Welcome to the Big Leagues

By: Travis von Neumann | Instagram: trafish_von

I’m a river guy, from the very first bass I caught out of my local river years ago I was hooked. In high school my summers were spent trouncing around my local flow in search of one more bite, one more tug on the line, and one more aerial display of those beautiful bronze smallmouth dancing over the rapids. It’s what I lived for. Today not much has changed, I’ve just gotten better at it. The past three years I’ve competed in a local wading league in southwestern Ohio securing back to back league championships. The wading league is fun, but it certainly left me with a feeling of wanting more. I wanted to fish on a bigger stage against fiercer competition. That’s where the River Bassin Tournament Trail comes in. As soon as I found out about it I was all in. The idea of fishing new flow across the country against guys who are hauling in 18-20 inchers on the daily seemed exciting and intimidating at the same time. I definitely wondered whether or not I could hang with this level of competition.

My first experience on the River Bassin trail was the opening event in Crawfordville, FL. The tournament aligned perfectly with spring break at Ohio University. I spent my entire college career as a member of the Ohio University Fishing Club. Every year we talked about going on a crazy spring break fishing trip but never got it done until this year. Myself and 4 of my best friends from the fishing club made the journey from Ohio to Florida to fish 3 days on the rivers surrounding the Crawfordville area.

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We got hooked up with some awesome kayaks from Wilderness Way Outfitters, the event host for the tournament. Robert Baker and the staff at Wilderness Way made our trip successful by shuttling us around giving us a great opportunity to explore the wild waters of Florida. Having my buddies to fish with for 3 days was a huge help in setting up a game plan for tournament day on the water. The morning of the tournament my fishing buddies gunned it back to Ohio as I stayed to compete. The tournament was a ton of fun. I loved having my friends fishing with me all week, but it was a treat having the river all to myself, although the thought of the alligators lurking beneath me did cross my mind a few times. My limit came quick! A nice bag of Largemouth and feisty Suwanee bass was good enough to get me 9th place overall at the Super Regional event. I was stoked! Not only did I finish in the top ten miles away from familiar water, but I managed my biggest fish of the week, an 18.25 inch Largemouth during the tournament when it really mattered.

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After graduating this year I landed a pretty cool summer internship on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay catching and tagging Diamondback Terrapins (turtles). It’s a sweet gig for building a resume in the marine biology field, however, it has put a damper on the amount of River Bassin tournaments I could fish this summer. Don’t be misled into thinking I haven’t been on the water though! I’ve spent the entire summer fishing the rivers of the eastern shore honing my river bassin skills for when I do get the chance to compete, plus it is just too much fun exploring new rivers. Every weekend I hit a different tributary of the bay and have yet to be fooled by these eastern shore bass. I have to travel pretty far up the tributaries to find the fresh water, but there’s always plenty of bass waiting for me. There is also the added bonus of landing hard fighting stripers and toothy chain pickerel in the eastern shore rivers, which is why so many of us love river fishing, the mystery of what’s on the end of your line is what makes this sport so much fun!

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The largemouth of the eastern shore have somewhat kept my river bassin addiction well fed. However, I’m so in love with smallmouth that I was beginning to go crazy over here with the lack of smallmouth opportunities. Fortunately I had a 3 day weekend for the 4th of July, which is an opportunity I jumped on to go hunt some bronze. I planned a 2 day float/camp on the Rappahannock River in Virginia and I was not disappointed! Right away I began landing smallie after smallie, and though I didn’t catch any giants, it was great to get away by myself for the weekend catching some beautiful smallmouth on a beautiful river. Seriously, if you haven’t fished the Rappahannock you’re missing out! That river is gorgeous!

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This past weekend I managed to gun it back to my stomping grounds in Ohio to fish the regional event in Columbus. I knew with the record high river conditions all summer in Ohio that fishing some small water could be productive. I chose to creek hop during the tournament between two of my all-time favorite creeks that receive very little fishing pressure and still remain relatively clear during high water conditions. I found my creeks to be up and fast, but not murky enough to where the bronzebacks wouldn’t take the trusted green pumpkin tube! I got my limit within the first half hour of fishing and had all day to cull. I culled several times throughout the day, slowly increasing my overall length ¼ to ½ an inch at a time. My bigger fish of the day came on a chatterbait, the bigger bass seemed to be sitting at the very end of deep pools right where the pool met the riffle below. Overall my trip home was a success as I finished 3rd out of 60 anglers. I racked up some big series points with this event launching me from 94th to 11th in the individual standings! I can’t wait to fish more River Bassin events as my term on the Chesapeake Bay ends next week. Watch out Uhrichsville Ohio! I’m coming for ya!

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