On Saturday, April 2, I loaded up my Ocean Kayak Prowler Trident 13 fishing kayak and headed to the Catawba River just above the Hwy 27 bridge in Mt. Holly, NC. My purpose on the water was to compete in the Charlotte area 2011 RiverBassin Tournament Trail. While there are a lot of kayak fishing tournaments around the world, this one is unique because anglers are restricted to fishing creeks and rivers; no lakes or ponds allowed. Just like most kayak fishing tournaments, boaters are restricted to people power only. No motors or amped up bass boats here. The format is also a bit unique because we had a 90-mile radius from the Charlotte area headquarters at Bass Pro Shop in Concord. In addition to the boat rules and fishing area, the tournament rules required anglers to record their catches on digital camera and submit their virtual stringer at the “weigh-in” station by 4:30pm local time on Saturday. Anglers competed to see who could get the best virtual stringer of 3 black bass (largemouth, spotted bass, or smallmouth). There is also a team division and a nod to the overall big fish of the day. Normally I don’t do a lot of kayak fishing. In fact, the last two times I’ve fished from my kayak were both tournament events. So I am at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to competing with other kayak anglers. But, I enjoy it and find myself looking for more local tournaments to enter.

So, yesterday I get started around 9am, a bit late, but I’ll be honest, I really enjoyed that extra hour or so of sleep. I will also admit I didn’t really think getting on the water at the butt crack of dawn in colder weather would pay off for me anyway. Remember, I’m not very good at kayak fishing and I don’t need to be on the water a few extra hours NOT catching anything. It really messes with my psyche. Anyway, I get out there, take the required photo of me at the launch to prove that I’m setting off in safe light conditions and then I head off upstream from the boat launch. The weather wasn’t too bad, a little cooler and windier than I would have liked, but a good day regardless.

I paddled and fished my way up to the dam below Mountain Island Lake and only had one or two light strikes on the way up to the dam. I really am convinced that one of the strikes was a hook-up, but I didn’t get the alleged fish close enough to the boat to confirm that suspicion. So, I’m at the dam and decide to drop anchor and pound away at the water in hopes that some magic might happen. Nope, nothing, not even a hint of a strike or a fish anywhere. So, getting discouraged and beginning to think that my 2nd tournament might end with an empty score sheet, I pulled anchor and started to paddle to one of the flats area just downstream. At this point, the wind is starting to kick up and one minute it’s at my back pushing me downstream, the other it’s in my face making life miserable as I fight the wind to even make small progress downstream.

So, I get to the flats around the bend of the river and set up a slow drift with the wind. I’m starting to get a little encouragement because I’m starting to see some activity on my fishfinder. As I drift downstream, I huck my line out and begin a slow retrieve of my chatterbait. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, I feel a hard strike and set the hook. This fish feels good and I’m fairly certain it is a “keeper”. My thoughts are confirmed when I get the fish to the boat. It is a keeper. Now my mind’s racing. I’ve got to make sure I don’t loose what may be my only fish of the day while I’m getting my camera, my marker to prove I caught the fish on the day of the tournament, and my official tournament measuring device. I boat the fish and grab my awesome Hobie Fish Grip pliers to secure the fish along side my kayak while I paddle to the shore to take my photo before I release the fish. After I get to the shore, I snap two quick photos making sure to include my tournament required Gorilla Glue sticker in the photo. After I’m satisfied with my photos I release my fish back into the river and jump back into the kayak to try for 2 more fish to complete my three fish stringer.

Unfortunately, the rest of the day was horrible. The winds picked up and made paddling difficult to say the least. I didn’t boat any more fish and as I loaded up and headed to the weigh-in, I knew that while not a total failure, my one fish would probably not even get me into the top 10. At the weigh-in location, everyone said the day was tough. I felt a little better after finding out that some of the anglers didn’t even get a fish to the boat. And considering this was only my 2nd tournament, I’m more than pleased with my one catch which checked in at 14.75″.

I want to thank Drew Gregory and all the folks with the RiverBassin Tournament Trail for hosting a great event. Stay tuned for my next tournament report after I fish my next tournament in Greensboro, NC on April 30.

Update: results are in – I placed 10th. I’ll take it!