The RealtreeFishing #KBFTRAIL presented by DeeZee visited Lake St. Clair for the first time on Saturday, June 5, 2021. Anglers set out to chase bass, prizes and precious points in the Farwide KBF Angler of the Year and Rogue Fishing KBF Rookie of the Year races.

Most of all, they set out to test the fishery’s legendary Smallmouth Bass waters. St. Clair did not disappoint.

The lake delivered giant limits of Smallmouth Bass from the very start of competition. Taher Ali had the lead at 8:30 am with a 97.5” limit, with Brandon Bissell and Ryan Matylewicz only a few inches of his pace. Minutes later, Bissell upgraded into 1st place with a 98.25” bag, only for Ali to move back into a tie for 1st place, matching Bissell’s limit with an upgrade of his own.

Within one hour, Bissell responded, upgrading yet again to take the lead with 99.5”.

It was turning into a slugfest. Soon other anglers were throwing Smallmouth over the 20” mark on the board, and Matylewicz led the #BucketmouthBrand Big Bass leaderboard with a 21.75” giant. Clearly, it was becoming an epic day of Smallmouth Fishing.

And it kept getting better.

Taher Ali and Brandon Bissell are friends and competitors on the Michigan kayak fishing circuit. By 11 am, Ali and Bissell had traded places in the lead 4 times. At noon, Ali regained the lead by 1”. Minutes later, Bissell upgraded to tie him, and take the lead courtesy of a big bass tie breaker. And then he upgraded again, to 101.50”. They were trading giant Smallmouth Bass like heavyweights trading punches, neither one backing down.

Not to be outdone, Ryan Matylewicz was in a tie for 4th with Nick Audi. Both anglers had 94.5” shortly after noon. In a move that would shake up the Farwide KBF TRAIL AOY leaderboard, Matylewicz upgraded into 3rd place, not far off the lead. The tension was high. You could probably hear spiders walking on the water.

When it was over, Bissell’s limit held out for the win and 2nd place on the Bucketmouth Big Bass Leaderboard. Matylewicz took 1st place on the Big Bass board, and Ali took 3rd. Big Smallmouth had won the day for all top 3 anglers.

Here is the amazing account of how Ali and Bissell went toe to toe, in their own words:

Pre Fishing

Taher Ali: “I launched at Alter Rd. and fished an area near the mouth of the Detroit River. I pre-fished this stretch on Memorial Day and for a couple hours on Wednesday, and was able to pin down two or three specific areas where some good fish were consistently holding.”

Brandon Bissell: “I focused primarily on the Anchor Bay Area of the lake. During pre-fishing, I had found a couple small (or so I thought) pods of mostly post spawn fish, and I thought that I would probably max out my bag at the low to mid 90s. I wasn’t catching big numbers of fish, and during pre-fishing my average fish size was around 18.5”. During the actual tournament days, I told myself that I was just going to go out and have fun and let things shake out how they may. I was going to put my head down and fish.”

Tournament Day

Taher Ali: “On tournament day, I bounced between the few areas I found in practice and was able to get some good bites. I caught all my keepers that day on a little 3-inch swimbait in 10-15 feet of water. All of the fish I caught were post-spawn.”

Brandon Bissell: “My first fish on day 1 was a 20.25” that came up and ROCKED a 1/2oz White Spinnerbait. Once the fish hit the net, I got the feeling that the day could be special. I just proceeded to cover water and cycle baits in new areas to try and illicit bites. I caught fish this weekend on spinnerbait, dropshot, and swimbait mostly. I was pretty much just focusing on bottom transitions in various depths of water. Areas where sand would meet rock, rock would meet weeds, etc. It seemed like the bigger post-spawn fish weren’t relating to any one spot, they were relating to the transitions.”

How it felt as they traded 1st and 2nd place

 Brandon Bissell: “I knew coming into this event that my buddy Taher was going to be THE GUY to beat this weekend. If you’re a kayak angler in the state of Michigan and you fish Lake St Clair, you know who Taher is. Taher put on a clinic earlier this April out on St Clair in the 2-day Topwater Elite Series event. It was an event where I put up 103.25” on day two… and still only took 4th place.

I’ve never felt so anxious watching the leaderboard flip-flop all day long. This is my first full year fishing Kayak Events, I come from the bass boat tournament world where you don’t know where you stand until you weigh your fish in. It takes every bit of willpower I have to not let the live leaderboard affect the way I fish! Seeing both Taher and I tied atop the leaderboard with 101” with 1 hour left in the tournament was one of the more nerve-wracking experiences I’ve ever had in fishing. When I caught my final cull fish, a 20.25, with less than 30 minutes left in the day, I still didn’t think it would be enough at the end of the day.”

 Taher Ali: “Over the course of the day, I was aware that Brandon and I were bouncing between 1st and 2nd for most of the day, and I knew I had my hands full because he has been the most dominant angler in Michigan this season. He messaged me the night before and told me he struggled during pre-fishing, but I had a feeling he would show up big on tournament day as he always seems to do. I want to congratulate him for his absolutely dominant performance this weekend.”

The nation’s best fisheries. Sportsmanship and mutual respect. Competition to the last cast.

That’s the Realtree Fishing KBF TRAIL presented by Dee Zee.

Brandon Bissell (L) and Taher Ali (R) after their epic KBF TRAIL day on St. Clair. (Photo Courtesy of Taher Ali)

The Top 10

  1. Brandon Bissell 101.5”
  2. Taher Ali 101”
  3. Ryan Matylewicz 98.5”
  4. Nick Audi 94.5”
  5. Alex Roberts 94.25”
  6. Daniel Munsell 93.25”
  7. Jeremy Baker 93.25”
  8. Braedon Lamb 92”
  9. Cody Holmes 91”
  10. Dusty Yakker 90.5”

For Complete Standings, click here:

About the Anglers

Brandon Bissell is sponsored by AnglingAI, Mags Custom Rods and Imagine marine.

Realtree Fishing KBF TRAIL Series Tournaments are presented by Dee Zee Truck Accessories

Additional Sponsors

Dakota Lithium Batteries    Shimano  YakAttack     FishUSA    Bending Branches    Torqeedo     Yeti

Power Pole  Tactacam Rogue Fishing  NRS  TRC Covers     Nines            FarWide


© KBF 2021