Jeffrey Hall Thinks Small, Conquers 2014 Kayak Bass Fishing Open
Title sponsor Wilderness Systems kicks in cash, kayaks
By Paul Lebowitz
Huge. Tons of water. Almost overwhelming. That’s South Carolina’s Lake Santee Cooper complex, site of the 2014 Kayak Bass Fishing Open Presented by Wilderness Systems. Too big to gobble up in one bite.
“Santee is 170,000 plus surface acres. I knew I had to break the water down small. Really small,” said Jeffrey Hall. Hall prefished the hatchery and Russellville Flats area, but ultimately headed straight for a little backwater pond. A little nibble.
“Shallow water, vegetation, stumps and warmer water. With the cold front that moved in I knew the fish would lock into some cover and not really move far,” he said, turning Lake Moultrie into a three-acre pond.
Hall intensively worked a tiny 100-yard zone, tossing a lipless crankbait in natural shad color. “I would throw it to the grass and let it get hung up and then rip it free and kill it. If they didn’t hit it then I worked it back to the kayak and threw again, and again and again,” he said.
Hall’s small thinking produced two chunky bass on day one for a big 40.75-inch total and the overall lead, despite losing fishing time to a cranky Mirage pedal drive. He fixed the drive, only to discover a dead tow vehicle battery the next morning. “I thought the wheels were falling off the bus,” he said.
Not at all. Sticking with what worked, Hall tossed that lipless crank for seven straight hours on day two. “We had 13 bass boats in this little area with us and they were all throwing soft plastics,” he said. Wrong answer. Hall’s crankbait accounted for another bunch of big bass and a tournament total 100 inches even and the wire to wire lead. Hall’s win was worth $6,100 paid out on the spot in cash and checks.
“The win was so much more than a check or trophy. I had some of the best fishermen nipping at my heels. I was nervous to say the least. But if I am being honest taking home what could be the biggest payday from any freshwater kayak tournament is pretty amazing,” Hall said.
Defending 2013 Kayak Bass Fishing Open champion Andy Thompson delivered an impressive second place finish, but could only get within 9 inches of Hall’s tournament total. Thompson totaled $1,250 in cash plus a new Wilderness Systems Ride 115X Advanced Angler kayak.
“It was a substantial beat down for a Catch, Photo, Release tournament,” tournament official Chad Hoover said of Hall’s convincing win.
Drew Haerer came in just half an inch shy of Thompson, good for a third place finish, $1,100 and a Ride 135 Advanced Angler fishing kayak. “The tournament was a grind for me. The key was finding submerged grass, stumps and brush in creek arms in 2- to 10-feet of water and just making a ton of casts,” said Haerer, who was happy with his performance. “I lost a couple fish that would have helped, but I paddled a long way and put it all on the line,” he added.
Ron Champion caught the biggest bass of the Open, scored at 24.25 inches. “It was over 19 inches in girth. The chart says 11.41 pounds but 11 is a safe number,” Champion said.
“A plump, fat little thing,” Hoover said of the big bass. He noted that the fish probably could have measured at 10.75 inches – Champion’s photo didn’t quite show the entire fish. The feat earned Champion $1,375 and a new FeelFree Lure 10 kayak.
Despite a series of cold fronts that swept across Santee Cooper, Hoover said the fishing was not substantially affected. If anything, it fired up a feeding frenzy. “The fish went crazy for a four-hour window,” he said.
The 120 registered anglers collected total cash and prizes worth $20,000 according to Hoover, and raised $800 for Heroes on the Water. “It was the biggest payout in freshwater kayak fishing history, but it wasn’t all about the money,” he added. Hoover said there was a lot of good will. “Everybody helped each other and shared what and where the fish were biting,” Hoover said.
In 2015, the Kayak Bass Fishing Open will be contested on March 13 at Kentucky Lake in Paris, Tennessee.