On August 7th of last year, I qualified for the B.A.S.S Nation Kayak Series Championship. In order to compete in the Championship Series, you must have already completed a variety of events. For myself, I qualified for this championship by previously winning the Ontario Kayak Bassmasters Championship. Using my Lure 11.5, it was an unreal feeling to win that trophy and to qualify for the Championship Series.
Looking back at my previous season, I had qualified and competed in the Championship Series event in Texas. I put a lot of pressure on myself, and a lot of people in my corner, back in Canada. Ultimately, I felt like I let them down when I did not compete well. Moving forward into this season, I began to feel ready this time around as I approached the Championship Series.
It was in February when my girlfriend and I decided to hit the road with South Carolina being our final destination. Starting from Sherbrooke, Quebec, we had over 1300 miles to drive and a snowstorm to pass through along the way. We opted to leave the trailer behind and bring my Lure 11.5 on top of my car. This would ultimately cut down on drive time and be safer during the snowstorm. So, after driving across the USA, we finally arrived in South Carolina.
Once we arrived, I wasted no time. I quickly got my gear in order and was one of the first anglers on the water the next morning. This was my first time targeting spotted bass since they do not exist in Canada. As I got on the water, I began to start getting these fish in the boat and it really set the tone for my week. I spend roughly three days scouting and catching fish in different areas of Richard B. Russell Lake.
On competition day, I decided to go big or go home and start my tournament in an area that was holding suspending fish. The only way to catch them was by using my sonar and drop a ned rig in their face, which takes a lot of patience and boat control. I found that the comfort in the gravity seat and the precision of the overdrive system really allowed me to fish the way I was wanted to.
The weather turned out to be great and the fishing really began to turn on. Meanwhile, I was getting tons of great support from anglers all over Canada, which really inspired me. Back in Canada, everyone was still dealing with frozen lake fishing. Their support pushed me to dig deep day two, as I did not want to let down my fellow Canadian Anglers who were following me. With a little bit of success, I fished my way into the top 10, which had been my personal goal all along. It was a memorable moment to be the first Canadian to make it this far in the Bassmaster Classic.
Before the Championship, some people told me I was going to struggle against big names like Mike Iaconelli as well as some of the local heroes from South Carolina. A lot of the guys in the field had fully rigged Hobie Pro Anglers with motors, live-scopes and rigs that were worth three times the cost of mine. I decided to keep my head down and focus on the fishing as I approached day three. I knew my lure 11.5 had served me well as, once again, it proved to be one of the most efficient fishing kayaks on the market, without having to pay as much as most other companies.
Looking back, this tournament was definitely the highlight of my fishing career. Ultimately, everything fell perfectly into place, which I do believe allowed for a great showing at the tournament. Richard B. Russell Lake really played to my strengths and experience and will have me coming back for years to come.
In conclusion, I would like to thank my fellow Canadian Anglers who supported me during this tournament, my girlfriend for traveling with me and keeping me mentally prepared on and off the water, Mark Cisneros for amazing photos during the week, Laurent Dupre' with Kayak Junky, and lastly, Feel Free Kayaks for becoming an early supporter of my fishing career.
Written by Antoine Desrochers-Gagnon, Feelfree Competitive Fishing Team Member
Edited by Jake Smith, Feelfree US Marketing Assistant