There are times when things don’t go as expected, and there are times when things go exactly as you think they will. This was one of those times. In the NSKA Roadrunner Preview, the historical data implied that Siloam City Lake would be a major player in the standings – and man did that come through in the final standings. Of the seven anglers reported to have gone to Siloam City Lake, four finished in the overall top six for the day and five finished in the top 10.
Of the 63 anglers in the event, 52% (33) caught a limit and a very strong 83% turned in a keeper on this blistering hot day in Arkansas. NSKA members brought it on the fish catching front with 287 fish submitted for a robust 4.53 FPA average.
Bo Sarratt repeated as the Road Runner champ by carding a strong 91.25″ at Siloam City Lake, followed by Cole Sikes with 89.25″ on the War Eagle river, and Dwain Batey took third at Siloam City Lake with 86.75″ on the day.
Lincoln Lake dominated Big Bass honors, but was stingy otherwise. Rance Richardson took big bass with a 22″ giant and Clay Johnson was second Big Bass with 21.75″ – unfortunately Lincoln was only giving up dinks otherwise which prevented these guys from the money.
Rance Richardson’s 22 inch bass from Lincoln won Big Bass and knocked flip flops off.
Top ten finishers:
Top finishers Bo Sarratt, Cole Sikes and Dwain Batey share their secrets in how they caught the big limits in the recap roundtable.
Where did you go and why?
Bo – I went to Siloam city lake because it’s got the big fish and I usually have a pretty good handle on how to figure them out there.
Cole – The week prior to the tournament I was considering fishing Lincoln, Elmdale or Beaver. I was able to get out for a few hours and prefish Beaver and Elmdale and they were a bust. Then there was Lincoln, I heard that the bite was tough but had been getting better. The forecasted weather for Saturday was hot, calm and sunny which from my experience is usually a tough bite on lakes. Also, I thought there would be lots of fishing pressure on Lincoln so I made an audible and decide to go float War Eagle and stay cool, catch lots of fish and hope to get lucky and catch upper 70 or low 80s to sneak into top ten.
Dwain – I hadn’t been able to fish a lot leading up to the event, so my choice was Siloam Springs City Lake, just because I felt like I could catch them there with no practice.
How did you catch them?
Bo – I spent about 3 hours offshore because I didn’t want to fish behind the guys there, but after not catching anything I went shallow. I knew the full moon was just a day or two away so I went to pitching and throwing perch imitation baits knowing there should be a perch spawn happening and it worked out.
Cole – My primary bait was a River2Sea black Whopper Plopper. The best areas were at the upper ends of the holes in the current and the holes that had a little more depth were best. I was able to catch a quick solid limit of low 80s by 8:30. Later in the day I ran into some holes that were better for Largemouth. The holes were calm and shallow so I switch to my Slowtown Custom jig and started flipping laydowns and skipping into shade pockets. Around 12:30 I caught my 20.75 kicker on some roots on the bank that helped put me towards the top.
Dwain – I wasn’t on any real pattern so I just junk fished. I caught the first fish an hour into the event on a Fluke in less than a foot of water. After another long dry spell I found one on a shaky head offshore. Then I managed to catch several, including two that made the big show, on a Chicken Rig, before finally catching my last and largest fish on a Skirmish Baits squarebill offshore.
What was your first kayak tournament event and how did you do?
Bo – I believe my first kayak tournament was at Swepco back in probably 2016. I didn’t do any good that day!
Cole – My first kayak tourney was on Swepco in 2017. It was very overwhelming and I didn’t know what to expect. I pulled up to the ramp and the parking lot was completely full and I didn’t know anyone. Even considered on turning around and heading home but I got up crazy early and was already there so just stuck with it. We had a shotgun start and I headed across the lake as my starting spot. My kayak was pretty new to me and didn’t know it well but I had my pole in poorly designed slot on my kayak and I pulled my bungee to access my rod and it fell straight into the water. Was a terrible way to start my first tournament. Soon after that I caught an 18.5 inch fish, I hadn’t had any practice with taking pictures of fish on my Hawg Trough. I struggled to get a picture and finally got it done but just like every rookie, I had the mouth open and had a 1 inch deduction. I only ended up with 4 keepers and finished 30th of 61 anglers. All in all, I’m glad I didn’t turn around and go back home, I learned a lot and made some great friends on that day.
Dwain – What was the first kayak tourney you entered and how did it go? When I first got my kayak I fished some of the Angler Combat online events just to get a handle on taking photos and the whole process. My first would have been in November 2015, I finished 12th out of 54 anglers nationwide. If i’m not mistaken though, those were land, boat or kayak.
Kick the tires and light the fires, it’s time for NWA NSKA to sprint across Northwest Arkansas in search of bass in the summer heat. The NSKA Road Runner is one of the best tournaments of the year with kayak anglers checking out new water in search of fish or banking on their favorite honey hole to come up big. This year looks to be another tough one with a long stretch of summer temps in the 90s leading up to tournament weekend.
IMPORTANT NOTE – Because this is a road runner, ALL eligible water is off limits after Wednesday, July 10, not just where you plan to fish. Swepco, Lake Prairie Grove and Bella Vista Lakes are NOT ELIGIBLE for this event, nor are any private access areas, launches or take out points. The boundaries are 30 miles from Boar’s Nest in Rogers.
Boundaries for the 2019 NWA NSKA Road Runner.
History Says The Roadrunner Can Be Won Anywhere
A quick look at the lakes with wins from the past Road Runners shows that there’s no monopoly on where to catch the right fish in summertime. It’s more a matter of the right angler on the right lake on the right day. Past road runner results in order of First, Second and Third.
2015 – Beaver Lake, Crystal Lake, Lincoln Lake
2016 – Beaver Lake, Siloam City Lake, Bob Kidd
2017 – Elmdale, Elmdale, Swepco (off limits in 2019)
2018 – Siloam City Lake, Siloam City Lake, Beaver Lake
In 2018, almost all of the anglers (93%) carded a keeper and a stout 65% turning in a limit. Getting to pick where you want to fish gives anglers and advantage to put their best foot forward and find water that suits them.
I just can’t wait to get on the road again…the life I love is goin’ fishing with my friends. And I can’t wait to get on the road again.
Breakdown of the Fisheries
It’s a long list, but here are some of the key bodies of water that anglers will be fanning out to in search of bass. For each body of water I’ve listed my (PB) and a one-liner description.
Beaver Lake (21.5) – The Dead Sea has been a major player in past Road Runners and is a “spot lake” where anglers can find a place they feel comfortable.
Beavertown (18.5) – One of the most scenic fisheries in the area with a strong population of bass, from Holiday Island marina up to the bridge and beyond.
Elmdale (21.5) – Also a major player in past Road Runners of the past. Elmdale has had a bad rep this year but word on the street is it’s been rebounding lately and the muck is disappearing. Could it get hot?
Lincoln (20.5) – A big bass lake that historically hasn’t performed well on tournament day. Last year was the exception to the rule, will it happen again or will the fickle lake strike back?
Lake Wilson (20.5) – This little lake has some massive fish and gets almost no pressure. If you like to fish a frog and vegetation this could be a hidden gem.
Crystal Lake (18.5) – Crystal Lake is the Steady Eddie of the group, always seems to be in the mix somehow. Although big fish are harder to find, there have been many 20+ caught there.
Bob Kidd (19.5) – A really nice lake with a bit of everything from riprap to timber to grass, could be a real dark horse this year.
Shadow Lake (21) – This is one of my favorite summertime and wintertime haunts to catch fish. Float the Elk and land in Shadow, that’s a great summer Saturday.
Siloam City Lake (19.5) – Some real bruisers live in this shallow lake which is why it’s been in the money several times in the past and rivals Swepco for monthly online tournament giants.
Some others I don’t fish as much include Lake Wedington, Lake Fayetteville, Illinois River (within 30 miles), War Eagle, White River.
Top Angler Previews
Established tournament anglers Kyle Long and Roy Roberts provide their take on what might happen in this year’s Road Runner. Are they giving the inside scoop or spinning some dock talk?
The winner will come from which three bodies of water?
Roy – Siloam City Lake, Lincoln or Beaver Lake.
Kyle – I honestly have zero clue. Conventional wisdom says maybe Lincoln, Siloam City Lake, or possibly Elmdale but I also would not be surprised if Lincoln and Siloam put up some zeros and Elmdale with the muck is unfishable in most places. I’ve zeroed fishing on Lincoln plenty and Siloam is as finicky of a lake as there is. Dark horse…I wouldn’t be surprised if someone in the money fishes Beaver.
Summer heat fishing, is a limit or big fish more important and why?
Roy – There are several places where I think a person can pretty easily catch a limit in this tournament. Catching a limit of 15” or better fish should finish near the top. One giant and a bunch of squeakers usually is not the best formula. So overall I think quality bites are what to look for not necessarily number of bites or spend all day looking for a giant.
Kyle – In any tournament, no matter what season I think a limit is always the goal. Big fish are a bonus but sometimes, when it’s tough, get your five, get some AOY points, and live to fight another day. And it’s tough right now.
What’s a body of water you are staying away from and why?
Roy – I really haven’t ruled anything out. We have small lakes, big lakes, and rivers that could all produce good limits. There are a couple small lakes likely to attract a crowd that I might try to avoid for that reason.
Kyle – All options are open for me. I mean all options. I know that’s a cop out answer so I’ll pick one. Where do I think a zero is the highest likelihood? Lincoln. It’s the epitome of a coin flip lake. Feast or famine. Doesn’t mean I won’t give it a shot if I need to upgrade a dink limit but I’d rather play it safe…probably why I won’t win.
Winning length and big bass?
Roy – 88.5” to win and 21.75″ for Big Bass.
Kyle – Too many good sticks in this club to think that anything under about 84” will have a shot so I’ll say 85.25”…And Big Bass…21”
The internet is full of Top Ten lists and rankings for everything from athletes to movies to Netflix shows (check out Bodyguard). Had a conversation the other day where someone was asking me who the best tournament angler in NSKA was. It was an interesting question and I had two or three names that came to mind. Got me thinking, can we look back at the past three years and see who have been the top performing anglers in NSKA tournaments? Would some names in the Top Ten list be surprising? Maybe, maybe not.
DISCLAIMER – This does NOT indicate that these are the best anglers in NSKA, there are many many great kayak fishermen in the group and many of them could teach everyone on this list a thing or two. Nor is this some sort of “power ranking” – it is for interesting info purposes only. It’s simply a list of the most consistent anglers from the past three years in tournament events.
To calculate the Top Ten Performance Rankings for NSKA, I tried to follow a methodology that matched the criteria of being NSKA focused and looking at finishes in the money.
Looked back at 17 NWA NSKA regular season tournaments (counting toward AOY points) in 2017, 2018, and 2019. KBF, RTT, Hobie, online or state events were not included. I also looked at 24 total events from 2015-2019.
Awarded points to the top FIVE finishers in each NSKA event. First place received 5 points, Second place received 4, and so on with Fifth place receiving 1 point.
Added up the total points for each angler who finished in the top five of an event. Took the total points of all anglers to identify the Top Ten Performance Rankings in NSKA Tournaments.
With two events remaining in 2019, the rankings will likely change at the end of the season.
Quick Observations About NSKA History
45 different anglers have finished in the top five of an NSKA Tournament in the past three years. This is an amazing number and shows the diversity of skill in our group.
16 different anglers have won the Big Bass prize in 17 events.
Only one angler has won Big Bass in more than one event in the past three years. Who is that? “Big Bass” John Evans.
The last three 2019 NSKA tournaments have had a different top five. Fifteen different people in the money over three events.
Junior anglers or not, Carson and Declan have made their mark in the NSKA Top Ten for the past three years.
Top Ten NSKA Performers for 2017-2019
Using the methodology described above, below is a chart of the Top Ten over the past three years. Again, this will change as 2019 plays out. The impact of young anglers over the past three seasons is notable, but it is clear there are two anglers who have been the most consistent overall.
There are some truly amazing anglers in NSKA and I would put the top couple of dozen up against any other club in the country. Many anglers not listed here have won or placed highly in other national and regional events. Fishing in a club like this is a lot of fun and creates many friendships – and the competition makes us all work harder to become better anglers.
A hot stretch of days near the end of June led up to a rare summer night kayak fishing tournament on the beautiful Bella Vista lakes nestled in the Ozarks. Fifty-seven kayak anglers battled pre-4th of July water skiers, swimmers and fireworks to try and sift through the vast amount of dinks in Bella Vista in order to put together a decent limit.
The in-person captain’s meeting was held jointly at Ozark Kayak and Hook Line and Sinker in Bella Vista – highlighted by some tasty barbecue prepped by the TD for the event. Shout out to Taylor Frizzell for this first class touch! As the fifty seven anglers peeled out of the parking lot at relatively high speed, the race was on to get their spots on one of the seven Bella Vista lakes – Windsor, Loch Lomond, Norwood, Avalon, Ann, Brittany and Rayburn.
As expected, the Bella Vista lakes gave up a lot of fish to the anglers, just not much size. Word had been that the bass boat tournaments have had low weights and finding a big one was very difficult. On this summer Saturday 84% of the field carded a keeper while a respectable 60% turned in a limit. Fish were caught, but Kyle Long destroyed the Big Bass contest by catching a 22.5″ Largemouth at Lake Norwood.
Kyle Long’s very lengthy but flat tummy Largemouth Bass. Took home the Big Bass prize for the Bella Vista event.
Danny Dutton was a part of a very large contingent (18+) anglers on Lake Ann and he turned it into a First Place finish with 78.25″ fueled by a 17.5″ kicker. Jeff Malott took second on Loch Lomond with 75.5″ and I was fortunate enough to take third with 75″ on the evening.
The top ten:
Kyle Long (What?! You had a 22.5″ bass!? 9th place??)
Dangerous Danny Dutton danced a dandy Senko to victory in the NSKA Bella Vista night tournament.
Bella Vista Night Ops Angler Recaps
The top three anglers from the event shared where they caught them and how. Here’s the recap from Danny Dutton, Jeff Malott and Jason Kincy.
What lake did you go to and why?
Danny – I went to Lake Ann. Never been on the lake before, but I looked at an article that showed the electric shock results of all the lakes. Looked like Ann was trending in the right direction.
Jeff – I went to Loch Lomond, until a few hours on Wednesday I had never actually fished in Bella Vista. So after limited success pre-fishing one of the smaller lakes I decided to head to the largest lake where I could cover some water and hopefully figure something out.
Jason – Did some pre-fishing and although I don’t love Lake Ann it was the place where I seemed to find the most reliable bite, and had caught a 20+ out there the week before the tournament which gave me some confidence.
Did you catch em early or late or when?
Danny – I had a limit by a 6:00. But culled 4 of them between 9:00 and 10:45.
Jeff – I caught fish steadily until dark, but really had a flurry of “good” fish the hour right before dark.
Jason – Had a decent limit by 5:00 and then tried to upgrade here and there over the next few hours. The final 15″ I caught at 11:30 and gave me an extra 1/2 inch for the night.
What did you think of the evening format and lake options?
Danny – I don’t usually fish nights but it worked out well for me this time. Liked going to Bella Vista.
Jeff – The evening format was interesting, I am not a fan of night fishing but the weather and bugs cooperated for this one so it was all good.
Jason – Night fishing is a lot of fun and something good for a change. Really enjoyed being able to be home in the morning and having some time during the day before the tourney. Bella Vista has beautiful lakes.
What did you catch em on?
Danny – I caught them on Senko in a variety of colors.
Jeff – I have always heard Bella Vista is full of 10-12 inch fish. So in a effort to avoid those I threw a 10″ worm and 1/2 oz jig almost all evening. By the end of the night my best five were all caught on the worm.
Jason – Most of my fish were on a beaver style bait rigged on an Owner 4/0 creature hook, flipped and dragged around the bank. The last few fish were on a Z-Man chatterbait with a YUM Christie Craw trailer.
How many rods do you carry on tourney day and how many are spinning vs baitcaster?
Danny – I had seven rods. Two bait casters and five spinning rods. I’m not very skilled with bait casters. But working on it.
Jeff – I usually carry eight to eleven rods on tourney day, but for this one I had nine total. Two spinning and seven baitcasting. I made a least a cast with all of them but settled in on the two mentioned above after a couple hours.
Jason – I can max out with 10 rods but carried eight on tournament night, including three spinning rods. I hate stopping to tie on baits so try to carry a rod for each bait I think will be important.
Next NWA NSKA event is a quick turnaround with a Road Runner on July 13. Watch for a preview article coming soon as the plastic armada prepares to across Northwest Arkansas.
Fish It Forward Results
A local Bella Vista tournament circuit also held an event concurrently with the NSKA night tournament. The Fish it Forward tournament featured 27 kayak anglers who also had access to all lakes. Justin Phillips took 1st place with 74.75″ followed by Baron Meek with 74.50″ and Tyler Zengerle with 73″ on the evening. The next tournament is July 27th in Bella Vista, check the FIF Facebook page for more info and sign up on TourneyX.
For the third time in 2019, Natural State Kayak anglers took to Beaver Lake in mid-May as focus shifted down lake to the northern end below the Hwy 12 bridge. The streak continued for Beaver Lake showing out by producing a lot of fish for the anglers. The spawn, rising water and overcast skies set up a perfect storm for anglers.
Out of 59 total kayak anglers, 54 (92%) turned in at least one bass, while a very strong 83% (49) of anglers had a limit. This was the highest limit percentage of any NSKA event on Beaver Lake.
Overall the numbers were strong and fish were plentiful. Dwain Batey took first place with 90.25″, followed by Roy Roberts with 86.5″, Craig Wood with 84.75″ and Christa Hibbs in fourth with 81.25″ total. Big Bass went to Dwain Batey with 20.5″ which is a very good sized bass for Beaver.
Top Ten Finishers:
Dwain Batey takes 1st place and Big Bass in the NSKA Beaver Lake North tournament in May 2019.
The top four finishers were kind enough to share how they found the fish and got them to bite. Here’s a brief recap and some other good info from the best of the event – Dwain Batey, Roy Roberts, Craig Wood and Christa Hibbs.
What part of Beaver did you choose to go to and why?
Dwain – I went to an area I had never been to, Rocky Branch, mostly because I was afraid it would be muddy where I normally fish. So basically I was in search of clear water.
Roy – I launched at Lost Bridge and fished that area close to the dam. I chose this area hoping it had less fishing pressure than farther up the lake and I like fishing super clear water.
Craig – I went to a cove near Navy Point that I had pre-fished and thought it looked good but didn’t do well in pre-fishing due to high winds.
Christa – I fished the Rambo creek area. When checking out spots on the map during prep I liked what this area had to offer.
What were the overall bait types (as Specific. or not as you want) worked for you to catch your keepers.
Dwain – I caught a lot of fish on a Zoom Fluke, this lasted all day long. I found a couple of beds that had 4 fish on them, and I caught 3 of the 4 on a Ned rig with a 1 ½” piece of a white worm so I could see when they had it and set the hook before they spat it out. Catching 3 of those 4 fish only took about 30 minutes of my day, and one of those fish probably wound up staying in my final limit. Between the fluke and the Ned rig I was in the 80” inch range, and while they continued to eat the fluke all day I just wasn’t getting a quality bite to cull with so I had to do something to get a bigger bite. I had packed a few soft swimbaits and decided to get one of those out and give it a try. Within a few minutes of throwing it I was rewarded with a fish over 18” and I managed to get two more great culls on it including the 20.25” big bass before time was up.
Roy – I caught fish on just about every bait I tried. I was planning to throw a topwater and Ned rig a lot but they didn’t produce the better bites. My keepers came on a Spro McStick Jerkbait, Jewel Football Jig, and a Zoom Trick Worm.
Craig – I use a Slowtown Custom Jig for all my fish mainly because it seems to net me larger fish.
Christa – My keeper fish were all caught on top water baits. I started the day throwing a top water and caught 2 small fish quickly so I decided to stick with it. The keeper fish all came on long casts with very aggressive retrieves.
What is the first bait you really learned to fish with?
Dwain – I have been fishing for bass since before I can remember, but the first bait I remember throwing a lot for bass was a Heddon Tiny Torpedo in the frog color, and I didn’t know how to fish it so I would just reel it straight in, but I do remember catching a lot of fish on it so it must have worked.
Roy – I’m really thankful my Dad took the time to take me fishing a lot when I was young and teach me how to fish. Some of the first baits I remember learning to fish with are hula grubs, Wiggle Warts, and Zara Spooks. I learned how to fish on small creeks, the Buffalo River, and Bull Shoals Lake.
Craig – The first bait I really used proficiently was using a jig in gravel pit lakes in Northern California.
Christa – The first bait that I learned to fish with was a worm.
On a tournament day, does your strategy change after you catch a limit? If so, how?
Dwain – That really depends on the day, for this event it did because I needed to catch a certain size fish to cull, and I changed to a bait I thought could get me those larger fish. I think it’s all about decisions every time, I rarely do what people always talk about, where they get a limit “quick” and then do something for bigger fish. This time just happened to work out that way, but I fully expected to catch large fish on the Fluke. It wasn’t planned to be a limit getter and then move on, it’s just how it worked in the decisions of the day. Another thing is how much pre-fishing I do can really have an effect on what my plans are for the day. If I had known they were eating that swimbait before I started I probably would have thrown that one bait all day until it stopped working, and just looked for five big bites. Since I didn’t pre-fish, and had never been where I was it was really just a day of good decisions on the fly.
Roy – Most tournaments I focus on looking for quality bites and don’t worry about filling a limit early. If I know the conditions are really tough I might adjust and just focus on getting any bites I can. Saturday I had 4 nice fish pretty early but struggled to find that last good cull. There were lots of small fish shallow but I was getting better quality bites in 8-10 feet of water. Sometimes it’s tough to adjust your strategy when you are getting bites, but often in a five fish limit tournament that is what it takes to make a good finish.
Craig – My strategy really is formed through pre-fishing. I power fish with crankbaits and swim jigs to cover water, then when I find spots that look good or produce fish I will mark that spot and fish every square foot with a jig. I don’t change my strategy on tournament day if at all possible.
I really enjoy tournament day and all that goes with it, even the grind of difficult conditions.
Big thanks to NSKA and all the people that make a sacrifice to pull it off.
Christa – My strategy does change sometimes on tournament day after I’ve caught a limit. It depends on where I’m fishing and the time of year. For this Beaver North tournament, I shifted my focus midday on larger fish. If I was going to break into the top 3 I knew I needed to find some better quality of fish. I didn’t find them this time but I stayed on the hunt and remained focused until the last cast.
Kayak anglers had high hopes on 4/20 when they hit the water on Beaver Lake for the Natural State Kayak Anglers (NSKA) and Hobie Bass Open Series (BOS). The NSKA field consisted of a record total of 87 anglers, while there were 35 entered in the Hobie BOS event. As predicted based on a combination of a nice warming trend, well-timed moon phase and reports of fish being caught all over the lake – Beaver Lake was uncharacteristically generous. There were 525 fish submitted, or just over 6 average per angler.
Beaver Lake NSKA Results
Not only was there a record number of anglers for an NSKA tournament, but the performance of these anglers set new highs for a Beaver Lake event. A whopping 95% of all anglers turned in at least one keeper for the day, and a very high (for the Dead Sea) 66% of anglers submitted a limit. This is compared to the last Beaver Lake tournament where only 41% turned in a limit.
Local angler Declan McDonald continued his hot streak and took first place with 84.5″, followed by David Cruz from Kansas with 84.25″, and local Jon Swann took third place with an 83.25″ total. David Cruz also was the winner of the Hobie BOS event, go here for those final standings.
This 21.75″ tank caught by Justin Phillips on a crankbait took Big Bass in the NSKA Beaver Lake event.
Justin Phillips won the YUM Big Bass with a thick 21.75″ behemoth caught on a red crankbait. Cher Vue won a Bending Branches Angler Pro for the largest Smallmouth/Spotted bass. Below is the top ten for the event, but visit the TourneyX page for full final standings.
Top Ten Finishers
Top five NSKA Beaver Lake finishers, right to left: David Cruz (2nd), Billy Bowden (4th), Declan McDonald (1st), Jon Swan (3rd), Cher Vue (5th)
Top Angler Recaps for Beaver Lake
The top three finishers, Declan McDonald, David Cruz and Jon Swann share where and how they found the fish. Great info here shared by some great anglers.
Where did you go on the lake and why did you choose that location?
Declan – I went up north near the Rambo area, I went there mostly because it’s a really fun place to fish and does have the potential for a nice bag.
David – Coming to the event I knew I wasn’t going to have much time to pre-fish, so I focused on good ol’ map study and experience. A bit of research and I learned that Horseshoe was one of three major areas in the south end of the lake. I looked for channel swings near small coves and arms with south facing banks, rocks, and points, and so for that reason I chose the area directly east from the Horseshoe Bend State Park ramp. (note – directly east is the Blackburn Creek area)
Jon – I went up in the river to muddy water as that is what I’m more comfortable and used to fishing. I felt like the fish were either spawning or about to spawn and figured that muddy water would warm up quicker than the main lake.
What was your overall strategy coming into the tournament?
Declan – My strategy was to just go get and limit and have a good time.
David – Coming into the tournament my strategy was to target pre-spawn staging areas near spawning coves and pockets, and move towards the back of the coves as the day progressed.
Jon – Overall strategy was to go out and have fun. Seriously. I haven’t bass fished on Beaver in 15 years so had to figure it out on the water.
What baits or techniques did you catch your fish on?
Declan – I threw a Ned rig pretty much all day, I was in super clear water and wasn’t having much luck shallow so I went deep enough I couldn’t see the bottom and that’s where I started to catch some more quality fish.
David – I started with a Hermsen Custom Lures crankbait (8-10’). I caught my first fish and no more after that due to the lack of wind. I switched to a 1/4oz Stryker Jig in Green Pumpkin with a little brown accent, paired with a Strike King Rage Craw in Watermelon Red, throwing it parallel to the bank at 8-10’ of water on rocky points near spawning pockets, slowly dragging it across the hard bottom.
Jon – Caught fish on square-bill early but jig was the bait of the day.
Any advice for anglers new to tournament kayak fishing?
Declan – My advice would be to get out on the water as much as you can, nothing beats time on the water when it comes to learning, get used to taking pictures with fish on the board and getting them in your boat.
David – Time on the water is the most important aspect of tournament fishing, followed by understanding seasonal patterns and movements and learning how to read a topo map. Get out there and fish, take notes of time of the year and locations where fish were being caught, baits, as well as weather conditions at the time. Locating fish during tournament hours gets a little easier once we understand seasonal patterns paired with experience by way of time on the water.
Jon – Fishing is just like anything else, practice and challenge yourself to try new techniques. Most of all have fun.
Next NSKA Event
Back to Beaver Lake on May 4 for the Beaver Lake North NSKA tournament. Should be a great one with emphasis on the clear water.
The biggest kayak event of the year on Beaver Lake is coming up this weekend with the Natural State Kayak Anglers (NSKA) and Hobie Bass Open Series (BOS) holding a full lake tournament on the Dead Sea. With the spawn approaching and a warming trend this week, word is going around consistently that the lake is turning it up to 11 lately and will put out some serious fish this weekend.
One of the many non-ramp public launches on Beaver Lake. This is a good one in April.
Guaranteed: Stripers will be caught and will fool someone into thinking they hooked a giant Largemouth.
This is traditionally the time of year where the FLW tour would be in town beating up Beaver Lake and using a shakey head in the last hour to try to catch a 12″ Spot to round out a limit. FLW no longer comes, so it’s fitting that the biggest kayak event of the year in NW Arkansas will be in April. Beaver Lake has been said to be a “spot” lake, instead of a pattern lake. Patterns can be difficult to carry over from one day to another, so find a good spot and figure out how to get bit.
A 21″ Beaver Lake Largemouth Bass. There are some big bass to be had if you can find them.
Angler Roundtable Preview
Some of the top anglers in NSKA agreed to share their insights for the upcoming event on Beaver Lake. First-timers to Beaver can find some good nuggets in here to help on the Dead Sea. Thanks to Tyler Zengerle, Cole Sikes and Roy Roberts for sharing their expertise.
This is an April tournament on Beaver Lake, what do impact do you think the spawn will have on the tournament?
Tyler – I honestly don’t think the spawn will be a huge factor at this point in time. With the inconsistent water temperatures I think the fish are confused and are still in that pre-spawn transition, but are making their way up shallow. The fish I’ve caught recently haven’t shown significant signs of spawning. I think the spawn will be soon, but not until after Saturday.
Cole – This is a great time of year to fish Beaver, there should be fish in all stages of the spawn however I believe the bulk of fish are still pre-spawn or will be spawning. Keep your eyes peeled and you might be able to catch a kicker or two spawning!
Roy – There should be fish in all stages of the spawn. The weather has been inconsistent but we do have a full moon approaching. The stained and shallow river arms of the lake are going to be the farthest along in the spawn with warmer water temps. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some post spawn patterns coming into play there. Farther north you are more likely to come across fish that you can sight fish for or even catch on transition banks in a pre-spawn pattern. Figuring out your chosen area and what the fish are doing that day will be key. It is changing everyday.
2019 has been a tough one on Beaver Lake in the boat and kayak tournaments, is the lake turning on or will it be a grind?
Tyler – The lake is turning on for sure. The last few times I went to Beaver, I’ve caught more than a limit, which is pretty unusual for the “Dead Sea”. I’m sure with the bipolar weather, some days are better than others, but fish are being caught in good quantities.
Cole – It’s definitely starting to turn on with the fish moving up to spawn. I expect majority of the field will catch a limit but it’s about finding those quality fish 15 inches and bigger.
Roy – Numbers wise there have been lots of fish caught lately. There have been some 20+ Lb. bags brought in to some bass boat tournaments. I think we will see a high percentage of anglers turn in a limit and should see several big fish. Getting quality 15”-18” fish will be important. I wouldn’t rule out a big stringer of Smallmouth coming from the clear water.
With this being a Hobie BOS satellite we’ll have some out of towners visiting Beaver Lake, any friendly advice?
Tyler – Beaver Lake is tough and it can really be a grind to get a limit. The good thing about Beaver is that it is different in all parts of the lake. Choose your strength whether it’s rock, timber, sand, or ledges, and fish that area with your confidence bait. Don’t leave fish to find fish because with this lake, you’ll never know when your next bite will be. With nice weather approaching, beware of the glitter-rockets. They are abundant!
Cole – Beaver lake is a very diverse fishery, you can pick areas that fit your style of fishing. Typically people break the lake up into three sections and they all fish different. If you fish by the dam expect to see crystal clear water and the ability to catch some big Smallmouth and spotted bass. Also, in my opinion some of the biggest Largemouth live down on that part of the lake as well. The mid section of the lake is also typically clear as well but in the back of some of the creek arms the water will have some stain. There is a high population of fish in this section of the lake and expect to start seeing fish on beds. Lastly, the upper end of the lake in the river arms will typically have the most stained water of the lake. This part of the lake will typically catch Largemouth and spotted bass.
Roy – Don’t bank on a pattern you found pre-fishing or on past trips. This lake always fishes different so pay attention to the conditions and make adjustments. Don’t be afraid to load up and make a move. That decision got me a win at our last Beaver tournament.
What do you see as the winning limit total and big bass?
Tyler – I think there will be some decent limits caught and someone will find some big ones. I’m saying winner will be 88.75” and big bass will be 22″.
Cole – My guess would be around 86” for total and big bass of 21”. There will be quite a bit of pressure on the lake with nice weather bringing out the weekend fisherman and also a big bass boat tournament going on. If we had the lake to ourselves I would expect close to 90″ would win.
Roy – 21.75” for BB and 90.25” for the win. It will take 80+” to be in the top 10.
What’s your personal best out of a kayak on Beaver Lake?
Tyler – My Beaver Lake PB was from a tournament on April 15, 2017, almost exactly two years ago. It was 21.50”.
Cole – My personal best from a kayak is 19.5”. Hoping to break the 20” mark this tournament!
Roy – My PB in a kayak on Beaver is 18.5″. I hope I can set a new one Saturday!
Lake Fort Smith really is a beautiful place, lush mountains surrounding water with all types of rock and wood cover…if only the fish would cooperate. Once again Lake Fort Smith lived up to its reputation of being notoriously stingy to kayak anglers on tournament days. The pre-tournament predictions from anglers were so cute and optimistic, with some predicting more than 80” to win and saying that a lot of fish would be caught. Once again, the lake had the last laugh.
Anglers from NSKA and RVKA getting ready for launch at Lake Fort Smith.
History said it would be a tough day. Back in 2016, only 14% (10) of the field turned in a limit and 61% (45) submitted a keeper. In 2018 only 22% (14) turned in a limit and 77% (49) carded at least one keeper. For this year’s early-season visit to Lake Fort Smith, there were zero limits submitted and a paltry 55% (37) of anglers turned in a keeper. A group of 67 anglers caught a total of 68 fish.
Cole Sikes took first place four keepers totaling 58.50”, with David Byrd second with 46.25” and John Evans third with 43.75”. Craig Wood caught a 22” tank to take the Big Bass prize.
The top ten anglers were:
The top anglers of the day from Lake Fort Smith.
Top finishers Cole Sikes, David Byrd and John Evans talk about how they did it and keys to kayak fishing:
How do you generally approach Lake Fort Smith, or, what were you thinking about before the tournament?
Cole – My game plan doesn’t change much from one body of water to another. I typically try and put the odds in my favor and fish high percentage spots. This may mean you’re spending more time bouncing around but you’re skipping water that is most likely dead.
David – It was the first time I was ever on Lake Ft. Smith. So, I had planned on just fishing any points I came across. Mainly finesse fishing to put together a 5 fish limit.
John – I try to find out what the lake conditions are like and revisit it on Google maps. Also will check the weather forecast to see how many layers I’ll need to wear to keep warm.
How did you catch your fish and what on?
Cole – I caught all my fish on a 1/2 ounce wobble-head jig paired with a small crawdad trailer. Every fish I caught was between 5 to 12 feet.
David – I caught mine out in 10-12 foot of water. Used my Lowrance to locate brush on the bottom and dragged a KVD deep diving crank bait in a red craw pattern. It was my first time ever on Lake Ft. Smith. Only had 4 bites all day.
John – My go-to is a finesse rig, straight tail worms and craws.
What is the biggest challenge in kayak fishing tournaments?
Cole – The biggest challenge in fishing kayak tournaments is that it’s difficult to change game plans mid tournament. You’re typically committing to a plan prior to the tournament starting and once you’re out there it can be difficult to change. I fish bass boat tournaments as well and there has been times when I’ll be fishing dirty water in the river and if I’m struggling midday I may run up to clear water and really change things up. This can be done while kayak fishing tournaments however it takes more time to change locations.
David – The biggest challenge for kayak fishing is your limited to how much water you can cover if you make the wrong choice on starting locations.
John – For me it is the travel. Gauging the travel time and how early I’m leaving the house, having the truck packed with what I need…can’t forget the kitchen sink!
Does your strategy change at all when you know the bite is super tough?
Cole – Overall my strategy stays about the same, like I mentioned above, I like to hit high percentage spots but for this tournament I did scale my jig down from a normal football jig to a wobble-head which is a much smaller profile since I knew the bite would be tough.
David – The best strategy for a super tough bite is to slow down and watch those electronics. This helps you find the fish further off the bank that most people are not even fishing for. Most people are beating the banks and never look away from the shoreline.
John – I’m constantly changing up baits to see what will entice those tight lipped bass! That’s why the bottom of the kayak looks like a war zone of tried and failed baits.
The next tournament for NWA NSKA is at Beaver Lake on April 20th.
Sixty-three kayak anglers took to the water among frigid temperatures in the first event of the 2019 season for the Natural State Kayak Anglers. The Dead Sea is a pretty tough body of water to fish out of a kayak, but when you’ve had a few days of freezing temperatures and dirty water conditions, it can set up for an exceptionally challenging day of fishing.
NSKA Beaver Lake South Results
Many were predicting a slugfest on Beaver Lake for the opener based on some of the big numbers from last year. Although water temps were relatively similar year over year, this year the weather had been quite a bit different in the lead up to the tournament and the water was much more stained. The warming trend preceding the tournament in 2018 helped a strong 41% to turn in a limit, while this year the hard cold front allowed only 21% to card five keepers. The difficult day is best illustrated by whopping 51% of the field catching one or zero keepers this year, compared to 30% in 2018. So, who did overcome the tough conditions to find fish?
Chris Needham’s 19.75″ Largemouth took Big Bass in the NSKA Beaver Lake South tournament.
Roy Roberts took first place with 70″, followed by Declan McDonald with 68.75″ and Cody Skelton in third with 68.50″. Big Bass was won by Chris Needham with a 19.75″ Beaver Lake fatty. The top ten is below and full standings are available on TourneyX.
The top ten finishers:
Top Angler Recaps
The top three anglers share how they caught them and how it went down on Beaver Lake.
Roy Roberts, Declan McDonald and Cody Skelton take 1st, 2nd and 3rd for NSKA Beaver Lake South.
What part of Beaver Lake did you go to and why?
Roy – I chose to fish in the War Eagle arm. I didn’t get a chance to practice so I made my decision based on my knowledge of the area and hoping to be less pressured from the Team Trail tournament going on. Water temperatures were in the 44-45 degree range, with pretty stained water, maybe 1 foot visibility.
Declan – I went to Beaver Shores mostly because I have a lot of confidence in the spot, but I also like the chunk rock and docks.
Cody – I went to Horseshoe Bend only because I rode with Lloyd Mize because I have never been on Beaver Lake a day in my life. I was going to put in and head to the marina but when we got there the gate was closed, so we headed to the next ramp there.
How did the hard cold front affect your strategy or how did you expect the fish to react?
Roy – I knew with the weather patterns and water conditions it was going to be a grind to get bites. I am more comfortable fishing clear water, but that wasn’t an option with the boundaries. I had a plan to mix it up using winter patterns and looking for staging/transition areas that would be holding groups of fish. My confidence baits under these conditions were to use a deep diving jerkbait with long pauses, slow roll an A-Rig in deep water, or use a stop and go retrieve with a Wiggle Wart on rocky banks.
Declan – The cold front really didn’t change my strategy, I just knew I needed to slow it down a bit more. I had a feeling I wouldn’t get bit on a moving bait so I went into the day fishing on the bottom and got bites so I stuck to it.
Cody – Changing ramps and with all of the big boats running around changed what I was going to do. So I just started fishing and I looked across the lake and saw a bluff wall and with the front moving in and 42 degree water I figured that was a good place to head.
How did you catch your fish? Any specific baits or method?
Roy – I fished the techniques mentioned above along with mixing in a jig, shaky head, and Ned rig for most of the day. I caught my first bass at around 1:15 on the Ned rig on some shallow rocks. At first I was just glad to get the skunk out of the boat. I got 4 more bites and landed 3 of them in the next few minutes to put me at 4 fish. I was surprised how shallow these fish were and I suspect they just pulled up for a minute to feed. As I was measuring my 4th fish, a 16” Kentucky, a boat came through my area and the wake muddied the shoreline. This shut the bite off and I started seeing fish suspended in deeper water on my graph. I let the area settle down for about 30 minutes and wound up being able to catch two more keepers to finish my day.
Declan – I caught my fish using a Ned rig, I love the Ned rig this time of year. I went pre-fishing last Sunday and only caught two. So going into tournament day I was a little bit nervous. My first fish came in between two docks and that outlined the rest of my day. In fact, three of my keepers came in that same spot. I was keeping my bait close to the bottom and slowly dragging it while giving it small pops.
Cody – When I got there I started throwing a drop shot knowing it was going to be a grind. I fished slower than I ever have in my life. I fished seven hours of the day on a three hundred yard stretch. Every fish I caught was on a Strike King KVD perfect plastic green pumpkin drop shot .
Not knowing the leaderboard status, how did you feel about your limit heading to weigh in?
Roy – I knew from the other anglers I had talked to on the water it was a really tough day. I figured limits would be hard to come by, but I was not expecting to be in the top 5 when the dust settled. I was excited to keep my limit streak in NSKA tournaments alive and to have a decent finish to start the AOY race. The scoreboard being off is a game changer. I didn’t realize how much it effected the way I fished and my effort towards the end of the day. I think I would do my best to ignore the leaderboard in the future even if it was turned on. I also would like to thank my wife for putting up with my fishing obsession!
Declan – With the shut off leader board I thought I would be lucky to be top ten. It was definitely less stressful. Although I think if I saw what place I was in I would have fished harder to get upgrades, but I definitely like it.
Cody – As far as the leader board being off I really liked not knowing because several times I wanted to stop and go to the truck, but not knowing keep me fishing hard until the last minute. With 68.50 inches going to weigh in I was just hoping for a top ten, never thinking it would be a third place finish.