Arkansas kayak angler Jason Cossey shares his tips for winter trout fishing in this guest article for Kayak Fishing Focus.
People ask me what I do when I take a break from kayak fishing in the winter time. Sometimes it is deer hunting, but other times I like to fish for trout simply because it’s a sit on the bank and hang out with friends and family kind of fishing and I do not have to worry about a boat or a lot of tackle. Here’s how I like to approach winter trout fishing and have the greatest success!
To find trout in Arkansas, there are rivers below the dams, such as the White River below Beaver Dam which is my favorite place to go. Another place to do winter trout fishing is in the various small lakes that are stocked in the winter months. Check your local game and fish website for trout stocking information.
Bait and Tackle Setup for Winter Trout Fishing
1. Starting with rod and reel selection, I like a medium-medium light spinning rod with 6# monofilament for a main line. I use my favorite drop shot rod because I like to keep in practice feeling bites, it helps me get ready for the spring drop shot and finesse fishing.
2. Leader line is very important, I use 2# clear monofilament if the water has a little color you can get away with 4# but 2# always gets more bites.
3. Sinker selection, now is the time to use up some of those 1/4oz bullet and egg sinkers that have been rattling around. I also use a #10 or #12 swivel to attach this leader to my main line.
4. Hook selection is simple any #10 or #12 light wire hook. I like a wide gap hook it seems to get me better hookups.
5. Now bait…I am a fan of Berkeley power eggs because they come in their
own jar and unlike dough type baits they don’t get under your fingernails and smell up your fingers all day! Color is just about trying different options until you find a combination that works. I use two eggs of different colors most time like chartreuse and white or orange and bubblegum.
Now you have all of that stuff lined out it’s time to decide on leader length. Trout rarely feed on the bottom this is the reason 90% of all trout bait floats. I always start long on my leader and cut it according to how deep the water is and how deep they are feeding. I find that holes in a river right after a shoal is a good place to start looking for trout to congregate. When you find a school just stay on them for fast and consistent action.
Other Winter Trout Fishing Strategies
So you aren’t really keen on soaking power eggs there are other ways to catch trout, there are an assortment of lures that are old fish catchers. I always carry small rooster tails, they are one of the best ways to catch trout. Small jerkbaits and crank baits are also another way to catch em you just have to figure out how aggressive and what kind of mood they are in! I also keep on hand small marabou jigs, these tiny jigs tipped with a wax worm under a clear float can be deadly on pressured rainbows and can help you fill your limit with nice sized trout.
I hope these tips will help you with those winter time fishing blues, trout can be a fun way to spend the day with your loved ones. Great for kids and an awesome way to pass the time when it’s too cold or you just don’t feel like getting out the boat but need to feel the pull of something on your line.
Some big news in the fishing industry and in the local lure manufacturing front was announced today. PRADCO Outdoor Brands announced they have acquired War Eagle Custom Lures, formerly based in Rogers, Arkansas. War Eagle is a very popular brand with many loyal anglers who love their spinnerbaits and buzzbaits.
When discussing the announcement with a friend, they immediately wondered aloud if the War Eagle name would survive the
acquisition. According to the actual press release distributed by PRADCO for the announcement, War Eagle appears to be remaining as an individual brand as it joins a PRADCO lineup that includes names like Booyah, YUM, Bandit, Bomber, Norman, Smithwick, Rebel and others.
“As part of PRADCO Outdoor Brands, War Eagle Custom Lures will be shipped to customers along with POB’s entire portfolio of brands from PRADCO’s distribution center in Calera, Alabama.”
As a heavy user of both Booyah and War Eagle spinnerbaits and buzzbaits, I’m looking forward to following how this plays out. War Eagle Custom Lures also produces a line of jigs, spoons and jig heads in addition to the famous spinnerbait and buzzbait offerings. This should make it easier in the future when ordering War Eagle lures, which should at some point be available on Lurenet.com along with some of my favorite YUM, Booyah and Norman items.
Although War Eagle Custom Lures has been based in Rogers, Arkansas, the management of the brand is staying local. According to the release:
“All product development, marketing, accounting, manufacturing and purchasing functions will be managed in Fort Smith. Brand Manager Chad Warner will have responsibility for War Eagle.”
Fishing in the fall is one of my favorite times of the year. Bass are getting ready for winter and are feeding up and they can’t resist chasing bait. This makes for some fast-moving, hard-fighting, fall bass fishing action. One of the other reasons I really enjoy fall bass fishing is that the tackle selection gets really narrow – it is easy to tell what works to catch them.
Fall Bass Fishing Kayak Setup
Being a kayak angler means you have limited space in your boat, so it is important to understand what you will need for a day of one on one combat with some fired up fall bass. For me, this means that the spinning rods go in the garage and all the power fishing gear is in the boat. I use almost exclusively Dobyns Fury series rods and this time of year is where the ones designed for spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, and crankbaits are featured. Fall bass fishing also calls for an upgrade in line strength, so I’ll put a little heavier P-Line Floroclear on my reels for most cases and will make sure I have 50# PowerPro braid on my spinnerbait and buzzbait reels.
Fall Bass Fishing Lures
Fall bass fishing is all about covering water – unfortunately as a kayak angler you have less ability to do so than a boater. This means you have to really focus on some baits which help you move quickly. the three key types of lures I’m going to throw to chase fall bass are:
Crankbaits – Use shad patterned squarebill crankbaits to bump along natural cover and docks where bass wait to ambush shad. I’m not sure you can reel the bait too fast this time of year, but experiment with your retrieve. Key bait: Booyah Flex II
Spinnerbaits – All year long I probably don’t throw a spinnerbait often enough, but when it comes to fall bass fishing, this is a key tool to catch fish. A spinnerbait works so well because it can mimic baitfish easily and its movement, flash and vibration can trigger a strike from aggressive bass. Key bait: Booyah Vibra-Flx Spinnerbait
Buzzbaits – Throwing a buzzbait can be a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. The right rod and line make a big difference in the ability to be successful with this kind of bait. I use a Dobyns Fury 734C when fall bass fishing a buzzbait. Key bait: Booyah Buzz
Fall bass fishing out of a kayak is a great time to put some fish in the yak. Many anglers have moved on to hunting, the fish are hungry and the bites are big. Get out and make the most of fall bass fishing soon!
It seems like a week doesn’t go by without encountering someone new to the sport of kayak fishing. Most have done some sort of fishing before and are now moving into the kayak fishing realm, but many are starting from scratch and want to know where to begin. A great place to start is with a basic kayak fishing checklist and then to build from there.
My friends at Bending Branches and I worked up a basic kayak fishing checklist to help jumpstart the new kayak angler.
Here is a summary of the “list” itself. The full checklist and more details are available on the Bending Branches blog, go check it out.
Basic Kayak Fishing Checklist:
There are many other things advanced kayak anglers use, but the list above is all you need to get the most out of a fun day on the water.
My first day kayak fishing included a cooler with some water, one fishing rod, a few lures, and a rented kayak and paddle. As I spent more time fishing and going on kayak fishing trips with others, the checklist above seems to be among the most common needs for a weekend kayak angler. Every kayak fisherman sets up their kayak and has their own checklist, so I would expect that you would do the same as you adjust to your goals, fishing destination and style of fishing.
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.
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.
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:
Eli Powers – 168.75″
Toby Bogart – 156.50″
Kyle Fields – 155.25″
Shane Oakes – 151.25″
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.
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.
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″
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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!
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.”
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.”
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 TourneyXand 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.
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.
The top ten finishers:
Jason Kincy (AR)
Travis Ueke (MO)
Dorman Hughey (MO)
James Harding (MO)
Jason Adams (AR)
Hans Bentz (MO)
Joshua Martin (KS)
Jason Cossey (AR)
Chris Jones (AR)
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.
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.
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.