provided by John E. Phillips
Tyler Cole, from Manchester, Iowa, is the first Mossy Oak kayak tournament bass fisherman to be invited to join the Mossy Oak Fishing Team. We generally don’t think of Iowa as a place where you’ll see a large group of kayak fishermen, just as in the movie “Field of Dreams,” Iowa wasn’t known for having a baseball field in the middle of planted corn.
I fish out of a Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14 kayak and I like this kayak because it has a pedal-drive system, which means that I don’t have to use a paddle. I steer it with a rudder, and although this kayak is very light, it is also super stable. The feature I like the most is that it has a big front deck, so I can lay several rows of rods down on the dock, which makes changing out rods and bait handy and easy. I have a Lowrance Elite-9 Ti electronic. I primarily use my electronics when I practice for a tournament. I try to find inconsistencies in the bottom like drop-offs, ledges, ditches and other underwater structures, and that’s where the side-scanning feature of this electronic helps me out so much. I’ve learned that the bass usually will be holding on some type of bottom break or structure that’s different from the rest of the nearby bottom.
My number-one spot in this tournament at Lake Chickamauga was when I located this underwater ditch that ran back into a small backwater area that was a very shallow flat. I could watch the shad come up out of the grass pads on either side of this ditch. When I first saw the shad, I knew that there had to be some type of fish in that grass and/or in the ditch that was pushing the shad to the surface. As I mentioned earlier, we had really cold weather just before the tournament had begun. On the tournament day, the sun came out and started warming up the backwaters and shallow flats. So, the shad were coming out of the grass, going up the ditch and heading toward that shallow-water flat where the water was warmer.
I decided to fish a Booyah Pad Crasher frog. The air temperature the morning of the tournament was around 53 degrees, so I knew that the day would warm up. By the afternoon, the air temperature was about 70 degrees. Since the flat at the back of the ditch was only about 1-1/2 to 2 feet deep, I realized that the water probably would warm up quicker than the main lake or the shallow water of the main lake. I also knew that because the water I was fishing was really shallow, a fiberglass bass boat wouldn’t have been able to go in that shallow water so anglers could cast. And, that’s one of the biggest advantages of kayak fishing - I can get into many different places that a fiberglass bass boat can’t. Because I can move into these kinds of places with my kayak, I know I can find bass that haven’t seen a wide variety of artificial lures all day, every day. The frog I used, the Booyah Pad Crasher, was green with a yellow belly.
I was fishing Sufix 832 60-pound-test braided line and a Rain Shadow Revelation rod blank. I like that 7-foot, 6-inch heavy action rod because I can make long casts with it and usually get a good, hard, solid hook set. I have all my rods built by Hawkeye Custom Rods based in Peosta, Iowa, on those rod blanks. I was using a Lew’s SuperDuty Reel with an 8:1 gear ratio. When I cast the frog out, I slow crawled the frog on top of the grass. Most of the grass I was fishing in was dying, but there were a few green pockets of grass. I found that the bass I caught mostly were where the green grass was meeting the brown grass on points and fingers in the lake.
The kayak bass-fishing tournaments are one-day tournaments. Another advantage I have with my kayak is that I have a Power Pole Micro Anchor, an AMP outdoors 100-amp lithium battery, and 12-volt battery and Supernova Lights on the front of the kayak. I have an inexpensive Bass Pro Shops Prowler side-mounted trolling motor that I only use when I’m moving from one spot to another.
When we reached the weigh-in, I was asked, “Did you think those five bass you caught would win the tournament?” and I said, “No,” because when I was driving down to Lake Chickamauga, I had decided that an angler would have to have between 95-96 inches of bass to win. At the weigh-in, the officials only called back the anglers in the top five, so I knew I’d finished at least in the top five. I only had 89-1/2-inches, however, that was the number of inches of bass needed on that day, in that tournament, and on that lake to win. All the bass I caught were largemouths. I felt extremely proud to have won my first kayak bass tournament after having been only competing for four years.
In 2017, there was a tournament called The Champion of Champions where the top anglers from all the kayak bass-fishing clubs fished against each other on Lake Fork in Texas. I won that tournament and $6,500 and a trip to the Hobie Fishing World Championship held in Amal, Sweden.