The guys recap their tournament run of two tourneys in 7 days. Complete with their first hand accounts of how they fished them, what lead to their success, and how you can get involved yourself!
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
The Yaks Attack Farmville
If you couldn’t tell by my super catchy title, this is a recollection of the 2014 Yakattack Tournament out of Twin Lakes State Park, Farmville, Virginia as told by Josh Dolin. Eventually I’ll get Grant to type something up, but for the time being, you’re stuck with me. It’s probably for the best anyhow considering I haven’t really written anything in a few years and I could use a little practice. Anyhow, here we go…
After a long week of work and recovering from the spanking I was dealt at the Shad Shootout the weekend prior I began to get pumped for the upcoming event in Farmville. Generally I don’t fish many tournaments and it just so happens that two of the three that I fish fell within the same week. Luther Cifers, owner/operator of the Yakattack brand, and his crew, put on a great event. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been looking forward to it since last year’s tourney. Between the great people, the good food, and the overall positive fishy atmosphere, it’s definitely somewhere every kayak angler should be, regardless of experience. Though all that is great we’ll come back to that later, it’s time to talk fish.
I rigged up Thursday night with plans of prefishing all day Friday. I really got lucky that we weren’t too slammed at work, which is rare, thus allowing me to take the day off. I woke up at around 3 a.m. Friday morning to sort of get up to speed for the day ahead. Even though I’m still considered to be “young” by most guys reading this, I’m finding it harder and harder each passing trip to just jump out of bed and hit the road. To prevent me from snoozing through my alarm and getting on the water late, this usually leads to me either, driving through the night and sleeping in the boat ramp parking lot….. or doing what I mentioned prior. With the truck loaded I hit the road, making it to the lake just before sunrise. I took my time prepping the yak and at 7 a.m. I hit the water, by 7:15 I stuck my biggest bass to date!
(She went 23 inches and somewhere in the 7lb range)
With my adrenaline pumping I wasn’t sure whether to be happy, or mad that I took a chance at a good fish away from my tourney hopes. Either way it was my first citation largemouth and I’m still riding the high of it! Though I started the day with a bang I ended it with a whimper, nothing but a big goose egg for bass, although I did find the crappie I was looking for so that kept me in good spirits.
(Destroying some steak)
(Seafood chowder....enough said)
Grant and I discussed over the awesome steak dinner and seafood chowder, that, the Crappie was going to be the golden ticket to winning the slam. It usually is with this tournament, but it seemed to be a more profound objective with the ever deteriorating weather conditions that seem to plague these kayak tournaments. After stuffing ourselves to the max we took a walk down to the lake adjacent to the conference center to see if there was any life in it. Sure enough, there sat two nice bucketmouths, one about 17 inches long, the other, the female, about 20-22 inches long. This discovery played a profound role in my game planning for the next day’s fishing. With Grant fishing Sandy all day I knew I wanted to mix it up a little. I usually stick to one location when fishing these tournaments and up until that point it hadn’t been very successful. I decided to stay mobile throughout the day, driving as far from Twin Lakes as I could to start, and hitting every good spot I could on my way back.
(Grant's 19 inch Largemouth)
(Grant's 16 inch Largemouth)
(The Golden Ticket)
After getting an 8 inch crappie and two 8 inch sunfish tournament morning, I found myself back at Sandy…. and with Sandy came the wind. I’m not sure what hurricane blew up during my drive from Powhatan to Sandy, but sure enough, there were white caps on the lake. I launched anyway in hopes of bumping up my sunfish length total on a hot bed I found a few days prior, but the wind made that all but impossible. Everything had pulled of the banks with the waves breaking and the wind was too strong to try and sit stationary and vertical jig for them. So after about an hour’s worth of cussing the damn wind I packed it in for the final leg of my fishing marathon, the conference center bass. I did manage to run into Grant while at Sandy, we had not spoken since I left that morning. He managed two nice largemouth totaling 35 1/2 inches; he also had a 7 inch sunfish to go along with the pair. Grant said he was feeling good about his chances, it was only about noon and he had the rest of the day to catch a Crappie. This made me pretty weary. Grant is a great friend and a damn good fisherman…. but he always seems to be my stiffest competition when it comes to these events. Trying to keep myself thinking positive, I told myself there’s no possible way that dude could win two weekends in a row, and with a new found confidence we parted ways. Him chasing any Crappie that would hit, and me going after the big mama I had seen the night before. I already had a slam but it was only a measly 26 inches between three fish, in my mind pretty pathetic at the time… in hind sight I realize I was lucky to have that, many guys came back with two fish or less all day!
Pulling up to the Twin Lakes ramp at around 1 p.m., I knew I had a little under three hours to work on these two fish. I paddled over, scooted up the shoreline within eyesight of the bed, and locked my yak down next to the bank with my ParkNPole. Constantly studying the fish as I flipped the bed I noticed that the female was not locked down, meaning she had not dropped her eggs yet, thus making it much harder to get her to pick something off of the bed. Although, I did notice that both fish would swim in wide paths around the bed, just long enough for a few bluegill to cruise into their clearing, they’d then proceed to fly into the nest a full speed and swirl on the sunfish causing a pretty wicked wake in the shallow water. This gave me an idea; I tied on a Smithwick Perfect 10 jerkbait in blueback herring color, just about the right coloration for the bream that were pestering the bed. Sure enough after yanking the jerkbait directly over the bed and pausing it there just long enough, I finally pissed her off enough to strike. To true Josh Dolin luck, she managed to hit the bait in the back, leaving all three trebles exposed with no chance to hook her. Time passed and I simply couldn’t get them to hit anything else, with fear that they had honed in on my location I repositioned myself on the opposite side of the bed. After throwing everything and the kitchen sink at them I had a guy from Powerteam Lures bring me a Diesel Craw in black and blue flake. By this time I had a nice little audience considering I was the only fool still fishing, of course Grant showed up at about this time, and of course he had a decent slam. I still had hope, he had the exact same length between his crappie and sunfish that I did, paired with a 19 inch largemouth. This meant that if I could somehow manage to land the 20 incher I’d been staring down for the last two hours, I might just have a shot at winning.
With about 15 minutes to go before check in the big girl engulfed the shakey head. I set the hook with some serious force but she managed to tail walk me, thrashing her head as hard as she could, spitting the bait right back in my face…. I bailed out of the yak and after chucking my rod and a few choice words, it was all over. I checked in with three minutes to spare, initially bummed but my hopes at placing in a division rose as I began to hear the accounts of horrible fishing due to the stellar weather we all dealt with.
(The awesome looking trophies)
(Us holding the awesome looking trophies)
After sulking in the defeat that the hog molly dealt me, and striking out in the raffles, it was time to announce the winners. Turns out there were only three “Slams” caught all day, Grant’s, mine, and our new friend Forrest Short’s. As we had anticipated the weather made it hard to locate and capture the three species needed to complete the slam. Out of 131 people the three of us being the only people to manage to do that felt pretty cool. When it was all said and done Grant managed to win the slam, and I walked away with 2nd place in the Sunfish Division and 3rd place in the Crappie Division. It was a welcomed surprise considering the trophy was bigger than the fish I caught to win it! It just turned out to be that kind of day, a tough one but in the end a good one considering we all made it back in one piece.
(Super awesome cell phone picture quality)
After the ceremonies were over it was time to wrap the tournament up the only way Yakattack knows how….. with the best damn pig pickin’ you could ask for! As if we didn’t do enough damage with the steaks the night before, we packed it in with as much bbq pork as we could without going into a food coma. We conversed with some of the coolest variety of characters you could imagine, all leaving a lasting impression on us. We drove away from Farmville as winners, not because of the trophies, but because of the new found friendships that we had built.... not to mention the event raised upwards of $10,000 for the Heroes on the Water organization, and for that, we should all be proud.
Fish Hard or Stay Home,
Fish Hard or Stay Home,
(Rainy day double)
Armed with a few years’ worth of fish log data, and a healthy dose of optimism, Grant and I set out to have our best shad season to date in hopes of kicking off the launch of our website and our brand with a bang… and we did exactly that. Generally our shad fishing is relatively laid back and fairly low key. It consists of fishing for shad in hopes of turning that catch into a citation blue cat via fresh cut bait, or leisurely catching a dozen or two as a way to break us out of the winter doldrums. We raised the bar for ourselves and set our goals beyond just catching bait, to making this a year we can highlight in our tattered log books.
We set out in early March to meet the largest of the upcoming season’s fish. Though everyone assumes the Shad Run in Virginia starts in the first of April with the Dogwood bloom, it actually starts much earlier than that. Although March lacks in numbers of fish, it well makes up for it in size. Spooled up with the lightest line possible, 2lb test, we hit one of our favorite waterways for shad, the Mattaponi River.
(The first dozen or so casts into the season yielded me this chunky Hickory Shad, just 2 ounces off of tying the current IGFA 2lb test line class world record. She weighted in a 1lb 14oz.)
(Grant hooked up on 2lb test)
(The money pit)
Fishing with 2lb test is one of the most frustrating experiences I've ever had while on the water. I personally chased the IGFA line class record for Hickory Shad all season long to no avail. Throwing more gear in frustration and spending more money on shad spoons and darts in the course of a few weeks than I ever thought possible… around $150… yea…. lame. I had to admit temporary defeat; however, the shad run is an ever shortening window when it comes to these large roe laden females. Therefore I was forced to give up on breaking the record this season, too much money spent for less and less payout every trip.
On a trip out to salvage what ended up being an ill-fated, super late, Yellow Perch run I did manage to break the current IGFA 12lb line class world record for Hickory Shad. We set out on the Mattaponi with the intention to try and score a trophy Perch before the season was up but because the runs of shad and perch were coinciding we took our shad gear as well. Grant and I both picked off a few decent perch but the gloomy day had more in store for us. After about 20 minutes of watching Grant pound fish on the 2lb test, I switched over to the 12lb just for the hell of it. Sure enough on the first cast with the 12lb, a big female slammed my purple and pink shad dart. Instantly we knew I had the new record on the end of my line… primarily because we knew the current record is so low (due to the fact that throwing 12lb mono is equivalent to throwing weed eater cord). The rest of the day consisted of getting dumped on by cold rain and brutal winds…. Oh yea and yelling “World Record!” at the top of my lungs until Grant basically stopped talking to me…. keeping it classy. Just as a disclaimer, the record still has to be reviewed and verified by the IGFA to be official. That means, at this time it still “pending”; as long as the scale, my photos, and my line sample check out it should be good to go!
(She went 2 pounds even, crushing the current world record by 11 ounces!)
With faze one complete, we set our sights on the seasons’ only shad tournament for this region, the 2014 MS Shad Shootout.
(Photo: Kam Goodrich)
Now, before we get too involved with the outcome of the tournament itself, let me give you the background on this event. Here’s the skinny, the MS Shad Shootout has been held out of Anncarrows Landing annually since it started in 2012. The core reason for the tournament is to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis awareness and in the end help find a cure for a disease that deteriorates the mind and body. As if that weren't enough of a reason in itself, it’s also a great time with some awesome people. Thom Mattauch, the chairman, really knows how to run a smooth and fun tournament! For more details check out www.msshadshootout.org.
After a lively and laughter filled captains meeting at Appomattox River Company in Midlothian the night prior to launch, we headed back home to do some rigging and a little last minute game planning. The shootout is the best overall length between two shad and one catfish. Therefore it takes a little bit of planning before you hit the water to be successful. The next morning we met up at the ramp and launched with high hopes of bringing home the gold…. little did I know the day was going to belong to Grant. We hit the spot we deemed best suitable for our tide conditions and waited for the 8 a.m. “lines in” call. It was kind of funny, I’m usually pretty tense in these situations, it’s not normal on tournament day to be able to enjoy the sunrise and get a chance to relax before you start fishing. Anyhow, the clock struck 8 and the lead began to fly. We rained down the spoons and darts well beyond mid-day before we ever began catfishing. After netting a 19 inch American Shad and a 15 inch Hickory for Grant, I began to feel the pressure. The shad were not as concentrated as we had hoped they’d be due to recent high water conditions, thus leading to a less than pleasing number of fish. Nonetheless Grant left me in search of a good cat, leading me in shad by 5 inches, and sure enough he found one. By the time I caught up to him an hour later he had boated a 36” blue cat, giving him a total over 70 inches. It would take a good stroke of luck for any angler to beat that total for the day. It was over for me before it even began. With sunny, bluebird skies it was less than favorable for catfishing. As if that wasn't enough, Grant also managed to win the fly division by landing the largest fish of the day on the fly, a 21 inch blue cat. Oh yea, I lost out on winning the Striper division and the $115 pot because I didn't pay the ten bucks to enter, story of my life… but ya know, I’m not bitter or anything.
(My money-less Striper)
(Grant's nice tournament Blue Cat)
(Biggest Blue of the day)
(Grant's 19 inch American)
(The 21 inch Blue Cat that helped Grant win the Fly Division)
All and all it was a great time, I threw the playbook at them and they just weren't having any of it. Sometimes you just have to realize when you’re out gunned. Grant brought his “A” game and it showed.
(Raffles are fun!)
(Photo: Kam Goodrich)
(First Place Overall!)
(Photo: Kam Goodrich)
(Winning the Fly Division Pot)
(Photo: Kam Goodrich)
(Grant with his tournament hardware)
In the end we accomplished what we set out to do, a pending world record and a tournament win all in one species to kick off the year isn’t a bad way to start! As we close the book on this years’ shad run it’s time to transition into our other targeted species. We should all be thankful that the blasted snow is finally gone and we can enjoy a nice Virginia Spring…. all six days of it.. before it gets hotter than the devil and we hit summer! Anyone from the Old Dominion knows exactly what I’m talking about. Spring here isn’t so much a “season’ as it is a few hours on a random Tuesday in April.
(3lb American, 2lb test)
We have the momentum on our side after a successful start to the year and we look to keep it rolling through the next few weeks. Grant and I hope you enjoyed the read and following our successes so far! The next few trips look very promising, make sure you check in on the website for upcoming podcasts that will detail what we’re doing moving forward.
Here’s to a great yesterday and a better tomorrow!
Fish Hard or Stay Home,