Rain pounded the Carolinas the week before this event and, yet, the River Bassin’ nation still showed up, with 71 anglers willing to brave the high, stained water to go River Bassin’! The folks at Visit York County, SC, welcomed us with open arms again this year and got us in touch with a new venue for our event – Legal Remedy Brewing. What a cool place to have this event with awesome outside seating, great food and of course their custom brews. The rivers may have finally receded enough to kayak fish, but the mercury rose on the thermometer, as this was the hottest day of the year for Rock Hill, SC, at a scorching 88 degrees!
If there was one main takeaway from this tournament, it was certainly that bass, and big ones, can sometimes be easier to catch in high water. The river’s stain, current and turbulence make them more susceptible to our lure presentations. So, why don’t more people catch big fish in water like this? As I explained on stage during the Results Show, it all has to do with boat control and the fact that we probably don’t get on the water as much when it is this high. After all, we are in kayaks and not everyone’s paddling skill level or experience in water this high is the same. However, the better paddler you become, the better kayak angler you’ll become; I’ve said this so many times, and today the top anglers proved that their experience on high water and their paddling skills are what got them to the top and helped shatter the old River Bassin record!
Luke Britz, a local to the Rock Hill area, had fished this tournament several times and never really finished as he should for as well as he knows this river. Even on stage, he talked about how he had a tough time last year and at one point, he flipped over to make his day even worse – hey, that’s kayak fishing, it can happen to us all! Well, I suppose the third time was a charm for Luke, because he shattered the old River Bassin’ Record of 64.25 inches (set in Austin, TX by James Givens in 2015) with a new record of 67.50 inches (3 bass)!
On stage, he told tournament founder and MC, Drew Gregory, that he would anchor up on his spots, then catch his fish on a spinnerbait. We’re going to (not) go out on a limb here and suggest that he wasn’t throwing a 1/8 or 1/4 oz spinnerbait, but rather some bigger, heavier weighted spinnerbait. When water is moving at the level it was moving this day on the Catawba, or any high volume river, you better have a 1/2 oz or more tied on or you’ll never get your lure deeper than a foot!
Second place was taken by Atlanta area native Travis Dockins, who was fishing on a stand up paddleboard (SUP), and was with his dog, Dora! He is also a whitewater kayaker, so it is no surprise that he felt safe and comfortable on higher water and was able to get the boat position he needed to land over 60 inches of largemouth bass himself. On stage, he gave credit to some of what he has learned to Flukemaster Gene Jenson and to watching some of Drew Gregory’s videos on the Hooked on Wild Waters YouTube channel. Just goes to show that in the winter, or on rainy days, you don’t have to go fishing to get better at fishing! Gregory White, of Sumter, SC, rounded out the top 3 with 59 inches.
All three anglers and anglers down to 20th place will receive River Basser of the Year (RBOY) and River Bassin’ Team of the Year (RBTOY) points, starting with Luke at 200 points and going down in 5 point increments. For any angler looking to win the RBOY or RBTOY awards, we will take your top 2 Regional point totals and combine it with your top River Bassin Qualifier point total as you head into the championship. You can, of course, fish as many of these events as you wish and standings are updated no later than the Monday following a tournament weekend. Qualifiers = 100 points for a win; Regionals = 200 points for a win (including the 4 online Regional tournaments) and the Championship = 300 points for a win. It’s an easy 100, 200, 300 point system for our 3 tournament types. To learn more about these events and when they are happening, click here for the full 2017 schedule.
In the team division, Travis Dockins and his partner John Rush (Team Donkey Slaunches), took the title with 116 inches (6 bass). Hog Hunterz (Luke Britz & Tim Sabella, not pictured) took second place with 110.75 inches, and third place (109.50) went to Team Ly, the father and son duo of Rocky and Nawtou Ly, from the Atlanta area.
Due to high water and tough conditions, we didn’t have many youth fish this event, but safety is always first on the River Bassin Trail. The two that did give it a shot came up empty, but one of them, Jacob Clayton, did walk away with one of the cool random prizes for telling the best tournament day story! Many other random prizes were given away and, of course, the River Bassin’ Prize wheel was a hit for the anglers who finished out of the prizes/money to spin for a chance to somewhat redeem themselves!
Besides Luke, the next biggest winners of the day had to be a tie between Darrell Olson, The Catawba Riverkeeper and the local Heroes on The Water chapter in Charleston, SC. How do all of these tie together you may ask? Well, Darrell Olson ended up being the winner of the Jackson Kayak raffle and is (was) a proud new owner of a Cruise 12 kayak. However, he is sponsored by Jackson Kayak already and immediately got on the mic and stated to the crowd that he’s “donating the kayak to my local Heroes on the Water chapter!” WOW! Of course, all the proceeds of this raffle went to the Catawba Riverkeeper and River Bassin’ is proud to send them a check for $750 to help keep the Catawba as safe and clean as possible, so we can continue to enjoy its fishing and beauty! The kayak was donated by The Outdoor Supply Company and The Great Outdoor Provision Company, both great locations to learn more about kayak fishing, buy a new kayak or any kayak fishing related gear!
The River Bassin’ Prize Wheel was back, as well as all the “River Bassin’ Random Prize” categories that make this event so much fun for all involved. There were even several new products in the River Bassin Retail section, including the much awaited River Bassin board shorts and swim trunks.
Stay tuned for the new River Bassin’ Recap Show, which will air on the Hooked on Wild Waters YouTube channel, recapping how it all went down in Rock Hill, SC and highlighting the past and upcoming Qualifier tournaments. Huge thanks to all who made this event so amazing, especially our headline sponsors Jackson Kayak, Orion Coolers and Visit York County South Carolina!
Due to flooding in the Ozarks, we’ve moved the May 13 Shell Knob, MO event to September 10th, which means the next Regional Stop (bring $15,000 in cash/prizes) will be in Bristol, IN on June 3rd! We’ll see you there!
MORE PHOTOS FROM THE DAY!