After participating in the KBF Open in Toledo Bend this past fall, Jeff Sherwood and myself both qualified for the 2016 KBF Championship, which was going to be a precedent setting event because of the amount of money at stake. Jeff Sherwood the Retail Manager at Summit Sports/ACK and myself both traveled to Tennessee to not only participate in the KBF, also to observe as we did at the Toledo Bend Open, to see how large events are being run and what makes them successful. With the growing interest in the sport of kayak fishing in the Mid-West and Great Lakes Region, we want to make sure that we can provide first class events like the KBF Series, through the new KATS – Midwest, which also includes the Border City Classic.
First the fishing experience. We arrived on Wednesday morning after driving through the night, so we could get on the water and try and find where we were going to fish. Leatherwood Resort allowed us to check in just after 7 AM where we unloaded our vehicle and quickly headed out to our first area and checked out a few creeks and bays for water clarity and if there were hungry fish. After catching a few nice sized LM Bass and almost six hours on the water we decided to head back to our cabin, get some dinner and plan our next few days fishing. Thursday was the start of the HOW Big Bass Brawl which was to cover four days, starting Thursday through to the conclusion of the KBF Championsip on Sunday. The largest Bass would walk away with a sponsored prize package, Wilderness Systems ATAK Prize Pak.
We decided to fish from Leatherwood Creek where we were staying for the week. From there we could fish a new area and still cross the lake and check the spot we had fished the day before. With only a few small fish caught we decided to venture out and try another area on Kentucky Lake on Friday. Since we had already qualified for the Championship for Saturday and Sunday we chose not to enter the KBF Open that was being held Friday where anglers could qualify for the Championship by competing in the Open. With the temperature dropping from mid week, fishing was getting tough and other than a 15.5 SM Bass I was having trouble finding fish. It wasn’t till later in the day that I found a nice point on the bay we were in that produced a 16.75 inch LM Bass and shortly after a personal best 20.75 inch LM Bass that weighed almost 6 lbs. I wasn’t going to sting the fish anymore deciding that this was where I was going to fish Saturday.
Jeff and I were up early and we could here the wind blowing from inside our cabin. We wanted to get on our spots by the 6:30 am start and be ready for what may be a short bite window because of the big drop in temperature and complete 180 degree change in wind. Now blowing from the north it was going to be a tough position to hold for me being on the south side of the bay. After spending most of the morning fishing it with no results and because I underestimated the affect of the wind combined with the colder air temperature I was freezing and decided to head back to the truck and try and warm up. After a nice long cigar while thawing out I felt better and headed back out to try a few more spots. Tried the north shore for a while with protection from the wind and still had come up empty. It looked as though the wind had died down a bit and headed back to the south side of the bay where I had started earlier in the day and where I had caught my big fish the day before. After maybe 15 minutes I was able to land a 14 inch LM Bass that gave me hope that I could upgrade within the hour and half that was left. As I was trying to upload my fish to the Tourney X software, I as struggling with cell reception and now had the decision to either keep fishing or head back to the truck with the possibility that I would have to drive to the check in and manually report my single catch. After trying for about 15 minutes, I decided to head in, with just enough time to pack and report to the Event Headquarters to check in my single fish.
Now with both of us pretty much out of contention for day two where we needed to submit three fish (day one was a two fish submission) we decided to fish from the resort and at least continue to try for maybe a big lunker to beat the 23 inch fish currently leading the HOW Big Bass Brawl. With temperatures hovering around the freezing mark on Sunday and winds not quite as bad we still struggled and considering that we didn’t do that well earlier in the week at this spot, it was beginning to look grim that we were going to catch any fish let alone one over 23 inches. Just after lunch and after changing up the color of my Ned Rig, I landed a couple of LM Bass that at least kept me from being skunked for the day. I headed to shore with enough time to pack up and get to the event Headquarters to check in and watch and see who would be the winner of the biggest Kayak Fishing payout in the history of the sport.
The location was good for hosting approximately 230 participants where a walk through the parking lot showed all the various kayaks, and tow vehicles with various setups of trailers and ways to haul your gear. The array of license plates on vehicles that brought participants from 30 different states (and one lone Canadian) was impressive. It was an great experience just to be part of the 2016 KBF Championship that will set the standard for future Kayak Fishing Events. Chad Hoover and is very qualified team of support staff hit a home run with the 2016 KBF Championship and I hope to be able to attend the 2017 event which will also be on Kentucky Lake.
Matt Ball from Ohio walked away with $32,700.00 cash with his first place finish fishing from a Jackson Kayak. The success seemed to come from the anglers that fished in protected water where the bite wasn’t as affected by the sudden change in weather, as it was out in the main lake points where several of the successful anglers from the Friday event had been fishing.
Other than an new personal best LM Bass that I caught on Friday, Jeff and I didn’t fare as well as had hoped. What we did walk away with was the experience of participating in a first class event that we hope to be able to bring to the Great Lakes Region and maybe one day see the same participation, cash and prizes awarded.
Just as a side note, the people of Tennessee have to be some of the most friendly folks you will ever meet, and it didn’t matter if it was a gas station, fast food joint, restaurant or on the water.