Aurora River Bassin’ by Eric Schaaf
I fished the July 11 River Bassin’ tournament in Aurora, Illinois with my son Grant. We live about seven miles from Rocktown Adventures (the tournament headquarters) and the Fox River is our home water. Grant is 15 and in his third year of baitcasting for bass. He has plenty of experience slinging lures from the front of the kayak, and I knew he’d make a great partner. Team Schaaf was formed. We split the day into two parts – I went solo early morning and fished areas in two different towns. It was easier to maneuver through swift water and riffles in my solo kayak, and I was able to score three smallmouth bass on a 3/8-ounce black buzzbait.
Around 9:45 AM, I drove back home and ditched my solo kayak in favor of our tandem, Grant hopped in the car, and we were off to the second leg. We headed a bit north and fished areas over two different towns. Grant got into fish quickly with a 3/8-ounce white spinnerbait / gold blade off current seams and bridge walls. I was able to cull my smallest fish, a 13” smallmouth, with a 16.5” late in the tournament. This put us firmly in contention for first place and we paddled back and loaded up around 2:35 PM.
The drive back to Rocktown Adventures was nerve-racking. The live leader board had us in first place, but you never know if someone is holding out submitting a big fish, or fishing right near the tournament HQ up until the last minute.
We checked in with tournament organizer Aaron Stiger and looked at all the great prizes on display. The whole event was very well organized and everyone was very friendly. I saw many friendly faces from the Illinois Smallmouth Alliance and some other local fishing forums and introduced Grant around. He was hungry from all the activity and took advantage of the food that was graciously provided.
We were called over to do a quick interview and photo opp with one of the local newspapers, so at that point we felt confident that we had won the tournament. Our excitement built as we realized that not only had we won, we had swept it! We won first place team, I won first place individual, Grant won first place youth, and he had also finished fifth overall!
Wow, we were on cloud nine! Aaron Stiger of River Bassin’ and Kevin Versino of Rocktown Adventures were so hospitable and the whole event was so laid-back. It was great for Grant to see all that and get a win in his first River Bassin’ tournament. But even more so, we successfully defended our home waters as a father-and-son team!
It took a while to sink in but the next day we unloaded our Orion cooler and checked out all the neat prizes. Thanks to Jackson Kayak, Rocktown Adventures, and all the generous sponsors who help to make these fun local events possible. We really enjoyed ourselves and were honored to fish with such a great field of enthusiastic anglers!