by Gwen Crabtree, Charlotte Staff
On Saturday, 30 April GOPC kayak fishing team members Bo Anders, Tim Stewart, Drew Haerer, and Mike Callahan joined me for the 1st Annual North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association (NKCFA) Battle in the ‘Boro Fishing Tournament. The tournament was held on several lakes throughout the Greensboro, NC area and benefitted the Heroes on the Water program which serves military personnel who have been wounded, injured, or disabled.
The Battle featured two divisions for the kayak angler: largemouth bass and fly rod. I chose the fly division because anglers were allowed to count any fish whereas anglers in the bass division were restricted to largemouth bass with a minimum length of 14 inches. If you’ve read any of my other tournament reports, you know I freely admit that I’m not very good at spin fishing. Add that to fishing a new body of water and I surmised that entering the bass division would be too tough for me. I am much better at fly-fishing and I knew the lake I planned to fish had catfish and very few people would guess you could catch a catfish on the fly. My odds of placing high were further improved knowing that at most maybe 10 people would enter the fly division.
After a little online research and getting some personal intel from people who fished there before, I decided to fish Lake Mackintosh near Burlington, NC. This lake is perfect for the kayak angler because it has two sections limited to electric motors or paddle power only. My reports indicated the fish experience less pressure in these areas and I hoped this would improve my odds as well. This time I decided not to sleep in and I actually got to the lake just after 6am and after setting up my Ocean Kayak Prowler Trident 13, I pushed off from the launch just before 7am. At that point I was one of two kayak anglers from the tournament who were on that section of the lake.
As I drifted on the lake, I opened my fly boxes and tried to decide what the fish might be interested in that morning. I decided I would go with the conehead fire tiger woolly bugger, which Sam in our Charlotte shop assured me would catch fish. After about 45 minutes of paddling and casting, I felt a solid strike on my 8-weight rod and saw rod tip bend over. The fish put up a good fight, but it didn’t quite feel like a bass. After a few minutes of working the fish, I finally got it to the surface, and what do you know, a catfish on the fly. Grabbing my Hobie fish grips, I secured the catfish and scrambled for my official tournament measuring board and my camera. During all this I was trying to figure out how I was going to take a photo of a catfish without either losing it or getting spiked by one of its fins. In all the hustle to get everything lined up, I was about to snap my first photo when I realized that I didn’t have my Immersion Research sticker in the photo to make it an official catch. After a little more scrambling, I put the catfish on the board and snapped several photos. I didn’t really pay too much attention to the total length; I just knew the fish was over the 16-inch mark. Not too shabby for a catfish caught on a fly.
I fished the rest of the day until about 2pm with nothing else to the boat, but I still had confidence that my catfish would get me into at least the top five. After loading up and a quick drive to the tournament weigh-in, I pulled up my photo and zoomed in on the tail of the fish so I could fill out my entry record. The fish measured 16.5 inches in total length. After waiting about 45 minutes while the NCKFA team reviewed the entries, I was called to the judges’ table where they asked for my camera. At that point I knew I had placed at least in the top three in the fly division because the tournament officials informed us they would only ask for photos from the top three anglers in both divisions.
It didn’t take too long for the judges to review and approved all the photos and then they started the awards ceremony. Third place in the fly division went to one of the Heroes on the Water anglers, Michelle Little with an 11.75-inch largemouth bass. Michelle’s catch netted her a $100 GOPC gift certificate. Second place in the fly division went to William Scarboro with a 15-inch bass. William’s catch was rewarded with some sweet gear from Immersion Research. The winning fish in the bass division went to Wayne Stirewalt who boated a 19.75-inch largemouth. And first place in the fly division went to a 16.5-inch catfish and earned me a sweet Versa Board rigged for fishing. My strategy of fly-fishing for catfish paid off. Not too shabby for only my third kayak fishing tournament.
Many thanks to the folks at NCKFA and their sponsor for putting on a great event!
If you haven’t heard of Heroes on the Water, I encourage you to check out this great organization and all they do for our Veterans.
Until next time, tight lines.