Tag Archives: Swepco Lake

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.

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.

VIDEO – Largemouth Bass on Bandit Crankbait

Caught this Arkansas largemouth bass while kayak bass fishing at Swepco Lake. Hooked it in two feet of water using a Bandit 100 in Green Speckled Craw pattern armed with Owner Stinger treble hooks. Was 20″ and weighed 5.55 pounds.

Gear setup: Hobie Pro Angler 12, Bending Branches Pro Angler Paddle, Dobyns Fury Rod, P-Line 12lb Floroclear, Owner Stinger Trebles and Fish Allure Scented tab applied to back of bait.

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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:

Power Plant Lake Winter Fishing

I want to share a technique I used this past December on a power plant lake in Arkansas to catch a large number of big bass, probably my most fun month of fishing this year. Almost all of them were caught using a Norman Lures DD22 or Deep Little N crankbait.

This fatty had been feeding on shad when it bit my Norman Deep Little N in white green fleck.
This fatty had been feeding on shad when it bit my Norman Deep Little N in white green fleck.
Bass about to move up on some shad.
Bass about to move up on some shad.

At Swepco Lake in Gentry, Arkansas, bass boat and kayak anglers fill the parking lots and storm the water when winter arrives. This year is no different, with a chill in the air and ice on the banks, the “hot tub” was a nice 74-76 degrees near the plant discharge. There are a lot of ways to catch good fish at a lake like this, particularly when the bite is on.

For me, the most effective and consistent method for bigger bass this time was to do some deep cranking, going after bass which were herding shad and then feeding. A second key was identifying the depth of the bass and then choosing the correct crankbait to use so that it would run just a few feet above the bass. A Norman DD22 runs as deep as 17 feet and a Deep Little N runs as deep as 12 feet.

When a school was identified and depth determined, I’d simply deploy the crankbait and repeatedly retrieve it in the vecinity of the bass. To keep things moving slowly, my setup was a 5:4:1 Lews reel on a Dobyns FR 705CB crankbait rod.  To get the bait as deep as possible, I used a light 8 lb mono and thumbed the reel instead of setting my drag. Finally, for some extra persuasion, I used a Fish Allure scented tab (shad) on the baits, on the body, just behind the front treble.

Norman DD22 in Firetiger gel coat and Deep Little N in white green fleck.
Norman DD22 in Firetiger gel coat and Deep Little N in white green fleck.

This technique netted dozens of bass and was a fun combination of electronics, crankbaits and gear that all came together at this power plant lake. Hopefully this gives you some insight or ideas on something to try on your next trip.

Spotlight: RTT Competition Recaps

Fishing has begun across the Razoryak Tournament Trail for 2016 and so far it’s been very competitive, with some familiar and some new names at the top of the standings for early events. BoldBluegill

In NW Arkansas, the Arkansas Kayak Anglers kicked off their season on Swepco Lake on an incredibly blustery day. Nathan Bohannon took 1st place and Jason Klingman walked away with big bass. I was one of several anglers who didn’t spend the full day on the water due to the wind and finished 16th out of 61 anglers. My catches came on Yum plastics. For more info, read the tournament recap here.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette was there to cover the Swepco Lake event and wrote up a great article about kayak fishing. This was great local coverage of the sport and our members they interviewed represented us well.

Western Arkansas Kayak Anglers held their kickoff event on my nemesis lake, Lake Fort Smith. It was a cold, dark and rainy day with a very tough bite – producing almost no limits. Lloyd Mize took 1st, Christa Hibbs 2nd, Benny Williams Sr. 3rd, and Brandon Ward took big bass. My love/hate relationship with Lake Fort Smith continues as I scratched out a 13th place finish out of 31 anglers, catching my fish on a Bandit squarebill.

Kayak Bass Anglers of Central Arkansas has had two events, with Jeff Otts winning the first event, and Terry Brown taking the second.  For Twin Lakes Kayak Anglers, Eli Powers took the top spot in their first event of the year. Visit the Razoryak Tournament Trail standings page for up to date rankings on all four trails.

 

SWEPCO Lake RTT Tournament Preview

The first event of the 2016 Arkansas Kayak Anglers season is coming soon to SWEPCO Lake and expectations high for a large turnout for this tournament season kick-off. SWEPCO Lake (also known as Lake Flint Creek) is a 530-acre body of water located near Gentry, Arkansas, and is a popular fishery in the winter months thanks to the power plant which keeps the lake temperature higher than other Northwest Arkansas area lakes. This first stop on the RTT-NWA Razoryak Tournament Trail will be held on Sunday, March 6 – visit the RTT-NWA SWEPCO tournament page on Facebook for more information, including start time and entry fee. Last year’s tournament (2015) featured 72 human powered watercraft on a tough post-front bluebird sky day…but the top anglers still turned in some solid limits. Tim Hotchkin turned in 80” for the day to take 1st, with Kyle Fields and Josh Sherrill taking 2nd and 3rd. Will that be enough to win it in 2016? We will soon find out!

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Mike Iaconelli found some good bass on his recent trip to Swepco Lake.

SWEPCO has a good population of healthy Florida strain largemouth bass which thrive year-round thanks to the warm water of this power plant lake. During the winter months SWEPCO is a magnet for bass fishermen from all directions who bring their boats and kayaks to this little lake in hopes of some good fishing in the cold weather. Unfortunately, this also means that the fish are highly pressured and by the end of winter they have seen a thousand artificial lures from hundreds of fishermen. This year, water temps are down from their normal totals due to pauses in power generation and local dock talk is saying this has slowed the bite compared to last season.

Fishing SWEPCO for most anglers usually involves a few key areas of the lake, depending on which strategy you wish to employ. The Swepcomapsouthern end of the lake is lined by a long rip-rap covered dam. The northern end of the lake splits into two large arms, one to the northwest and one to the northeast where the power plant discharge is located – generally providing the warmest water area. From the south to the north end there are many small pockets and coves branching off of the main lake. Wind is almost always a factor on SWEPCO in the late winter and early spring. The lake runs at an angle that allows winds out of the south and southwest to scream up the lake on some days making it tough to hold a kayak position on points or to get back to the ramp by paddling after a long day of fishing.

Razoryak Tournament Trail events are a fun way to meet other kayak anglers, improve your fishing skills and to enjoy friendly competition on the water. To participate in the event, no advance registration is required; you can show up with your entry fee, hawg trough, camera and kayak on tournament day. Be sure to review all of the information on the NWA-RTT SWEPCO event page and check out the NWA-RTT Schedule for info on future events.