For many kayak anglers, the tournament season kicks off with the nation’s largest kayak fishing event—the Kayak Bass Fishing National Championship (KBFNC). This tournament is hosted annually on Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley on the Tennessee/Kentucky border. Similar to the B.A.S.S. format, anglers across the country compete a year in advance for a spot at the following year’s Championship.
This year’s KBFNC was held March 23-24, with 754 anglers from across the nation competing. Georgia was well-represented, with 50 anglers on the water vying for the $100,000 first-place prize. One of those Georgia anglers was Will Clements, of Watkinsville. Will’s two-day, 10-fish limit measuring 168.75 inches put him in fourth place for the tournament and earned him $10,000.
“Going into the tournament, I knew I wanted to fish shallow and in moving water if I could,” said Will. “I had a few spots in mind that my brother and I fished last year during the Kayak Bass Fishing Open. I was hoping the high muddy water would stick around to make for better power fishing, but the lake level dropped back to normal.”
Will, along with one of his fishing partners, Drew Gregory, spent the three days prior to the event scouting and pre-fishing, which paid off for him with a five-fish limit of 77.75 inches after Day 1. This put him in 25th place.
“My first day fished pretty consistent,” said Will. “Most fish came on a spinnerbait and a finesse jig. I was going for a reaction strike first with the spinnerbait and following with the finesse jig. I caught one decent smallie and some spots and largies but not quite the quality of fish needed for the KBFNC. I ended Day 1 hoping to do better but thankful to have a limit during tough conditions against a big field. I knew my pattern would hold. The trick would be finding more productive water, so I hopefully wouldn’t be stuck with some 14-inchers.”
On Day 2, Will checked some water where he’d caught some quality largemouth the year before. It was shallower than he’d fished on Day 1. However, by 9:30 he hadn’t caught a bass and decided to load his kayak and move to the upper section of a creek.
“It took me about an hour to figure out the clear water, but I finally got some smallies to commit to a spinnerbait burned fast on the surface,” said Will. “I couldn’t get them to touch anything else, and I would only get one shot at each fish in each deep pool I came to. If they missed or spooked, they wouldn’t touch anything.”
This pattern was good enough for Will to put up 91 inches on Day 2, which gave him a 168.75-inch total for the two-day tournament.
“I felt good going into check in,” said Will. “I knew my Day 2 was awesome. I just wasn’t sure how well my Day 1 and overall total would hold up.”
Toward the end of day two, the standings are taken down from the TourneyX.com website, the website that anglers use to submit their fish. This prevents competitors knowing where they finished until the awards ceremony.
“When they announced up to 25th place and were still at 140 inches, I knew I would be up there,” said Will. “I was just thankful to have found a limit on both days and lucky that the famous Kentucky Lake ledge bite hadn’t warmed up yet.
“They called the top-10 backstage and then called us up one at a time. I only knew for sure that I had beaten one person in that room, and that was my fishing partner, Drew,” said Will. “The places ticked by and finally my name was called for fourth place. I couldn’t believe it! I walked up on stage in front of the biggest crowd of kayak anglers ever. I was just happy to be there and grateful for all of those who helped along the way.”
Will wanted to thank his parents and brother for being incredibly supportive of his fishing.
“I would also like to thank Outside World Outfitters in Dawsonville where I work for giving me the time off to pursue competitive kayak fishing and giving me a job where I can talk about and work with fishing kayaks all day,” said Will. “I would also like to thank NuCanoe for backing me and making great and versatile kayaks. I would like to thank Peach State Kayak Anglers for being a great group of anglers and hosting fun local tournaments to test my skills and help me learn.”
In addition to the $10,000 he won for finishing fourth, Will won a bonus prize of $1,000 and a NuCanoe Pursuit kayak for finishing in the Top 10 while fishing from a NuCanoe.
Here’s how the top-10 played out.
1. Dwayne Taff, Texas, 173.50 inches, $100,000
2. Joshua Stuart, Texas, 171.75 inches, $20,000
3. Tim Perkins, Alabama, 171.50 inches, $15,000
4. Will Clements, Georgia, 168.75 inches, $10,000
5. Drew Gregory, North Carolina, 166.50 inches, $8,000
6. Jedediah Plunkert, West Virginia, 162.50 inches, $6,000
7. Mike Cheatham, Tennessee, 161.25 inches, $5,000
8. Craig Dye, Tennessee, 157 inches, $4,000
9. Justin Hanson, West Virginia, 155.50 inches, $3,000
10. Clint Dunbar, Texas, 155.25 inches, $2,400
To see how the rest of the field fished, go to the TourneyX.com website.