In the weeks before the tournament, some of the guys had done some really promising pre-fishing. Several 20”+ fish had their pictures taken and spread around to everyone that keeps tabs on the SC tournament scene. Keeping with tradition so far this year, all were worried about the weather. We had over 6.5” of rain in the week going into the tournament. A big front pushed the rain and most of the clouds out of our area, but Saluda - a river-fed lake - was extremely muddy, and the water temp fluctuated almost 10°F in a twenty-four hour period.
I awoke the morning of the tournament to 42°F temps, so Ms. Carol with a big cup of coffee was a really welcome sight. Frank and Carol (owners of Saluda Lake Landing) were there at 4:30am getting ready for the fishermen and cooking up some great biscuits and four pots of coffee!
As everyone was coming in and getting their boats in the water, I was busy setting up and talking with Scott Cargile, owner of OnlineTireDeals.com, about how we would award the “OnlineTireDeals Lure of the Month.” Scott wanted to make sure the winner of this month’s prize would have it to use here on Saluda! We decided to have Ms. Carol pick a number between 1 and 19 (the number of entries), and the winner would be decided by the order of registration. That wound up being a new guy to the Trail, Abe Vang! For a little added bonus, Frank came out of the tackle shop with another prize he wanted to give away before the tournament started. We asked Abe to pick another number, and he picked mine - which was good for me because it would be the only thing I won that day!
At 6am I gave the signal, and eighteen serious fisherman took off in all directions. I say eighteen, because I stayed back to make sure there were no late arrivals. I had already had a phone call from Grayson Brewster, who was having a hard time finding the Landing but was on his way! After getting him signed in and talking for a minute or two, we both were off.
This lake is known for muddy conditions and usually cooler water temps than the big reservoirs I am used to, and on this day it didn’t disappoint! Fishing was very slow for me, and for a lot of other guys, too.
After talking to some guys during and after the tournament, there was no doubt - there were some extremely nice fish in this lake. Five different guys told me that they lost some really big fish, including me! I was jigging docks on my way back to the ramp, and when I skipped the jig under the smallest dock on the lake (from what I have seen) it got hammered. I stuck it good, and back under the kayak the fish went, out the other side and up to the top so I could see her. And then, “Pop!”, the jig hit the side of my boat and I said a few choice words! I know that there were a few of these stories going around at the weigh in, and a few of the guys were talking about the next time they were coming back down to Saluda!
As everyone was coming in to the ramp, we started seeing just how tough a day it had been. More than a few anglers were in the same boat as I was, turning in cards and no pictures. When it was all said and done, we had seven of twenty who caught at least one fish! With thirteen skunks I really thought that everyone would be unhappy with the lake, but with so much talk of the “big one that got away” and so many making plans to come back, it is fair to say everyone had a good time.
First up, with Third Place - Brad Knight (Hobie Fishing Team, and Grady’s Pro-Staffer), with 37.25” - Brad had a hard day with only two fish, but still managed to win $80 for third. The bigger of his two fish was 21.75”, big enough to win the “Lake Wylie Bait and Tackle/YakCity” Big Fish award and the $100 Big Fish Pot!
Second Place - Grayson Brewster
Second Place - Grayson Brewster, with 41.75” - Grayson has really come on strong the last two tournaments! He was rewarded for his hard day with $120 for second, a SHObaits Gift Card, and also a Backwater Hand Paddle from Backwater Paddle Company, our newest sponsor on the Trail!
First Place - Pao Yee Thoa
And in First Place - Pao Yee Thoa, with 71.25” - The only angler to catch five keeper fish, Pao Yee is a member of the Hmong Kayak Fishing Club and is one heck of a fisherman. He left Saluda with $200 and a SHObaits gift certificate, along with a YakAttack $75 gift certificate!
I really want to thank everybody that could make it out. I tried my best to express to the guys there that they are the reason that this Trail is doing as well as it is. With the great sponsors we have, both for the tournaments and for the Angler of the Year, things just keep getting better and better. Please take the time to visit the sponsors’ websites, and if you are a part of our Trail let them know we appreciate their continued support! As always, I can’t wait to see everybody at our next tournament!