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Friday, September 28th, I got out of work at 2:45 pm and took off to Galax, Virginia for the Kayak Bass Fishing (KBF) Trail event on the New River. My last experience on the New River in West Virginia was very negative due to the rain all day and the lack of experience on the “lake” portion of the river. This time around I was determined to seek revenge on the river.

I made it to my gas station where I was calling it a night. I get to the spot that has the most light so I can clean my Coosa FD out of torn up Yamamoto senkos and Rage Craws. Once I get my Carver Cover off; JK Teammate/Friend Josh Stewart calls me and asks where I am at because he was close to where I was at.

We talked about the spot I was determined to fish and about how the water levels are due to rain. He told me the fishing was tough at that spot and it would be a grind due to water coming over a dam as well as the water being muddy. Along with talk about a lure I had tied on.

The lure is called the Hildebrandt Go-Getter or what I call “ Big Hilda”. I have it paired with 20 pound Seaguar Red Label on a heavy action Duckett ghost rod. The combo of those two give me the most confidence in getting the big fish in the kayak. Hilda was tied on because of the big Colorado blade that thumps in the water. I have had the experience on KY Lake and in another river with early morning bites and muddy water this bait working. So to say my confidence was high is an understatement.

Fast forward to Saturday morning, I drive around the city to find the put in. I get down to the water is edge and the current is ripping. In the back of my head, I kept thinking of my trip to a creek in 2016 in similar conditions when I flipped. As I put in, I had to paddle as fast as I could across a spillway to get to an eddy. Upon getting to the eddy I start throwing Hilda.

My third cast, something hammered my bait and I know it is a “biggun” because my rod is bowed over.

I reel it in and get it in the net. When I see what I had I lost it with a LOUD scream. It was a sigh of relief because I have lost close to a dozen 20”+ fish since June. It’s been about as frustrating as anything. I tie off this football smallmouth to my Cal Coast Fishing Donkey Leashes and paddle to the rocks so I can get a good picture and my hero shot of the personal best river smallie.

I put her on my board and she comes in at 20.25 inches. 35 minutes into the tournament I have a donkey in the livewell. So I am pumped up.

As the fog breaks, it is my exact thoughts on what goes on. The bite died off and it turns into a finesse bite. Which is EXACTLY what I wanted.

It is a senko, shaky head and ned rig bite. The three baits I have my most confidence in.

I ended the day with four fish but had bites all day. Which was the exact opposite of my previous trip on the New.

What I found during this trip/tournament was with the conditions of the unknown I had to rely on instincts. I do not have the experience in rivers like some in the tournament but what kept me in the game was trusting my knowledge. I frequently watch videos of river fishing without volume just to see what they are throwing at.

As a coach, I am a firm believer in film study. So my knowledge I have gained from Drew Gregory and others has built instincts for this trip.

After finishing 23rd, my chances of qualifying for the KBF TEN pretty much ended but I did gain some very valuable experiences. It will carry me through the end of the season

Thanks for reading!

We will see you on the water.