Let’s do some math: what does victory squared look like, times three?
At the start of the live KBF awards ceremony following the Realtree Fishing KBF Trail powered by Dakota Lithium on Lake George, Chad Hoover offered this observation about the tremendous bite that KBF competitors encountered in the Adirondacks:
“There were so many fish being caught. When Smallmouth get to a certain size, they group up. One angler in particular [Ryan Matyllewicz] caught three 18” fish out of the same school…But I was surprised by how good the Largemouth were and how big they were. They looked like a square with a tail on it.”
A square with a tail on it.
Let’s circle that, as in Nick Audi is no stranger to the winner’s circle. He has won KBF Trails on Messalonskee and on Winnipessaukee in 2022. What he accomplished at Lake George was a rarity. Few anglers have dominated a KBF Trail weekend from wire-to wire. Fewer still have had their fish occupy the top three Dakota Lithium Big Bass spots for the weekend.
And only one has ever done it with Smallmouth Bass. His name is Nick Audi.
To review, Audi won both Trail events. He won both the Dakota Lithium Double Up and both Big Bass events.
That’s what victory squared times three looks like.
Trail I: Saturday, May 20
In the week leading up to the event, KBF angler Brian Baulsir was posting fish he caught in practice and praising the Lake George fishery. Baulsir didn’t just predict big bags – he had the lead after three hours of fishing on Saturday morning with a 92.25” limit of his own. Michael Tompkins was right behind him with 90.5”. Ed Budd sat in third place with 87” (notable in his limit was the fact that at nine a.m., his 20.25” and his 19.75” fish held the top two spots on the Dakota Lithium Big Bass leaderboard). The bite was hot and Lake George was making Baulsir a man of his word (we will come back to that in the post script…).
Baulsir held the lead well past the halfway mark by increasing his limit to 94.5”. Tompkins kept pace, culling up to his own 92.75” bag, while Ryan Nye made a charge into third place. At 12:30 p.m., Baulsir still maintained a lead of nearly two inches. The top of the leaderboard had however changed dramatically. There were five other limits of 89” or better; all five of those anglers were within striking distance of the win.
One of them was Nick Audi, who had climbed into second place with 92.75”. Two massive Smallmouths of 21” each were his anchor fish. And then Audi culled to bring his limit to 96.25”. That limit included three smallmouth bass and two largemouth bass, and it was the smallest of his Smallmouth Bass – an 18.5” that he landed at 12:45 p.m., that sealed Audi’s victory at Trail I.
Audi had picked his ramp, as he noted, “based on the wind.” He said it was a random ramp and that he struggled, but that the fishing was “lights out” as he neared the end of the day. As he said in the live awards broadcast: “I was catching them on a jerk bait, on a drop shot and whatever you wanted. It was crazy good.” He continued “That played a big part in my day 2, because I was only on those fish for about forty minutes…..”
Trail II: Sunday, May 21
Nick Audi took his time building a limit with an average of over 19” per fish on Saturday. He wasted no time putting up big numbers on Sunday. As he noted above, it was because he hadn’t worn out the fish that he found late on Saturday. “I had a fresh school going into [Sunday]. I felt pretty confident.”
One third of the way into competition time, and Audi was in first place on the Trail II leaderboard with a limit of 88”. Adam Schwerthoffer held second place with 83.75”, and only the top five had limits of over 80” to that point. For perspective, two anglers had over 90” at the same time on Saturday, and perhaps around a dozen had posted over 80”. Had the bite slowed down on Sunday?
According to Alex Miller, it was. “I went out to boulders in the morning and try to repeat Day I, and there were no fish there.” He returned later, and managed to cull fish. Like Audi on Trail I, Miller caught a mix of Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass. He was sight fishing for Largemouth Bass with “a Keitech M2 football head jig paired with a Nedbait Paca Chunk trailer on the back.”
Audi also noted a difference in the bite. “They weren’t as much on the jerk bait today, and more on the drop shot. They were holding a little closer to the bottom. I put on a ned rig and started cleaning them up. I was catching largemouth out pretty deep.”
Audi’s win put him in the mix for the Rogue Gear Company Angler of the Year. With anglers from the northeast surging into the top 10 after Lake George, the KBF Trail Series championship race is wide open. With two events left, it’s anyone’s race to win.
Every angler eventually makes a mistake in competition. Some of those errors may violate a competition rule, resulting in disqualification of the angler or denial of submissions. The important thing is how the angler handles a mistake.
KBF denied all of the fish Brian Baulsir landed in competition on Lake George and he was disqualified for a rules infraction. It came about when Baulsir was describing how he landed his fish during the live awards broadcast. You can see it at the 12:55 mark, where his excitement about his limit comes through (you can also see the co-host Randy Newton shake his head at the admission). Baulsir mentioned that on Saturday he placed a schooling fish that he caught in his net and then made a cast. As written in KBF Rule 7.A.: “Fish must be caught, photographed (and video where required) and released prior to resuming fishing.” In the excitement of a frenzied school of aggressive fish, Baulsir forgot a rule and made a mistake.
The day after he was disqualified, Baulsir told KBF:
“I was at mid-lake, throwing a Vision 110 plus jerk bait. I fired up a school and hooked a fish. I saw others chasing so I put one in the net, picked up another rod and I kept casting, and I caught a quick limit of good fish. On Sunday, I made the same mistake, in a different way. I dropped my ketch board. When I caught a fish, I put it in the net and motored over to a friend to use his measuring board. That board sharing rule I knew, but I broke the possession rule again.”
After review of Baulsir’s fish, KBF discovered that he told the truth about losing his board on Sunday. Ironically, Baulsir broke the possession rule while avoiding violation of another rule. What happened was that Baulsir motored to his friend to avoid bringing his friend to his fish and thereby risking violation of the communication rule. As Chad Hoover noted in discussion after the fact, “Brian demonstrated the utmost in character and integrity during the investigation and should be commended for his handling of the situation.”
As noted earlier, Baulsir is a man of his word and he accepted the ruling, summing it up with this statement: “I am heartbroken but I am not ashamed.”
Even the best anglers make mistakes. Brian’s mistakes cost him a trophy and some money, but the important thing was that he owned his error and handled the matter with integrity.
It happens every year in competitions across the country: a veteran angler forgets a rule, or does not review updated rules, and they lose their fish. It is important to brush up on rules every season in order to keep up with changes, and also to request clarification if necessary. In this way, we avoid mistakes and can enjoy competition without error or embarrassment.
Lake Chickamauga will be the next stop on the 2023 Realtree Fishing KBF Trail Powered by Dakota Lithium. Click here to register.
Nick Audi is sponsored by Enduro Power Lithium Batteries.
Alex Miller is sponsored by FishUSA, Dakota Lithium Batteries and Duke Products.
Brian Baulsir is the proprietor of Adirondack Kayak Fishing Charters. He is sponsored by Dakota Lithium, NRS, Mountain Man and Yak Rods.
Click here to watch the complete awards ceremony from Lake George, N.Y.
The Realtree Fishing KBF Trail on Lake George was hosted by the Lake George Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau.
For complete standings: https://app.fishingchaos.com/tournament/kbf-trail-series-or-lake-george-or-2023
KBF partnered with Adirondack Kayak Bass Fishing for the event, and thanks them for their work.
About the KBF Trail
Realtree Fishing KBF Trail events are a 5-fish, CPR, members only tournament. KBF weekends comprise two single day Trail tournaments and the Dakota Lithium Double Up Program which spans both days.
For the 2023 KBF Trail events schedule: https://www.kayakbassfishing.com/schedule/
Questions regarding event details (i.e. eligible water, schedule, etc..) email Jason@kayakbassfising.com
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First Published May 22, 2023. The author of this article was not assisted in any way by a machine in the composition of it.
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