Recap: The 2022 Yak Attack KBF National Championship Powered by Dakota Lithium
“The [KBF] National Championship was always intended to belong to the sport of kayak fishing.” That is how Chad Hoover described the biggest event in kayak fishing in a recent live video. Since the first event in 2016, the KBF National Championship has been just that – a chance for any kayak angler, regardless of experience, age or brand affiliation, to have a chance to embark upon a career in kayak fishing. From Matt Ball to Guillermo Gonzalez, the history of KBF’s biggest tournament confirms that fact.
This year, the 2022 Yak AttackKBF National Championship returned to the lake where it all started and a seventh KBF National Champion was crowned. On October 19-21, 2022 competitors convened in Paris County, TN to fish on Kentucky Lake and write that new chapter in in the history of our sport.
There were many stories to follow, as many as the creeks of the nearby lakes. First and foremost, there was Rus Snyders, the new champ. Snyders proved so dominant that he swept all three championships and also led the Dakota Lithium team to victory in the Top Team Challenge Cup – the first time that has happened in KBF history. A previous Farwide KBF Angler of the Year (in 2019 and 2020), Snyders now has an even bigger piece of hardware for his shelf.
There was Jackson Kayak team angler Matt Ball, the first ever KBF National Champion, who refused to be give up on the lake that started it all for him.
There were the West Coast anglers like trying to crack the largest impoundment east of the Mississippi (and some of them, like Spencer, succeeding).
There were Cody Milton, Casey Reed, Drew Gregory, Robert Weiker and Marty Hughes who kept after the eventual champ every day in an attempt to overcome nearly insurmountable odds.
At the top of that list who challenged Snyders was Eric Jackson, who for a moment on Day 2 seemed as though he might pull off a comeback.
These are only some of story lines that played out among the hundreds of competitors who attended the tournament. It happens every year. Some are told on social media and on fishing podcasts. Some are forgotten only to return years later, when a decision on the water reminds an angler of a lesson from that day years prior. And then there are the stories we see in our dreams, of water that isn’t there, or nightmares of the big ones that got away.
There was another story line that played out this week. It wasn’t about an individual, but about a group – we just found an individual to represent them, the new faces. Professional angler Kristine Fischer noticed it, too, when she attended the Captains Meeting in Paris, TN. Fischer told KBF:
“Usually when I enter the building after a big national tournament, I recognize most of the people. This time, I didn’t. I was amazed that so many people told me this was their first event. It was refreshing and invigorating to meet a lot of these new people.”
Seasoned observers following the daily leaderboards might have also noticed the newer names, too. These anglers are the future of the sport. We built this recap of the National Championship around one story from among the younger competitors who braved the elements and long drives to fish their first big kayak fishing tournament. His name is Garriett Chavis, and he hails from North Carolina. Without being too specific about his age, we can say he only recently began driving to tournaments on his own. We followed his story as we told the others, below…
Day 1: Wednesday, October 19
Chavis’ fishing at the KBF National Championship began well. Practice produced bites, but when things turned for the worse in competition, Chavis adapted and eventually found the bites he needed to post scoreable bass. He launched with hundreds of others on Day 1 and was greeted by a cold morning and a tough bite:
“Day 1 I fished stained water and threw a crankbait most of the morning. Later, I switched to a shaky head and caught 4 keepers.”
Stacking fish, adapting to a slow bite, and grinding out bites. That was the story on Kentucky Lake, and it played out among the veteran anglers, too.
One of them was Eric Jackson. Over the course of the first two days, he kept things interesting at the top of the leaderboard, so much so that by the end of Day 2, he had matched Snyder’s daily limit. By keeping pace, he didn’t close the gap, but Jackson put Snyders on notice: slip up once on Day 3, and I will be there to take advantage of it.
On Day 1 of fishing it was Eric Jackson who jumped out to an early morning lead with a 4 fish limit of 60”. He remained on that length for a few hours until mid-day, when he climbed the leaderboard with several upgrades. With two hours remaining to fish, and his bite warming up, he positioned himself in third place with a limit of 81”, only three-quarters of an inch behind Virginia’s Casey Reed, and slightly more than 4” behind Cody Milton.
But the day would belong to Rus Snyders. He had won back to back Farwide KBF Angler of the Year titles in 2019 and 2020. Since that time, he has been consistent in all phases of his game, regularly cashing checks at tournaments across the country. But the California transplant lives in Tennessee, and he had been doing his homework on Kentucky Lake.
That’s how he posted a massive 97” limit at the end of Day 1. His anchor fish, a 22.5” bruiser, was 2.5” longer than any other bass in the top 20. His smallest fish – a 17.75” Smallmouth Bass – was longer than the longest fish posted by the angler in 20th place.
When asked whether he pre-fished, he told KBF: “That would be an understatement.”
In Snyders’ words:
“I am self-employed so I set up my schedule so I could pre-fish a lot. I fished most days for two weeks. I know the lake pretty well, but this tournament made me push myself to explore the water more. A lot of days I went out there, and there was nothing. I just eliminated water. Sometimes I would spend 12 hours on the water and write off the day. I decided I would fish fresh areas every day in the tournament.”
Snyders concluded: “The main thing is the pattern I am on. It has been holding up. Even if there were people in an area, I think I got them figured out.”
With improving weather on the horizon, Snyders’ theory, and spots, would be put to the test.
Day 2: Wednesday, October 20
The day 1 story lines included Drew Gregory’s late surge to third place, Eric Jackson’s persistence and Cody Milton losing a lead he held for most of the day. Casey Reed and Derek Brundle made noise, too, and a newcomer named Bruce Deel found his way into the top tier of competitors. The difference vanished after Day 1 and they all had one thing in common on Day 2: all were chasing Rus Snyders, and Snyders had a big lead.
In the meantime, North Carolina’s Garriett Chavis was just trying to make it to day 3. He took a different approach on Thursday:
“On Day 2, I switched things up. I fished clear water on the upper lake, and I caught 3 on a drop shot and 1 on a shaky head.”
Would those fish be enough to make the cut, and fish Day 3?
In the meantime, another question loomed larger: Could Snyders continue posting big limits? And would any angler have the bites to challenge Snyders? In order to close the gap between first place and everyone else, KBF anglers would have to bring their best game and hope that Snyders would fall off his searing Day 1 pace.
Snyders wouldn’t exactly fall off the pace, but one competitor did gain ground. That was Eric Jackson, who would match Snyder’s Day 2 total.
Day 2 began with 2020 National Champion Matthew Conant as the first angler to post multiple fish. It continued with Jason Isaacs posting an early limit and defending KBF National Champion Guillermo Gonzalez keeping pace for second place. Robert Weiker, who had a strong Day 1, was in third place. In the overall standings, Weiker took the lead with 141”, but it was early.
Weiker would continue to find good bites. At the mid way point he was in first place on the Day 2 leaderboard and also overall. Gonzalez continued to improve, too, remaining in second place as he culled to a 78” limit. In the meantime, Jake Angulas and Casey Reed climbed into the second and third spots on the overall leaderboard.
Rus Snyders posted a limit of 88.75” shortly thereafter. He was nearly 10” off his Day 1 pace. He held a 25.75” lead over Weiker, who fell to second on the overall leaderboard. But Casey Reed and Derek Brundle had not yet posted limits or upgrades, and with one more fish or a few big culls they would close the gap on Snyders. And where was Drew Gregory? And Cody Milton, who was closet to Snyders after Day 1 – what would he post?
Milton and Gregory would fade on Day 2, only slightly, while Snyders would upgrade as the day wore on – but only slightly. Eric Jackson kept pace – he ended the day by matching Snyder’s 93” limit.
And Chavis’ gamble had paid off: he made it to the 100. He joined three other competitors from North Carolina on the day 3 roster. Of the four, three – Chavis, Alex Sterling and Bruce Deel – were fishing in their first KBF National Championship (Eric Nelson was the fourth).
Day 3: Friday, October 21
Several anglers who had been applying consistent pressure to the leaderboard came out strong on the final day of fishing. Utah angler Chris Spencer, who swept a KBF Trail weekend in California early this year, held 4th place at mid-day, while Jake Angulas and Casey Reed filled out the top 5, together with Jackson and Snyders.
On the morning of Day 3, Garriett Chavis made another decision. He would again change his approach. This time, it backfired: “It was tough. I decided to run new water and swing for the fences. It did not work.”
In the meantime, Matt Ball was making a heroic effort. He had finished day 1 in 22nd place, but on Day 2 had climbed into the top 15. Now he was in the top 10. Ball, who won the first KBF National Championship on Kentucky Lake in 2016, would not go down without a fight.
As he told it:
“I fished swift, moving water the first two days. I motored about 8 miles upstream with my Torqeedo. I caught all my fish in those days on a combination of Z Man Jackhammers or Bang Stikz on a shay head. My spot dried up on Day 2, so I fished a big flat off Barkley on Day 3 and had my best day yet, fishing in shallow, muddy water.”
Ball’s surge turned a mediocre Day 1 into a good paycheck on Day 3, as he finished 14th in the final standings.
The biggest payday would belong to another competitor. As Friday wore on, even Eric Jackson’s monumental effort to keep pace with Snyders appeared to lose momentum. By mid-day, Snyders had posted a limit of 86.75” while Jackson had 4 fish for 64.25”. Even if Jackson posted a 17” bass to fill his limit (which he did), he would still need to recoup 20” to catch Snyders. In sum, Snyders was pulling away from the pack….
When it was tallied, Jackson’s heroic pursuit of Snyders resulted in a second place finish for the legendary kayak fisherman, kayak designer and whitewater kayaker. Jackson finished with a three day total of 259” for his best 15 fish, and he took home $6,271 as his prize purse.
Rus Snyders had finished strong. He matched every punch with a counter-punch, and when it was over, he posted a three day total of 259” for his best 15 fish. It was the largest margin of victory in a major KBF event, and a deserved conclusion to an event Snyders had worked hard to prepare for on a lake he had to relearn.
Rus Snyders is the 2022 Yak Attack Kayak Bass Fishing National Champion.
“Tell the story.” Those were Chad Hoover’s words at the awards ceremony.
KBF followed up with North Carolina angler Garriett Chavis at the end of the tournament week. He finished 77th overall in the final standings. While Chavis was disappointed with his Day 3 performance, he was not disappointed with the trip. He told KBF:
“My overall experience was awesome, getting to meet all the anglers like Gene Jensen and Drew Gregory. Rigging tackle at night with Jeremy, Alex and Bruce was fun because we talked through what we were doing and throwing.”
Chavis’ week summed up what the KBF National Championship experience has been about for the past seven years. It is a week of ups and downs, a time to catch fish and exchange advice with friends, and a place to meet other kayak anglers. It’s also a time to remember that after seven years of astronomical growth, the future remains bright in our sport.
It’s a time, in short, to tell the story.
- Kayak Bass Fishing has returned to a qualifying format for the next Kayak Bass Fishing National Championship (to be held in the spring of 2024).
- The AmBASSador Series Championship has been moved from November, 2022 to the spring of 2023. The host lake will also be the site of the 2024 National Championship.
- The 2023 KBF Challenge Series State Challenges registration is open.
- The KBF Trail Series resumes in Florida in January of 2023 (the final schedule is forthcoming)
The 2022 YakAttack Kayak Bass Fishing National Championship Powered by Dakota Lithium was made possible by support from the Paris-Henry County Chamber of Commerce at ExperienceParis.
The previous Kayak Bass Fishing National Champions are
- Guillermo Gonzalez, 2021 Champion (Texas)
- Matthew Conant, 2020 Champion (Massachusetts)
- Mike Elsea, 2019 Champion (Indiana)
- Dwayne Taff, 2018 Champion (Texas)
- Kurt Smits, 2017 Champion (Ohio)
- Matt Ball, 2016 Champion (Ohio)
First Published October 22, 2022
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