Next up on the Razoryak Tournament Trail for AKA and WAKA is a big-time event on the infamous Lake Fort Smith. I’ve asked kayak tournament anglers Kyle Fields (AKA) and Brandon Ward (WAKA) to give their thoughts on the lake, their strategies and what it will take to win. This event is big because points count toward AOY points in each trail. Another record turnout is possible, depending on weather conditions.
For more general info on my nemesis, Lake Fort Smith, check out a preview posted earlier in the year which outlines the general makeup of the lake and other items. Due to spring rains, the water has been up and stained which will challenge fishermen who can’t adjust to the conditions.
Kyle Fields is a veteran kayak angler from NW Arkansas who is very familiar with Lake Fort Smith and has fished it in all conditions, and Brandon Ward is a River Valley based fisherman who has posted a good tournament history on the lake. Below they share their insights on the upcoming tournament.
Lake Fort Smith is once again muddy and a bit high. How do you approach a lake differently when there’s been a lot of rain?
Brandon: I will approach it no differently than I do any lake we have in the River Valley. One of the perks of growing up around our chocolate milk lakes is knowing how to fish Lake Fort Smith when it gets muddy and nasty.
Kyle: Lake Fort Smith is almost always muddy so you have to get clear water tactics out of your head – it’s not Beaver Lake. Focus on loud, bright, vibration baits to get bites. I believe the key will be who can get them early.
You both have caught good numbers of fish at Lake Fort Smith, any insight you want to share on how to break through on this lake?
Brandon: I think the main reason people struggle is the lake’s size. I know it has got me before. I’ll have my plan laid out then tourney day comes and I overthink where I need to go. There are many quality areas and when fishing from a kayak you need to choose where you are going wisely.
I have fished three different Kayak tournaments on this lake. Every time I’ve done really well, and each time has been with a different core choice of baits. Before the first tourney I’d never even been to the lake. I relied on Google earth to help me locate some potential hot spots. The lake is full of good wood to crank if that’s what you like, and also has some great rock piles and points for Carolina rigging. All three times I’ve even been able to find just enough clear water to throw a stick bait. The main thing I’ve found is don’t give up on it. The lake has produced some pretty good fish later in the day when half of the field is already headed back to the ramp (Shane Oakes).
Kyle: I like to think of this lake still as 2 lakes. One has brush and multiple feeder creeks and is relatively shallow; with the other end deep, steep banks, rocky and tree stick ups. I have forced myself to learn to fish it. Most of my time has been spent on the Fort Smith side.
In a shotgun start with potentially 60-70 or more boats, do you think that affects strategy on where people will go fish?
Brandon: I don’t think it’s going to affect it too much. You will always have your folks who want to get away from everyone as soon as possible no matter how far they need to go. Then there will be some that fish around the marina all day long. It may just be a little more crowded than usual.
Kyle: I think with the water being high and all of the debris in the lake it will limit anglers on where they plan to fish. I feel like if anyone had a strong pattern a week ago it has since changed. It has changed up my spot some but I feel good about how the high water may have positioned the fish.
What is your prediction on the winning length for this event?
Brandon: With the on and off rain that we’ve had in the area this week changing to sunny skies on Sunday, I’m going with 72.5 inches to win. I have a feeling it’s going to be a tough day for many anglers. A few will get on enough fish to put together a nice stringer though.
Kyle: As far as limits you have to choose an area and pick it apart to catch fish. I think 65 inches would be a conservative estimate on the winning sack.
To learn more about Sunday’s event, go to the RTT NWA – Lake Fort Smith Facebook page. Check-in is 5:00-5:30 a.m. followed by the captain’s meeting and then shotgun start.