Jackson Kayak pro James McBeath pre-fished the event with Jake Ament from a Jackson “Big Tuna”. McBeath said the Big Tuna was a great boat to use because it allowed them "to cruise in the current while the buddy casts into either side of the rapids." The pools and eddies above and below rapids are where McBeath was finding fish. Ament and McBeath were joined on tournament day by other Jackson Kayak crew Robert Rubino and Andrea Summerfeldt, and guides Jace and Brandon.
Musky fishing is a different sort. It's tough. It's said that a good day of musky fishing means you saw a couple fish. A great day means a couple musky followed your lure for a while before giving up. An incredible day means that a fish blew up on your lure, but may or may not have made it to the boat. McBeath called the tournament day "better than incredible." The Jackson Kayak crew fished the middle Collins River, and found themselves in “Musky Heaven”. McBeath said they had dozens of follows and several blow ups. Tennessee fisheries are great, McBeath says. "There was one point where we must have had ten follows in 15 minutes. I gotta believe the fisheries there are much better maintained than where I'm used to fishing. I had four or five blow ups." He lost another fish right at the boat.
This was McBeath's first fly fishing tournament. He normally fishes gear and fly on the Ottowa River, and credits his success to years of fishing on his local waters. However, he'd never fished the Collins River before last weekend. McBeath gives a lot of credit to the Vermont Fly Guys. Armed with ten flies tied specifically for the river and water conditions the anglers were fishing, McBeath had three flies that were his killer combination. On the day of the tournament, McBeath chose to fish from a Jackson “Coosa". This kayak gave him excellent river maneuverability, and allowed him to stand up and sight cast to big musky. He even fought the winning fish while standing up through two rapids.
With the help of fellow Jackson Kayak crew and local river guide Jase Bouldin of Stone's Throw Adventures, McBeath made it back to tournament headquarters for the check-in with a photo of a 38" musky. With the World Champion trophy in hand, McBeath truly saw this as a team effort. With all three models of Jackson SOT fishing kayaks on the water, effective guides, and some killer flies, everything came together for the win.
James McBeath would also like to give a shout out to Jackson Kayaks, Vermont Fly Guys, Stone's Throw Adventures, Towee Boats for organizing the event, and Foglight Foodhouse for hosting and providing some tasty brew - Calfkiller Beer.
photos courtesy of Jake Ament