The Realtree Fishing KBF Trail Series Powered by Dakota Lithium began in Polk County on January 28-29th with a multi-lake format that spread more than 100 KBF anglers over several lakes. With mild temperatures and incredible lodging providing by Guy Harvey’s Mack Lodge, KBF anglers were primed to catch Florida Largemouth Bass at peak pre-spawn and spawning stages. But few expected the kinds of results we saw over the weekend.
Big bass were everywhere in pre-fishing and competition. It is fitting, because the 2023 Realtree Fishing KBF Trail Series began, and will end, with big Florida bass. They were the story of the weekend from start to finish.
Day 1: Saturday, January 28, 2023
The early bite belonged to North Carolina anglers as Jeremy Hicks and Eric Nelson staked early leads on the Ledlenser KBF Trail Series leaderboard. Joshua Sharp passed them all by mid-morning in what appeared to be a tight race. Sharp held the lead at mid-morning, with Adam Petrone (90”) and Garrett Wade (91”) breathing down his neck and more toads being uploaded onto the Dakota Lithium Big Bass leaderboard with each passing hour.
Just when it looked like the standings would tighten up for the day, Nathaniel Holley crashed the leaderboard and posted a big 95” limit. Holley now had a solid first place bag for the Saturday Trail event through the noon hour. As he noted during the awards ceremony, he caught his fish primarily on a jackhammer and a speed worm.
By then, even more giant bass were showing up. Shortly thereafter Glenn Landstrom posted 94.5” limit that included two bass 21” or longer. Holley led by a .50” margin, but later extended his lead to 96.25”. The last quarter of tournament time was shaping up to be wild. At 2 pm, 6 anglers had 91” or more, and any one of them were in easy striking distance of the top spot.
That’s when some of the biggest bass of the day made their dramatic appearance. Landstrom culled to within .25” of the lead, but then Petrone vaulted over them both with a 96.50” bag. Not to be outdone, defending KBF National Champion Rus Snyders grabbed second place with a 24.5” Florida monster for an anchor fish (he later said it weighed 9.8 lbs). Snyders had 96.75” and the top 4 were all within 1” of one another.
Having a giant bass in your limit will do wonders for an angler’s standing. Michael Lavoie had two. One was a 23.75” – the second longest caught. The other was a 22.25” – the fifth longest of the event. Those two fish rounded out his winning limit of 98.75”.
Lavoie, who was on a family trip from his home state of California, said:
“I came down from Northern California, I have family that lives in Winter Haven. It’s my mom’s birthday so we kind of make it a family thing….Day 1 of practice I went to Arbuckle and was hoping to fish beds but the water was so dirty that I couldn’t see anything…I went deep and found the deepest grass gI could. Second cast on a chatterbait I hooked up with a giant, and she came off. She was probably the biggest fish I hooked up with since I’ve been here.
Day 1 I went out and found that deep grass. I stayed out and I pounded it with a chatterbait, a swimbait and a punch rig. I just caught fish. It was a great day, and it was special.”
The Top 10 KBF Trail I
- Michael Lavoie
- Rus Snyders
- Adam Petrone
- Nathaniel Holley
- Glenn Landstrom
- Caleb Cunningham
- Joshua Sharp
- Robert Weiker
- Garrett Wade
- Alan Sweat
Day 2: Sunday January 29
The news at the end of Saturday’s Trail I was that big late bites changed the course of the event and the top of the standings. Sunday began with even bigger bites that set a new tone: go big or go home. It was big bass, not the anglers, who were calling the shots.
If anyone thought Rus Snyders’ late 24.5” toad would hold first place on the Dakota Lithium Big Bass Leaderboard, they did a double take when they saw the bass that Bobby Denison posted early on Sunday: a 24.75”. That wasn’t all: Glenn Landstrom, who took fifth place in trail I (with his best fish being a 21.25”), posted a 24” on Sunday morning. Landstrom’s bucketmouth vaulted him to first place on the TENvitational leaderboard and made it so that 24” bass or longer held the top 3 Big bass spots.
Polk County was simply on fire.
At mid-morning, Lloyd Hardy enjoyed an early lead with 91.25”, with Josh Stewart and Jason Isaacs holding second and third, respectively. 90” limits placed anglers in the bottom half of Saturday’s top ten, so there was work to do yet on Sunday, and plenty of room for anglers to move up. Soon thereafter, Joshua Sharp showed up on the leaderboard and made a run (he eventually finished in fifth place, chasing checks on both days). With the afternoon bite picking up, KBF Trail II would also go to the wire.
Mike Elsea was the 2019 KBF National Champion, a win that launched a career for him. He has since become a decorated angler, and even represented our nation in international tournaments.
“The bigger ones bit better today. I was flipping reed tails with a variety of lures including a creature bait….I had a 22.5” tank today. I pulled an 18” a 19” and that 22” off of two little sticks in the water.”
Elsea’s win was determined not only by fishing, but because he filmed the live release of his fish. When one of his fish was challenged, he produced video of the release to confirm the unique catch. During the awards ceremony, he said “If you aren’t taking video, I recommend you start.”
The Top 10 KBF Trail I
- Mike Elsea
- Josh Stewart
- Bobby Denison
- Jason isaacs
- Joshua Sharp
- Lloyd Hardy
- Chris Spencer
- Chris Hartman
- Glenn Landstrom
- Robert Weiker
Nine weekends of KBF Trail Series competition remain between now and then. Next up is Lake Murray, S.C., on February 25-26, 2023. Get registered and get ready!
Click here to watch the complete awards ceremony from Camp Mack Guy Harvey.
Complete Standings: https://app.fishingchaos.com/tournament/kbf-trail-series-or-polk-county-fl
Custom Trophies manufactured by Ketch Products, USA.
For the 2023 KBF events schedule: https://www.kayakbassfishing.com/schedule/
Mike Elsea is sponsored by: Native Watercraft, Yak Attack, Fitgerald Fishing, Titan Tungsten, Fishing Online, Dakota Lithium, Rogue FIshing Co., Bizz Baits, Shredfin Apparel, One Objective and Bowman Family Holdings.
Michael Lavoie is sponsored by: Lowrance, RELION Lithium, Motorguide, Bransonbaits.com, Daiwa, P-Line, Aftco, Red One Systems and Bobby D’s Baits.
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First Published January 29, 2023.
(Editor’s note: an earlier version of this recap misspelled Mike Elsea’s name and did not include Lavoie’s sponsors).
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