Tag Archives: Razoryak Tour

2017 Arkansas Kayak Fishing State Championship – Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Championship Advice

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Swepco Lake NSKA Recap

Winter had one more blast of icy air to launch the Natural State Kayak Anglers into the 2017 season on Swepco Lake. With air temperatures at 29 degrees at take-off and water temps ranging from 68-75 degrees across the hot water lake, it was an interesting setup for the day.

As discussed in this previous article, historically Swepco Lake has not been friendly to recent kayak tournaments. This year was a different story as many fish were caught, including several big ones. Of the 61 anglers who entered, 85% turned in a score-able fish and 44% turned in a limit. Overall a great day of fishing on Swepco Lake, evidenced by 260 fish caught which included eight big fish at 20+ inches.

First place went to Rob Barnica with 89″ and second to Baron Meek with 88.5″ who both fished most of the day up around the discharge area near the power plant. I came in third place with 87.25″ while David Preston took fourth with 83.75″ and Ethan Dhuyvetter with 82.5″ was fifth.

Top 10 finishers:
  1. Rob Barnica
  2. Baron Meek
  3. Jason Kincy
  4. David Preston
  5. Ethan Dhuyvetter
  6. Roy Roberts
  7. Robert Murphy
  8. Justin Wright
  9. Rance Richardson
  10. Wayne Johnson

Rance Richardson won big bass with 21.25″. View complete NSKA – Swepco Lake Results here.

Rob, Baron and David did not provide a tournament recap, but here are mine and Ethan’s look back at the day.

Jason – A week or so out from the tournament I was feeling pretty solid on a game plan, but that was thrown out when the weather took a nasty turn that weekend. Knowing they had the generators running most of the night before it was clear that bass would be feeding early up toward the discharge but I decided to avoid the crowd and to try and find more unmolested water down on the dam end of the lake.

I wasted some time throwing a bit of topwater and tried a few other different things but did not really get settled in until mid-morning and figured out that a combination of some different YUM plastic baits (Thumpn’ Dinger and Kill Shot) on Owner hooks was the way to go. Most fish were in 12-8 feet of water and bit on a slow-moving presentation.  The bite was good until about 11:30 when the clouds began to break up and then once the sun fully emerged the bite shut off for me. As a last gasp effort to pick up a couple of inches I went up to the discharge area for the last hour but couldn’t cull a fish.

Ethan – I decided to fish this event because I thought it would be a great way to meet people and get out on a lake I’ve never been to. I was very hesitant because of the cruddy weather we had the day prior but opted to fish last minute. Having never fished a kayak tournament, I was a bit nervous that I would screw something up, but Jeff explained everything well so I had no issues.

When I got out, I figured an A Rig would work but after hearing the water temp, I quickly put that down and started tossing a jig. A football jig and a drop shot Roboworm accounted for all my fish. The fishing seemed to be best when there was cloud cover. I was catching my fish on transition banks in 5-10 ft of water, they all seemed to be pre-spawn to me which I found odd with the water temps as high as they were.

 

Lake Swepco NSKA Preview, or History Lesson?

What happens to one of Arkansas’ most well known winter bass lakes meets up with scores of kayak anglers? Swepco Lake in Gentry, Arkansas, is the first trail event of the year for the Natural State Kayak Anglers (NSKA) and historically has been stingy on tournament day.

I have competed now in three kayak fishing tournaments on SwepcoNatural State Kayak Anglers - Swepco Lake Lake and looking back at some numbers, the anglers haven’t bagged as many, or as big of fish as you might think for this premier early spring spot.

My first kayak fishing tournament there was the 2014 AKA Christmas Classic big bass event and was my first kayak tournament. On that December day there were 51 anglers on the lake, with only 31 (61%) of participants even carding a keeper. The big bass on this day was 19″ – a nice fish, but not huge for legendary Swepco Lake on a December day.  I was extremely happy to take 10th with a 16″ fish in my first event.

For March 2015 tournament recaps describe the day as very, very tough with bluebird skies and little to no wind. There were 71 anglers entered and Tim Hotchkin won this event, including big bass by blowing away the field with 80.25″ and 20″ for the big bass. Of the 71 anglers in the event, 46 anglers (65%) carded a keeper.

Anyone there in 2016 remembers how bad the wind was that day. It was downright dangerous on the water if you had a small kayak. This Swepco Lake tourney had 61 participants, with only 37 (61%) recording a keeper.  Nathan Bohannon took the win with 72″, while big bass was caught by Jason Klingman for 17.5″.  17.5 for big bass out of 61 anglers on Swepco?! (note – there was word of a 20″ fish caught but no score-able photo submitted) Only eight anglers turned in a limit on the day, with 87% of the field falling short of five fish. Was a disappointing day for me finishing 16th for the event with only two keepers.

So what do these numbers tell us about what to expect this weekend on Swepco Lake? A few takeaways:

  • A good portion of the field, approximately 40% is likely not to card a keeper on tournament day,
  • If you catch a 20″ you have an excellent chance to win big bass for this event,
  • A limit of five keepers likely gets you a spot in the top 10-12 places based on past history.

Swepco Lake may be a big bass lake in the winter months, but it can get finicky at tournament time. Why? Who knows? But the weather clearly changes this time of year and the schools are harder to find. Extremely high winds are frequent in March as well, which can make fishing difficult for kayak anglers. Maybe it is because having 60-70 anglers on that lake at once really pushes the envelope in finding unmolested bass.  Whatever the reason, there will be fish caught this weekend, including some big ones…just not very many.

 

RTT Kickoff Classic Tournament Recap

This past weekend I competed in my first tournament of the season. The 2017 Razoryak Tournament Trail Kickoff Classic brought together the top kayak anglers from around the state of Arkansas for a three day online event open to fishing any public waters. This a brief recap of my 8th place finish out of 56 anglers.

First of all, congratulations to the top finishers:

  1. Dwain Batey – NSKA
  2. Rob Barnica – NSKA
  3. Terry Brown – KBA
  4. Scott Acord – KBA
  5. Justin Brewer – NSKA

The tournament was a bit disappointing to me because I felt like I had really dialed in Lake Swepco in Gentry, Arkansas, in recent weeks, catching a lot of quality fish. After a week of record high temperatures, a windy cold front moved in and turned everything upside down and I just couldn’t adjust well enough to be a top competitor. I also made some mistakes that cost me early on a couple of big fish.

Friday – Day 1

I hit Swepco on a day of very high winds and temps in the 40s steadily dropping into the 30s later in the day. Even with this, I stuck with my plan to start out with some topwater (Heddon Zara Spook) on this power plant lake and although it generated some bites, I lost the first six fish that I hooked, including a couple of large ones. It wasn’t the hooks, clearly something was off with my hookset and technique which was resulting in the bass pulling off. After this setback I was pretty dejected but remembering my pre-tournament plan I transitioned to a Norman Mad N crankbait and picked up a good sized and a mid-range keeper fairly quickly.  Later on l I hooked into an absolute monster (using a YUM Dinger) which I fought for what seemed like forever…until I pulled up a 4-5 lb catfish and I literally went on a verbal anti-catfish rant. Not wanting to give up, I stuck with this YUM Dinger approach and picked up a couple of keepers to add to my total but still only had one good sized bass. Now was the time of day where I was ready to go to my bread and butter approach with a Norman Deep N crankbait, which yielded me a 17″+ and 18″+ to round out my limit for the day, finishing with 77.25″ for day one where I was feeling pretty good in the standings until my buddy Dwain Batey submitted 90″+ that evening! For a great recap of his eventual tournament win, go give this a read. This pushed me down to 3rd for day one, which was good but I was frustrated about missed opportunities that day.

Saturday – Day Two

The cold front had really set in and temps were below or at freezing until late morning so I didn’t hit the water until around noon. As expected, nothing that worked for me on Friday was working today and I really scrambled to try and increase my limit total, trying all sorts of techniques. A pretty neat (but bittersweet) experience was sitting on the water within just a few feet of Rob Barnica as he was pulling in big fish after big fish. He was on fire with those bass and kept pulling in one after another…I believe I saw him catch four between 17″ and 21.5″ in about an hour. Although I was in the same place and throwing a very similar bait, they didn’t like my technique and didn’t bite for me. A big mistake I made on this day was spotting a big bass on a deep bed that was hard to get to, but I didn’t stay there and try to get it to bite. After putting in a bit of time on it I moved on not wanting to waste my day, in retrospect I should have stayed as long as it took since that one fish would have made my Saturday successful in upping my total. As it is, I only added a few inches and finished with 84″ on the day, culling with a couple of mid-size keepers that I caught on topwater again. (People say I’m addicted to topwater baits…)  At the end of day two I’d dropped to 5th place.

Sunday was the third day of the event, but after seeing the leaderboard after day two I could see that a win was no longer possible I decided to sit it out and spend some time at home. When the tournament ended I had fallen to 8th and finished in the top 10 which is a minimum goal for every event I enter.

A couple of equipment/setup keys I’d mention that I believe really helped in this event:

  • Was able to really give my new Shimano Citica 7:2:1 reel a workout as my main topwater and crankbait reel. It was smooth as silk and was really impressed with it.
  • As usual I used Fish Allure scented tabs on my hard baits which helped give me a good confidence boost, particularly on topwater baits.
  • Two of my keepers in my best five came on a crankbait I had never used before, but had ordered a Norman Mad N for this event to match some baitfish I’d been seeing shallow while prefishing – this definitely paid off.

All in all it was a good warm-up for the year which got me back into tournament mode and also let try out some new equipment and some new rod/reel setups under pressure.

2017 NWA Natural State Kayak Anglers Season Preview

One of the largest kayak bass fishing tournament tNatural State Kayak Anglers (NSKA)rails 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

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.

Like this article? Check out other recent kayak fishing posts:

Lake Fort Smith Tournament Preview with Brandon and Kyle

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.

LakeFSM
Competitors should get used to this water color.

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.

FSFMmap
Whether going north or south, Lake Fort Smith is dark and full of terrors.

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.

Spotlight: Expert Crankbait Tips, Choosing a Stand-Up Paddle, Jeff Malott Wins KBS on Table Rock, Installing LED Lights, AKA and WAKA Results

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Taking off on Beaver Lake the morning of the AKA NW Arkansas road-runner event.

This week’s spotlight features some great content and some exciting results involving some of my fellow Arkansas Kayak Anglers.

Dwain Batey is maybe the best crankbait kayak angler I know of and he’s put together a great article called Why You Can’t Catch Fish on a Squarebill Crankbait. Despite the title, Dwain does everything he can in this article to help you catch fish on a crankbait. He should know, he’s the owner of Bait Werks Custom Lure Painting and paints all of the lures for Skirmish Baits. If you like to fish crankbaits or want to improve, this is a good place to start.

Fellow Arkansas Kayak Angler Jeff Malott won a cool $3,000 this past weekend at the KBS Open on Table Rock Lake. Jeff is a great angler who works hard at his craft and deserved the win. Jeff caught eight bass and turned in a limit of 82″ inches on a post-front day. He is the tournament director for Arkansas Kayak Angler events, one of the founders of the Razoryak Tournament Trail and serves on many other kayak fishing related boards. It’s no surprise an AKA member won on Table Rock; clear and rocky water like that is home turf. Jeff is currently at the top spot in the AOY points for AKA and has a great season. Check out Jeff’s blog, Yakfish Arkansas.

If you are fortunate enough to have a Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP), they are a lot of fun. Choosing the right paddle can make all the difference. Bending Branches has this great article about Choosing a Stand-Up Paddle that’s helpful and includes some graphics representing the height of the paddler to the paddle and the right angle at which to make a paddle stroke.

Kayakfishingblog.com has an updated layout and look if you haven’t seen it in a while. They posted a good article on Installing LED Fishing Lights that you might want to check out. My own article on Installing LED Lights On Your Kayak has been a popular one on this blog. Between these two articles you should be well on your way towards an install.

Western Arkansas Kayak Anglers and Arkansas Kayak Anglers have updated their respective Angler of the Year points rankings after their most recent events. In northwest Arkansas, the AOY standings are taking shape with only two events left. Jeff Malott, Dwain Batey, Jason Kincy (me), Decland McDonald and Tim Hotchkin are sitting in the top five spots, with the top three places separated by eight points. Overall, there are 108 anglers in the points race. For WAKA, Brandon Ward and Cody Skelton are in a tight race for first, with Tommy Mcguire, Christa Hibbs and Joe Feyen rounding out the top five. Having only fished two events this year for WAKA, I’m currently sitting at 21 out of 47 anglers.

Heddon and Booyah Baits Pay Off

The same baits paid big dividends in two tourneys in two different locations this past weekend. Over two days I competed in two road-runner kayak bass fishing tournaments on the Razoryak Tournament Trail.

Western Kayak Anglers held their tournament on Saturday and I took my kayak to Charleston Lake in Charleston, Arkansas. Hoping for an early topwater bite was the right move on this small, shallow lake. Within 45 minutes I had three keepers on my Heddon Super Spook Jr. (Foxy Shad) with a Fish Allure scented tab. Later in the morning I hooked into a giant who broke me off with a hard dive right at the yak, taking my spook with them. I was able to add a fourth keeper later in the day with a YUM Dinger (Cajun Neon) around buckbrush, but fell short of the five I needed that day. Still finished 11th in this event on this tough post-front bite day.

Sunday was a different day and a better bite when 74 kayak anglers in NW Arkansas hit the road for Arkansas Kayak Anglers. I went to Beaver Lake to try and capitalize on a really good 2016 bite. Early on, the spook was working again, netting me threIMG_2937 (1)e keepers on a Super Spook Jr. (Florida Bass) with a Fish Allure scented tab. I’d been experimenting with the relatively new Booyah Bankroll Jig and it did good work that morning. I pulled a nice keeper off of a log and moments later hooked a big one in some brush – which got away thanks to getting wrapped up on the wood. The Bankroll jig is great because of its versatility; I can swim it, flip it or drag it. Thanks to these baits I was able to cull twice and put together a decent limit. There were 30 limits caught on this day but I was able to finish in the top 10 out of 74 for the event and am in 3rd in the overall points race.

Great equipment is key in fishing kayak tournaments, maybe even more than in boat tournaments because you cover much less water. Every bite is critical! Some people ask about my boat setup, so here it is: Native Propel 10 kayak, Bending Branches Angler Pro Paddle, Humminbird Helix 5, and white Hawg Trough.

Spotlight: YUM Pulse, KBF National Championship, PFDs, RTT Recaps

This week read about a hot new swimbait, PFD selection, Razoryak Tournament Trail and KBF recaps:

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Christie’s spinnerbait setup with Pulse trailers.

Many Bassmaster Classic fans watched YUM sponsored angler Jason Christie take an early commanding lead on Grand Lake, only to lose out on the final day to a monster bag from Edwin Evers. For the first three days Christie was lighting it up, leading field with an ability to put fish in the boat. One of the secrets of the week was that Christie was using a brand-new prototype YUM Pulse swimbait as a trailer on his spinnerbaits. This new swimbait was a key in helping create the right disturbance in the murky water because of it’s ribbed design. Although Christie used it as a trailer, it is primarily designed for use rigged as a swimbait on a jig-head or hook. These swimbaits were not available prior to the Classic and are now hitting stores.

Chris Payne at Kayak Fishing Blog has a really good article about choosing a PFD (personal flotation device) for kayak fishing. He discusses the different types and uses and makes some recommendations. I use a MTI Solaris when fishing and like it because of the high placement of the padding on the back so it doesn’t interfere with my kayak seat. Wearing your PFD is very important and most tournament trails require it in the rules. Invest in a comfortable one, the better it feels, the more likely you are to keep it on!

The best Kayak Anglers in the country met at Kentucky Lake in March for the Kayak Bass Fishing National Championship. I had qualified but had to miss the event and it sounds like I missed out on an awesome time. For those interested, here’s a recap of the winners. Congratulations to all who qualified and competed.

The Arkansas based Razoryak Tournament Trail continues for 2016 with more great events. Arkansas Kayak Anglers held their Beaver Lake Road Runner and had 70 kayak fishermen hit the water on a blustery day. Dwain Batey took first place with 82.5″ followed by Benny Williams and Craig Wood. My small limit placed me at 15 for the event. Read the tournament recap here.  Western Arkansas Kayak Anglers held their second event of the season at Charleston Lake and the cold really turned the fish off. Cody Skelton took the top spot with 53.5″ and big bass with 19″.  Visit the RTT Angler of the Year standings to keep up with the points race for 2016.