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Competing in your own events feels a little weird. Winning it? Even stranger. I wanted to fish the fourth stop of our 2014 trail for a variety of reasons.

First, I traditionally don’t do well at Lake Arthur so I wanted revenge on it. I’ve fished a handful of Wednesday night tournaments along with a couple KBBC events, both out of power boats and usually getting skunked in the process. I was always a rider and the areas we fished were deep and focused on the bottom. When you caught a fish, it was a good one, but that didn’t happen too often.

Secondly, I wanted to fish because of the weather. That’s right, I love bad weather. In a field of 39, it’s harder to get yourself in the hunt let alone win if you don’t start on time and if you miss the best part of the day which is typically first thing here in Western Pennsylvania. I really like to grind it out and with a forecast full of clouds, wind and some rain this was going to be my opportunity to do just that.

It started out terribly. I launched my Cuda 12 a little late and although I wasn’t worried about that in the least given the gloom, I did see Mike Noon already had a keeper as I was shoving off… He told me to “go ahead and catch that one, he’s 15-inches” as he released him near some riprap. I had an expectation to catch one myself and SOON. I fished some amazing stuff and had a solid plan for what I was going to throw just based on Google maps. I had never fished east of Bear Run before, only west towards the 422 bridge but as I made my way along the shorelines, it looked divine. Nice, steep drop offs along with some points, timber and rock. I seriously couldn’t ask for anything more. It took me almost an hour and a half to find a fish. It was a barely legal smallmouth who crushed a buzzbait pulled right past the outer edge of some overhanging vegetation. It turned out to be the most difficult fish I’ve ever measured. I actually let him cool down in the net for a solid 5 minutes after a couple failed attempts. He was almost too small to hold. In fact, I almost threw him back but being that it was my only hit of the day after at least 100 casts, I thought I was going to need it. Mike Noon and Mike Wegrznek already had limits for goodness sakes and here I was fighting for a 12-incher.

I circled back fishing the area again and hooked up with a really nice smallmouth. One jump and gone. Kept making my way down and it happened twice more so I found myself with 12.00, three lost keepers. I was on the (speaker) phone with Summer for one of them trying to coordinate a lost identifier and let’s just say I try to make it a point to never speak to my wife that way. When I looked down at my trusty yet obnoxiously big net my phone was sitting on top of the handle.

During times like those that you don’t even feel like it’s possible to recover, especially at a notoriously difficult lake like that one. Even if you do replace one of them, is it possible to replace two or three especially after the morning bite? Even with those conditions I wasn’t thinking like it was.

I caught a glimpse of what looked to be a keeper feeding in the shallows and everything I was doing still made a lot of sense to me so I kept at it and got him to bite a new spinnerbait Don made for me the day before amongst the shad. I ended up catching four keepers in about 40 minutes culling my monster 12-inch smallie and catching a huge fishing buzz. The weather held up for me and stayed cloudy most of the day. Still, as it warmed a little I noticed around large flats fish started moving a little deeper and around timber they started moving up against it. In my observation I really think the fish are simply accustomed to making these moves no matter the weather on that particular day. I was catching fish close to but not in shallow water once it got to be about 1030-11 AM. I was also catching them on laydowns.

My last three fish of the day were my biggest. The first came from a laydown throwing the spinnerbait mentioned above with even a larger profile now than when I started. I no longer needed 12 and 13-inchers. While I was not done fishing, I started making my way back to check in at about 11:15. I went back to the same area where I lost three and caught one earlier because I believed in it. If it held that many fish early on, some would still be there. I also watched it for hours and nobody fished it. Fish on this bank relocated to position themselves under laydowns. The first came on a buzzbait with a salt and pepper free minnow trailer. Another very big profile overall and the tapered tail makes a perfect combination for a pulsing skirt. I even want to eat it sometimes if our refrigerator is bare. I bumped it off the laydown exactly where it started to enter the water and I suspect he made his way under the tree then came up for it as soon as it got over it. This fish fought hard and jumped three times. It was only 15” but it moved me up 1.25”. I was sitting in 4th place and pretty happy overall. I changed to a set schedule of judging fish on the hour while out there and it was working a lot better than before which was having no plan at all. I’ve got to admit, once I landed this fish at 11:35, I stopped judging until I reached shore to end the day.

My favorite thing happened on my last fish which I submitted at 12:29. I got cut off by a bassboat while working the bank very quickly. I saw it coming a mile away, as soon as I could hear the 9.9 HP labeled 25 HP motor I saw they were headed straight for me. So I did what I usually do. As soon as they put their trolling motor down and made their first cast I paddled around them and cut them off myself, after I get about 100 feet ahead. I ran the 412 spinnerbait along a perfect looking laydown bumping up against it along the way as it got deeper and WHAM, my biggest of the day, a nice, stout 17-incher.

That was it, I wasn’t going to do any better and I knew it. I’ve been out there unable to get one 15-inch fish during plenty of Wednesday night tournaments let alone improving upon a limit of them in the middle of the day with used banks. As I made my way in I passed Mike Noon almost exactly where I did on my way out 6 hours before. He said, “Do I still have you?” “I just got by you man,” I replied.

This was a day where I could have easily packed in my go-to techniques. Going hours without a bite, it’s hard not to. I stuck with what I knew though, the weather did exactly what I hoped it would do and it paid off in the end.

Thanks to our group, Kayak Anglers of Western PA, for coming out and making this such a great event and to Jackson Kayak as well as all of our other sponsors for supporting us along the way and making these events possible. Learn more at