Lessons Learned at the KBFNC by Matt Ball

Lessons Learned at the KBFNC by Matt Ball

Lessons Learned at the KBF National Championship

With the kickoff of the season for Kayak Bass Fishing comes the National Championship.  Over 750 anglers from across the country converged on the town of Paris Tennessee with hopes of holding that check for 100,000 dollars and claiming the title of Kayak Bass Fishing National Champion.  Countless hours of studying maps, reading every piece of information available, buying the latest must have lures, getting the kayak just right for the big dance, and putting in the time on the water finding a pattern, all came down to two tough days on the water with many anglers scratching their heads thinking where did it all go wrong.  The one thing that we can not prepare for and often the biggest obstacle for a tournament angler is mother nature herself. This year she did her best to mess with all the well laid plans. Massive water drop over the weeks leading to the event followed by a strong cold front seemed to have Kentucky Lake on lockdown. Add to that the stress of fishing against 750 other anglers who have found the same spots that you felt were going to be your ticket to the win and frustration can quickly set in.  These are all the feelings that many of us had over the course of the weekend, yet still through all the adversity there were those that rose to the top and managed to cash a check. Whether you walked away with a check or not we all should have came away with lessons that can pay off for you in the future. Here are a few of the lessons that I took away form this years KBF National Championship that I will keep in mind throughout the year and hopefully cash in with later.

Matt Ball Kayak Setup

Don't try to cover too much water

Kentucky lake is massive.  The shear size of this lake can overwhelm anyone let alone an angler  in a kayak. A mistake that i have make here in the past is to try cover too much water.  Try to pinpoint some locations that play to your strength through google maps, navionics, or paper lake maps and dissect those areas thoroughly.  Many of us now use pedal kayaks and trolling motors which can be a great asset but can hinder you when they take away from your time with your line in the water by constantly moving to the next piece of cover or the next cove down the lake.

Slow down

Fishing slow may not always be the best technique but more often than not it will catch fish that others won't.  This is true anytime, but especially in tough conditions with cold fronts or periods of heavy pressure. Often you can slow down and follow another angler down a bank  and pick up fish that they never even knew were there simply by using a slower presentation and taking your time. This year I found that I had to fish painfully slow due to the conditions in order to get bites. With my shakey head presentation I would use no action at all and only slowly drag my bait to me during the retrieve.  This is when most of my bites occured and often resulted in my keeper size fish. For this technique I used a 412 Bait Co. 5” Free minnow on an owner ultra finesse head. I also found that with the finicky bite the Tournament strength landed more fish due to the salt content and texture of the bait.

412 Bait Co Free Minnow

Focus on your strengths when things are tough

Before a tournament I often have in my mind what the bite is going to be for a certain time of year.  There are times when one technique may be hot and others may just not produce. When the bite is on it is great to pick up a technique and hammer away on something that is not your strong suit.  Active fish can bring confidence to a new technique and may be what is needed to put the best fish in the boat. But what about when the conditions are tough? Grinding away on a technique that you are not comfortable with when the bite is tough can lead to long days on the water. When you just can't get a bite go to your confidence bait.  For me, that bait is the ned rig. Laugh if you want but if my confidence is gone I put on a ned head with a 3.5 free minnow and catch some fish. This gets me out of the slump and will allows me to focus on where I am finding them and building on that for bigger bites.

Don't leave fish

With conditions as tough as they were this year at the National Championship, one thing that I did right that put me in the money was sticking to a spot that I knew had fish.  This year as well as the past two years I have managed to finish in the money due to believing in the spots that I found while prefishing. In 2016 I won the National Championship by staying in an area smaller than a football field and catching fish all day long.  Last year I fished an entirely different area of the lake yet caught fish on a small bank for 2 days landing me a 17th place finish. This year was no different. I found fish and stayed there. Often the bite would die off but over the course of the day the fish would begin to feed and i would start to catch fish again.  If i had left after the first few fish were caught I may not have gotten a limit each day which this year was a big key in cashing a check.

Remember these tips next time you find yourself struggling to get a bite.  It is easy to get caught up in what other people are having success with. If you find yourself struggling,  slow down and go to what you do best and often that will put fish in the boat.

Good luck out there and God Bless!
- Matt Ball

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