Recently fished the NSKA King of the String tournament, a Major League Fishing style kayak event and chose to go to the Illinois River near Watts, Oklahoma. I didn’t do particularly well on the day, the fish would not cooperate. Overall I did not like that format scattered over many bodies of water, would be much better if all on the same lake so you are fishing the same conditions. However, the scenery was great and this was a cool place to see.
The scenic rivers of NW Arkansas will be the site for the June 10 NSKA River Road Runner tournament. Paddlers will be choosing their fishing location from moving bodies of water within a 50 mile radius of Cabela’s. Originally scheduled for May, the heavy spring rains moved this event to June.
As anglers choose their water, the key is understanding the “scenic river” requirement. There are some important boundary rules you need to know. Beavertown (and below Beaver Dam) is out of play. On the White River, only above (south of) Twin Bridges is in play, and on War Eagle, only above (south of) the War Eagle Mill is in play. Several other rivers mentioned below are also options for the NSKA River Road Runner.
River Run Roundtable
I don’t have much data for use in trying to determine how this will go down so I asked a couple of local kayak river rats to help with the preview – Sam Philip and Jason Cossey.
With a 50 mile radius and “scenic river” waters, what are the main rivers you think will be used by anglers?
- Jason – The Elk, Illinois and Kings will probably be the best, but you can’t rule our the White and War Eagle.
- Sam – Elk River, Illinois River, Kings River, War Eagle and Indian Creek.
How will river fishing affect the number of limits and the size of the fish in the limits?
- Jason – Rivers can have big fish, but I think a 14″ limit with a 18-19″ kicker will take the top spot.
- Sam – In general you average fish length will be smaller, however, there are several locations on the rivers mentioned where “lake” sized limits can be caught.
What is your prediction on winning limit length and big bass?
- Jason – 72-74″ is my prediction but could go bigger.
- Sam – I think 84-85 inches will be a good number for this event. Big bass being 20.50.
How do you think rains over the last month will affect the event?
- Jason – Rains will bring up the levels and make them muddy, but they clear pretty fast. It will hurt smaller waters because of the muddy conditions.
- Sam – The rains of late haven’t been enough to really affect the smaller rivers. Unless we see a large amount of rain on Thursday or Friday I don’t see it being an issue at all. The smaller rivers can clear up and level out within 24 hours.
Sam also added that he always looks forward to river events and that he’s curious to see who fishes actual scenic rivers, and who seeks out the slower, deeper waters in a few of the larger ones. Overall I’m also curious how this will play out. For me, as primarily a lake angler, I’m completely out of my element in a river event. I’ll happy if I can just get a limit.
I’m thinking some of the same things as Jason and Sam for the weekend. I’ve always fished Beavertown in river events, so will have to try somewhere else. I have a feeling War Eagle or the Illinois just into Oklahoma will produce the top limit. This year, every tournament has over-performed previous trends on winning length, but I think this time we’ll be looking to top out around 75″ for first place, partly because with a big turnout, there will be a lot of yaks in the water on these small tributaries.
NSKA Tournament Director Jeff Malott has larger expectations for the weekend. He’s predicting a 90+” limit with a 20″ big bass based on folks he’s been talking to who have been pre-fishing.
A few important reminders:
- Captains meeting will be online Friday night, must view this! Jeff will also be doing a FB Live rules update tonight (Wed, June 7) that you should view as well.
- For NSKA, you CANNOT fish from outside your kayak at any time. You can get out to stretch, drag your boat, etc., but casts must be made from inside your kayak.
- 50 mile radius is as the crow flies, not by road.
Good luck to all, wear your PDF and have fun!
One of the largest kayak bass fishing tournament trails in the country, Natural State Kayak Anglers, is about to start for 2017 and we contacted some veteran NSKA anglers for their take on the upcoming season schedule. The Natural State Kayak Anglers (NSKA) tournament series is a great way to improve your fishing skills, meet other anglers and most importantly to have a lot of fun on the water.
The 2017 NSKA Tournament Schedule
- March 12 – Lake SWEPCO
- April 15 – Beaver Lake (KBF)
- May 13 – NWA River Road Runner
- June 10 – NWA Road Runner
- July 14/15 – NSKA Online
- August 12 – Finale at Hickory Creek
Jeff Malott is the tournament director for NSKA events this year, we asked him some general questions about the upcoming season:
What’s the best change you made this year to the NSKA tournament trail?
Jeff – Changing tourney management over to 100% use of tourneyX.com will be a real game changer. No more long waits at weigh in and the ability to follow a live leaderboard should take our events to another level.
Knowing you are not fishing the tournaments this year, what’s the one event you will miss fishing in the most?
Jeff – To ensure the NSKA events go smoothly I won’t participate locally this season. The one event I’ll miss most will probably be the NWA Road Runner, only because I historically do really well, lol.
Which event will have the most impact on the AOY race?
Jeff – With there being only 1 drop this season (best 5 of 6 count towards AOY), all events are going to have a huge impact, but a good start is essential so probably Swepco in NWA and Spadra in the River Valley.
Roundtable – NSKA Angler Season Preview
Natural State Kayak Anglers Taylor Frizzell, Justin Phillips, Rob Barnica and myself shared predictions and thoughts on the upcoming schedule for 2017:
Which NSKA event will produce the longest length?
Jeff – The longest string should come from the road runner event, folks can really tune in on the handful of big bass lakes around NWA and the River Valley.
Taylor – I think the NWA road runner will produce the the longest length. Only because there will be so many bodies of water in play that you won’t have 60+ anglers on the same lake. I feel like someone will end up with a area pretty much to themselves and be able to really work the body of water.
Jason – To me it is clearly the online event, anglers will have multiple days to put a limit together.
What’s the key in getting off to a fast start for the season?
Rob – For myself it simply placing top 10 in a tournament. This is my first year fishing kayak tournaments.
Justin – For me it comes down to preparation, practice and homework. All of these have one thing in common. Trying to maximize control over known variables. In short, take care of what you can and when hiccups come you’ll be less inclined to get rattled and more inclined to formulate a solid Plan B.
Jason – I’ll be happy if I can get any sleep the night before tournaments. It’s hard for me to do because I’m excited and ready to go.
Which event do you have circled where you want to do the best?
Rob – The first one at Swepco Lake. It’s a huge confidence booster to know you can compete in your first year with so many great anglers.
Taylor – I’m looking forward to the KBF/NSKA event the most only because I feel like turn out will be amazing and it will give a lot of competitive NWA guys a chance to prove themselves on a larger scale. It’s going to be a lot of fun to have that opportunity to fish a big event and not have to travel hours to do so.
Jason – Probably the NWA Road Runner…there is so much strategy involved on where to go it is interesting to see where anglers wind up fishing.
Swepco Lake is notorious for being a wind tunnel in March. How might this impact how anglers attack the lake? What’s the winning length going to be?
Justin – It really depends on how much wind and what anglers are willing to put up with. Wind can be great in some circumstances but if it’s white capping not many will want to deal with that. The protected pockets may become so packed a guy will be able to walk across the water and not get his feet wet. If it’s not too bad it may keep everyone more dispersed. I predict 84 inches will win.
Rob – The wind is simply a mindset. Between anchors and pedals I don’t feel it’s a huge obstacle. Winning length on Swepco will be 90+ inches.
Taylor – The wind tunnel in March is always interesting. It makes you really be on your toes and you have to be able to adapt to this on a whim. I think the paddlers will hug the banks and try to attack the coves and the peddlers will have more of an opportunity to fish where they want. It will also make the finesse guys figure out a strategy to put fish in the boat. I know last year I had to change tactics several times based on the wind. It tends to make it really hard to keep your position when Texas rigging or Jig fishing. I used a Ned rig a lot last year but when the wind picked up I had to change my plan of attack. I think for the winning length at Swepco will be over 90 inches because of the size of fish that are in that lake.
The NSKA/KBF event is on Beaver Lake in April. Last year the lake was high and muddy, so far this year it is low and very clear. How do you expect this change to affect this event?
Justin – If it stays as it is the low water will keep the fish pooled in tighter areas. With the decent year on Beaver Lake last season that may prove to provide great regardless of your style. However, I wouldn’t get overly excited just yet. The spring rains may flood and upset the apple cart. If that happens the water would probably become muddy and power fishing techniques will come more into play.
Rob – Hopefully it keeps the big boats away from several spots. Obviously the lake and all structure has changed. Let’s pray we don’t have a torrential downpour the week before our tournament.
Jason – Should benefit the finesse anglers mid-lake to the dam. A lot of others may run up closer to the river looking for some stained water. I’m happy we’ll get a shot at Beaver Lake before the FLW pros do. Last couple of years they hammered the lake right before our event.
With the NWA River Road Runner focused on river fishing, where do you think the hotspots for anglers will be for this event?
Rob – Illinois, Kings and White would be my best guess.
Justin – I’d like to look at War Eagle, could be a solid choice.
Jason – There are some great river fishermen in NSKA and I’m not one of them. Have heard great things in the past about the Illinois and Kings. Might be that there’s a honey hole on a little known creek or river that may be the secret to victory.
For the NWA Road Runner, strategy comes into play big time for this event – big bass lakes can pay off or burn you. What’s the best high risk high reward destination for this event?
Taylor – The NWA roadrunner high risk high reward destination is Swepco Lake. The fact that there are so many large fish in that lake makes it a go to option but the time of year makes that lake a coin flip. If that water is hot the angler who knows how to fish deep and entice the fish to bite could have a winning outcome, but at the same time it could set them up for failure.
Jason – When I think about the biggest bass in NWA I tend to think Lincoln Lake. That place has the ability to provide a good limit with two to three 20s in it, but it can be fickle sometimes. I’d say Lincoln is the best home run chance.
There is a weekend online tournament in July, that is obviously a different type of deal than a one day event. How should anglers approach this differently than a normal tournament?
Rob – Due to being my first year, I really don’t know the answer. I’m still learning myself.
Taylor – The summer slam online is going to be an interesting event. I feel like Anglers should stick with what they’re comfortable with but at the same time it might take stepping out of that comfort zone to win. I personally won’t run to the “go to” lakes that we normally would in the spring. It’s going to be a hot summer I think and I feel like the rivers are going to have an advantage over the lakes for this particular event but with fishing you honestly never know where the money stringer is going to be.
Jason – Those who fish the most over the weekend won’t necessarily win, I think it will be the angler that picks the right spots at the right time.
Get Ready – It’s Go Time!
Check out the Razoryak Tournament Trail website for info about NSKA as well as the River Valley, Central Arkansas, and NE/North Central trails. If this is your first tournament season, read this article on Five Catch Photo Release (CPR) Protips and the one on a Kayak Fishing Tournament Packing List for helpful information.
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