September 27, 2020
2020 NY Kayak Bass Fishing State Champ!
Brandon Brylinsky, VARIVAS America field tester, here.
What a roller coaster these past 4 days (Sept 24-27, 2020) have been! Can’t believe I came out with the win!
What follows is my blow by blow. The TLDR (long-story, short) version is that I worked my butt off, caught some fish and won the tournament!
The New York Kayak Bass Fishing (NYKBF) State Championships was a two-day event on Oneida Lake in upstate NY – a huge lake where tournaments can be won with either smallmouth or largemouth. I decided I was going to solely focus on the smallies. This lake is heavily pressured, and the fish are smart – they’ve probably seen just about every lure out there. For this event 41 top kayak anglers competed, and it was absolutely a grind for everyone. The fish (and the wind!) did not make it easy!
Before I continue, I have to confess that, before this weekend, I had never caught more than 2 smallies in one day on that lake. I really wasn’t sure I could get 5 score-able fish two days in a row, but I wanted to try anyway. That was my primary objective for the weekend.
I put in two full days of practice Thursday and Friday. Thursday I threw everything at them and explored a lot of areas and came up with nothing. Was joking to a friend about giving away all my gear and just giving up on this silly hobby!
Friday – I shifted gears a bit and it paid off. Got my first smallmouth of the week in 14-16 feet of water and was hoping it wasn’t just a fluke. Moved spots and got another – same depth, same technique – and thought I might be on to something. Moved again and got one more and decided I had my game plan for the weekend. I continued to try a few other techniques and depths but nothing else seemed to produce. Hopefully I wouldn’t need to rely on a backup plan because I certainly didn’t have one.
The fish were clearly targeting schooling bait fish, so my technique focused on this kind of presentation. I relied on VARIVAS Monster PE Si-X Vamos braid in 52lb test (#3 goh) which paired perfectly with my 13 Fishing Concept Z reel and Okuma Serrano baitcasting rod. All of my bass came on this exact setup.
Saturday, Day 1 of the tourney – same conditions as Friday and it set up perfectly for my strategy. I’m pretty sure everything hinged on the strong wind that was blowing. It was a blessing & a curse, making it a challenge to pedal in my Jackson Coosa FD kayak and stay safe, but it was definitely activating the fish. Had a consistent bite from about 9-12:30. Lost two good fish but more importantly, landed 6 (the 5 best count) and it put me on top after Day 1.
Another interesting side-note about Saturday is that the battery died on my depth finder about half-way through the day. I only had 2-3 fish landed by this point and really needed to get a few more in the boat. Rather than take the 40 minutes it would take to peddle to my car and back to get my spare battery, I decided to just tough it out. I relied solely on the Navionics boating navigation app on my phone to understand what was happening under the water. I truly believe the accuracy of their topographic maps helped me stay on the fish I needed to win.
Sunday, Day 2 – flat calm and a little overcast, and my bite totally died. I worked the same area as Day 1 and got nothing all morning. Was literally rehearsing the excuses I would tell everyone about why I got skunked. It was everything I could do to stay focused. But thankfully the night before I had watched online a presentation by a pro bass fisherman who talked about the mental aspect of this sport and the importance of keeping a positive mental attitude. I’m so glad I watched it Saturday night because it absolutely helped me keep a positive mindset and not lose hope.
Thankfully the wind kicked up around 11ish but it was out of the South (Fri and Sat it was out of the East). I made a gamble and decided to book it across the lake to the north shore figuring that the wind would push the bait and the bass there. I peddled all around the shoreline looking for bait on my graph. I finally found a bunch of bait in 6-8ft of water on my graph and happened to look down in the water and I could see the schools of bait too! I knew that this was my spot for the few remaining hours of the event.
I finally got my first fish at 12:30 (tournament ends at 3pm) and I decided this was my Power Hour (I was literally repeating this out loud as my mantra). I became hyper-focused and just hammered that area with my lure. The wind was ripping at this point and the waves were pounding me, not to mention my legs were totally shot after nearly 40 hours of fishing over 4 days. But I was finding the fish I would need to ultimately win. Looking back at the time stamps of my fish – 12:30, 12:56, 1:13, and 1:28. Power Hour for the win!
I didn’t have a chance to look at the standings at this point, but I thought for sure I had to catch one more to seal the W. But despite continuing to grind, I couldn’t get that last bite. 3pm rolled around and I packed it up assuming I was Top 5 for sure, hopefully Top 3. I really thought it would come down to that 5th fish.
Low and behold, it was enough! I put up 144.25 inches for the weekend, second place was at 141. I was honestly shocked I came up with the win. After this weekend, I think smallmouth have become my new favorite fish. They are a constant puzzle and I love how much they make you work for it. It is so satisfying when you can crack the code and get onto some fish. Not to mention they fight like hell!
Thanks again for all the support! Now I’m going to go fish for some trout for a bit, so much less work and a lot less stressful than tournament bass fishing.