Updated: Oct 5
B.A.S.S Nation Kayak Series Tournament on Clear Lake
The HUK B.A.S.S. Nation Kayak Series Tournament at Clear Lake, California was this past weekend, and I was there fishing in the tournament. I signed up several months ago because It has always been a "bucket list" dream of mine to fish in a B.A.S.S. tournement. When I saw that Bassmasters was coming to the West, I jumped at the opportunity to participate in the tournament.
I arrived on Thursday night, and was tired after my 9 hour drive. I was staying at Clear Lake Vista Resort, and when I pulled in I saw several other kayaks in the parking lot so I knew I was at the right spot.
Pre Fish Day
I had very little time to prepare for this tournament, so my plan was to fish an area called Henderson Point. This area was close to my hotel and looked promising on paper. I got up early, launched my kayak and headed towards Henderson Point. The first thing I noticed was that the water was pea green, and full of weeds. I later found out that there had been an algae bloom on the lake which is typical for this time of year. The other remarkable feature of this lake was that it was so smokey that you could only see for a couple of hundred yards. There were a lot of fires in the area and the smoke had really settled in on the lake.
A smokey sunrise on my pre fish day.
I fished all the spots that I could find...rocky points, weed lines, deep rock, docks, etc...and I did not get a single bite. I tried rattle traps and deep diving crank baits, drop shot rigs, topwater and more. I simply could not find any fish. To say I was dejected would be an understatement. As I was rowing back to my launch point, I came across another angler named David who told me that this end of the lake was pretty dead and that I might have better luck fishing further up the lake. He was a great guy and I appreciated the advise.
I was off the water by 2 and then headed to the check in. At check in, I had to get my measuring board inspected. Unfortunately my board was white, and that is not legal, so I had to purchase a new board. The great guys at Clear Lake Outdoors had yellow boards, and were kind enough to give me a Sharpie to mark the lines. I got all checked in and ran into David again as I was leaving. He told me to fish the up the lake from where I was and offered me some tips on what was working for him. I headed back to the room, to get my gear orginized and get ready for the big day.
It was a very cool sight to see all the kayak anglers getting ready to take off
I got up at 4:00am, packed my gear, had some coffee and headed to the launch to fish my first ever Kayak Bass Tournament. I don't think I slept more than 30 minutes because I was so nervous. I got to the launch a little after 5 AM and was in the water by 5:20. Launch time was 5:45, and lines could not be in the water till 6:15. At 5:45 everyone headed out. It was still dark, and I had absolutely no idea where I was going, so I just trailed behind the lights of the other kayaks. As I got out into the lake, the drive on my Hobie PA12 360 got clogged with weeds so I had to pull it out and paddle the rest of the way. I was just easing along waiting for day light so I could get some idea of where I was fishing.
When it finally got light enough to get my bearings, I found myself in the middle of a large bay, with weed matts extending far out into the main lake. I put my drive back in and peddled around until I found and area that looked good. I started throwing a rattle trap to see If I could find an early morning biter. It was hard to fish the trap because the weeds were so thick, but I could pick lanes were I could avoid the weeds. 30 minutes in I hooked a nice largemouth. It came completely out of the water and I would estimate it was in the 4 to 5 pound class. As I reached behind to grab the net, the fish came unpinned..ugh! It was a loss, but I was excited because I finally hooked my first bass at Clear Lake.
Sunrise on Tournament day
I continued to fish the rattle trap and a swim bait on an Eagle Claw Lazer Sharp Pro V Eagle Eye Jig for the next couple of hours. I got slammed on the swimbait once, but did not get a hook in it.
After working the weed flat for a few hours, I decided to row over closer to shore and fish the shore line. I worked my way up to a promising looking point and cast my swimbait parallel to the shore line. As I was coming across the point I hooked and landed my first clear lake largemouth. it was about an 7 1/2"" beauty!! I was so happy that I finally caught a Clear Lake Largemouth that I could have cried. even though it was not a keeper, it was a fish.
My first Clear Lake Largemouth the Eagle Eye Jig!
I fished this area a bit longer and caught another one! This time the giant registered about 9 1/2" on the board..things were definitely looking up.
My second fish, still not a keeper but getting bigger!
I fished around the point, but the water became pretty stagnant so I turned around and headed back to the bay where I started the day and continued fishing the shore line. I worked the shoreline for about a mile with no luck. By now it was about 12:00 and I decided to finish my day were I started and work the offshore weed matts. A friend of mine from back home had told me to work Sinkos on these areas, so I tied one on with a Trokar EWG 3/0 hook and headed that way.
First Big Fish
I found a good looking weed patch and dropped my weightless Sinko in the middle of it. As it was slowly sinking to the bottom, a saw my line start coming off the reel and I set the hook on a giant. It was down in the weeds, and it was taking drag off my Eagle Claw EC2.5 Spinning Reel. Knowing it was covered in weeds I actually loosened up my drag a little just so I would not break of my 10lb line. Finally It came out of the weeds and I got a quick glimpse of the fish...it was HUGE. I just saw a brief flash, and it looked like a light colored largemouth at least 10 lbs. After that first sight the fish dove to the bottom again and started bulldogging me. At this point I thought to myself that this may not be a bass after all, it was fighting like a catfish. About this time, the fish came back up to the surface and sure enough it was a big catfish. I was able to subdue him and he barley fit into the net. I would guess it was between 8 and 10 pounds.
Now that I had increased the size of my catch, I needed to get the right species.
First Keeper Fish
After releasing the catfish and re-rigging my Sinko I moved on to the next few weed patches. It was dead calm and I was fishing super slow, just letting the lure slowly sink to the bottom. On about my third weed patch the magic finally happened. My line twitched, I set the hook and out shot a nice keeper Largemouth. My heart was literally in my chest when after several hours of fishing I finally guided my first keeper fish into the kayak.
My first Keeper Fish at the Clear lake Tournament
Now I had to figure out how to use the Tourney X app and get it to count. I got the fish on my new board, opened the Tourney X Pro app and proceeded to take a couple of pictures. I went to submit them, but could not figure it out. I then went to "Submit Catch", where it prompts you to take a picture and then submit it. It worked like a charm and I got a noticfication that my catch had been submitted....YES! The fish measured 18 1/4" but I got a one inch deduction because the mouth was not fully closed. I did not care about the deduction, I was just happy that I was able to register a fish! I later learned that you have to really push the fish up to the base of the board to ensure the mouth is closed for a proper measurement. One more lesson learned on this day.
Second Keeper Fish
I continued my pattern of slow fishing the Sinko and within 30 minutes I hooked and landed fish number two! This time it was 15 3/4", but again, I got the 1" deduction. Now I was getting excited that I had figured something out. This pattern was working and I had enough time left for at least one more fish.
Fish number two.
Third keeper - almost.
I kept working the weed patches and tossed into the front of a small patch. My line instantly shot sideways and I set the hook on a hot little fish. I got him into the kayak, where it proceeded to flop and get the Trokar EWG Hook lodged in my hand. I put the fish in the net while I removed the hook from my hand. I got my board out and placed the fish on the board - it was 15 1/4". As I was getting ready to take the picture, the frisky little fish flopped right off the board and into the lake. All I could do was laugh and smile at my rookie mistake.
By now it was almost 2:30 and the wind had picked up, I fished a few more patches, but it was hard to fish the weightless Sinko with the wind blowing. I did not get anymore bites before 3:00 when we had to have our lines out of the water. Although I finished near the bottom, I felt great about getting two keepers. It is always a challenge fishing new water, and at least I figured out one pattern by the end of the day. If I had landed my first rattle trap fish, and had not lost my last fish I would have had a much better score, but I really did not care. I was super happy and satisfied to have checked this off my bucket list, actually caught and weighed fish and made a few new friends along the way. It was an awesome experience, and one that I will definitely do again if the opportunity arises.
It was an amazing experience, and I even made the Bassmaster website!