The weather promised fair skies and light wind in the run up to the 2023 edition of Dee Zee KBF The TEN and the previous KBF Trail weekend promised big bites and tight lines. For the final week of January, over 100 KBF competitors had fanned out over eligible water in Polk County as they pre-fished for the Kick Off of the 2023 Realtree Fishing KBF Trail Series.

What they found were hungry bass of the trophy variety. A handful of anglers caught their personal best in practice or competition, when dozens of fish over 20” long were judged. To put an exclamation on it, three bass over 24” were landed in KBF during the weekend action. To cap it off, Bobby Denison’s 24.75” giant won the Dakota Lithium Big Bass Award.

With great weather and bass in a prime feeding phase, the anglers who qualified for Dee Zee KBF The Ten faced optimal tournament conditions for fishing. And from Chris Spencer’s Dakota Lithium Big Bass to how Glenn Landstrom crashed the party and nearly won, this edition of Dee Zee KBF the TEN had it all, including a very grateful champion who had been studying for this event for three years.

When we interviewed Old Town Pro Ryan Nye in December, he told us “I have only fished in Florida one other time back in 2020 for the Trail Series event and though it didn’t go as I had hoped, I learned a lot…” That experience would go a long way in helping him adjust and cull fish during competition, and ultimately lift his new, custom 1st place trophy in a dramatic finish to the event.

Day 1: January 31, 2023

Every tournament angler knows that the first bass you land is the alarm clock fish: it’s the fish that wakes you up. It’s the way a big league hitter feels making contact with the bat at spring training after the winter break. The first fish means you won’t zero in the event, it may put you on a pattern for the day, and it just feels good to get that feeling in your grip. It means you’re fishing.

Derek Brundle was the first to post a scoreable bass on Day 1. His 16” fish was the first in an early flurry that had him in first place after two hours of fishing. Joining him in the top 3 on the leaderboard were Gene Jensen (second) and Glenn Landstrom (third). Landstrom had crashed the party by winning the TENvitational, and he was making it count in the early going. He had a limit of 82.75” after the halfway point of competition, averaging just over 16.5” per fish. Some anglers (like Rus Snyders) had found the big bites, but did not have limits. Would quantity of bites prevail over quality bites on Day 1?

By noon, the answer trended toward quantity. Landstrom was passed by three anglers, with Josh Stewart taking the lead with an 87” limit – an average of under 17.5” per fish. Every bite would matter, and if an angler found some big bites, it would change the game.

It was Josh Stewart who found those bites. He culled more than 10” worth of bass to finish the day at 98.5”. It was an impressive bag that separated him from the rest of the field. Jake Angulas and Derek Brundle recovered some ground to take the second  (90.75”) and third (89.75”) spots, respectively. Additionally, only two inches separated spots 2-6.

Stewart was clearly the front runner. The question was whether someone in the second to sixth place range would have a breakout day to test the top of the leaderboard.

Not one, but two anglers would do so, in the most dramatic finish to ever conclude KBF The TEN.

Day 2: February 1, 2023

Ryan Nye started Day 2 with the early lead, courtesy of three fish. Gene Jensen decided to make his case, too, and after two hours of fishing, Jensen had posted the first limit of the day with 81”. Anthony Winkleman and Ryan Nye were in second and third places, respectively, at mid-morning. All the while, Casey Reed was reminding everyone that he came to Florida on a mission. Having finished in 10th place on Day 1, Reed surged to 1st on Day 2, and found himself in third place overall. The middle of the Day 1 pack was making an early statement.

A trend soon emerged – when an angler posted or culled, Nye kept pace. As a result, Nye and Winkleman were tied for first place in the overall standings, with each having 173.75” overall with their respective 10 fish limits. Nye eventually posted 179.75” but Derek Brundle overtook him for a few minutes with 181.75”

At mid-morning, the first and second place anglers from day 2 had yet to post a fish. And Nye continued to cull. At around noon, he passed Brundle with 184.25”. And then Nye found another gear. Right before noon, he culled again, to 188.5”. Every angler but the Day 1 leader Josh Stewart had posted a fish by then. Stewart posted an 80” limit at noon, far short of what he would need to keep pace with Nye. With two hours left to fish, Stewart had 179” (third place), Brundle had 188.5” (second place) and Nye had 188.5” (and the tie breaker). TENvitational champion Glenn Landstrom continued his strong work in fourth place with 176.5”.

With every angler accounted for, it would take a miracle to overtake Nye’s 99” Day 2 limit. But in Florida, anything can happen.

And it almost did. Glenn Landstrom had stormed his way into the TEN House by winning the TENvitational. He continually said he was just lucky to be there, but he was more than lucky. He worked hard to make it known he belonged, and nearly won The TEN with a monumental late flurry of culls.

TENvitational Champion Glenn Landstrom with his custom Ketch trophy

Landstrom had been hanging around in the top half of the standings since being passed for the lead early on Day 2. At around noon, he was in third place, with a limit of 173.75”. For perspective, that number would have placed him in eigth place overall had he not caught another fish.

But Landstrom caught fire and began to cull. The entire field was culling fish, but Landstrom kept pace and moved up the standings. First, Rus Snyders passed Landstrom. Then it was Josh Stewart who passed Landstrom. But during the last two hours, Landstrom, who was at 177.75”, added 8” to his daily limit. He went from under  90” on the day to more than 95”, and then he was improbably within 2” of the lead. When the water settled and the last upgrade swam away, he had improved from where he was at noon by nearly 12”, and was breathing down Ryan Nye’s neck.

But Ryan Nye had one last cull. It was good for 1.5”, to put him over the century mark. At 190” overall, he had more than a 4” lead, and with 100.5” on Day 2, Nye won the day and Dee Zee KBF the TEN. All that he had learned before had paid off, just as he had hoped back in December when he spoke with KBF.

Nye explained during the awards ceremony how he won by adjusting his tactics:

“I found a frog bite late [on Day 1]. Today I had that frog in my hand all day today. I flipped and did a little bit of everything yesterday, but today I fished that same area with the frog. It just goes to show how many fish I missed.”

He also graciously reflected on how KBF competition helped him improve as an angler:

“I had a reminder today that I posted two years, that I had 46th and 58th [place at the KBF Trail in Florida]. Having you guys beating up on me for three years has made me better.”

It was a long learning curve, but that’s what it takes to prevail against the best students in the class. Ryan Nye is not only the 2023 champion – he is the valedictorian of Dee Zee KBF The TEN.

Postscript: Utah angler Chris Spencer finished 11th in the overall standings but he finished first overall on the Dakota Lithium Big Bass leaderboard. Spencer’s 23.25″ toad of a bass took over first place during the last hour, after Rus Snyders’ 22.5″ had ruled the top spot since Day 1.

The Final Standings at DEE ZEE KBF THE TEN 2023

 For the Record

The history of DEE ZEE KBF THE TEN is a who’s who of kayak fishing. To qualify for it shows you are one of the best, to repeatedly qualify demonstrates consistent excellent and to win the event engraves your name on a unique monument. Simply put, there is no more exclusive event in our sport.

Every year, a new champion is enshrined. From first to most recent, they are as follows:

In 2017, Ron Champion tied Cory Dreyer for first, followed by Jamie Denison, Jason Broach and AJ McWhorter.

In 2018, Jamie Denison won THE TEN, and Cory Dreyer was runner up. The top 5 was rounded out by Jody Queen, Brian Aliff and Ron Champion (Cory Dreyer won the tiebreaker rematch with Ron Champion).

In 2019, Cody Milton won the title, followed by Eric Siddiqi, Jay Wallen, Matt Ball and Josh Stewart.

In 2020, THE TEN was won by Rus Snyders, followed by Ken Wood, Derek Brundle, Cody Milton and Brad Case.

In 2021, Jody Queen prevailed to win THE TEN, followed by Alex Miller, Jeremy Mitchell, Cory Dreyer and Adam Petrone.

In 2022, Cody Henley won the TEN, followed by Jimmy McClurkan, Josh Stewart and Brandon Bissell.

In 2023, Ryan Nye prevailed, followed by Glenn Landstrom, Derek Brundle, Rus Snyders and Anthony Winkleman.

Additional Info

Watch the awards ceremony for Dee Zee KBF The TEN here.

Click here to see complete event standings.

Custom Trophies manufactured by Ketch Products, USA.

To become a KBF member, click here:

The KBF TRAIL, KBF TENvitational and KBF THE TEN were hosted by Visit Central Florida.

Lodging was provided by Camp Mack (A Guy Harvey Lodge).

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First Published February 1, 2023

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