During the week of the tournament I spoke with several of the Upstate Club members and many of the guys with the Hmong Club, just trying to get an idea of the how many were planning on coming. This is the time of year when many people go on vacation, and several of the Upstate Club had work piling up, so I was a little concerned about turnout. Then I had a call from another South Carolina club, the Midland Kayak Fishing Club. Brent Shelton, one of their administrators, said that he and some of the other club members were interested in coming up for the tournament. I was happy to inform him that the SC Trail tournaments were open to any and all, and that I was really glad they wanted to fish with us! I then received the news that Tony Yang, winner of the first-ever KBF Invitational and admin of the Hmong Club, would be coming, too. Things were starting to look up!
I arrived at the ramp at 5am and was (for once) the first one there. I was very optimistic about the coming day. Up to this point, the Big Fish of the Year was held by Brad Knight with his 21.75” fish from Saluda, and I had made it quite clear that I thought that would be broken today! As the arriving anglers dropped their kayaks in the water, they were coming up one at a time to register and I was doing my best to meet each one. It became apparent that a lot were new to the SC Trail! After the shotgun launch, I went back to check the registration form to see how many had actually come in, and man was I surprised: twenty two kayak anglers had registered, and of those eleven had not fished a previous tournament with us!
At about 7:30am I decided to take off and try my luck. I had not fished Jocassee since I was very young, and to be honest, I didn’t have the first idea of what to do. Jocassee has a lot of bank structure and very prominent rocky points. I started my day with a jerkbait and shakey head—I told you, I didn’t know where to start! Within a few minutes I had my first fish, a small (under the 12” limit) smallmouth. And then it was another and then another, and so on so on; I think I ended up with about fifteen undersized smallmouth. Now a smart fisherman would have changed his technique or area of attention, but not this guy. I’m a firm believer in the old adage, “You don’t leave fish biting!”
My day had been fun, but not very productive from the tournament standpoint. I was hoping that the other anglers had fared better. As time grew near for the weigh-in, people started coming back to the ramp, - and the news was not good. The more fisherman I talked to, the more that said they had nothing with enough size to measure! I was crushed; I didn’t expect this at all. Then a couple of the guys were talking, and I overheard they had some really big fish chasing their baits almost back to the kayak. Then another story of the same thing, and another… To say the least, even though they didn’t catch fish, some were almost giddy about the fish they saw. These guys can have fun when most people would have been upset with a bad day of fishing!
When everyone was back, this was the easiest weigh-in I’ve been a part of. Out of twenty two fisherman, eight fish (of measurable length) were caught!
Third Place - Kevin Nguyen - 24.25”. Kevin, a member of the Hmong Kayak Fishing Club, finished the day with just two fish, but showed the kind of competitor he is considering how tough the bite was and that no one had more than two fish.! His winnings for the day were $88 cash, a Set of YakAttack 4” “Gtls90 GearTrax, and a pack of SHOBaits new “Shakey Head Jigs”!
Second Place - Saturday Mel - 27.75”. Saturday, a member of the Upstate Kayak Fishing Club and SHOBaits Pro-Staff member, also finished the day with two fish also. He was one of the first people to say how tough of a day it was. His take for the day was $132 cash, YakAttack “Gtls90” 8” GearTrax, and Backwater Paddles “Assault” hand paddle. Saturday also won the Bonus Prize from OnlineTireDeals.com. The “Lure of the Month” prize this month was the “Choice of the Angler.” Scott Cargile, owner of OnlineTireDeals.com, wanted to give the guys what they wanted this month, so the winner would have his choice of retailer and would receive a $25 gift card from their favorite retailer! The requirement to win this contest was who could catch the biggest smallmouth bass, and Saturday’s 12.75” smallie was all he need to win the prize!
First Place - Tony Yang - 28.25”. Tony, the first-ever winner of the KBF Invitational and Grady’s Outdoors Pro-Staff member, made the most of his two fish for the day in his first SC Kayak Tournament Trail! Tony was one of the guys that were talking about the big fish he saw, but the fish he caught was all he needed to take the top prize at Jocassee. Tony’s prizes included $220 cash, YakAttack “Gtls90” 12” GearTrax, a SHOBaits gift certificate, and SHOBaits new “Shakey Head Jigs”.
There was one more prize to give away, and it was won by one of the guys I met from doing this Trail. Zachary Caldwell has become a good friend to us all. With his 16” largemouth, he won the “Lake Wylie Bait and Tackle/YakCity” BIG Fish Award! Along with the $110 big fish pot, he received a $50 gift certificate to Lake Wylie Bait and Tackle/YakCity.net!
We have some of the best guys I’ve ever known fishing these tournaments, and seems like we keep meeting more and more. The people fishing these tournaments are what make it what it is! The great sponsorships we have, and the fact that the sponsors are so involved with the sport, is a big incentive for the anglers to give it their best! Stay tuned - this year so far has been more than I and anyone else could have dreamed, and if any one of our fisherman or sponsors have not heard it enough, you are all greatly appreciated!