Tag Archives: WAKA

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.

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.

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

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.

WAKA Roadrunner Preview: The Lakes

This weekend is the Western Arkansas Kayak Anglers Lake or Reservoir Road Runner to any publicly accessible Arkansas Lake. The question is which lake will produce the winning limit of big bass? There are a few lakes that could be contenders, or at least some of the most obvious choices that anglers will get to choose from.

In kayak fishing a road runner event means anglers have the choice of fishing a variety of waters within a pre-determined radius and must account for drive time to turn in their scorecard on time. For this event, lakes must be publicly accessible (no private or membership lakes) and must be an officially named lake or reservoir. With rivers, creeks and Arkansas River backwaters off limits, here are some of the Arkansas lakes most likely to be fished:

Lake Greenwood – This little lake on the south side of Greenwood is nice lake not too far from Fort Smith. I fished this in a tournament last year and did fairly well. Mixture of grass with some cover and an old railroad bridge which divides the lake into two parts. This should be a popular spot.

Lake Dardanelle – Although this is a Lake or Reservoir only road runner, for this event there is an exception allowing Lake Dardanelle. This is a bit of a drive but could pay off for someone who knows how to find the fish on this lake.  This large body of water should give you plenty of options to find what you are looking for.

Lake Atkins – Lake Atkins is a wild-card for someone willing to make the longer drive. There is no doubt there are big bass in this lake and a lot of them. For someone trying to win total length and big bass, this is a good bet.

Jack Nolen – I’ve not fished Jack Nolen and have heard from some anglers that this little lake is a great fishery, while hearing from others that they don’t care for it. Based on who I’ve talked to, I tend to believe that it is a good lake for bass and provides a variety of cover options. Might be a sleeper location.

TJ House Reservoir – I know nothing about this lake and have never been there. Some online sources say there are bass here, but I don’t see it being a factor this weekend. There are just too many other options.

Charleston City Lake – WAKA already has held one tournament here this year and the fishing was reportedly very tough. The tournament I fished there previously was also a bit difficult, but I am told there are fish here. Will anglers stay away of this shallow lake because of the recent tournament history?

Lake Fort Smith – Most anglers competing will likely be familiar with Lake Fort Smith, a beautiful lake nestled in the mountains. There are bass in this lake and all types of cover, and could be an advantage to anglers who’ve fished it before. As a bonus, Lake Fort Smith is the site of an Arkansas Kayak Anglers tournament in June, so this would double as a pre-fishing opportunity.

Sugar Loaf – This lake is about 45 minutes south of Fort Smith and is a pretty little lake. I’ve fished here once and it has lots of grass as its primary feature. There are some fish here, just not sure how big they are.

Some other lake options for the weekend include Blue Mountain, Ozark City Lake, Waldron Lake and Lake Hinkle.

There are certainly many other lake options for kayak fishing in the Arkansas River Valley, but these are some of the most common destinations. Normally, some Washington County lakes might come into play on this event, but with the AKA road runner the very next day, those lakes are off limits, keeping this event south of the Bobby Hopper Tunnel.


AKA Beaver Lake and WAKA Charleston Lake Tournament Previews

Next up on the AKA and WAKA tournament series are Beaver Lake and Lake Charleston on Saturday, April 2nd. Both are the second event of the season for each circuit and will be important to anglers trying to move u in the AOY standings.

Beaver Lake is the largest body of water in NW Arkansas, but not known as a “Big Bass” lake.

Last year’s spring tournament on Beaver Lake was later in the season and the lake was warmed up and fairly clear. This time around anglers will need to manage the conditions brought on by rotating warming and cooling trends and a body of water that is back down to normal levels but much of the lake is still dirty from the recent draw-down. Beaver Lake is a 28,000+ reservoir lake which can provide a good bite one day and no bites the next.

Fish are being caught on Beaver despite the spring roller coaster. Dock talk has been saying smallmouth have moved up from Rocky Branch down to Indian Creek and are being caught in good numbers. Mid-lake bass are being caught in the stained water in familiar areas of Prairie Creek, Esculapia and Monte Ne. On the river end where the water is darker, some anglers are having success. A good limit will be needed to win this event!

Registration for the RTT-NWA Beaver Lake event is Saturday, April 2, with registration beginning at 5:00 a.m. and captains meeting at 5:50 a.m. at Academy Sports in Fayetteville. From there anglers can drive and put in anywhere on Beaver Lake. It’s going to be a cold morning, so bundle up.

Charleston Lake should be primed for a big day.

Charleston Lake is the site of the second WAKA event of the season and there will be a giant bass caught at this small municipal lake. I’ve fished this body of water only once and can’t wait to get out there in the future. Just this year I’ve been hearing dock talk of multiple 9+ pound bass being pulled from the water.

It’s a very shallow lake with a few key contour features and a lot of vegetation in the form of buckbrush lining the banks. The ramp is near the only real hard structure on the lake, a short rip rap dam on the north side, with the rest of the lake spreading into four creek fed flat areas. During a break in the action you can catch a good view of Potato Hill. Wind can be a major factor on this lake, there just isn’t anything to provide relief. Registration for the WAKA – Charleston Lake event will begin at 5:15 with the captains meeting at 6:10.  If you catch a giant bass with a Bone Spook in its mouth, please retrieve that lure for me.

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.


Lake Fort Smith WAKA Preview

The first Western Arkansas Kayak Anglers tournament of 2016 will be held at a beautiful, but infamous body of water located south of the Bobby Hopper tunnel on I-49. Lake Fort Smith is a 1,400 acre fishery LakeFSMsurrounded by the scenic Boston Mountains and is one of the most beautiful lakes in Arkansas. This mountain lake can be quite clear, but like last spring, the lake is currently dirty and muddy – which some anglers will love and some will loathe.

Lake Fort Smith (which is not located in Fort Smith, Arkansas) is probably only infamous in my mind because of the two nightmarish tournaments I spent there last year. This lake is the site of my personal best both in fishing tackle broken off and rod and reel combos lost. Otherwise, it’s great.

The tournament is on Saturday, March 12, and will start from the boat ramp in the state park area.  Captain’s meeting is at 5:30 a.m. and will take off around 6:00 a.m., with scorecards due in the bucket by 2:00 p.m. Read more about it on the WAKA 2016 Opener at Lake Fort Smith Facebook page. Lake Fort Smith has the best ramp, parking and setup area of any of the tournaments I’ve been to – it’s really a nice place to hold an event.

The lake itself is fairly new creation, a combo of old Lake Fort Smith and Lake Shepherd Springs which re-opened in 2008. High winds out of the southwest or northeast can make it difficult, but the orientation of the lake can blunt some winds from the northwest or southeast. The most prominent attributes are the dam to the far southwest end and the main feeder creek far to the northeast. The ramp, park and the marina are situated in a large cove on the northern side of the lake. This lake has a lot of great scenes like waterfalls, small creeks, coves and bluffs. Do be wary crossing the lake in a kayak, there are boats that will motor through, so be sure to have your visibility flag deployed.

Last year’s two tournaments out there were held after the spawn period, so the lake should be totally different this time around. Dock talk says the water is already stained, with lots of rain on the way this week. The great thing about this lake is that if you want to fish bluffs, go ahead. Like a big flat or rip rap areas? Go ahead. And if you like standing and fallen timber, Lake Fort Smith has it. Basically, you can fish how you want to thanks to the variety of options.

Razoryak Tournament Trail events are a fun way to meet other kayak anglers, improve your fishing skills and to enjoy friendly competition. To participate in this WAKA event, no advance registration is required; you can show up with your entry fee, hawg trough and kayak on tournament day. Be sure to review all of the information on the 2016 WAKA Opener event page and check out the WAKA-RTT Schedule for info on future events.

Top Six Kayak Fishing Tournament Lessons from 2015

My first year competing in kayak bass fishing tournament trails was a real learning experience. Each and every event taught me something new – and sometimes the lessons were painful, but made me a better competitor and helped me accomplish a successful Razoryak Tournament Trail season. Here are some of my top kayak bass fishing tournament lessons learned from 2015:

  1. Fish security is very important. This seems obvious, but if you don’t get a quality photo on the hawg trough, you can’t count the fish. In my very first kayak bass fishing tournament on a tough day of fishing at Swepco Lake, I lost three bass off the board while taking the picture – leaving me only one to turn in on the card. It was a bad start for the AOY points race and I finished far down the rankings for this event! Some people use a clip or fish grips (as their circuit may allow) and others just have a certain technique that helps control the fish. What I learned here is I hadn’t practiced this enough going into the tourney. When getting started, this is something you should practice over and over with your hawg trough and camera when pre-fishing or fun fishing so that it is second nature on tournament day!
  2. Take care and time when taking photos. In my second kayak bass fishing tournament of the year my luck improved and I caught a very competitive limit (and kept them on the hawg trough for the pic) but in my excitement I didn’t focus enough on making sure each
    kayak bass fishing tournament fish
    This bass was caught using a Heddon Super Spook around submerged rock along the bank.

    bass had its mouth fully closed for the photo. I was in too much of a hurry and not taking the time to work a bit with the fish to get the mouth closed. I finished third in this event, but lost out on Big Bass and second place due to deductions on three of my five fish. Learning from this, I didn’t have a deduction the rest of the year.

  3. Don’t give up! You hear this all the time and read it in almost every article, but staying focused and not giving up on a bad day is difficult. During the WAKA River Run event I had scouted a location where I’d never fished and got off to an OK start, picking up a couple of largemouth bass early. Over the next several hours I didn’t get any bites and didn’t have a clue. I wanted to quit, give up, and was thinking about an early start on the long drive home. But I kept going and kept trying. With less than an hour left before tournament turn-in I caught a 16″ and 17.5″ on back to back casts and then one more a few minutes later. Caught on a wacky rig, check out Yum Dingers for some great color options) This resulted in my first win of the year and Big Bass for the tournament. If I had listened to my self-doubt and frustration then I would have missed out on a great finish. Two other times in 2015 I had similar experiences with catching an important fish in the last 30-45 minutes – don’t give up!
  4. Pay attention to the details. Another difficult lesson learned this year is not to take small details for granted. It’s not enough to pick the right bait, make the best cast and work the lure perfectly. I paid the price a few times this year for not doing some little things to help make sure I landed the bigger fish you need to win. Some things to focus on include ensuring your hooks are sharp (change them out if necessary!), check the drag settings on every reel, and take time to tie the right knot for your technique and re-tie as often as needed. On one tournament day at Lake Charleston I lost one of the biggest largemouth bass that I hooked all year when the knot broke from worn line and my drag was too tight. This could have changed a fourth place finish into a first place finish!
  5. Take an inventory before you launch.  Finding the pattern on tournament day to get bass in the kayak is a terrific feeling. Losing the lure that’s catching them, or running out of the plastic bait that’s pulling them in is an awful one. If you have a go-to confidence bait or some key lures for a particular event, be sure you have more than one in the boat. One of the things I enjoy about kayak fishing is the challenge in managing a limited amount of space and gear I can take on the water. One event this year I did a very poor job of this and it cost me when the key pattern emerged and I wasn’t prepared to take advantage.
  6. Map out your time. This is one item I figured out fairly early and it works well for me. Before a tournament starts I know exactly how long it takes me to get on my fishing location and how long it takes me to get back to turn in my card.  This allows me to maximize my time on the water casting for bass without risking missing the cutoff.  Things can happen such as a vehicle or equipment breakdown, but other times people just misjudge paddling or driving time.  This is particularly helpful in Beaver Lake style road runner events, or if you keep paddling further, clock your time. To help with this I keep a visible watch face in my kayak so I know what time it is at all times and can keep tabs on when I need to get moving.

Many of these tips are fairly basic but are all related to some personal lessons learned and I hope are helpful to kayak bass fishing tournament anglers regardless of experience level.