Kayak Bass Fishing opened a new chapter in its history with the KBF AmBASSador Series championship on Saturday, March 18, 2023. Hosted by the city of Hunstville, Alabama, the AmBASSador Series event was designed to bring together the grassroots clubs and trails of our sport for a day of competitive fun.

Over 100 individual competitors and 22 teams of four anglers each signed up to fish on Lakes Wheeler and Guntersville. The top team prize was $20,000 and the top individual prize was $5,000. KBF specifically structured the payouts to incentivize the communal foundation of the sport of kayak fishing, so as to encourage teams to travel, lodge and fish together. Chad Hoover also sees the team-based event as providing another benefit. In his words, “Teams are an opportunity for anglers of all skill levels to work together and improve.”

Team Event

The team event in the AmBASSador Series championship was similar to the Top Team Challenge that KBF instituted at its National Championship in 2019: each team is composed of four anglers, and each angler submits his or her longest fish. The team with the longest combined overall length for its four best fish wins the event.

Florida Kayak Bass Trail team members at the AmBASSador Series Championship. Photo by Kayak Bass Fishing.

More than half the field of anglers fished the team event. Teams traveled from New Hampshire, New York, Indiana, Florida and West Virginia to name a few participating states (the New Hampshire team was the Granite State Sticks, a name some may recall from the now defunct KFL). The strong turnout confirms yet again that the team format is popular in our sport, and teams with prior experience fared well (the Sticks ultimately finished respectably in fourth place).

One team was dominant, however, and the pedigree of its anglers deserves mention. The Justifiables is a team made from members of several different KBF clubs, and it had Jody Queen, Josh Stewart, Tim Isaacs and Jordan Marshall on its roster. Stewart and Marshall are Tennessee based, while Queen and Isaacs live in West Virginia. Three of the anglers have multiple KBF Trail victories to their names, one of them is a Hobie BOS champion and a champion of Dee Zee KBF The Ten, and all of the Justifiables team anglers have a long record of excellence in tournament fishing.

Rosters don’t necessarily translate into wins, but this one did. By mid-morning the Justifiables had a good four fish limit of 75.25”.  The Granite State Sticks were in second place, with 64.5” at that time, and every other team had yet to fill a limit. That 10” difference would be the story of their day. For perspective, the team that ultimately finished in second place closed the day with a limit of 72.25”.

From L-R: Marshall, Isaacs and Queen of the Justifiables. Photo by Kayak Bass Fishing.

The Justifiables won with a final overall length of 81”. Stewart, Queen and Marshall each posted fish of 21” or longer. It was a dominant performance by a skilled team of professionals. As team captain Jody Queen told KBF:

“I told the team “I’m not worried about getting a limit, we each just need two good fish. Every time I went there I caught one good fish, so we took a gamble. I fished the same bank all day long. I only caught four fish, but I did exactly what I wanted to do.”

“They were dropping at Guntersville. I think it dropped about a foot during practice. I fished near Browns Creek, and it was sheltered from the wind. I caught my fish on a Z Man Shaky Head with a Canada Craw bang stick. When it’s cold I downsize and reeled really slow. I’m surprised I caught four fish.”

“The event was really cool. Your strategy totally changes with a team event. All you want is the one big one. But if you are on fish, too, you can win the individual side. Do you fish for both in the same area, or pick up and lave to find more bites? It’s a cool event and creates a lot of variables. I really enjoy the team stuff.”

 

Individual Event

Alabama had unseasonably cool temperatures for the tournament, and anglers were met with a cold wind on Saturday morning. As Queen noted above, the conditions affected the bite.

The spread on the top of the leaderboard also indicated a slower than average day. Normally, one might expect bigger bags from lakes like Wheeler and Guntersville, but history shows the lake can be fickle. At the KBF Trail in 2022, for instance, the winning limits were in the low-to-mid 90’s – and that was in early May.

But when an angler finds big bites on Guntersville, they come in bunches. Some anglers may hesitate to move during a tournament. Fewer still move twice. Who would move twice and then return to their original spot?

Jordan Marshall, that’s who.

Marshall jumped on an early lead, and at mid-day he had a total limit of 85.75”. Anglers like Dale Reader and Joe Gitnner were right behind, with limits of more than 83”. Marshall had choices to make. As Marshall told KBF:

“I didn’t get to practice. It was basically show up and fish history. The water was low, and I fished the mouths of sloughs. I figured I would find them on the points. I found them at the mouth of a slough early in the morning. I sat there all morning.”

“I relocated twice. I went to one, did not like what I saw, loaded up, went to another, and then went back where I started. That’s when I landed the 21” to cull a 16”. It was a five inch cull.”

Second place finisher Joe Drowns. Photo by Kayak Bass Fishing

That five inch cull won the event for Marshall. Joe Drowns placed second with 87.5, and like Marshall, he culled a fish near the end to make it close.

“I caught them on a Thunder Cricket first thing in the morning. I slowed down my retrieve. I also caught one on a Senko, and a Rat-L-Trap and a floating worm. My retrieve was pretty slow. They were on that point to feed and I was in the right spot at the right time, but they were eating it weird. Some of them would eat it and would have the entire lure in their mouth, and others would knock slack into it. I lost a few, too, because I think they inhaled it but didn’t get hooked.”

Marshall’s decision to return to his primary spot after relocating twice helped him win the event. And because he culled there at the end, he gave his team (The Justifiables) a comfortable margin of victory.

Additional Info

The KBF AmBASSador Series Championship was hosted by the Huntsville Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Click here for complete Event Standings on Fishing Chaos.

To watch live results from Ditto Landing, click here.

Jody Queen is sponsored by Ketch Products, Fishing On Line, yak Attack, Cashion Rods and Torqeedo Fishing.

Jordan Marshall is sponsored by Dugout Bait and Tackle, Miller Tech Lithium Batteries, Lew’s, Strike King, Sniper Marine. He fishes with TENKATT (Tennessee Kayak Anglers Tournament Trail).

Joe Drowns is sponsored by Yakrods, Rogue Fishing, G-sox Custom Rod Covers, Native Watercraft, Guntersville Tackle and Outdoors Waterfront, and Monsterbass.

Erratum: a previous version of this article incorrectly stated that 10 teams fished the event, when in fact there were 22. (updated 3.20.23)

First Published  March 19, 2023

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