The 2011 River Bassin Tournament Trail, presented by Jackson Kayak, made its way to beautiful Roanoke, Virginia, for the grand finale. 11 tournament stops with interesting weather and water conditions had brought us to this point and with heavy rains falling from Hurricane Lee earlier in the week, the anglers had to once again figure out a way to find fish in less than ideal conditions. However, at the same time, that's what makes this tournament trail so exciting each and every tournament weekend!
Despite the concern of flooded rivers, by the time Saturday rolled around the majority of the flowing waters in the area were at very fishable levels. Although, fishable levels don’t always mean the fish are biting! This tournament was just as any major championship should be - tough! However, just like someone still wins in the most difficult conditions at a major golf championship, someone was also going to walk away as the champion of the Roanoke stop and the 2011 River Basser of the Year. It was actually hard for any angler to lose being in such a beautiful setting like Roanoke, Virginia, which gave us absolutely perfect weather and amazing mountain scenery to go along with the fellowship, food and live music from the Blue Moonshine Band at the tournament trail finale. The trail even blew out numerous door prizes and giveaways, including Jeff Little’s sample packs of Confidence Baits lures and one of his DVDs. Fellow Wilderness Systems pro, Chad Hoover, also joined the fun the previous evening at the rules meeting, where he shared numerous stories and insights into the kayak fishing industry alongside tournament director and Jackson Kayak pro, Drew Gregory.
Onto the results, where the Paddle and Trail youth division ended up being won by Zalen Akers, who thanked his dad, Tim Akers, on stage for taking him fishing and teaching him what he knows. Tim and Zalen chose to fish a small flow that had already come back down to very clear conditions, and it paid off as the 10-year-old walked away with a brand-new kayak! Also winning a kayak in the youth division was 13-year-old Isaiah Phillips, who won the Kayak Bass Fishing lake division. This division was held on Smith Mountain Lake, which is Isaiah's home water so it was no surprise that he took the title. On stage he emphatically told the story of a massive 10-pound bass that he lost around noon. In the end, it was a solid 12-and-a-half inch largemouth bass that earned him the youth title in the lake division. Both youth anglers took home an Ascend kayak from Bass Pro Shops.
In the Kokatat Watersports Wear Team Division we also had Lake and River categories. Starting off on the river, we had an impressive top three consisting of River Bassin Team of the Year leaders Drew Haerer and Bill Khols, individual River Basser of the Year Tim Perkins and his brother Greg, and local favorites Pat Matheny and Brett Davis. Thanks to some clever tactics from Tim Perkins, in which he decided to switch from a small clear creek to a larger stained river in order to catch larger fish, the brother-brother team of Perkins and Perkins took the title! Drew Haerer and Bill Khols took second place and it wasn't surprising to see the Matheny and Davis in the top three either, due to their acumen relating to these Roanoke region waters. However, Drew Haerer and Bill Khols shouldn’t be too bummed about finishing second at this stop because they ended up taking the overall RiverBassin.com River Bassin Team of the Year title.. Through 12 tournaments across the country, in 2011, they proved to be the most consistent team. Rounding out the top three in the Team of the Year Race were Tim Perkins and Lance Cooley and husband and wife team Jason and Rachel Stutts.
In the Kokatat Team Lake division, the trail once again saw a couple familiar faces, Bob Dainton and Joey Sullivan, come away with the victory. In what turned out to be unusually tough conditions on Smith Mountain Lake they found a pattern of skipping soft plastics under docks that caught just enough fish to win. The husband and wife team of Matt and Rhonda Honaker, were followed by Brandon King and Shane Figgins in the top three. All team division winners and Team of the Year winners won kayaks from either Jackson Kayak or NuCanoe and of course some great Kokatat gear!
In the Individual Angler Lake division, it was no surprise that it came down to teammates Joey Sullivan and Bob Dainton, with Robert Sowder rounding out the top three. However, Rhonda Honaker would take Top Female and the NuCanoe Big Fish honors with her 16.25 inch largemouth bass. Now back to the feud between the partners, this time Joey Sullivan was able to claim the title over his friend, and former champion, Bob Dainton. Joey took home a nice new kayak from Diablo Paddlesports for his efforts.
The Aqua Bound Individual Angler Division was equally exciting as it not only came down to Drew Haerer (Durham, NC) and Tim Perkins (Heflin, AL) for the Roanoke title, but also for the River Basser of the Year title. Despite the challenging conditions, both anglers proved why they were ranked so highly coming in. Tim Perkins’ strategy of moving to the bigger river proved to be the right one, to not only win the team title for he and his brother, but the title in the individual division as well. His final three fish total was 49.25 inches. He attributed his win to throwing a spinner bait, which of course puts out a lot of flash and vibration in the murky water. This was his pattern on the previous three or four tournaments this year, and yet again it paid off. Coming into this tournament Tim was ranked first in the River Basser of the Year standings, and obviously with the win he secured the title of 2011 River Basser of the Year on the 2011 River Bassin Tournament Trail, presented by Jackson Kayak. Following Tim in the RBOY standings were Drew Haerer, Pat Kellner, Jason Stutts and Lance Coley. Kellner, coming all the way from Texas, represented the Lone Star State well as he proved that river patterns are the same on east as they are out in the hill country of west Texas. Coley, last year's champion, also from Alabama, had a great run again this year but just fell short in the end. Newcomer Jason Stutts proved he has what it takes to potentially win this tournament trail one year. For winning the Individual Angler River Division and River Basser of the Year championship Tim received new kayaks from Jackson Kayak - one Coosa, and he’ll be one of the first to receive the new Jackson Cuda set to hit stores in November 2011. Tim Perkins also won $500 in cash and was truly a humble champion on stage giving credit to his wife for allowing him to compete and the discipline and hard work it took in scouting and pre-fishing. Both Tim and Drew had a fabulous year on the trail and it was only fitting that they tied for the final NuCanoe Big Fish of the year, each with a solid 17.25 inch fish in tough conditions.
When this tournament was all said and done eight kayaks were given away and over $10,000 in prizes at this stop alone! The anglers that made the trip realize just why Roanoke, Virginia, is the perfect location for hosting this finale, and for anyone who simply desires to enjoy the great outdoors in a special place. Thanks again to all our sponsors, the region of Roanoke, Virginia, and all the participants in the 2011 River Bassin Tournament Trail. Next year's tournament schedule should be released in the coming months so please stay tuned at riverbassintrail.com for more information.
Interesting Tournament Stats
- 12 tournament stops in 10 states
- 183 anglers from 21 states
- 68 teams competed
- State with the most anglers–Texas (28)
- Youngest angler–7 years old (Taylor Maione)
- Average winning individual 3-fish virtual stringer–51.75 inches
- Average winning team 4-fish virtual stringer - 68.25 inches
- 465 total fish checked in
- Totaling over 6000 inches
- 16 fish were over 20 inches
- 57 fish were over 17 inches
- longest finish of the trail–23.5 inches (tied–Bo Anders, Charlotte, and Lance Coley, Columbus, Georgia)
- Longest 3 fish individual stringer– 58.75 inches (Jason stutts, Columbus Georgia)
- Longest team stringer– 80.5 inches (Lance Coley and Tim Perkins, Columbus Georgia)