June 2023, the time has finally come. After weeks or even months of preparations, I’m finally ready to hit to the road to Tennessee, to officially represent my country at a fishing National Championship, a dream of mine coming to a reality! Last time i was in Tennessee was in October 2022, for the KBF National Championship. That’s when I met Colby and Jake, from FeelFree Kayaks, great people!  This time around, I was motivated to do well and show everyone why Canada is a force in this sport. 12 countries were competing for a Gold Medal. There was also an individual category, with the top 3 getting Gold, Silver and Bronze.

So after a long drive of around 1900Kilometers, with my Dorado V2 strapped down on my trailer, I finally get to Cookeville, Tennessee. I meet up with the other members of Team Canada and we hang out and develop a nice chemistry. Then we have 2 days of practice on beautiful Center Hill Lake. This place is honestly beautiful, but looks like the fishing will be tough for everyone. After two days of pre-fishing, no one seems to find a pattern and it looks like just getting a limit will be challenging! Anyhow, we are all enjoying ourselves and having a good time meeting other anglers from different countries! The tournament organisers are top notch and we even get to do a parade in the heart of Cookeville which is pretty cool!


DAY 1- On June 9th, the Championship starts. With 3 days to determine the winners, this will be an absolute battle, in scorching hot weather. Going into day 1, I’m not feeling super confident and my goal is just to get 5 fish, even as small as 8inches, the minimum keeper length for this event. As everyone launches at the same time, after the USA National Anthem, my heart starts racing like crazy and I decide to start fishing right in front of the official boat launch, an area that I thought was overlooked by everyone. It was a good decision! Catching 1 keeper spotted bass and a nice Smallmouth in the first 2 hours, was actually a hot start, considering how tough the bite was. I kept grinding all day and ended up with only 4 keepers, but was good enough for a 2nd place / 44 in the individual category! My teammates also did alright so we were sitting in 2nd for the Team category as well, behind team USA ! Going back to our Airbnb, we started to discuss strategies for Day 2.


DAY 2- Weather is still nice and warm, with no signs of rain. All the nations are getting ready to launch at this big boat ramp. Oh did I mention how steep that ramp was? One of the steepest boat ramps I have ever seen, some guys were struggling to get down or up hill! Meanwhile, guys from Team Mexico and Italy could not believe how easy I made it look with the wheel in the keel of my Dorado. Getting down to the water was in walk in the park. However, I had a tough start on day 2, struggling to catch fish. I decided to make a long move and get my legs moving. This tournament was human powered only, so no motors. My overdrive System did a great job as always, moving me around Center Hill Lake. Around noon, I found a sandy flat, probably one of the very few on the lake, and started to catch quality Smallmouth, including a 50 centimeter, which was leading the big fish category after 2 days! I ended up Day 2 in 3rd place in the individual and as a team, we were still in 2nd !


DAY 3 Final Day – Going into Day 3, I was a bit nervous I have to admit! With a good chance to get an individual top 3 and Team top 3, I was fired up! Weather was more windy and cloudy for the first time of the week so it was a bit more work to keep control and stay In position. Anyhow, being so close to my goals, competing against some of the best kayak anglers in the world, I was leaving every bit of energy I had left out there. Day 3 was frustrating, with only 2 keeper fish around 1pm, I was starting to see my medal goals slip away I was a bit discouraged. I knew my individual ranking was in jeopardy, as some of Team USA top anglers passed on me. However, with only 30 min left to the tournament, the wind picked up and something told me to do one last ‘drift’ on the flat I was fishing. I told myself this is my last chance to help my country get a medal, hopefully a Silver as team England were pushing hard and almost passed us in the standings! Exhausted, I kept fishing hard and in the last 10 minutes of the championship, I miraculously caught 2 keepers that solidified our Team Silver Medal! What a thrill! I ended up in 4th place in the individual category, only 1 fish away from a top 3. The top guys were all from team USA! My big Smallmouth caught on day 2, also got beat by only 1 centimeter, one of team England’s guys, to win the Big Fish award.



Overall, this was an amazing experience and I was proud of what we accomplished as a team. Everyone knew Team USA had an edge on this one, but the way the lake was setting up, we felt like every country had a chance of getting silver or Bronze, and I’m proud of my teammates, we had a special group of guys for sure! The communication part and different team approach to each day of competition made all the difference in our success. As an individual, I was the only competitor from the province of Quebec and I thought I represented my territory well. The patience, perseverance and hard work were required to fish this championship, but also using a quality Kayak i trust, was also key. With no motors allowed, I proved that our Dorado V2 can compete against any other fishing Kayak on the market.


Despise the tough fishing, this was an experience I’ll never forget and I hope you enjoyed this blog! Stay tuned!


Written by Antoine Derochers-Gagnon, Feelfree Competitive Team Member

Edited by Jake Smith, FeelFree Marketing Assistant