Wow! Here I am writing my first blog post, an article about the 2019 Kayak Bass Fishing National Championships. How did I get here in my life? Well, maybe that’s best saved for another post, for now I think I’ll talk about how I got to the pinnacle in kayak bass fishing, the KBF NC!
One year ago I followed along as anglers I had never met competed for a $100,000 top prize. The conditions on Kentucky Lake were tough that year, but it was exciting none-the-less. I knew then, 2019 would be my turn to take the wheel (or paddle) and see what I could accomplish against some of the best kayak anglers in the nation.
My journey to the National Championship actually began on a mid-July day when Chad Hoover made the announcement that the 2019 NC would be held in Shreveport, Louisiana. I hadn’t qualified yet but I was already excited. I was more determined than ever to make it and quickly started looking at my schedule and what opportunities I had left. I was in the midst of packing for a week long trip that would take me to Lakeside Marblehead, OH for the East-West Harbor Trail, then on to La Crosse Wisconsin for the Midwest Open. This would be my trip, my time to shine, my time to make it…..It wasn’t
While i did not qualify for the NC, that trip was a very important one. I had never done much traveling away from home. I rarely strayed from the lakes I knew, or the techniques I was comfortable with. I wasn’t quite fully invested in the tournament lifestyle yet, and that needed to change. It was a turning point. I knew I needed to expand my skill set, be open minded, and develop the winning mentality required to compete on a national scale. Good things were coming, and after that trip I was ready to work for them.
August turned out to be my month! With new knowledge under my belt, I attacked the month hard. I caught my personal best smallmouth during the ADK-KBF Adirondack Open and I was flying high. My next shot at the NC was the Chautauqua Lake Trail. I studied, I prepped, I practiced, and still I came up just short. The top 5 finishers got NC spots. Me? I finished 6th. So close. The hardest part to swallow was that I caught the two biggest fish of the tournament, including breaking my PB smallmouth for a second week in a row; but I failed to put up a limit. That last fish eluded me. Just one more scorable bass, and I would have won. But that’s how fishing goes.
It wasn’t all a loss though. The two big bass, combined with my fish from the Open, had me sitting in 3rd place for the Month Long Challenge. The top two would get NC spots and I had a week left to move up. I only needed to upgrade 3 inches and I had two 17-inch bass on my board. I hit my local spot after work on Monday thinking “Maybe I can grab at least one 18-incher tonight”. An hour later and not 5 minutes apart, I landed TWO 18.75-inch largemouth. That was a 3.5 inch upgrade! So there it was, I was sitting in second place and on the verge of qualifying. The next four days were stressful. I was refreshing TourneyX every 10 minutes, seeing if anyone had crept up ahead of me. But the month ended, and I had done it. I punched my tag to the NC and the pressure was off. At least that’s what I thought. The pressure of the NC was just getting started.
August through February was a blur. I fished a bunch of tournaments to end the season. I spent numerous days on the ice stocking the freezer full of perch and lake trout. But when I should have been preparing for my weekend outings it seemed my mind was always being drawn to Shreveport. I would be looking at a local lake on Navionics, then suddenly remember something I wanted to check on Bistineau or Caddo. My office walls were plastered with scraps of paper containing notes on launches or travel routes.
I tried to keep myself occupied rigging my new Hobie Outback. I plastered it with every fishing sticker I had laying around. I reconfigured my truck bed; building a rod locker, kayak rack, and mounting a box to hold all my gear. I organized, and reorganized, and reorganized my tackle again. The last days of work before I left were a struggle. Like most, I have a regular job to pay the bills and it was tough to remain productive. But 5:00 Friday finally hit, and it was on. The gear was prepped, bags were packed, plans were set, and the truck loaded down for the journey. Saturday morning I hit the road, green and eager to prove my metal. I had no idea what was waiting for me 1,500 miles down the road.
Stay tuned for Part II of my trip to Louisiana!