So, I’ve been very close on the few tournaments I’ve entered this year. I was 2nd (via tiebreaker!) at the KBF Invitational Tournament, then got 4th in the flounder division at the Jax Classic and in California I was able to score the largest Vermilion and come away with a nice 5 species limit in uncharted Pacific waters. Still, no tournament wins, until this past weekend at the Southern Kayak Anglers tournament! I guess I needed to head back to my roots because this tournament was right up my alley – “river bassin.” Anglers were technically allowed to fish the lake (Wiley) or the Catawba River. You know where I went and the outcome was certainly one I won’t forget. As you can see by the photos and videos I had a day that we all dream about, except it was real! My Coosa performed flawlessly as expected and I was able to get into a lot of places, ferry across strong current and use my drag chain to keep me in position to catch the big fish.
The format of the tournament is catch-measure-photo-release; top 5 fish win. My first big girl came in the morning and hit a zara spook with such violence I thought it might have been a striped bass! Of course once I saw her enormous body come out of the water I knew it was close to a 10lb largemouth. It was 23.75 inches long but it was so tall and had such a giant head. My next keeper, 20.5 inches, came somewhat by accident. I was skipping a Z-MAN chatterbait as far up under trees as I could when I made what I thought was an absolute perfect cast way back under some trees and into a small creek mouth. As soon as I engaged the reel I was snagged on a log…bummer. Now I had to spin my Coosa around and go up into the brush after it. When I pulled my way up under the low trees (getting covered in spider webs), to my surprise it opened up a little bit and due to the high water there was a whole casts length of small creek to still throw up into. I retrieved my lure and cast up into the small canyon and let my chatterbait bounce off the side wall and into the cut. A few cranks later and a she struck! The fight within very close quarters was on! I was really cool because I was so deep into the woods that I felt like I was on some other body of water.
That fish actually confirmed what I already thought to be true, that the fish were way, no, waaaaaay, up on the bank and into the slower water due to the main river being so swift. I took this knowledge and used it downstream where I caught another 20.5 inch fish doing the same thing and then soon after I landed my second “kicker” that went about 22.75 inches. This fish was fun as well because after I caught it and took a few deep breaths I realized I didn’t see my paddle anywhere…uh oh! Yup, it was downstream and floating away fast. I had to put the fish in between my legs and start the ol hand paddle as fast as I could! For the record I did have a spare paddle inside my hull but I was close enough to paddle to my other paddle even though it took a minute. Then, I was able to take my photo of the fish and get her documented properly. My final keeper fish, 20.25, came late into the day and again in very slack water near wood on the chatterbait. In between catching fish on the chatterbait I did catch a lot of them on the Z-MAN StreakZ XL, and even lost about a 7lber in the morning on that bait.
It was really cool to do well, especially when, in all honesty, everyone expects you to do well. It can put a lot of pressure on anyone in that situation and adding to it was the fact that I hadn’t fished this river in a few months due to traveling; I guess river bassin is like riding a bike, once you learn how to do it you’ll never forget! It was also cool to see pretty much the entire top 10 were also in Jackson Kayaks. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many Jackson Kayaks at one tournament in my life! As cool as it was to win, it was even cooler seeing A.) A river tournament and B.) such a fun laid back style of tournament that the SKA puts on. Everyone is friendly and helpful even though we of course all hope to win. It’s a community and tournament trail I highly recommend anyone in the southeast get involved with.