Certain lakes have an aura about them. They attract the best competitors. To place or win on those waters, you have to bring your best game, no matter your level of experience.
When younger anglers compete and win on those lakes against the best of the best, they can use those experiences and victories as a foundation to build careers.
KBF Trail tournaments at Lake Chickamauga have provided a career cornerstone for many a renowned kayak tournament angler. For example, it’s where a West Virginia angler named Jody Queen won a KBF Trail in 2017. Chickamauga is also where a Nebraska angler named Kristine Fischer (KBF Trail 2019) won her first KBF Trail trophy.
Perhaps you’ve heard of them.
Queen and Fischer were registered competitors on Chickamauga this past weekend and both finished with strong showings on Sunday. Queen took second place after a late charge up the leaderboard, while Fischer earned eight place after competing on Team USA over the weekend, up the road in Cookeville, TN.
It was two younger competitors who stole the show, however, as they each added a cornerstone to the foundation of their promising careers.
Trail I: Saturday June 10
It seems like only yesterday that Indiana angler Jaxton Orr was a newcomer to kayak fishing. He burst on to the national scene in 2018 with strong showings in the KBF Challenge Series and KBF Open events. The charity event he established in 2018 was an immediate hit, too, and Orr was soon considered the future of the sport. Now an established and proven professional, he’s enjoyed success at every level of the sport (including, most recently, a second place finish at the Hobie B.O.S. event on Kentucky Lake). A first place finish at a national trail series had eluded him, until this weekend.
The Realtree Fishing KBF Trail I started out fast. Anglers immediately posted fish, as Jim Ware grabbed the early lead. Casey reed had posted a fish very early, too, and by mid-morning he had sustained his pace, finding himself in fourth place overall with 86.5”. Ahead of him were KBF 2022 co-Rookie of the Year Deamen Henderson, North Carolina angler Wyatt Hammond and veteran KBFer Ryan Havlicek. With a 93.25” total, Havlicek was in a good place heading into the second half of the tournament…..
Over the next two hours, Henderson would close the gap by increasing his limit from 86.75” to 90.75”. Hammond also culled from 89.5” to 92”, while Havlicek remained on 93.25”. Havlicek was now in second place, however, because Jaxton Orr had taken the lead by posting 93.75”.
Henderson would continue to cull, and with his 23” anchor fish sitting atop the Dakota Lithium Big Bass leaderboard, anything could happen. Sure enough, Henderson passed Hammond and Havlicek during the final quarter, but as Henderson culled, so did Orr. When it was over, Henderson had upgraded from 90.25” to 93.25”, but Orr had upgraded from 93.75” to 94.75” to seal the win.
When asked to evaluate Orr’s success, Kristine Fischer said:
“I think it’s great [that younger competitors won]. I don’t know the other angler, but Jaxton is like a little brother to me. His character and talent make me super proud…For us veterans who have won a lot, it’s better to have someone like that win.”
Trail II: Sunday June 11
North Carolina angler Wyatt Hammond is also relatively new to kayak tournament fishing. Like Orr, he started out in his local scene. In Hammond’s case, he fished with some of the Carolina clubs. And like Orr, Hammond has branched out to national events, and built upon his experience.
Hammond found a good bite early on Sunday, and had posted 94.25” limit by the end of one quarter of competition time. He would need to cull, because Alex Miller, Justin Largen and Jody Queen would eventually charge up the leaderboard. At around noon, Queen had 91”, and he would finish with 94.25”. Had Hammond not culled, Queen would have won first place by virtue of a big bass tie breaker (Queen had a 21.25” anchor fish).
When we interviewed him for this recap, Hammond’s attention to detail was impressive, to say the least. He was driving home with his co-competitor Hunter Hernandez (Hernandez finished in eigth place on Saturday), and Hammond was so accurate in his descriptions of techniques and locations that we had to edit his answers in order to make them fit. If anyone can explain how he won, its Wyatt Hammond (podcast hosts, take note!). As Hammond explained:
“We got to the lake on Tuesday. First thing we do is scan ledges, and we see schools of fish. It was crazy how stacked they were, especially on the ledges that were near an S-curve, by exit points [from creeks] to the main channel. On Saturday, there was a 60 boat tournament, and I had to wait for some boats to leave before I could get on my flat. I was deep cranking and throwing a 10” worm, but when I switched to a shakey head I landed a 23”. The bite was slower than in practice, because of the boat traffic.”
“I took a chance on Sunday. It was overcast and raining, and I went to a new area. I didn’t catch any and started leaving. That’s when I saw fish on my side-scan, stacked on a point. I switched to an 8XD crankbait to get deeper. When the school died down, I dragged a shakey head, where I could feel the rocks. The bite tapered off around ten o’clock and then I went back to the flat where I caught them on Saturday. I set up there and started catching them after a boater who was graphing the area left. I don’t know why, because I switched to the buckeye football mop jig, and culled. That’s where I finished.”
Dakota Lithium Double Up and Dakota Lithium Big Bass
Ryan Havlicek won the Dakota Lithium Double Up event which spanned the weekend (Hammond would have won it, but made a “costly mistake,” as he said). Largen, Henderson, Orr and Queen rounded out the top five.
2022 KBF co-rookie of the year Deamen Henderson won the Dakota Lithium Big Bass pot with his 23.25”. Orr took second and James Ware took third in that event.
The 2023 Realtree Fishing KBF Trail concludes on June 24-25th on the California Delta. It is the second west coast stop of the season, providing California anglers with a chance to reclaim ground in the KBF Trail Series prior to its autumn conclusion at the Trail Series Championship in Alabama. Registration is open at : https://app.fishingchaos.com/tournament/kbf-trail-series-or-california-delta-or-2023
Jaxton Orr is sponsored by Dakota Lithium Batteries, Kayak Kushion, Hobie Fishing, Fishing Chaos, Realtree Fishing, St. Croix Rods, Eagle Claw Fishing, Trokar, Ketch USA, Fishing Online, Gill Fishing, TourneyTag, Revo Sunglasses and Cal Coast Fishing.
Wyatt Hammond is sponsored by Humminbird and is a member of the Old Town Regional Fishing team. Follow his Youtube channel at WHAMFishing.
The Realtree Fishing KBF Trail on Lake Chickamauga was hosted by Chattanooga Sports.
About the KBF Trail: Realtree Fishing KBF Trail events are a 5-fish, CPR, members only tournament. KBF weekends comprise two single day Trail tournaments and the Dakota Lithium Double Up Program which spans both days.
For the 2023 KBF Trail events schedule: https://www.kayakbassfishing.com/schedule/
Questions regarding event details, email Jason@kayakbassfising.com
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REALTREEFISHING KBF TRAIL Series Tournaments are Powered by Dakota Lithium Batteries
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First Published June 12, 2023. The author of this article was not assisted in any way by a machine in the composition of it.
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