Great Lakes Kayak Fishing Tournament Series Part 2

     My alarm went off at 2:15am, "This is way to early" I thought to myself.  I poured some coffee and wandered out the door to my loaded truck.  A quick check of the straps on my Native Slayer and I was on the road.  On this stop of the Great Lakes Kayak Fishing Tournament Series we would be chasing bass.  Largemouth, smallmouth, white, yellow, it didn't really matter as long as I had four fish by the 1pm cutoff time.  Arriving in Ottawa, IL I swung by the registration table to check in.  Waiting for the captains meeting to begin I couldn't help but notice the amount of Hobies that were pulling into the parking lot.  It soon became apparent that I was gonna be the lone Native owner on the water today.
The only Native Watercraft in a river of Hobies.
     After the meeting I unloaded my kayak and headed for the launch.  This would be my first time fishing the Slayer in a river environment.  Looking at the Garmin display as I pedaled along showed that the marina was pretty featureless.  It averaged about 8 feet deep, and the only structure was the occasional rock pile.  The bass would be up against the wall and pitching jigs was gonna be my game plan, or at least that's what I thought I was gonna do.
     It turns out that I wouldn't be jig fishing this tournament.  I left my jig tackle tray at home on the table.  All I had was some random crank baits, my Echotails, and a bunch of plastic worms.  "Rookie mistake" I said, "Can you tell this is my first year competing in tournaments" I joked with another angler fishing nearby.  I paddled down and around every dock in that marina skipping Texas rigged worms to all the likely bass holding spots.  Nothing, I didn't see a single fish for the first 3 hours of the morning.  Needing to try my luck somewhere else, I started scrolling around the map of the river on my IPhone.  I noticed a little bay down river and started making way out of the marina and into the river channel.
       Passing some other competitors, it quickly became clear that the fishing was tough.  Everybody was struggling to get a limit of bass, I really needed to land something soon.  I casted a pink Echotail as I made my way down the shoreline to the backwater bay.  Rounding the corner I finally had a tug on the other end of my line.  I set the hook and brought a scrappy little largemouth to the side of my boat.  While I was struggling to get the Hawg Trough into position so I could get a measurement, the little booger got off the hook.  I was crushed, in all the years I have been fishing I have rarely needed a net to land a fish.  Now I see why all the other anglers in attendance had one.  I am pretty sure I wouldn't have lost that little guy if I had had one in my kayak.  The rest of the day was a wash, I didn't encounter another fish for the remainder of the tournament.  It was a day full of hard lessons about what it takes to be a competitive tournament angler.
     I may have struggled that day, but hometown angler Ron Koch sure didn't.  He brought in a 4 fish limit of smallmouths and took home the win and the prize for biggest fish (over $600 in cash and prizes).  It was a great event and I had a lot of fun, even if my poor planning left me at a slight disadvantage.  A big thank you goes out to Quest Watersports for hosting the event and to all the organizers and the series sponsors.  The next event is July 18th and the target species is catfish.  I am already working up a strategy and plan to get out locally for some channel cats in preparation.  If you own a kayak and live in the Midwest you should check out this tournament series and plan to make the last couple of events.  You can check out the tournament series and get yourself signed up here.
     Tight Lines.

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