I noticed something remarkable when I interviewed Mike Elsea and Rus Snyders. Both did something that most anglers won’t do on tournament day: they changed their minds at a ramp, left, and launched elsewhere. They lost time, but they gained victory.

I also noticed this: Rus Snyders finished in first place in the most recent edition of KBF The TEN, held in North Alabama in October of 2023. Mike Elsea was the runner-up in that event.

In the 2024 Yak Attack KBF National Championship powered by Dakota Lithium (also held in North Alabama), Elsea finished in second place, and Snyders finished in third.

On the weekend following the championship, Snyders won Trail I on Saturday, and Elsea won Trail II on Sunday.

Is the pattern blind luck? Knowing their skills, that’s unlikely. Is it the making of a rivalry? Both anglers are too friendly for such things.

What it boils down to is that when experienced, high-octane anglers compete on the same water, they are going to deliver results. But when you put them on bountiful bass fisheries like Wheeler and Guntersville, they are eventually going to deliver wins. This time, it just took a few extra days.

And a few gut calls.

For some anglers who fished both Yak Attack KBF National Championship and the Trail Series, it was five straight days of tournament bass fishing on Lake Wheeler and Lake Guntersville, days filled with big fish, camaraderie and memories. And when it was over, the top 10 of the KBF TRAIL Series also had a new overall points leader…..

Trail I: Saturday, April 6, 2024

The wind that whipped anglers all week quit on Saturday, but the anglers did not. Fresh off a fourth place finish at the KBF National Championship, Virginia angler Casey Reed jumped to the early lead in KBF Trail I, with West Virginia’s Jody Queen right behind him in second place. By noon, Reed had filled his limit, but Wyatt Hammond and passed Reed to take second place and Deamen Henderson had taken over first place, with 85.75”. Tim Isaacs had quietly moved into fourth place. In all, a mere 3.25” divided Jody Queen (fifth) from Henderson (first). The afternoon bite, which had been stronger each day in Alabama, would determine the winner.

Within two hours, Queen, Reed and Hammond had passed Henderson, and Rus Snyders had taken over the lead. Tim Isaacs moved into third place before it was over, with a late cull. Snyders had come close to victory during championship week. On the weekend, the win did not escape him.

Snyders won by finding a way to transfer a pattern from one area to another section of Guntersville. And it happened because of what he had seen in the National Championship, and because he made a gut call. In his words:

“I didn’t practice ahead of the National Championship, but there was such a big weather change that it worked out for me. I had a general area to focus on, and caught a few fish I decided to explore and fish some new water nearby, and did the same on the next days of the tournament. I kept expanding my area, but the bite also got tough.”

Snyders then decided to shift attention to Lake Wheeler for the KBF TRAIL, but when he arrived, it wasn’t to his liking.

“On Saturday, I decided to go to Wheeler. There was a boat tournament there, and I wasn’t feeling it. Within one hour, I had loaded up and made the one hour and fifteen-minute drive back to Guntersville. I fished all new water there, but I tried to apply the pattern that I had at Nationals. In the last couple of hours, I found a good spot on a grass flat. I caught them in shallow water there, on a crankbait, a fluke and a baby Brush Hog.”

Trail I: The Top 10
  1. Rus Snyders 92.75”
  2. Casey Reed 90.25”
  3. Tim Isaacs 89”
  4. Jody Queen 88.75”
  5. Wyatt Hammond 87.50”
  6. Deamen Henderson 87.25”
  7. Eric Jackson 85.75”
  8. Pauley Pitcher 85.75”
  9. Jimmie Cochran 85.75”
  10. Josh Stewart 85.25”
Trail II: Sunday, April 7, 2024

Old Town pro Casey Reed again had the hot start in competition, posting an early 81” limit to take the top spot, but by mid-morning North Carolina’s Wyatt Hammond had taken the lead in Trail II. Jake Suvak was a mere .50” behind Hammond in second, and Mike Elsea held third place.

And then Mike Elsea kept stacking fish. When it was over, he had come within .25” of breaking the century mark in the tournament. He did it by changing tactics when the wind died during the day, and making one of those gut decisions. When I asked him if the National Championship helped him choose his spots. He replied:

“Yes and no. Even on the same morning the Trail started, I was undecided about where to go. First I looked at a spot I always wanted to fish. I even pulled into the ramp, and once I got there I left. I did that twice.”

“On Saturday I ended up fishing where I had fished on days one and three at Nationals, but on Sunday I fished where I was on day two. I was disappointed because I only landed 78” there at Nationals even though I did well in practice. My spots on Saturday were all pressured by boats, so I went back to that other area for redemption on Sunday.”

“I caught my first two on a chatterbait, and the rest on a worm. My first fish came from an offshore hump. It was a shallow hump, and that was a lanky, 21” post-spawn female. My fifth fish out there was also a big one, but then the wind died down. I knew that the bite would change, and that’s when I started fishing shallow. I went to a spot that I knew had been protected [from the weather] and I started noticing beds everywhere. I was moving slowly, and then I put my Power-Pole down where I could fish a few beds at one time. A whole new wave of fish was moving in, and I was landing two good fish off a single bed sometimes because one would leave and another would move in. I had never seen anything like it.”

Mike Elsea at Ditto Landing (Huntsville, Al)

The win gives Elsea KBF TRAIL Series victories in back-to-back seasons (he won at Polk County in 2023).

While Elsea and Snyders stacked victories, Tim Isaacs was stacking up AOY points. He would take third place in Trail II, as he had the previous day. With a pair of first place wins from Lake Murray and a pair of three spots from North Alabama, Isaacs now finds himself the leader of the Rogue Gear Company Angler of the Year race.

The next Realtree Fishing KBF TRAIL Series event powered by Dakota Lithium Batteries will be held at Santee-Cooper on May 18-19, 2024. With half the season remaining, it’s still anyone’s race. It all depends on who listens to their gut.

Trail II: The Top 10
  1. Mike Elsea 99.75”
  2. Derrick Bostic 94.75”
  3. Tim Isaacs 94”
  4. Deamen Henderson 92.75”
  5. Jody Queen 92.50”
  6. Wyatt Hammond 89.25”
  7. Josh Stewart 88”
  8. Bobby Denison 87.25
  9. Casey Reed 86.5”
  10. Jake Suvak 85.25”

About the Anglers

Rus Snyders is sponsored by Irod Fishing, Dakota Lithium, YakAttack, Wilderness Systems, Music City Outdoors, Ketch Products and Torqeedo.

Tim Isaacs is sponsored by Fishing Online, Elevation Sports and Dakota Lithium Batteries.

Mike Elsea is sponsored by Native Watercraft, YakAttack, Fitzgerald Fishing, Titan Tungsten, Fishing Online, Dakota Lithium, Rogue Gear Co., Bizz Baits, Shredfin Apparel, One Objective and Bowman Family Holding.

Additional Info

The KBF Trail Series was made possible with support from Visit North Alabama. For more information, visit https://www.northalabama.org/

The KBF Trail Series Championship  and Ketch KBF Challenge Series Championship are being hosted by Go2Hunstville, AL on October 10-13, 2024.

Click here to learn more details about the 2024 Realtree Fishing KBF Trail Series Powered by Dakota Lithium

Click here for a complete list of 2024 Kayak Bass Fishing tournaments

For complete event standings for the 2024 KBF Trail Series at Wheeler/Guntersville, click here.


Realtree Fishing KBF TRAIL Series Tournaments are Powered by Dakota Lithium Batteries

Additional Sponsors
   Ketch  Yak Rods    FishOPS
Rogue Fishing Co    Power-Pole   YakAttack    Torqeedo     Yeti

First Published April 8, 2024. The author of this article was not assisted in any way by AI or machine learning in the composition of it.

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