Houston County Lake SETKXBL Classic 2020

SETXKBL 2020 Classic Championship – Houston County Lake

Mark E. Chiles aka Tech Guy Fishing

The Classic for the SETXKBL (Southeast Texas Kayak Bass League) is the final event of the trail season, as it is for most bass tournament trails. This year, we were on Houston County Lake, and it marked the first Classic that I was able to achieve enough AOY (Angler of the Year) points to qualify to fish. This came from my previous tournament points on the trail, and my 3rd Place Finish on Lake Somerville to really lock in the points.

The Classic was a two-day tournament, with a five-fish limit each day, measured by length, using the CPR (Catch-Photo-Release) setup using the TourneyX app. Even if you don’t get 5 fish both days, you may still run into some large fish (foreshadowing?) to help put you in money contention with your total length.

Prefish Day

September 4th, 2020 – The Captain’s meeting and launch area was at Crockett Family Resort, which is a nice little spot for camping close to the boat ramp. Made it easy to get there on Friday, the day before the tournament, and get some time to prefish. I got there around 10:30 am-ish, checked-in, then hit the water. I was on the water just around lunchtime and headed south. In about an hour, I caught one small spotted bass under a dock using a wacky-rig, about an hour into the prefish, then missed another on a chatterbait in the flooded timber on my way back out around 3:00 pm. So, needless to say, I didn’t really figure out much of a pattern and was very surprised about the lack of fish under docks.

I come in and set up camp then decide to head back out around 5:00 pm and go north. The prefishing cutoff time was 7:00 pm, so I really wanted to try to find some decent spots and figure out a pattern. This time, I went north. I tied on a 10″ curly tail worm in Junebug red and started fishing up shallow and within 10 minutes of being on the water, I caught a decent 16″ fish. It was in grass up close to the bank. I, then, head towards the island and start fishing a jig, again, up shallow. Shortly thereafter, another decent fish. So, I know they’re up shallow and wanting the presentation to be a little slow. Got it. Time to get off the water….it’s now 7:00 pm.

Tournament Day 1

September 5th, 2020 – It’s tourney day! Captain’s meeting at 5:00am, launch at 5:15am with lines in at 5:30am, out at 2:00pm and photo submissions by 3:00pm with no weigh-in for day 1.Captain’s meeting 5:00 am. A full day to make something happen!

5:15 am, let’s go! I leave the ramp and get to my first spot, which is where I caught the first evening bass at on prefish day. Since it’s dark, I’m starting to hear splashes, but can’t really see anything, yet. I start throwing a buzzbait for a little bit, but nothing hits. I switch over to a white/chartreuse Jackhammer and within a few casts I land my first fish at 6:00 am on the dot! It’s a 12.75″ spotted bass. First fish is on the board! I keep throwing around the Jackhammer and within 20 minutes, I get an absolutely massive bite. I remember saying “please don’t be a catfish!” It takes a few minutes to get this one in and it’s a monster 23.5″, 6lbs. 14oz. behemoth! This isn’t just the second fish of the tournament, it’s also my new PB! My heart is racing as I get it into the kayak, measured, weighed, and then a few photos. It’s 6:20 am and I am well on my way to getting a limit.

After my heartbeat calms down and I safely release the biggun’, I get back to casting around the same area. About another 20 minutes and I get my third fish of the day at 6:50 am and it’s another spotted bass, coming in at 12.5″. By 7:00 am I have 3 fish totaling 48.75″. I throw around that area for a little while longer, but it starts to go cold and no more bites. Times to make my way across to the island where I had my second prefish bass come.

As I’m crossing the lake, I’m trolling the Jackhammer behind me. I’m about halfway across and I get a bit. It’s 7:30 am and I’m now reeling in my 4th fish of the day, which is a 13.25″ largemouth. Excellent! I get the fish measured and submitted and finish making my way over to the island. I throw around the Jackhammer to no avail. Then, I switch over to a jig and would get a couple of nibbles, but nothing takes. I then put on the 10″ curly tail worm. I cast into some shallow grass and I get a bite, set the hook, and a nice fish jumps and spits it’s. UGH! So, I cast back into the same spot and catch a small 11″ largemouth that doesn’t do me any good. Gotta keep pushing. I continue going around the island and hook into a nice 17.25″ largemouth at 8:56 am. It’s not quite 9:00 am and I have my limit of 79.25″, sitting in 2nd place right behind the leader with 80.75″

Now, it’s time to cull some small ones and upgrade. The curly tail worm is putting in work and just an hour later, at 10:02 am, I catch my first cull fish. A 14.5″ largemouth that’ll cull my 12.25″ spot from the early bite. I keep on going around the island….why not, it’s working?! About half an hour later, at 10:30 am, I switch to a wacky rig throwing a purple shad laminate Gary Yamamoto 5″ Senko and the first cast I hook into my second cull fish at 10:31 am. A 17.5″ largemouth culls my 13″ spot. At this point, bites are starting to get slower as the day gets hotter, but it’s overcast and fish seem to still be up shallow. It’s almost like clockwork, I catch a fish an hour from each other and at 11:29 am, I catch a 13.5″ largemouth, which culls my 13.25″ “trolling” fish, again, on the wacky rig. Another hour goes by, and by this point, I’ve switched over to throwing a Texas-rigged Strike King Rage Menace in black & blue. 12:27 pm, I catch a 16″ largemouth, which will be my last cull fish of the day, and now culls my 13.5″ catch. I catch another one just after 1:00 pm, but it doesn’t help my cull. 2:00 pm and its lines out. At the end of the day, I’m sitting in 4th place with 88.75″, which is my highest single-day catch length….ever! Time for some R&R and to re-rig some equipment for Day 2. All in all, I caught 11 fish on Day 1!

Tournament Day 2

September 6th, 2020 – no Captain’s meeting today, just launch and fish. Launch/lines in at 5:00 am and out at 1:00 pm. Let’s go!

To start, I head back to the same area I began with on Day 1. One thing I forgot to mention. In Day 1, I got my Jackhammer snagged and lost it to the abyss. So, I tied on a white & chartreuse Thunder Cricket. The weather for the day is supposed to be much different than the previous day. The previous day was nice, with an overcast and a bit of wind throughout the day. Today is supposed to be sunny and still. Let’s make the best of the early bite before the fish patterns change. I start throwing around the Thunder Cricket and I’m feeling like it’s either being hit by small fish, or it’s bumping into fish. I can hear fish jumping all over the place. Within just a few minutes of getting to my spot, I catch my first fish at 5:20 am. It’s a 13.75″ spotted bass. Quick way to start the day. Not 20 minutes later, at 5:37 am, I catch my second fish. This time a largemouth bass, measuring 12.5″. Just over 20 minutes from then, I catch my third fish at 5:52 am, another spotted bass that’s 13.5″. Quick way to get to 39.75″ in less than an hour. They’re not big, but it’s a meaningful start to the morning. Then…..it stops. I move away from that spot, trying a few docks and then eventually back over to the island. In hindsight, I would’ve moved to the island sooner, but it happens.

I throwing the Thunder Cricket a while longer, then switch to the curly tail worm, jig and then to the Rage Menace. I find a nice little cove that HAS to have fish, right? Well, it does. At 7:40 am, I catch my big fish of the day, which is a 16.5″ largemouth bass. One step closer to a limit. About 15 minutes later, I’m flipping that Rage Menace around and I see a dark little spot just off of some very shallow grass. I’m talking maybe 1′ deep. I pitch in there, give it a couple of tugs and it gets HAMMERED! This huge fish comes out of nowhere and, at first, I’m hoping for another new PB. Then, I see the long, slender body and the thrashing that only one fish that I’ve caught before has ever done. It’s a bowfin! And it’s huge. And angry. I get it into my net and the hook just falls right out. I have fish grips in the yak, so I grab it with those and snap a quick picture. Just after that, I’m holding the fish up for the camera for my YouTube video (to come out soon) and it just goes nuts and breaks the cable that’s attached to the fish grips, flips out of my hands, and is gone in a flash! Well, I used to use those fish grips as a leash to put my fish on while I check the picture for tournament submissions. Guess that won’t be happening anymore.

Alright, time to regroup and get back into the groove. I start to pitch the Rage Menace around for a little while longer, then switch over to the curly tail worm and I’m not getting any bites. But, in the distance, I see some splashing up near the bank, so I cast towards it. I miss a little bit, but no big deal. However, I see the splash again. I get closer and am able to see something that looks bright orange in the water. Low and behold, it is the bowfin, with my fish grips still in its mouth, seeming to have trouble getting around and even breathing now. I get up close to it, and it starts to dart away, but it only goes a few feet and stops. I come up to it again and I’m able to net the fish and bring it into the kayak. How this happened is beyond me! I get my fish grips back, and then let the fish go after a passerby gets a picture of me holding the fish – I never got a copy of the picture. I let the fish go and it seems to be ok now and takes off. Whew!

At this point, it’s well after 9:00 am and I still need that last fish to round out the limit. It’s now hot and sunny, probably already close to 90°. Nothing is working around the island so I think to start flipping docks. So, I head back across the lake towards houses. I must’ve flipped, what seemed like, a hundred docks, and couldn’t get a bite. Finally, at 9:55 am, I flip my wacky rig just about a foot away from a dock and it gets picked up. It’s a 13.75″ largemouth, which rounds out my limit. Needless to say, this limit is nowhere near the 88.75″ from Day 1. It is 70″ on the dot. Combined with my Day 1 results, I now have a two-day limit of 158.75″. For the next three hours, I did not get a single bite. 1:00 pm…..lines out.

I fished hard, grinding it out from the very first moment we could fish to the absolute last second. This was my first Classic and first opportunity to fish a two-day tournament. It was great! I had a blast camping and fishing with friends and just having a good time. It was a LOT, but I greatly enjoyed it.

The top 5 places were paid out and I ended up finishing in 7th place, only 1.25″ short of fifth place. That’s how close some of these competitions are. It’s a matter of inches when you’re kayak fishing. One fish can make all of the difference. You can bet that there will be more and I’ll be even more motivated to place higher next year!

A huge CONGRATS goes out to the top finishers and to our Tournament Director, Kris Morales, for putting on a great trail!

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