There are still 30, yes 30, events left to fish on the River Bassin Tournament Trail and our overall River Basser of the Year ($10,000!) has quite possibly not even fished one event yet! It could even be someone reading this who has never even heard of this unique kayak fishing series until now. This tournament trail is still wide open for anyone or any team to win; as a “river basser” at heart I wanted to write this article to give my best tournament strategies for all those that have yet to join in on the fun in 2015. These strategies have proven to work for me over and over and hopefully they’ll help someone out there find their way on the podium.
1. The tournament is often won before the tournament begins
Selecting the correct river to fish on tournament day in my opinion is literally 1/2 the battle on this trail – location, location, location. The reason I feel this way is because I believe most river anglers know where the fish will generally be and most know the baits that will entice them. Deciding the correct place to be on tournament day is often the difference maker. This is easier said than done though because wild rivers are constantly fluctuating and just because a certain river is believed to be the better fishery on “most” days doesn’t mean it will be the best place to catch just 3 solid fish on tournament day. In the most recent event in Bryson City, NC, Matthew Frazier and Eric Boyd chose to drive nearly an hour to a smaller river/creek to avoid the higher waters closer to Bryson City. This decision, right off the bat, gave them a huge advantage in their quest because the normally consistent fishery, the Tuckaseegee River, was higher and muddy which made the fishing extremely difficult. Knowing how to read river gauges and doing some homework with online scouting and google research should put you at an advantage, even if you don’t have time to pre-fish! To me I would rather choose the sure “solid” stringer on smaller water than go for the home run stringer on larger, heavily stained and swifter water that could easily turn into not catching a full stringer and putting me well out of contention and lacking in getting valuable series points. In golf it would be like “laying up,” which is the safer play, instead of going for the green in two that could end up with your ball in the water or woods and put you completely out of contention!
2. The Plan B
So now that you’ve made the safe and smart river choice it is always smart to have a Plan B in case a few things happen. 1.) The bite isn’t on the way you expected on your flow 2.) Conditions changed for the worse over night or 3.) You feel you have maxed out in length in your current river and need to upgrade with some bigger fish.
Somewhere close to my original river choice or on my route back from my first river stop I would have another spot or two that I could pull off, drop my kayak in, and fish for 45 minutes to an hour if I need to try a last minute upgrade. I would also have another spot that I could fish for a while longer in case I had to leave the first spot due to lack of productivity. This may require paddling out of your first spot if you’ve set up a float trip or even paddling back upstream if it is closer and you already know you need to move.
3. Improve your paddling
If you can’t kayak down a class II or III section of a river then guess what, you won’t fish that section of the river! If you’re not fishing that section then that equates to less possible water in bounds that you have to choose from. Now, often the best section for success does not have these rapids so it’s no big deal, but wouldn’t you like to have the ability to fish them in case they are the place to be?
What about when a river gets a little high and swifter but is still plenty fishable but you just can’t slow down, stop or control your kayak well enough to fish it? Most people know that bass actually bite better in these type of conditions, but the key is being able to safely and effectively fish it! If you can’t and someone else has learned all the paddling techniques to fish it, then again you have cut down your in bounds fishable water for that tournament and others will have a slight advantage over you.
Finally, this is a river focused tournament trail so if you aren’t in the right kayak then it will limit the kind of water you can easily handle. You’ll definitely want a river focused kayak like the Jackson Kayak Coosa, Coosa HD or even a Cruise 12 or 10 for smaller creeks or tough access points.
Bottom line is this; better kayaker = better kayak angler.
4. Thursday is Friday
The last piece of advice from all my experience fishing tournaments is to prepare all your tackle, rods, reels and gear on Thursday as if it is actually Friday night. This way you’ll be forced to see if you need any additional lures, line, hooks or whatever and won’t be in a last minute scramble on Friday night. I also do this so that I am able to get plenty of sleep on Friday. Every angler knows that you never get any sleep the night before a tournament and usually it is because of last minute preparations or your brain is racing while you lay in bed. I honestly like to be in bed at 8:30 or 9pm if I can because I know my brain is going to take a while to slow down so hopefully I’ll finally get to sleep around 9:30 or 10pm for that early 5am-ish wake up.
5. “Local” events are GOLD
Local events at kayak fishing shops are more low key and laid back; they are great for beginners or those fishing their first tournament. However, they are critical in the overall standings for those seasoned river bassers as well because series points are still awarded. Most regionals will have between 40 and 75 anglers but many locals will have just 15-25 anglers, thus increasing your odds of winning. The race to be the RBOY and RBTOY very well could come down to someone making a smart move to fish the “right” local even that has a lower attendance and then performing well. Many people don’t know this but you can actually click on each tournament’s “registration page” and see how many anglers have entered each event (be sure to scroll ALL THE WAY down to get the actual total). Find some that are low in attendance and go fish them to earn those series points because the angler with the top 3 event scores PLUS the National Championship score, which is worth double, will be our 2015 River Basser of the Year!
If you follow these tips I’m sure you’ll find yourself moving up and up the River Bassin Tournament Trail leaderboard and possibly end up as our 2015 River Basser of the Year and take home $10,000 big ones or be one of our team of the year which will earn $5,000!
Don’t forget that we have some awesome season long online events going on with some BIG PRIZES so click here to get involved in those.
Below are the tour stops I’ll be at so come say hello the Friday before at the host shop where I’ll be talking kayak fishing, taking any last minute questions and showing some Hooked on Wild Waters videos! See you on the trail!
Austin, TX Regional- July 11th
Columbus, OH Regional – July 25th
Leechburg, PA Regional – September 12th
Frankfort, KY Regional – September 19th
Clearwater, MN Regional – September 26th
Columbus, GA Regional – October 3rd
Silver Point, TN – NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP – October 24th