Golf has 4 major championships each year; these courses are known to have some of the highest rough, fastest greens and in general the toughest conditions the pros will face during their season. Amateurs love to watch these tournaments because the experts struggle to tame the course and look downright average as they fight to just stay at even par. Still, each year, someone grinds it out and comes away victorious despite the harsh conditions shared by all. The opening stop in the 2011 River Bassin Tournament Trail presented by Jackson Kayak can be compared to one of golf’s majors. Cold weather and heavy rains hit the Charlotte, NC, area the Wednesday and Thursday prior to the event and the majority of the rivers inside the fishing boundaries were swollen with what most would consider chocolate milk. However, like the golf pros, the wisest and most steadfast anglers toughed it out and hacked their way through a tough, windy day of river bassin! The turn out, given the conditions, was actually quite impressive – 27 anglers from 6 different states competed for the title. 24 of those anglers also took part in the new team division and it turned out to be one of the best changes to the 2011 format according to participants who cited the fellowship and camaraderie as their main reasons. The trail also saw one youth and two female participants brave the elements.
When the paddles were finally put away and the anglers returned to our Charlotte host, Bass Pro Shops, the trail saw only 15 anglers who checked in a fish. Of those 15, five came back with only one fish on their “virtual” stringer, five came back with two and only five had a full stringer of three fish! As you can see it truly was major championship conditions!
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The lone youth that entered the Paddle and Trail Young River Basser Division failed to land a bass alongside all the other adults who had a tough time as well. This leaves the youth title in Charlotte vacant for a year.
Kokatat Team Division
In the Kokatat Team Division we had 7 teams come back with fish, although not all had a full four-fish stringer, in which two fish from each angler combine to comprise the team’s total. The top three teams are as follows: Eric Boyd/Caja Ormand, Drew Haerer/Bill Kohls and Tim Steward/Bo Anders. According to Boyd, Ormand assumed the “captain” role within his team and took him to a spot he had been pre-fishing and knew would have some relatively clear water on a day when most rivers were not. Using his custom jig that he makes, Ormand pulled in one of nicer fish of the day, a 21.25 inch largemouth giving his team an early lead. Not to be outdone, further north on the same river system, Bo Anders hooked into what ended up being the Bass Pro Shops Big Fish of the tournament, a beautiful 23.5 inch largemouth bass! This was going to come down to the wire in the team division because Haerer and Kohls were also landing fish on a different river system over 60 miles away. On stage the crowd finally got to see who came away as the first Kokatat Team Division Champion of 2011. That title went to Eric Boyd and Caja Ormand who came in with a 4-fish total of 68.75 inches, giving them an average of over 17 inches per bass! Now, that is some good river bassin’ in the midst of the flooded rivers and 30 mph winds! For winning the title the duo drove away with a brand new NuCanoe that can sit two anglers making it the perfect team prize! The other teams walked away with some great prizes from Tallon, RAM Mounts, Gorilla Glue, Kayak Angler Magazine, RiverBassin.com and Bass Pro Shops. – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - –
Aqua Bound Individual Angler Division
In the Aqua Bound Individual Angler Division the top 3 competitors, Drew Haerer, Brian Cope and Eric Boyd joined Drew Gregory on stage and boasted healthy 3 fish limits given the circumstances. However, after two fish were scored, all three competitors were locked in a tie at 29.75! This couldn’t be scripted any better and it would now come down to one final fish to determine the winner. Brian Cope’s last fish was a 15.75 inch bass, followed and overtaken quickly by Eric Boyd’s beautiful 19 inch lunker. So, it all came down to whether or not Drew Haerer also had at least a 19 inch beauty. Well, turns out his final fish was a respectable 17 incher giving the title to Kings Mountain, NC, resident Eric Boyd by a mere 2 inches!
When interviewed after the tournament Boyd shared the story of the cast that landed his final fish in true hole-in-one, bottom of the ninth fashion!
“I learned a valuable lesson at the tournament, it takes just one cast!! I got two fish early in the day totaling 29.75 inches. Caja and I went to another spot and put in and didn’t get a bite for a couple hours and then the water released (from the dam) and with 20 mph gust down river we both knew we couldn’t get back upstream. I booked it as hard as I could to the landing, which wasn’t that far away. At this point I had all but given up (on getting a 3rd fish to fill his virtual stringer). I took the yak out of the water and started casting from the landing on a windblown riprap bank. I got caught on a “rock” and began trying to unhang myself when I felt the rock start shaking it’s head! Then it jumped and I knew i was in contention! It just takes one cast!! Don’t ever give up, your next cast could be the one!”
Haerer and Cope still walked away with a great start in the RiverBassin.com River Basser of the Year points race and some great prizes from our sponsors, most notably Aqua Bound or Bending Branches paddles, Kokatat Watersports Wear, Gorilla Glue, RAM Mounts, RiverBassin.com, Kayak Angler Magazine and Bass Pro Shops. The strategy that Boyd employed was to use a tailrace of a lake in order to find some clearer water. Numerous anglers on this stop figured out unique river situations where fish could still be caught despite the high water. The most common strategies used in catching fish in these conditions were to fish behind a dam, fish in a smaller stream that may clear up quicker or fish in an oxbow area where the current is calmer than the main river. All strategies were used and it just happened to be that Boyd’s tailrace strategy, recommended by his partner Caja, was the ticket. On stage he gave the credit to his partner Caja Ormand and claimed “He took me to the spot he found and showed me what baits to throw.” He then proceeded to shock Caja and the crowd by announcing that he is going to give his winning kayak, a Jackson Kayak Coosa, to Caja for being such a great partner and friend. It made for quite the memorable and emotional results show. Eric was a humble champion and the perfect example of what this sport is all about, even down to the most important person he thanked at the end, his wife, in which he said, “…thanks to her because she lets me go fishing,” which got a nice laugh from the spectators. So what looked like a murky situation in Charlotte ended up being one the clearest pictures of what this sport is all about – friendship, camaraderie and family. The Bedrock Series heads to Birmingham next on April 16th, whereas the NuCanoe Everglades Series starts this Saturday, April 9th, in the Fort Meyers area. The Diablo Paddlesports Texas Hill Country Series will begin on April 30th. All series and competitors eventually end up at the grand finale in Roanoke, VA on September 10th. Charlotte by the numbers!
- 30 fish were checked in with a total length of 481 inches.
- The average length of checked in fish was 16.03 inches
- 16 competitors were from North Carolina
- 6 competitors were from South Carolina
- 2 competitors were from Georgia (Shoua Ly and Nawtou Ly)
- 1 competitor was from Kentucky (Terry Adolph)
- 1 competitor was from Virginia (Aaron Hearl)
- 1 competitor was from Indiana (Joe Maione)
Interesting or Funny Facts from Charlotte
- Mike Byrnes (Catawba to many) entered in only the team competition but caught 3 fish that were exactly 48.75 inches, an exact tie with our winner Eric Boyd. Had Mike entered the individual division he would have won by tie breaker and been the champion.
- Mack McCorkle placed 4th last year by a mere 1/4 of an inch. This year, Mack stayed consistent by again placing 4th, and guess by how much? You got it, 1/4 of an inch!
- Last year champion Bob Dainton looked poised to repeat after his early morning catch of what was ended up being the 3rd largest bass scored – a 20.75 inch pigbeast. However, Bob failed to score another fish and will have to get his revenge at a future stop, or next year.
- Bo Anders came up one fish short of winning stringer and averaged an astounding 21.8 inches between his two fish (23.5 & 20.25) in the tournament. All he needed was one more fish that was more than 5 inches and he would have been the champion! One dink! Tough break Bo, but congratulations on two very nice bass!
- 48.75 inches is the lowest winning score in River Bassin Trail history, followed closely by 2010′s finale in Macon, GA last year which saw Sean Brodie take that title with 49.25 inches.
- For the first time in trail history we are seeing “official” team members entering tournaments. The Great Outdoor Provision Company had four of their fishing team members compete and they did pretty well since Haerer placed 2nd and Anders placed 5th. Also, on the team side of things Haerer/Kohls placed 2nd and Anders/Stewart placed 3rd. Here is a photo of the team.
Other Important Links “Road To Roanoke” Results Page RiverBassin.com’s River Basser of the Year Standings Charlotte on-the-water Slide Show Charlotte off-the-water Slide Show Big Thanks to our tournament trail staff for this stop: Kristy Rutter: Tournament Trail Coordinator, event and sponsor relations Brooks Beatty: Tournament Trail Coordinator, presentation logistics Dave Rodrigue: Software Programming/Tech Support Mike Dickerman: Photographer Brian Cope: Photographer Drew Haerer: Photographer Outdoor Supply Company Staff: Thanks for the setup and tear down help! And of course Bass Pro Shops, specifically Kim Files for helping coordinate all this.