What a season on the River Bassin Tournament Trail and what a fun finale weekend at Southern Trails in Wetumpka, AL! So much came down to this final tournament including the River Basser of the Year (RBOY) and River Bassin Team of the Year (RBTOY) honors as well as the individual and team winners of the event among by far the toughest field of competitors from across the US.
JACKSON KAYAK INDIVIDUAL DIVISION AND RBOY RECAP
To set the stage for how it all played you’ll need to know what was at stake for several anglers and what they needed to do in order to become the 2014 RBOY. Tied for 1st place in series points were Tim Perkins, Evan Howard and Matthew Schaefer with 300 points. In second place we had TJ Strong and Chris Gravely at 295, followed by former RBOY Lance Coley at 280. Rocky Ly was also within striking range with 270 points. This final event is worth 200 RBOY points to the winner, 197 to 2nd place, 194 to 3rd, 191 to 4th and so on. So, out of nearly 50 anglers these RBOY contenders obviously needed to end up enough places ahead to hold onto their leads or if they are chasing they would need the top anglers to falter, at least slightly, to open up the door for them to make up ground with a top finish themselves.
Making up ground is exactly what the winner of this tournament did; Rocky Ly from Georgia won an amazing prize package and moved up from 9th place to 4th in the RBOY standings with the victory. He was one of only a handful of anglers who made a long run to the edge of the tournament boundary to fish a different river system than the Coosa. Rocky scored a very impressive bag of shoal bass to put up a total of 61.25 inches!
Top RBOY contenders TJ Strong (2nd place- 59 inches), Tim Perkins (4th- 55), Lance Coley (6th- 53.50) and Matt Schaefer (8th- 49.75) also had good finishes to solidify or move up places in the RBOY race. However, when all the scores were added and the math calculated it was Kentucky’s TJ Strong that took the title by a mere 1 point over Alabama’s Tim Perkins. TJ won a prize package worth over $4000, including one of the new Coosa HD‘s from Jackson Kayak which are soon to be released. Out of 33 total events and some amazing finishes it was incredible that it came down to just 1 point between these two great anglers.
This is how the top 5 RBOY standings looked at the end of the year out of a possible 500 points.
1. TJ Strong – 492 points
2. Tim Perkins – 491 points
3. Matthew Schaefer – 479 points
4. Rok Ly – 470
5. Lance Coley – 465
Now, in the team RBTOY race it was an equally exciting finish. Team Yakmaster (TJ Strong & Matthew Schaefer) were tied with the Riverchamps (Tim Perkins & Lance Coley) with 305 points going into the finale. Team YakDips (Stewart Venable & Chris Gravely) were a close 3rd place at 300 points and the Bro’s with Pole’s and team Heavy Weights came into this event at 290 and 285 respectively.
So, the bottom line for team Yakmaster or Riverchamps is that they controlled their own destiny. If either of them won this tournament they would also win the RBTOY award. Well, after an entire year of fishing, on this final day, by just .25 of an inch team Yakmaster did indeed win the tournament and the RBTOY title! Can you believe it!? Literally just .25 of an inch after a year of hard fishing on the trail!
FINAL TOP 5 RBTOY STANDINGS:
Other highlights from the event:
- Big Bass of the tournament went to Stewart Venable with a 22-inch lunker of a spotted bass.
- Top youth award was taken by Dylan Crystaloski with 39 inches. This is a cool story because Dylan and his dad Bryan just started kayak fishing AND bass fishing earlier this year because of the trail. He has come a LONG way in such a short time and we know we’ll see both he and his dad a lot more on the trail.
- Top Lady Angler was taken by Jo Nelson who, while on stage, told us that she was drug to her first tournament 2 years ago (Roanoke, VA) by Robert Sowder and she didn’t catch a fish! She swore she’d never tournament fish again…but thanks to Robert Sowder continuing to drag her back and help her get proficient with artificial lures she is a now a familiar face on the tour and on stage as one of the top lady anglers!
- Eric Jackson (EJ), President of our headline sponsor Jackson Kayak, just finished up with his whitewater kayaking season and decided to come down to join in on the fun and fish the event. Many don’t know this but EJ grew up in FL where he learned to bass fish as a kid and can really sling a bait caster. He floated/fished on the Coosa River from Jordan Dam down to the take out at Souther Trails (6.5 miles). However, fresh off whitewater kayak races he was done with his float by 9:30am! Ha! He called up and said, “I need a shuttle back up” and did the entire 6.5 miles AGAIN! The first time he went down he caught several nice fish over 16 inches, with one close to 18 inches. This total would have put him in 3rd place at the time but he laughed as he pulled his kayak out at 9:45 saying “Oh. I think I forgot to put this thing (identifier) in the photos,” which of course disqualifies those fish. So, when floating the second time his goal was to make those first 3 fish irrelevant by catching 3 bigger ones. He nearly did it too as he posted 2 fish bigger than his original 3 and it only ended up costing him one spot in the final standings, where he placed 9th instead of 8th. That’s a great finish for anyone, let alone someone who is fishing their first event.
- There was also a College Kayak Fishing match going on simultaneously with this event. The University of Alabama (Tyler Clark & Nick Hansen) and Young Harris College (Matt Davis & Andrew Sudderth) teams dueled it out, but in the end Young Harris pulled out the win with a 33.25 inches.
- Evan Howard, who was tied for the RBOY lead, had an unfortunate incident occur after having a good day catching 53+ inches of bass. He accidentally left his phone (where his fish photos were stored) in his pocket when getting out into waist deep water. You can probably guess the rest of the story; the phone was ruined and he could never get the photos off in time to submit them.
- Brandon Utley flew in from west central TX to compete as the angler who came the farthest to fish the championship. He didn’t catch any monsters, but fishing new water and landing a full stringer isn’t too shabby!
All said and done it was another amazing year on the trail and we can hardly wait until the 2015 Kickoff Regional Event at The Wilderness Way, located just south of Tallahassee, FL. I hope to see everyone there enjoying some spring fever on the beautiful and warm spring fed rivers of the panhandle. For now, enjoy the entire photo gallery of the 2014 championship below!
Special thanks to Southern Trails for putting on a great party for the River Bassin nation! Everyone should stop by and rent a kayak or have them shuttle you up the Coosa because it is fabulous scenery and great fishing! Also thanks to all the River Bassin staff for making this season the best yet – Noah Heck, Brooks Beatty, Jameson Redding, Aaron Stiger. Also thanks to all our sponsors, especially Jackson Kayak, Bending Branches, YakAttack, Manley Rods, RAM Mounts, Power-Pole, RayMarine, KayakFishingSupplies.com, Kokatat, GoPro, Z-MAN, Smith Optics, Orion Coolers, Sperry Top-Sider, Lifeproof, Lucid Fish Grips, Gnaughty Gnats, Goal Zero, Spro, Gamakatsu, Cablz. Lastly, thanks to all the Jackson Kayak dealers that made this year so much fun!