Tag Archives: NSKA

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.

 

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.

Illinois River Bridge (Photo)

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.

Railroad bridge on the Illinois River near Watts, Oklahoma.
Railroad bridge on the Illinois River near Watts, Oklahoma.

NSKA River Road Runner Recap

Predictions prior to this year’s river focused event said that there would be a lot of fish caught, and some big limits turned in. These predictions were mostly correct regarding the Natural State Kayak Angler’s River Road Runner from the weekend. Due to the heavy canoe and tube traffic on some area rivers in June this should be called the “Ya’ll catching anything?” event. For the most part, NSKA fishermen were able to say “Heck, yeah!”

None of the groups of floaters on the river that day looked like this.

In the tournament preview article, Jeff Malott and Sam Philip almost hit big bass on the nose, while Sam was ultimately the closest in predicting the winning length.

On a sunny, breezy, day in June, 26 of 38 (64%) anglers were credited with a limit. Although there were some big fish caught, there weren’t very many.  Only five fish 17″ or larger were caught, by a total of four anglers. Having a good kicker was key to placing near the top in this event.

I was lucky enough to finish 1st for this event with 81.5″, Dwain Batey 2nd with 78.75″ and Jonathan Brewer 3rd with a solid 76.25″ limit. Big Bass was won by John Evans with a 20.25″ largemouth, while I won runner-up Big Bass with a 20″ largemouth.

The Top 10 looked like this:

  1.  Jason Kincy
  2.  Dwain Batey
  3.  Jonathan Brewer
  4.  Jeriamy Vann
  5.  Faron Davidson
  6.  Tim Hotchkin
  7.  Jose Rodriguez
  8.  Roy Roberts
  9.  Josh Sherrill
  10.  John Evans

Angler Recaps

Jason – Not knowing hardly any rivers in the area at all, I went to the Elk River, the one with which I had at least some experience. Started out throwing my favorite baits (topwater) but only caught a few small ones. After switching to a squarebill I caught a 17″ off a log, and was catching some others off wood with a ned rig. One of these bass had a large craw claw (2.75 inches! Who knew they had crawdads that big in the Elk?) in its throat that had a blue/green color to it. This clued me in to what they were feeding on, so at this point I pulled out a YUM worm in blue laminate with a claw-like tail. From that point forward I spent most of the rest of the day dragging that worm slowly around logs and wood.

Another large crawfish claw shows from the throat of my 20″ bass.

My biggest fish, a 20″ largemouth bass came off some submerged brush and when I hooked it I was sure it was a gar or catfish or something because it just would not surface. Once I caught this fish a bit after noon, I knew it might be possible to contend. About 30 minutes before the end of regulation I hooked a 15.25″ to cull a 13″ and was hoping at that point that I had enough to place a top three. Four of my top five fish came from that worm imitating the craw claw, so I was very fortunate to spot that and have a great YUM bait to turn to. The rest of that rig setup was a 3/8 oz Reins slip sinker, Owner all-purpose worm hook, 12lb P-Line CXX Floro, Shimano Curado70 and Dobyns rod.

Dwain – Last year was my first year to fish kayak tournaments and the River Road Runner event last year was by far my worst finish, so this year I really wanted to make a better showing. I had intended to pre-fish some rivers in the year between these events, but never did. So I got on trusty Google Earth and tried to find an area within bounds that looked like it was deep enough to use my pedal drive and might hold larger fish. I settled on an area of the Illinois River in Oklahoma near Watts that looked like it would be a good fit.

I started off the morning throwing a buzz bait, and it paid off quickly with a limit of fish, including my best of the day a 17.75 inch largemouth. I milked the buzz bait bite most of the day, but shortly after catching my best Smallmouth bass of the day on it I discovered an area that I could catch fish on a crankbait. It was an area about 200 yards long that was around 4 or 5 feet deep from the shore out to about 10 feet from the bank, and then also had a flat where the water became shallow between two pools. I first found the fish in the shallow area, and then followed this area up the bank. I was cranking the Skirmish Baits MP7 (a small squarebill), and it was producing both Smallmouth and Spotted Bass. I caught about 10 fish on my first pass, and one of them was a nice Smallmouth that gave me a decent cull. A second pass produced more fish but no culls, so I switched to an M9 squarebill which is a larger profile, and caught a very nice Spotted Bass on the same run with the larger bait. That was my final cull of the day, and I was more than happy to get a 2nd place finish in a river event since 99% of my fishing is on lakes. The area I found happens to be really close to my house, and I’ll probably go back during the year and refine my knowledge of the area, and up my river fishing game.

Jonathan – I chose the Elk River to fish this event this year, and started off fishing a topwater bait.  Caught a limit within the first 30 minutes and two of those I was able to use for my best five. After that they were still busting the topwater but I think they were seeing it too well so I switched to my personal go-to bait on rivers and creeks (the Wiggle Wart). I was able to add three more decent fish to my limit on that bait.  Overall, I couldn’t tell you how many fish I caught – it was a blast.

River Valley – Lee Creek

On the same day as the NWA event, those in the River Valley had an NSKA river event on Lee Creek. I’ve fished there twice now, one time was good, one time was really bad. Looks like they had a tough day out there, with only four of 16 entrants turning in a limit. The winners were:

  1.  Toby Bogart 74. 75″ (Plus Big Bass at 18″)
  2.  Scott Accord 70.25″
  3.  Lloyd Mize 66″

Congrats to these kayak anglers!


Read recent articles: Lake Wilson Fishing, Reins Slip Sinker Review

 

NSKA River Run Preview

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!

Read recent articles: Reins Slip Sinker Review , Fishing with Eric Jackson

 

NSKA NWA Road Runner Recap

The NSKA NWA Road Runner took place on a post-front day with bluebird skies but that didn’t keep these kayak anglers from catching a lot of fish. The trend for 2017 continued with higher catch totals than in previous years. For those of you who don’t do the weekly Yakpot, it seemed to have been key for the top performers this time around.

Dwain Batey took 1st again with 93.75″ on Lake Elmdale, while Cole Sikes finished 2nd on Elmdale as well with 85.50″ and Big Bass with a 23.50″ monster.  Craig Richardson and Brayden Richardson finished 3rd and 4th with 85.25″ each at SWEPCO Lake.

A whopping 66% of the field turned in a limit, showing that when these kayak anglers can choose their spot, fish will be caught.

The top 10 was as follows:

  1. Dwain Batey
  2. Cole Sikes
  3. Craig Richardson
  4. Brayden Richardson
  5. Justin Wright
  6. Roy Roberts
  7. William Jones
  8. Baron Meek
  9. Robert Murphy
  10. David Preston

The top anglers shared their recaps on the day. Great summaries by Dwain Batey, Cole Sikes and Craig Richardson.

Dwain – There was a cold front, quickly clearing water, and ridiculous fishing pressure to deal with at Lake Elmdale, but knowing all of that I still decided I was “on them” enough to catch fish with the changing conditions and behind other boats and kayaks. My plan to fish Elmdale began with the awesome day that many of us had at the weekly Yakpot the week before, the water was high and muddy, and the fish were shallow and eating. I checked it again on Friday, and Sunday, and continued to refine my presentation each trip. I was very worried that the water would be too clear for those very shallow fish to remain that shallow by the event day, but I resisted the urge to check them again before the off limits period started. I pedaled out to my best area before start time, and was waiting there when it was time for the first cast.

I only got a couple of bites fishing through my best stuff, and didn’t put any of them in the boat. Just beyond my best area I caught a couple of 10+” to break this ice, but then I had to skip the next 150 yards of that bank because there were a series of boats and kayaks fishing that stretch. Moving on down to the next free area I finally connected with a few decent fish on the jig. Even down there I was fishing behind two bass boats that were both fishing similarly, pitching something into the same cover. Catching fish behind them really gave me confidence that I was doing something right, and different enough to catch fish with the heavy fishing pressure of the day. I made another pass down the entire stretch, and picked up a couple more fish then near the very end of it put my best fish in the boat, a 20.25″ that really anchored my bag for the day (this was at 10 a.m.).

After that I didn’t boat another fish that would cull until I found one fish away from my area on a deeper bank at 1 pm. While I had a serious game plan with several different lures, it turned out that all I needed was my jig. It was a black and blue Missile Jig, which is compact in size and profile but matched the fall rate of the larger jig I was using the week before. My trailer was a Reaction Innovations Smallie Beaver in a matching color. I wanted the smaller jig, and no kicking legs on the trailer because the fishing pressure and the clearing water put the brakes on the activity level of the bass. The cover that the fish were holding on also continued to change as the water cleared and fell. The first trip last week the fish were holding on vertical wood cover that was approx. 2 to 4 inches diameter, the next day they were on the base of the really big stumps/trees that were 2 to 4 feet diameter, but on the day of the tournament they had moved to the bushy stuff that was very sparse and was under ½ inch diameter. Another big change was, last week in the dirty water fish were biting the bait on the drop, and during the tournament you’d have to let it go to the bottom and hop/drag it some to get a bite.

After the sun got up and really showed how clear the water was, I really couldn’t believe that those fish were still up in a foot of water and biting the morning of the tournament, but I’m glad that I didn’t know until after I’d caught them, it could have ruined my confidence in the area to see that early in the day, but luckily it still looked dirty in the low light of the early morning when I was doing my damage. While everyone expects me to catch my fish on a Skirmish Baits M9 squarebill crankbait (and that’s usually the case) it’s nice to show some diversity and catch some fish on a slower bait once in a while.

Cole – I ended up choosing Lake Elmdale because it’s the lake I know the best outside of Beaver Lake and I had one of my best fishing trips while fishing the Weekly YakPot tournament the week before. From my experience in the past, Lake Elmdale doesn’t usually have an abundance of quality fish (18+”) but this year the lake has been on fire.

Conditions played a big role in my overall strategy. The sun and no wind always makes it a grind so I knew the early morning bite would be key. In the morning I tried to flip my jig by every piece of cover up shallow while I knew the bank was going to get hit hard by other weekend anglers. This worked for me but only was able to manage to catch some average 15” keepers. Once the shallow bite got tough, I started fishing out deeper on points and pockets hoping to catch a key kicker.

This move worked out well for me while I caught my kicker fish in a mouth of a pocket using a jig around laydowns that were not visible to the human eye. The fish was an 8.5″ cull and moved me from 13th to a 2nd place finish.  My key baits for the day were BassX Jigs with Zoom Ultra Vibe Speed Craw trailers.

Craig – Decided to hit Swepco because for some reason it doesn’t seem to get all muddied up after rains like some of the other lakes. Brayden and I found the fish pretty quickly in the coves, mostly in a little deeper water on secondary points and structure. As the day heated up and the sun came out, the fish moved up into the flooded vegetation in the same areas. We were able to catch them all day throwing a wacky rig.

River Valley Road Runner

On the same day as NWA events, there is another tourney for those south of the Bobby Hopper Tunnel. Congratulations as well to the NSKA River Valley Road Runner Winners:

  • 1st – Chris Nemeth with 89″
  • 2nd – Christa Hibbs with 83.5″
  • 3rd – Chris Jones with 72″
  • Big Bass – Josh Baker with 22.25″

As for me, this is easily one of my worst decision making tournaments ever. Although I caught several fish, I made a last minute decision on the lake I chose and the area of the lake where I wanted to start. On that day I used a lot of go-to techniques and caught small fish but it just didn’t work for the bigger ones. By the time I adjusted the sun was out and it was just too late. Hopefully we all learned something in this event that will help us down the road.

Thank you to Jeff Malott for putting on a well organized and fun event so that we can all have some fun.

NWA Roadrunner – NSKA Preview

The Natural State Kayak Anglers (NSKA) hit the road for the next tournament to be held on Saturday, May 13 – with a Northwest Arkansas road runner event. Because of recent flooding, the River Run was postponed until later in the season and the road runner moved up in its place. Many lakes are in play and are good options for this choose your own adventure kayak fishing tournament.

Participants may choose from almost any publicly accessible body of water within a 30 mile radius (with the exception of Bella Vista lakes) including some newly approved lakes for this season. The NSKA NWA Road Runner is one of my favorite events because it allows everyone to choose an option that fits their style, and should result in a decent overall winning total.

Choose Your Own Adventure

Here are some of the primary options anglers will be considering for tournament day:

Lake Bob Kidd – I haven’t fished this lake much but it has been in the mix each time there’s been a road runner. There are some big bass in this lake and if you like vegetation and wood structure, it is a great option.

Lincoln Lake – To me this is the undisputed “Big Bass” lake in Northwest Arkansas. On average you will catch a bigger fish here than anywhere else. If it is on, the winner will likely come from Lincoln Lake.

SWEPCO Lake fatty.
SWEPCO Lake fatty.

SWEPCO Lake – The only other lake on the list which could challenge Lincoln for large numbers of big fish. This lake’s going to be a bit warmer than some others, but hasn’t heated up too much yet for the summer. A big limit could be filled quickly here, but every once in a while these bass can get tight lipped.

Lake Elmdale – Easily accessed from I-49, this is a very popular lake, meaning it gets tons of pressure and can get quite crowded. (I counted 28 cars in the lot the last time I was there) It’s a solid lake that can at times produce good fishing, however, it has never really produced top results in a road runner style tournament. Will see what this year brings.

Crystal Lake – Gaining a lot of respect in recent tournaments, this gem of a little lake is near Decatur. I’ve fished it twice in road runners, making top five in both events. Not many giant bass like Lincoln and Swepco, but a very healthy population of keepers packed into a lake of manageable size.

Beaver Lake – Here we go…this will be interesting to see who heads to Beaver Lake and rolls the dice.  Historically Beaver Lake has factored in to the top places in road runner events – there’s no doubt it has fish and some really good ones. The person who can find some bass at Beaver might roll a seven and win this thing.

Wildcards – Some lesser known lakes are also in the mix and options for competitors: Wilson, Wedington, Lake Fayetteville, Lake Sequoya, Lake Prairie Grove and Siloam City Lake are all possibilities. (note – am told Lake Prairie Grove is currently closed)

Historical Look Back

In 2015, my first year with AKA/NSKA, the first roadrunner was earlier in the spring (April 14) and Lake Swepco was off-limits as an option. The winning angler fished the upper Beaver Lake area near War Eagle, 2nd place came from Lake Bob Kidd, 3rd place from Crystal Lake, 4th place from Lincoln Lake/Bob Kidd and 5th place from Lincoln Lake. It took close to 80″ to win this event.

In 2016, some of the same lakes produced the top results. Although I don’t have the order of finish, I do know that Beaver Lake produced the winner with approximately 86″ and Lake Bob Kidd, Siloam City Lake and Swepco Lake were in the mix for the other top finishers.

Not a real road-runner but the NWA Draw Four tournament featured Lincoln Lake, Crystal Lake, Lake Elmdale and Lake Bob Kidd. 1st came out of Crystal Lake with 2nd and 3rd coming from Lake Bob Kidd I believe.  Mid-70s was required to win this one.

NSKA Predictions

Northwest Arkansas kayak anglers Tim Hotchkin and Rob Bomstead weighed in along with me on what to expect this weekend:

What top two lakes do you think will produce the winner?

  • Jason – Based on historical data, the winner will come from Beaver Lake, Swepco or Lincoln. I’m betting Lincoln this year.
  • Tim – Swepco or Elmdale. Swepco stayed pretty clear after all the rain it’s just high from the rain. Elmdale has had alot of success lately so it will draw a lot of anglers.
  • Rob – I think Beaver or Swepco will produce the winner, although a smaller sleeper lake may surprise us all.

How does a road runner change your strategy?

  • Jason – Normally it is about finding the type of water you want to fish, but this year it is all up and dirtier than normal, so not as much of an issue.
  • Tim – It doesn’t change my strategy. If anything it helps me. I can to to whatever lake I feel confident in based on our recent weather changes and lake elevations due to all the rain.
  • Rob – Weather, water temp, water clarity, recent catches and wind all are part of the decision, however, personal confidence in a body of water and fishing how I like to fish play an important role.

Recent rains have muddied up about everywhere except Swepco, how will that affect things?

  • Jason – I think this is going to drive overall size totals higher than normal and some will catch a lot of fish. This won’t be a grind it out just for a limit in clear water event.
  • Tim – It will put a lot of stress on some anglers as their normal waters may not be fishable.  A lot of anglers may have to change their styles which could cause some anglers to try techniques they are not used to.
  • Rob – The rains definitely have changed the game plan, but good weather this week hopefully will calm things down and we should see some clearing of the water a bit.

Winning length and big bass size?

  • Jason – 86.5″ to win and a 20.75″ big bass
  • Tim – Winning Length: 78″ with a 21″ big bass
  • Rob – This group has some great anglers and I would be hard pressed not to believe someone will have them figured out. I’m going to say just over 98″ and big bass will be 22.5″

What is the key bait?

  • Jason – Spinnerbait or jig
  • Tim – Texas rigged creature bait.
  • Rob – Jig and crankbait.

KBF Beaver Lake Tournament Recap – It’s Alive!

Dead Sea? Not on this particular Saturday in April when a fickle Beaver Lake decided to give up some nice bass to an armada of kayak anglers battled high winds and a 100+ bass boat tournament.

In the tournament preview it was clear that past kayak fishing tournaments on Beaver Lake have not produced big numbers, and catching a limit usually put you in the top 20. Not this year. The fish are moving up to spawn, were active up shallow and anglers took advantage.

All but eight of the 73 of those entered carded a fish (89%) and a whopping 38 (52%) anglers turned in a limit. These are outstanding numbers not only for Beaver Lake but for any fishing tournament. The only bigger shock than the number of fish caught was a 22.25″ largemouth bass caught by Nathan Henthorn. The tail was so torn and bloodied it was likely a 23″ fish if it hadn’t just spawned out. At the weigh-in many were surprised to see a bass of that size out of Beaver.

Nathan Henthorn's 22.25" Beaver Lake pig.
Nathan Henthorn’s 22.25″ Beaver Lake pig.

First place went to Dwain Batey with 89.50″, second to Craig Wood with 89.25″ and third to Nathan Henthorn with 87″ on the board.

Top 10 Finishers
  1. Dwain Batey (AR)
  2. Craig Wood (AR)
  3. Nathan Henthorn (OK)
  4. Jerry Cornelius (MO)
  5. Justin Coon (MO)
  6. Cody Milton (AR)
  7. Jose Rodriguez (OK)
  8. Gary Kasper (OK)
  9. Jason Cossey (AR)
  10. Carson McBride (AR)

The top 20 was made up of 11 anglers from Arkansas, 3 from Oklahoma, 2 from Missouri, 2 from Kansas, 1 from Texas, and 1 from Tennessee.

View complete tournament results for the KBF Beaver Lake event here.  

Tournament Recaps

Dwain, Craig and Nathan provided some details of how they finished in the top spots:

Dwain – My first bite of the morning was on the Skirmish Baits M9 squarebill in the Army Green Craw color, and it was the 21.50” kicker fish. That bite alone really helped me keep my head in the game the rest of the day. I managed to get my first 3 fish on that bait, but as the day went on the bite shifted away from the crankbait and I started putting fish in the kayak with a shaky head. I was using a Netbait 6 inch straight tailed worm in a green pumpkin/blue swirl, but my key was using a spike-it marker to put some orange on the bait to closer match the crankbait color I was using. Rather than putting the orange on the tail, I marked about the first ½” of the head of the worm with the orange to put the focus near the hook. I was catching my shaky head fish around docks in Prairie Creek. Late in the day I managed to catch one last fish on the M9 that give me a cull up of 1/4” which turned out to be my margin of victory in the end.

Nathan – After doing some Google Maps research, I decided to put in at Horseshoe Bend and fish some of the coves across the main lake from it. My plan was to try to fish for the winning fish and leave the little spotted bass and spinning rod alone. I picked up a good 18.5 inch fish on Skirmish M9 in Goldilocks early. Shortly after I caught the 22.25 and the 18.75 on back to back casts to the same tree. Those fish hit a Booyah jig with a Zoom Z Craw trailer. Unfortunately, after that it was a bunch of small fish for me, and I caught keepers on a variety of baits, mostly the jig and squarebill though.

Craig – I pre-fished three key areas on the south end of the lake with gale force winds all day was able to rule out two last weekend. I couldn’t have been so effective without my Hobie Pro Angler in those conditions. I decided to go to a spot that produced several chunky bass in pre-fishing. It paid off, and a hundred yard stretch netted my entire length for the tournament. Slowtown custom jigs was the bait used.

On To The Next Event

I finished with a small limit of 69.50″ and 26th, just couldn’t find the right fish on the day. Overall it was a great KBF event in Arkansas and hope to see more in the future on Beaver Lake. There is another KBF event in Bella Vista on June 3 which is a night tournament, should be an interesting time! Check it out.

 

Beaver Lake KBF Tournament Preview

I had a recent opportunity to visit in person with B.A.S.S. Elite angler Ott DeFoe and he made it clear what a challenge Beaver Lake can be for anglers. As I introduced myself at the beginning of the conversation I said that I was from Arkansas and that Beaver Lake was my home lake. Ott’s face immediately dropped and he quipped, “I’m sorry to hear that.”

Van Hollow on Beaver Lake.
Van Hollow on Beaver Lake.

We spoke for a while about how to attack some of the key features of the lake like deep water floating docks and rocky points and bluffs, and it all really came back to the lake can be good…but it can be fickle from day to day which frustrates the Pros and the Joes. It’s a beautiful reservoir, but I often refer to it as the “Dead Sea” because you can also have some really tough days on the water.

Beaver Lake is well known around the country due to it being an annual stop on the FLW tournament circuit. This weekend, the Kayak Bass Fishing (KBF) Trail makes a stop on Beaver, a full two weeks before the FLW fishing pros come to town.  What’s in store for this event? I polled some top Northwest Arkansas kayak anglers to get their thoughts – Jason Underdown, Jeff Malott and Dwain Batey.

Beaver Lake KBF Roundtable

Beaver Lake level is down for the year, but up fairly dramatically from recent rains. How do you think this will affect the fishing?

Underdown – I don’t feel it will affected it too much, the water was recently down 13ft. below normal pool and recently has risen to only 7 feet below normal pool. This allows more cover to be under water and more flats to be accessible for spawning.  If anything it may help individuals that were lucky enough to get out on the lake when it was low and mark some spots on their charts that may now be underwater.

Mallot – As the water rises and warms the bass will move toward the banks and back of pockets. The spawn is upon us so they want to move anyway, the rising water only helps. 

Because of the rising water, anglers can find very clear water and stained water, where do you think most will gravitate to?

Batey – I think most people will fish clear water, but that may not prove to be the best strategy.

Mallot – I like a slight stain in the water so mid lake would be my go to area. This is one of my favorite things about Beaver Lake, you can find your water color and fish your strength most times of the year.

Being a KBF event, there will be several newbies to Beaver Lake, what advice or words of wisdom would you share with them?

Batey – I have fished Beaver one time last year for the AKA event (which I won) and my last trip here fore that was in 2008 before I ever fished from a kayak, when my partner Alan Heavener and I won a fund raiser tournament for the University of Arkansas fishing team. I also haven’t been on the lake since my win last year…so I guess my best advice is not to pre-fish! (laughing)

Underdown – This lake changes from day to day, so don’t think the spot you pre-fished will be the same two days later. Stick with what you are confident and comfortable with and don’t listen too much to any fishing reports. Secondary points in coves and creek arms will more than likely be the best producers for pre-spawn bass.

Prediction on winning overall length and big bass?

Mallot – I think something in the mid 80s will win, so let’s say 85″ and for big bass I will say 20.5″.

Batey – 84.5″ for total and 21.75″ big bass.

Underdown – Bass have been pretty decent size this last six months or so on Beaver Lake thanks to flooding last year so I’m going with 85-90″ to win and a big bass of 21″.

Beaver Lake Kayak Tourney Trends

Historically, Beaver Lake has been very stingy for kayak tournaments, living up to the “Dead Sea” title.

In 2015, the Arkansas Kayak Anglers held their Beaver Lake roadrunner event in early May. Most of the 50 anglers (76%) carded a keeper in this tournament, while only one in five anglers turned in a limit. 72″ won the event, with 17.75″ taking big bass. I finished 9th with a modest 66″ on the day.

Later that year, the Arkansas vs Oklahoma border battle was held in September on Beaver Lake. On this day, only five of the 48 anglers (10.4%) turned in a limit, with 37.5% of the field not carding a keeper. A small 66.5″ limit won first place on this tough Dead Sea day at Beaver, with a sub-par 15.75″ taking big bass. I took 3rd place with a paltry 61″ on my card, but was happy with a limit on that tough outing.

In early spring of 2016, the Arkansas Kayak Anglers road runner on Beaver Lake posted better results. Only 21% of anglers turned in a limit, while almost one-third of the field did not card a fish. Sizes were bigger this time around, with first place scoring 82.5″ and big bass being a legitimate 19.5″ – a really nice fish on Beaver Lake. I managed 15th on this frustrating day with 57″ total.

What will happen this year? Swepco Lake results far exceeded previous data, so maybe we’ll see the same on Beaver. We’ll find out Saturday.

This tournament also really matters to local anglers, points not only count for KBF, but this is also a Natural State Kayak Anglers (NSKA) points event. Someone can really bolster their AOY chances with a big win on Saturday. Good luck, wear your PFDs and deploy visibility flags!

 

Observations from the KBF National Championship

Kentucky Lake Largemouth Bass
Kentucky Lake Largemouth

Last week I competed in the Kayak Bass Fishing National Championship on Kentucky Lake for the first time, which was also my first time on Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake. During my days pre-fishing and during the tournament itself, I came to a few conclusions. (admittedly, some more obvious than others)

  1. These lakes are huge, particularly for a kayak angler. We knew going in this was the case and would need to do a lot of scouting. During pre-fishing I probably spent almost as much time in the Tacoma as I did on the water. This is a lesson learned for next year, narrow the scope of water and spend more time scouting fewer areas.
  2. There are a lot of parts of Kentucky and Tennessee that look like the good parts of Arkansas. And…a lot of parts of Kentucky and Tennessee that look like the bad parts. We appear to all be in this together.
  3. 362 kayak anglers is a big field, even on Kentucky Lake. Every angler there is a good fisherman, which meant they can also read a topo map. The result was that anglers weren’t as spread out as I had hoped, the good water in many cases was very crowded with kayaks pounding the fish for a week. Those that found good water away from the crowd were rewarded.
  4. Top baits for me on Kentucky Lake during the week were a Bomber Deep Flat A crankbait, Booyah Buzz 1/2 oz buzzbait, Rebel Teeny Foxy Shad Pop-R, ned rig, Goldens Paddletail on drop shot and YUM Thumpn’ Dinger texas rigged.
  5. Ledges. I’d heard a lot about ledges and ledge fishing.  I think this worked for a lot of folks, but I just really couldn’t get it to happen for me. Might be the wrong time of year, so may try it again my next trip over there. Still was fun to say I’d fished the famous ledges on Kentucky Lake.
  6. Mom and Pop’s Pizza in Big Sandy is AWESOME. Definitely what is needed after a long day on the water. Check them out next time you are near the south end of the lake. Protip – pay the extra $1 for cheese on the breadsticks.
  7. The captains meeting the first night was a good event and was important to hear the rules and such. The captain’s meeting the second night seemed completely unnecessary, particularly when they moved it back from 4:00 to 6:30 and people had to wait around for an extra couple of hours instead of getting rest and preparing gear for the next day.
  8. I’ve never encountered a bigger bunch of rude, obnoxious and aggressive boaters than I did on Kentucky Lake. I’m hearing this as well from many other KBF anglers. Stories of invading fishing space, attempts to swamp kayaks and dangerously close fly-bys were common. Come on man.
  9. I made a huge mistake this week and really did a lot of exploring to get to know the lake’ instead of my usual strategy of looking for a particular type of water. Although I do know the lake better by fishing in about 10 different areas, it kept me from learning the area I needed to as well as I should have. Lesson learned for next time.
  10. Day one, I roll up an hour early to my selected spot, 449 miles from home and after a week of looking around for the prime location to begin. What do I see? Fellow Natural State Kayak Anglers member Jeff Mallot sitting there in the exact place I’m headed. Small world. If only I’d gotten there two hours early…ha!
  11. Lake Barkley looks really really good. People had told me to go fish there and I tried it. Loved how it looked. I just couldn’t catch fish there. Maybe next time.
  12. If you lose your assault paddle out of your yak on the crest of the big bridge crossing the lake, it will be gone by the time you go back to get it.
  13. Crazy Chicken night (every Tuesday) is definitely worth the $9.43 at Paris Landing State Park Lodge.
  14. There is a lot of talk about how long it took to judge fish and get final results out. I agree that this was a bit frustrating, but really, if you aren’t in the top contenders, it doesn’t matter that much to get your rank after a day or two. I’m more concerned about talk I’m seeing from some about wanting to implement a cut day after day one, or raising the fish limit to 15″ to limit the number of fish to be scored. In my opinion, this is supposed to be a fun, rewarding event, and both of those changes could really reduce the fun of the overall event for most anglers. People like to catch and card fish, and people like to know they will be fishing two full days before they travel. These changes would depress attendance, I know I may not pay the entry fee and travel over there for only one day. For the ‘hardcore’ anglers asking for these changes, guess what? Fewer participants means less entry fees which means less prize money for you to win. Hopefully everyone will see the big picture that a huge event where everyone has fun is the best thing for the sport.
  15. Can’t wait for next year!