February 1, 2020
Last Saturday, February 1st 2020, 113 anglers braved the cold to kick off the Kayak Angler Tournament Series (KATS), sponsored by Austin Canoe and Kayak (ACK), now in its 15th consecutive season, the longest-running kayak bass tournament series in the nation. The event also marked Tournament Director Joseph Sanderson’s debut judging and running the series, with registration and launch being handled without a hitch. The weather was cooperative, if cold, with over a hundred kayakers venturing out in the pre-dawn hours trying their fortune on the water. The sight was one to behold, as the field quietly spread out across the lake, hoping to find a limit, a veritable armada of kayaks decked out in white, green, and blue lights.
Decker proved to be uncharacteristically stingy, with limits going to 29 pro anglers, 6 to social division anglers, but the 100”+ limits that KATS anglers have come to expect from past events were nowhere to be found on Saturday. A few lunker-sized bass were caught, but the big schools of pre-spawn females were difficult to graph, and even more difficult to entice to bite. The fish were caught shallow, primarily, but out to 30’, in some cases. The sun came out, welcoming blue-bird skies that also may have hindered big stringers from being caught, but Decker is Decker, and bass were soon being hauled aboard for a quick photo on a Hawg Trough and a safe release to fight another day. Joseph had his hands full judging pics, and the new closed-mouth rule proved to be the undoing of more than a few quality fish. Despite that, the leader board soon filled up with entries, with one name at the top that everyone familiar with KATS knows as a legend – Ryan Herzog.
The Goo Master took the path less traveled to get on fish and stay on them, in a self-described “Smash-a-Thon”, estimating over 50 bass caught and released. Even with that abundance of riches, he had to fight off hard-chargers like Matt Yturri, who briefly overtook Ryan’s limit with a better one of his own. Matt had been on the bass all throughout practice, which paid off on Saturday. The end results were extremely tight – little more than two inches separated the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th place finishers.
The day on the water fishing KATS was a first for some, another in a long line of victories for eventual winner Ryan Herzog, who embarked on a Reunion Tour to reclaim the KATS top Angler of the Year (AOY) spot. He’s off to an excellent start. Ryan ended up with a best-five 95.75” limit, good enough for $1822.50 dollars in his pocket and a smile on his face. He was followed by Matt Yturri in 2nd place with a 92.50” limit, good for $1012.50 dollars. Less than an inch separated Matt from former AOY angler Tyler Howell, who used a late good-sized bass to vault into 3rd place with 92”, taking home $607.50. Right behind him came KATS 2019 Classic winner Jeremiah Smith with 91.25” and a $405.00 prize. Rounding out the Pro Division money winners, Aaron Spry cashed a $202.50 check for fifth place. Solid days were also had by Olivert Gomez with 89.75”, Andrew Dixon with 89.25”, tying with Mario Garcia, also with 89.25”. Former AOY champion Jacob Moeller finished just outside of the prizes with 88.75”. Lots of big names at the top, and a few you may not have heard of before, but you will. Excellent day, gentlemen.
Let’s not overlook Big Bass, taken by Michael Chang with a whopping 23.5” largemouth, narrowly edging out Kayden Drake’s 23.25” fish. The big girls may not have been plentiful, but Decker surrendered a few monsters. Michael overcame a series of mishaps to lip-land the 23.5” near-Sharelunker beauty, taking home a nice $890.00 in the process. Well done, Michael!
In the Social Division, Bryan Scarberry took 1st place with 88.75” and $330 in ACK Gift Cards. In second place we had Kyle Gilbert with a total of 80” and a payout of $180 in ACK Gift Cards and lastly in third place John Martinez with a respectable 78.25” which awarded him $90 in ACK Gift Cards. These guys may not be grizzled veterans yet, but catching a good-sized limit on a challenging day means you’ll be hearing more from them in the future.
A long, tough day on the water earned the 113 anglers an opportunity to unwind while the fish were being scored and the tally finalized. Thanks to ACK for hosting a challenging pitching contest, won by Matt Mocia, and for the grand-prize raffle of multiple YETI coolers. Plenty of people who would have otherwise gone home empty-handed took home a prize, including former AOY winner Bobby Lebeuf, who walked away with the Mystery Tackle Bag worth $220.00 in Tackle Warehouse Gift Cards. Don’t forget to thank our sponsors like Yeti, NRS, Daiwa, YackAttack, Stolhquist and many more on social media for your great gear, guys. We want them back again next season. Lastly, a bit of thanks for all the kind thoughts that were extended to Erivin Coonrood, who couldn’t make the event to defend his title from 2019. We’re glad you’re feeling better, Ervin!
Decker is officially in the books. Now it’s off to Stillhouse Hollow on February 22nd, where more challenges await. KATS 2020 is off to a roaring start! Thanks to all who participated and those of you who make this the best trail in Texas.