The anticipation began building for this tournament immediately following the previous event. Based upon my recent experience on the lake, I decided during preparations to pare down my tackle to a single box of crankbaits (lipless, square bill, deeper running round bill), a “miscellaneous” box with spinnerbaits, buzz baits, jigs, and topwater plugs, and a small terminal tackle box with the jig heads and hooks I would need to fish the few bags of plastics I was taking in my worm bag. This small box fit nicely inside the Plano worm bag. I carried four rods: 1) ML St. Croix Mojo Bass for fishing my Yamamoto Hula Grubs, 2) M St. Croix Mojo Bass for shaky head jigs with the Yamamoto PsychoDad craws, 3) M TFO casting rod for topwater and spinnerbait duty, and 4) W&M Skeet Reese Crankbait rod for crankbaits. Anticipating higher winds, I also made sure my heavier 3 lb. anchor was sufficiently rigged for the deeper water of Morse Lake and was readily available in my crate.
As October 5th was approaching, I was amped up to fish regardless of the conditions. This proved to be important as the weather reports leading up to the event indicated that it would be far from ideal conditions on that Saturday. Of course, like we’ve all gotten used to, especially living in Indiana, no amount of expert prediction can accurately predict what we’ll see. Even an hour before I left for the event, the predictions I was reading for the day said isolated thunderstorms beginning around 11 AM. However, my entire trip to the event (roughly one hour) was met with steady rain and occasional lightning strikes. After a quick breakfast with some friends and fellow anglers, we headed to Morse Park, unsure of what we’d find. We were the first to arrive, and scouted the anticipated launch area to see what the rock and seawall situation was like for launching our kayaks. The rain continued to fall as we were scouting the situation, noting that the water was down nearly 2 feet, as was apparent by the stains on the exposed seawalls surrounding the park. This lower water was going to make launching tricky, but we weren’t deterred.
The weather situation didn’t keep other anglers away, either. Despite the pouring rain and thunderstorms, 25 anglers showed up to participate in this tournament. As we were checking in and waiting out the storms in the shelter, the resounding feeling amongst everyone I spoke with was that they were going to pay their entry fee regardless of actually getting to fish. This particular tournament was a benefit tournament, with all entry fee and big bass money going to Heroes on the Water’s Indiana Chapter. Heroes on the Water is a non-profit organization that regularly offers guided kayak fishing trips for wounded veterans, giving them an opportunity to enjoy a day of relaxation and rehabilitation via our beloved sport of kayak fishing. Various sponsors sweetened the deal for the fishermen, donating gift cards and merchandise that were put together into prize packages for the winning anglers. The fact that this organization exists and that so many folks were willing to contribute to it on such a lousy day really says something for the men and women that participate in this sport. I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of it all.
Finally the weather took a break, and roughly 30 minutes after the scheduled launch, we started heading out on the water. This was by far the biggest kayak tournament this lake has seen, and many of the anglers had never been on the lake before. While that should be an advantage for me, it also meant that the water that I like to fish, which happens to be close to the launch site, was also attractive to others. Many others. After helping a few folks get their boats in the water, I turned around to look at where I had planned to start my day, only to see it PACKED with other kayakers. A bit disheartening, but no worries, I’ll find some other places to fish. I was familiar enough with the lake itself and it’s many features that I was confident I could find some fish in water I hadn’t fished yet. My lures and presentations weren’t going to change, just the water I was using them in.
I headed out, fishing flats, points, and drop-offs on my way towards a large cove. Things started quite slow, and as I moved closer to the cove, I noticed it was getting fished pretty heavily, too. I worked over a flat and it’s drop-offs pretty heavily, making my way through each of my rods trying to trigger a bite, keeping an eye on the boat movement within the cove I was planning to enter. Kayaks started moving out, and many that I spoke to had no luck in the cove. This didn’t deter me, so I made my way in and started working the PsychoDad in the shallower water of the cove. Within the first hour, I had two fish on the board and camera, and a few more that were shorter than I needed. I lost a few to wild leaps and hook throws, but only one of those had the potential to add to my total (2 biggest fish) for the day. Thankfully, the practice I put in using my Hawg Trough has seemed to pay off, as I didn’t lose any fish while trying to photograph them. (HINT: It seems that covering their eyes while they’re on the board calms them and prevents the leap from the board). This area seemed to be the most productive for me and a few of my fellow anglers that joined me in there. I worked part of it over pretty hard, probably staying longer than I should have, as I usually do.
About an hour and half before our day was scheduled to be over, another storm started rolling in. The rain got quite heavy, and some thunder and lightning was rolling in. I decided it was time to leave this cove and head closer to the park, just in case a quick exit from the lake was necessary. I noticed on my way out of the cove that the area of the lake I intended to start on was now clear for the most part, and as it’s closer to the park, I decided to head that way and try to find a larger fish or two in the last hour, should the weather cooperate. Making my way across the lake was getting miserable quickly. I no longer had my rain jacket on, and the bill of my hat wasn’t protecting my glasses well from the driving rain. No bother…the fish are already wet! After making my way over to the spot, I realized that the wind was mostly blocked by the shoreline, so I was free to position my boat wherever I wished and fish under my own control instead of the wind’s.
As fast as that storm moved in, it also moved out, mostly clearing up and making me feel better about my decision to NOT end the day early. I worked this area over for a little while, only feeling a few nibbles here and there, likely just panfish playing with the floating claws of the PsychoDad craw. This entire area is full of large chunk rock, so it’s not unusual to get the jig stuck on the opposite side of one. Much like my carp story from the last tournament here, at one point I did get stuck. As I made my way towards the rock to pop it off the other side, I realized that the “rock” was actually starting to surface. So now my thought was that I had snagged a limb and was bringing it up, only there are NO trees around. I was a bit baffled. As I’m watching the area of my line, I begin to see my jig. I see that’s entangled in a wad of fishing line. And right about that time, something starts taking me and my kayak for a ride. I soon realized that whatever was on the end of this wad of line was hooked on a fish. It didn’t take long for me to get it to the surface to see that the line was attached to a crankbait that was stuck into the side of a catfish. This was, by far, the strangest catch of my life. With the assistance of my buddy Mike Densel, we were able to get the crankbait out of the catfish, the line unwound from around it, and release the fish. It’s safe to say that the fish wasn’t going to make it long due to its wounds, but it swam off like there was nothing wrong.
I spent the rest of my time working the area with a few more bites, but no catches. At this point, it was time to head in to see how my two small fish faired in the event as well as my favorite part, talking with the other fishermen about their experiences on the water. To my surprise, my fish held up for 4th place and only 2 inches out of 1st. Overall, I was pleased with my ability to find and catch fish, even though none of them were big. I was able to adapt to new areas of the lake I hadn’t fished before and work hard throughout the day to at least put a respectable stringer together. It’s all about learning, and I feel that day helped me grow as a tournament angler.
The final results:
1. Keenan Chamberlain 28 ¼”
2. Tom Moore 27 ½” (also had big bass of 15 1/4″, yet was gracious in donating the big bass gift card back to Heroes on the Water)
3. Dan Whitley 27”
4. Jason Young 26 ¼”
5. Chase Page 25”
Overall, this was an amazing event from many aspects. The camaraderie, the support for an amazing charity, and the indication of the growth of kayak fishing and competitive kayak fishing all warmed my heart despite the fact that I was soaked to the bone from the cold rain. Overall, roughly $800 was raised for the Indiana Chapter of Heroes on the Water! Many, many thanks to the tournament organizers, Central Indiana Kayak Anglers, including Nathan Pickering, as well as all of the amazing sponsors of this event:
If presented with the opportunity, please remember to thank them, perhaps by utilizing them for your next purchase, in order to keep events like this going in the future. I wish the next one were tomorrow!