Great Lakes Kayak Fishing Series - 2nd stop (Bass) results!

After prefishing on Friday night, I felt pretty good going into the tournament on Saturday. I left the kayak loaded in the truck so I could wake up, throw on some clothes and a hat, and hit the road.

4am came and my alarm started buzzing telling me it was time to go catch some fish! I  had a terrible headache for some reason, though and considered not even going...for about 2 seconds. I popped a few asprin as I headed out the door and hoped they'd kick in pretty quickly. I stopped at Dunkin Donuts before getting on the highway, grabbed my bagel and coffee, and scarfed it down by the time I hit the on ramp. About 10 miles down the highway, I got that feeling like I forgot something. I couldn't figure it out though. For the next couple of miles, I felt like Kevin's Mom on Home Alone sitting there knowing I was forgetting something and trying to think of what it was. The good news is between the bagel, coffee, and asprin, my headache was quickly fading.


I forgot my damn fishing rods!! Son of a mother!!!

I got off at the next exit which was another 3 miles down the road and turned around. Registration opened at 5:30 and it was already 4:45. I had a 20 minute drive back to the house and then another 20 minutes to get back to the point where I turned around. Past that, was another 20 minutes worth of road to cover. UGH!! I sure hope this isn't a sign of how the day is going to go. Finally, at 5:40am, I arrived at registration. I quickly got the yak in the water and loaded all of my gear - including my rods. After a quick anglers meeting, it was go time, baby!

On a previous outing at the same location, I had noticed a guy in a bass boat catching some fish right along the dock that sits next to the launch ramp and along a rock wall that defined the harbor. My plan was to fish that wall for an hour and try to put some fish in the boat right away. I was throwing the custom ITO Flies spinner bait that netted me some big fish the night before and just bouncing it off the bottom. The water was extremely muddy so I liked the spinners ability to push a lot of water and make a lot of noise every time it hit a rock. I think it was my 4th or 5th cast when I got slammed. I set the hook hard and connected with a fish that felt very big! I saw a boil which confirmed it was indeed a very big fish. 

"Hell yes!" I exclaimed. 

Then, as the fish got to the boat, my "hell yes" became "Damn! That's a big catfish!" UGH!

It wasn't a total loss, though. Since it was over 18", it was worth 10 points for Kayakwars so I snapped a picture and got back to fishing...for bass. 

About 10 minutes later, still using the spinner, I got another bump. I set the hook into something that felt a bit smaller than the catfish. Turned out it was a little smallmouth that came in at 12.5". Certainly not the biggest fish I could hope for but inches are inches in a CPR bass tournament!! 

I got that fish back in the water and continued with my spinnerbait strategy. About 10 minutes later, had another fish on! This one felt a bit better than the last and proved to be so once I got it in. It was another smallmouth that came in at 15.25". I quickly grabbed the camera and let the fish go so I could try to get one more in the first hour! So far I was at 27.75" with 2 of 3 fish on the board. 

I finished pounding the rest of the wall before it ended at a point that met up with the main river. Everything, at this point, is going according to plan so I decided to go ahead with the rest of my preplanned strategy.

About a mile and half upstream, there is a section that is only a few feet deep and the bottom consists of tons of large boulders. This is perfect smallmouth territory in my book so I started peddling against the 25,000cfs current. The turbo fin upgrade was very much appreciated as I endured a brisk peddle pace in order to maintain my 2.75mph speed upstream. 

As I peddled, I figured that I might as well go through the pictures so far and delete the extra pictures so I wouldn't have to worry about it at the last minute. I like to take a few pics just to make sure that I get a good shot that shows the entire fish and the "tag" that has to be in the photo. As I went through them, I began to panic a bit. The friggin camera didn't take the pictures of my last fish!! DAMMIT!!!!!!  

Pissed off, I went through the settings to turn the camera's volume to max to ensure I hear an audible that confirms a picture was taken. Call that one a learning lesson. 

After cooling off for a bit (mentally at least), I finally reached the section I was aiming for. Unfortunately, the current was absolutely screaming and it took everything I had just to maintain a position. I tried making a few casts but between having to peddle as fast as my legs could go and keeping my left hand on the rudder control to maintain an upstream heading, it was a lost cause. 

I turned downstream and let the current carry me along the bank while I threw my spinner into any calm water, cover, eddie, or seam that I could find to no avail. By the time I drifted back to the harbor, I still only had one fish on my cameras memory card. My other spots that were downstream of the harbor were certain to be just as bad so I made a decision to stick to the harbor instead. 

The middle of the harbor is completely infested with silver carp (those "asian" carp that are in the news so much) and the bottom is pretty void of any real structure except for some mud. Knowing that bass tend to stay pretty tight to hard cover in extremely muddy water, I decided to keep hitting every inch of that wall. 

After another hour, and not another hit, I decided to peddle back to the launch so I could grab the water that I had forgotten in my truck. As I made my way back, I noticed a guy catching some fish along the wall. In 10 minutes, I must have seen him catch 3 fish. This was weird to me since I just pounded that wall with my spinner bait and got nothing. 

Now, I am a big fan of stepping back and taking a minute to simply observe the situation in an attempt to figure out my next move that will put a fish on the end of my line. Usually, it's nature that provides me the answer but all that nature was giving me is a bunch of silver carp getting spooked every 30 seconds and launching 3 feet out of the water. All I had was this guy, walking on top of the wall, rod in hand while dragging something in the water, catching the fish that I needed to catch. What else was there to do other than steer the kayak his way and strike up a "Hey....how's it going" type of conversation? "Weather's great today, isn't it?" I said. (I love weather. It's the one thing that everyone can talk about in a passing exchange.) 

As he responded, his lure dangled a few feet above the water allowing me to see what he was using. Ahhh haa!! It was a football jig with a hula grub! I just happened to have some of those with me!

And so I continued back to the truck, grabbed some water and sunblock, and got back to fishing. Now I had on my 1/4oz football jig with a hula grub that was texas rigged to the hook. I started a real slow drag along the wall by simply allowing the breeze and the rudder move me along. It mimmicked the guys method of walking along the top while dragging his jig perfectly. Sure enough, it wasn't long before it was FISH ON!

While it wasn't the 15" incher that I didn't get a picture of, it was still 11.75" more inches than I had before!! 

OK...now I just needed one more to get my 3 fish limit and then I ccould start upgrading from there! Sure enough, another fish on! This guy was barely 10" but still that's 10" which put me at 34.25". 

A while later, I hooked up with a nice largemouth that jumped a few feet from the boat and sent my jig head flying back at me. DAMMIT! That was a good fish!! I put a new grub on the hook and kept working the wall. That netted me another 9" bass but it was smaller than any of the three I had on the card at this point so I tossed it in without a photo. 

There were only 30 minutes left before I had to check in so I focused on the section of wall that gave me the most consistent action. As I approached a small ramp that led to a series of floating docks, I tossed the grub right against the wall where the shadow from the ramp was. There were a few light taps. I gave it a few short hops and bam! Fish on! Again, not that 15" incher that I lost but it was bigger than my smallest fish so I snapped my photo of another 11.75" bass which put me at a total of 36".

As I was I putting another grub on the hook, there was a large splash that erupted right next to the boat followed by a huge streak of silver something flying into the air. Before I could process what the hell just happened, a giant silver carp landed right on my legs!! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?  This stupid fish literally just jumped right into my damn kayak!! It was going crazy in there too!!! I was finally able to get my hands on it -not before having my legs covered in slime - as some harbor workers were passing by.  I asked them if I could toss it up for disposal. These are horrendous invaders so I have no qualms about a wanton killing of them.

After tossing the fish onto land for the workers to destroy, I had about 10 minutes left so I turned the kayak around to make one last pass on the way to the ramp. As I approached, I decided to make one hail mary cast between the wall and a dock. As I bounced the jig along the bottom, something hit it HARD!!! I set the hook as I tried to get a good grip on the rod as it nearly came right out of my hands. Then it stopped. Hmmm...I reeled up the line and saw that my hook actually snapped in half.

WOW! What in the world was that?!

Back at the docks, I submitted my camera's memory card with 3 fish on it. While I waited for the results, I spent some time chatting with the other fisherman, scarfing down some hot dogs, and chugging a few bottles of water. From the sounds of it, there weren't too many anglers that caught any bass. Hmmm...could my 3 fish that carried a measly 12" average actually place???

As the results were read, I was shocked to hear that only 7 out of the 23 people submitted fish! Of those 7, only three anglers submitted a full bag! HOLY COW!!! There were just a few inches that separated the top 3 anglers. I had the 3rd largest bag which was somewhat bittersweet. If I had gotten a picture of the 15.25" I would have been within a fraction of an inch of first - if not a hair over. BRUTAL!

Still, it was pretty rewarding to go into a tourney with gear I haven't used in quite some time, have a plan that worked pretty well, and be able to adapt my strategy by paying attention to my surroundings (even if it was a guy on shore).

I ended up with some cash, an awesome Backwater Paddle Company Assault hand paddle, Ram Mounts rod holder, a lure package, some cool magnetic gear grabbers, and t-shirt.

Overall, despite my detour in the morning and not knowing how to turn the stupid camera on, it was an awesome day!! Thanks to Quest Watersports in Ottawa, Illinois for hosting the event, to all the sponsors of the event, and to the organizer(s) of the Great Lakes Kayak Fishing Series.

Next stop on this series is in September in Manitowoc, WI for salmon. Between now and then, I will continue trying to rack up some points for Kayak Wars and fishing another salmon tourney in Northern Wisconsin that takes place on July 5th and 6th! 


  1. Nice Nick!! Thanks for the read.

  2. That camera thing! I lost pictures of the largest carp I caught last year, and one nearly like it was saved by an emergency disposable. Otherwise, great report! I have not left a rod, but found reels not in the cases, ugh!


    1. Yeah it definitely sucked and really pissed me off for a little bit. There's no use in crying over spilled milk though so I got over it and focused on replacing the fish I lost. Lesson definitely learned on that one.

      I have to admit that it's not the first time I have forgotten a rod. That's the problem with waking up so damn early. lol. It takes me a cup of coffee in the morning before my gears are fully functional. Usually, I put everything I need in a pile in the garage and put my keys right on top of it all the night before so I don't have these things happen. For whatever reason, I didn't do that this time. lol

  3. That was a fun post to read, sounds like the tourney was a blast. Don't you hate the 'ones that get away'?, I'm sure that fish that broke your hook will haunt you... I think it's worse when you don't even get to see what it was. At least if you lose it after the visual you know what you had and there is no mystery to add to the pain. I remember fishing in a Trout/Steelhead stream about 10 years ago, and hooked into something monstrous - every time I got it close it would take off. It didn't fight like a carp and it was a stream I had only seen 1 carp in ever, I also never caught a catfish in it... so I know it was some kind of cool fish that would have been a huge 'trophy' for me... sigh.

    I guess that's fishing!

    1. I definitely hate, and am haunted, by fish I didn't land. This one doesn't bug me too much though. I am guessing it was a very large catfish, gar, or maybe even large bowfin as they all roam those waters. I could tell on the hookset that whatever it was had a very bony mouth structure.

      Now, the 15" smallie that I didn't get a picture of...that fish haunts me. lol

  4. Congrats, again, on third place, man! I was wondering where you were when I got there, and didn't see you. I figured you would have been one of the first ones there. We've all forgotten things like that before. At least you were close enough to go back and get them, and not already in another state. haha

    1. Thanks dude! It really did suck. I hate being late to anything and totally felt rushed. I'm actually glad we had that anglers meeting because it gave me a chance to "catch up" mentally and relax a bit. Felt like it put me on an even track with everyone else.

      I am also glad that I realized I forgot the rods when I did instead of when I got there. That really would have sucked! lol


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