, I was so impressed that I now have a second to compliment the first.

— Review by Justin Phillips, contributor to Kayak Fishing Focus and tournament kayak angler.


Ask for Shimano at Academy Sports or local fishing tackle shop. In NW Arkansas ask for Shimano at Hook, Line and Sinker or at Southtown Sporting Goods.

NSKA Hickory Creek Tournament Preview

The regular season finale for the Natural State Kayak Anglers will take place on Beaver Lake in the Hickory Creek area. This should be a really interesting format in that it is one of the first times a large kayak tournament has been staged on Beaver Lake where all participants will be in relatively the same area. This is my favorite kind of tourney where all anglers are on the same water in similar conditions. What will a day at the Dead Sea bring?

Hickory Creek on Beaver Lake
Hickory Creek on Beaver Lake. The marina owner and operator is pretty militant about nobody fishing within 50 feet of his docks.
Past Tournament Trends

In 2015, the Arkansas vs Oklahoma Border Battle was held in late summer on Beaver Lake and the results were brutal – Dead Sea in full effect. Of the 48 entries, only FIVE anglers turned in a five fish limit. FIVE! Overall, only 30 anglers (63%) turned in at least one keeper. I was lucky to finish 3rd in this tourney with a paltry 61″ while a total of 66.5″ took the win. Larger fish were hard to come by, with Big Bass being only 15.75″ long.

Previous kayak tournaments on Beaver have historically produced the lowest totals of the year. But the lake has been fishing well up until recently and the NSKA Beaver Lake Road Runner earlier this year put up some really solid totals. With cooler weather over the past few weeks and some unusually high amount of rain for late July and August, the fishing may prove to be a bit better this time around.

In the Zone at Hickory Creek

This tournament will provide you the option to put in anywhere you want – as long as it is at one of the four ramps in the Hickory Creek area shown in the map below. All of these ramps are easily accessible, with the only free one being at the end of Hwy 264 in the north end of the zone. All others will cost you $5 to launch.

NSKA Angler Roundtable

A couple of anglers new to the NSKA trail this year are very familiar with Beaver Lake from fishing bass boat (cough) tournaments so I asked them to helps us evaluate the upcoming event. Cole Sikes and Bo Sarratt and I discussed some of the keys to the upcoming tournament.

The weather has been strange in the Ozarks this summer – What effect do you think that will have on the fishing this Saturday?
Cole –The high water will make Beaver fishing tough in my opinion. The fish have lots of cover to set up on and anglers will get bites few and far between.
Bo –With the cool weather the last week I think that it might bring a few more fish up shallow. There are fish that live shallow all year long but with the high water this year more fish stayed up in the bushes. Finding the right bushes is the key.
Jason – You would think the cooler weather would be improving the fishing and push some shallow. All reports I’ve been getting from anglers seem to indicate the fish are confused and scattered, making it difficult to develop any pattern.
What do you think the hardest part of kayak fishing is (adjusting from bass boat fishing) and how will that come into play this week?
Bo – Going out on beaver in my kayak is overwhelming after fishing in a big boat there all my life. The thing that gets me is that I don’t have the ability to cover water and fighting the wind on the big water. Unfortunately, Beaver is a tough lake and wind is a big key in finding fish that will bite. Easy to fish in the bass boat, not so easy in the kayak.
Cole – The most difficult switch from bass boat to kayak is you have to commit to one area. With a bass boat you can run and gun and hit high percentage areas, with a kayak you have to fish slower and really pick the area apart.
Jason – If I had a bass boat for this event, it would unlock some better ability to fish off shore and more in the main river channel area.  With wind and boat traffic it is difficult in a kayak to do for very long.
Fill in the blank: The angler who wins the tournament on Saturday will have successfully…
Bo – …capitalized on an early morning topwater bite to get a limit. After that it’s going to be about covering water and trying to get a couple good bites the rest of the day.
Cole – …junked fished.
Jason – …found a decent kicker fish to go with four small ones. I do agree with Cole, it will be a junk fishing day with nothing working the entire time.
Predict the following: Winning length, Big Bass and percentage of anglers with limits.
Cole – A limit of 76.25” will take first place, with a Big Bass of 18.5” long. Predicting a tough day with only 15% of anglers turning in a limit.
Bo – I think a 70-72″ limit will get the win. Big Bass length will be 19.75″, and 60% of the anglers will catch limits. Although, the rainy weather that is being forecasted could help the bite.
Jason – Based on people I’ve been talking to who fish Beaver regularly, the lake has fished as tough as it has in quite a while. “It’s back to old Beaver Lake,” said one experienced angler. This info plus the unusually mild weather we’ve been having makes it hard to predict. I’ll say that 74″ will take it, and 2nd place won’t be out of the 60s. Due to the rainy weather, 52% of the field will pull together a keeper and Big Bass will top out at 19.75″ in length.
The tournament begins at 6:00 a.m. and ends at 3:00 p.m. with heavy thunderstorms possible in the forecast. Be safe in the weather and avoid the lake during times of thunder and lightning, catching a fish isn’t worth risking your life. Check out more info on the NSKA Finale – Hickory Creek Facebook page.
Also don’t forget the Razoryak Tournament Trail Arkansas State Championship to be held on October 14 and 15 at Dardanelle. This will be the last year at that venue and will move around the state in future seasons.