Great Lakes Kayak Fishing Tournament Series Part 3

     Exiting the driveway at 2 am I was downing coffee and struggling to stay awake.  My truck was pointed towards Illinois and I was headed back to Ottawa for the third stop on the Great Lakes Kayak Fishing Tournament Series.  This event is the one I was looking forward to the most because I love chasing big catfish.  Online research prior to the event showed that the Fox River had large flathead and channel catfish so I brought along some of my favorite freshwater big game rods and an assortment of baits.  To say I was fired up would be an understatement, and my pulse started to quicken the closer I got to the marina.
The stand up bar makes a handy rod holder.
     As I unloaded my kayak some of the locals asked why I had such large rods with me.  I told them that I had read about the big cats in this river system and a few of them started to laugh.  I realized at this point that I was a little over gunned.  "Biggest catfish you'll find around the marina is maybe a two foot long channel cat," one of them said.  I was a bit dejected since my plan was to stay in the marina for this tournament stop.  It was stupid hot out and I had no interest in paddling or pedaling against the river current with a heat index of 106 degrees.  It was gonna be a miserable day on the river and I was more than content to just sit in one spot with my baits in the water.
Just sitting in a pool of sweat.
     For those of you who have never done it, catfishing from a kayak may just be the most boring thing you can do on the whole damn planet.  Seriously, I tried to think of something more boring and despite my best efforts I couldn't think of a single thing.  The only thing I could think of that is even remotely close would be attending a horse show, not competing, just sitting in the bleachers.  That was close, but even a horse show isn't as boring as fishing for catfish from a kayak.  Anyways while I was sitting in my little boat, anchored in place by the micro pole I noticed that my line was moving.  I reeled it in to check the bait, and sure enough the hook was empty.  My rods were to heavy to detect a light bite.  I baited up my hooks with some fresh night crawlers and casted my lines back out into the water, it was gonna be a long day.
See the umbrella/lifesaver?
     Once settled in I opened my umbrella for a little shade (if you don't carry one on your kayak you should) and sat back into my sweat soaked seat.  I looked out over the water at some of my fellow competitors and wondered what they were thinking.  Were they as miserable as I was?  Maybe they wished they had my umbrella?  Perhaps they were thinking about all the other things they could be doing right now?  Just then my rod started to bob up and down, finally a fish.  I grabbed the rod and pulled back to set the hook...nothing.  "Dammit!" I thought to myself, "Missed him."  I reeled the line back to the Slayer and to my surprise I had caught a catfish.  Wasn't anything to be proud of really, even my wife laughed at me when I sent her the picture.  Still it was a catfish and at this point in the game I was happy to have even a small fish on my hawg trough.
A very much appreciated if not tiny channel cat.
     I re-baited the hook and sent that poor little worm out to his death.  For a little while I didn't notice how hot it was.  I am always surprised by how quickly a little action can turn around an otherwise miserable day on the water.  We have all experienced it, that moment when you just want to pack it in for one reason or another and then you land a fish.  Suddenly you are having a great time and could stay out on the water all day.  All because some poor fish made a mistake and ended up on the end of your line.
Such a perfect little specimen.
     As the hours started to tick by I was getting a little anxious about my lack of fish.  Transitioning to fishing tournaments has been a reel struggle (see what I did there) for me this year and all I wanted was a good showing today.  While downing yet another bottle of water one of my rods went off and I quickly set the hook.  This one felt bigger and I was relived when it started to pull a bit of drag.  It was a little common carp, hands down my favorite freshwater fish.  I carefully unhooked the little beauty and released it into the water.  "Only I would be so happy to land a carp in a catfish tournament," I chuckled to myself.
     Finally, it was time to paddle in and drop off my camera.  I only had one fish and on him I hinged all my hopes of finally having a top 10 finish.  So far this year of tournament fishing has been a disappointment, accompanied by a monstrous learning curve.  Gathering at the top of the hill for some food and the ever popular award ceremony, I was shocked to hear that the big fish prize went to a 25 incher.  That's crazy when you think that most of the time here in Madison we don't even get the camera out unless they are over 30 inches.  Still I tip my hat to everybody that competed on that ridiculously hot day in Ottawa, Illinois.  A big thank you to all of the series sponsors and to Heritage Harbor Marina and Quest Motorsports for hosting the event.  Joshua Bennett ended up the tournament champion and took home $380.00 for his monumental effort.  If you don't believe his effort was monumental ask him about what it was like to have 12 invasive, jumping, bowel emptying, asian carp land in his kayak at the same time.  In hindsight, I must admit that I had a great time at this stop on the Great Lakes Kayak Fishing Tournament Series.  If you'd like to get in on the fun then join us September 12th in Manitowoc, WI as we chase King Salmon on Lake Michigan.  For more information on the tournament series, current standings, the rules and regulations, or to check out the event sponsors, follow the link here.  Until next time...
Congrats to Joshua for his big win on the Fox River.
     Tight Lines.

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