Contributed by Calloway Rabb
It started months ago when buddy and fellow kayak angler Craig Dye asked if I was attending the KBF Open.
I am horrible about procrastinating, but on this tournament I didn’t procrastinate and decided I wanted to work together to figure out where we would fish this epic tournament. Craig focused on putting boots on the ground while I spent my time picking the brains of some very talented fishermen to figure out where the best location and what the fish were doing to give us the best shot to win the KBF Open. As most plans go, this idea was shattered due to an almost comical 2 week weather stretch that consisted of Ice, snow, rain and 70 degrees and sun all within 2 weeks of this tournament. After looking at navionics and speaking with fellow anglers we decided to check a few spots that would best suite our style of fishing. It ultimately turned into a very frustrating ordeal because many of the spots we wanted to check were still iced over.
In prefishing the water temps were ranging from 36 – 39 degrees. After watching the weather for a month, game week arrived and brought some warmer weather as well as some rain bringing warmer waters thankfully. I was able to fish the afternoon prior to the tournament with water temps in the high 40s and low 50s. The day before the tournament was sunny, and I had figured a pattern relating to shallow wood. I caught 3 and left them biting. I knew after looking at the weather my pattern would not hold up due to once again a weather swing from nice and sunny to rain. I really didn’t have a choice; I went back to the same location on the first day of the tournament. I show up early with no one at the ramp I start unloading and then a line of 6 trucks show up with yaks in the back. I picked it up a notch got in the water went to where I was wanting to fish and at 6AM I dropped my first line of the tournament with a night blade, unfortunately no luck on that and as light came it brought torrential downpours with it.
I had zero luck shallow, so I pushed towards the mouth of the creek I was planning to fish a bluff wall and some points. The wind was pushing into the pocket so the bluff was wasn’t an option so I moved to the more sheltered points. Finally at around 10:30 I had my first bite of the day, it was around 14-15 inches but it came unbuttoned at the boat, while I was fumbling with my foldable net. The key here is having your net ready when you go fishing. I was pretty upset so I dropped my anchor and fished that same cast for about 5 minutes and hooked another bass. This one the net was ready and I landed an 18.25 largemouth. After speaking with other anglers around I began to understand how important that fish I lost was. I scrambled all afternoon coming back to visit the spot where I hooked the pair earlier but nothing. I paddled back to the ramp mildly defeated knowing that out of 158 anglers I had to have 2 fish to compete for the win. This would end up being the reason I changed plans and found bigger fish. That evening I realized that it was a very tough day of fishing with a good bit of high quality anglers not bringing in a limit. At the check in Craig Dye and I were talking about how we were out of the running for winning the tournament but we could still go try to catch a big fish. I asked Craig where we needed to go to get a chance at a big fish and he had a spot in mind.
The spot he had in mind was one another angler in the cabin had fished on the first day of the tournament and zeroed, so we considered this swinging for the fences. One thing I did request was that I didn’t want to wake up early because I was exhausted. At this point a third angler at the cabin decided he wanted to go with us. We ended up showing up at the ramp at around 8:45. I pulled up and noticed that the water clarity was substantially better than what I saw on both prefishing as well as the first day of the tournament. That was the beginning of the excitement. We all loaded our yaks and got on the water. We separated I paddled to the first point in front of me and began to cast a jerk bait. The water temp was in the low 50s so I was still working it slow.
My third cast I worked it all the way back to the boat and a little dink came up and slammed it and pulled it under my boat. It caught one of my bindings on the edge of my yak and popped my line as I witnessed my jerk bait go down as well. Not discouraged I tied another similar jerk bait and paddled a little further down the bank. I caught another fish and realized I didn’t have my net. Great! I landed the dink took my picture with it on the board and decided to paddle back to the truck to get my net. When I turned around I see something sticking out of the water and it is a swivel sticking up where my first jerk bait has floated back up. There was no way I was not tying that thing back on. It would prove to be a wise decision. I retrieved my net and got back to fishing.
It seemed that every piece of wood was holding 13-15 inch bass. Not the big fish I was looking for. About an hour later it was like a light turned on and the bigger fish started biting. I threw and popped the jerk bait twice and it got heavy. When she flashed at the boat I knew it was huge. Craig was within 100 yards and paddled over. I looked at him and said this could be the big fish in the tourney. When I put it on the board I knew it was my personal best Largemouth. I was so jacked I could hardly get a clear picture with the length and nose in the same picture. Finally I got a solid picture and Craig was nice enough to get some good ones of my holding it and then it was released. At that point I felt like we had a good idea on how to catch them and sure enough about an hour later I hooked into another hog that felt bigger than the first one. I got her to the boat and realized that she was only 22”. I finished the day with a 23.25/22/16.25 largemouth.
After check in I was curious how my fish stacked up and when the results came out after the second day of the tournament I had the 3rd largest fish as well as the largest fish in the tournament. I knew there was one more day, and the night prior I had decided if I didn’t catch anything of size I would be headed home. Since I was sitting pretty well I decided that I better go out and try to catch a bigger one to secure the spot.
Sunday morning the conditions had changed. The water temp dropped 3 degrees and instead of overcast we had sunny skies. This slowed my retrieve even more. Catching fish slowed down as well. My first fish of the day was 8.75 inches long. Not long after that I swapped to a trap and hooked into a nice 21.75 bass. Once again things slowed down and time was running out so I decided to work my way back to the ramp. On the way back in I was able to land a 22.5 pig that would end up bumping the second place big bass leader out to third.
The great thing about fishing with friends is that they don’t mind getting some great action shots and video to document such a spectacular couple of days of fishing. We loaded up and started back to the check in when I posted my fish for the day on Tourney X. At the end of Sunday I would have the big bass for this day as well. That storm on the first day of the tournament made me change my plans an pushed me to a place I had never fished before and allowed me to catch not only the big bass in the tournament but my personal best as well. People have been telling me that the fish on the first day cost me $16,000, when in reality that fish and the crappy weather from that storm is the reason I caught the biggest bass in the largest freshwater kayaking tournament to date. This will definitely be put in the books as one of the best fishing weekend to date.