March 7, 2020
Kayak Angler Tournament Series (KATS), sponsored by Austin Canoe and Kayak (ACK), hosted its second event of the 2020 Season at Stillhouse Hollow Lake on Saturday, March 7th. Ninety anglers gathered for the event, seventy in the Pro Division, twenty in the Social Division, everyone registered expertly by our crack ACK team. The event featured a curveball, as the gates to the public ramps around the lake do not open until 6:00am, which didn’t allow enough time for anglers to gather for the Captain’s Meeting and launch in a timely manner. Tournament Director Joseph Sanderson made the call to move the meeting to the Wal-Mart parking lot in Harker Heights, and from there, the event went off without a hitch. After a brief Captain’s Meeting in which Joseph went over the rules and the requisite Hawg Trough group photo was taken, anglers were released for the Roadrunner event. With an admonish to drive safely and courteously, off they went, a caravan of trucks and trailers fanning out in all directions to various launch points.
If you happen to know a weatherman, kindly kick him square in the junk for all of us who fished this event. The air temperature started out at a chilly 50 degrees, and contrary to the weather forecast, the mercury didn’t budge upward a single digit until after the contest concluded at 3:00pm. Worse still, the overcast skies didn’t clear and it actually rained for a few brief moments, soaking a windswept and shivering group of anglers who very often had left their raingear at home or in their vehicles. No amount of cold or dismal weather could dampen the spirit of these intrepid anglers, though. Right from first cast at 6:45am until final lines-in at 3:00pm, our KATS contestants battled the wind, the rain, and each other to claim their hard-fought rewards.
Anyone who fished Stillhouse Hollow on Saturday will tell you it was a tough, grind-‘em-out type day. The folks who pre-fished and managed to find bass were often disappointed to discover they had moved on, or were gravitating to different cover or structure. Stillhouse Hollow has a little bit of everything, from hydrilla to stick-ups to rockpiles to ledges to creekbeds. Winning sacks came from a dizzying variety of techniques, including dropshotting rockpiles out deep, jerkbaits on ledges, methodically working the hydrilla with finesse baits, and power fishing the shallow water with spinnerbaits and shallow-running cranks. The water was still a bit too cold for the big girls to be on their beds, but they were definitely staging for the spawn. All the fish caught were strong, healthy chunks, full of fight. If an angler managed a five-fish limit, they earned it. Thirteen pros came away with limits, five of the social anglers bagged theirs.
At the completion of the event, the field met near the marina for the scoring and the awards ceremony. In what has to be a record for efficiency and a smoothly-run process, Joseph and the ACK crew wrapped things up by 4:45. During the interim, a pitching contest was held, raffle prizes were awarded, and big checks were passed out to the winners. Be sure to post your FB stories, Go-Pro footage, and thank our excellent sponsors. Without them, quite a few of the raffle winners and top earners would have been a whole lot sadder about the day’s events. In what many of us find to be the best part of tournament day, lots of stories circulated of what might have been, and how much fun the lake was to fish, despite the lack of limits. The camaraderie at a KATS event is second to none. All agreed that Stillhouse Hollow truly is a beautiful lake, worthy of being on the schedule. The scuttlebutt is that we’ll host another event there much sooner than the once-a-decade pattern KATS is currently following. Some beautiful, hard-fighting smallmouth were caught, which added a cherry on top for a few lucky anglers. Stillhouse, we’ll be back – count on it.
On a day when anything could happen, there was plenty of movement on the leaderboard from start to finish. Eventual winner Kayden Drake, who came in cold with no pre-fishing to speak of, managed a clutch 21.50” fish in the last half hour just off the ramp to solidify his winning 93.75” sack, pocketing $1,575 for his efforts. We’ve seen Kayden progress from Social Division to KATS Junior Angler to a first-place Pro finisher over the brief span of his fishing career. The sky’s the limit for this young man. The angler he out-dueled, Nathan Chanyarlak, sacked a very respectable 90.25” limit, which earned him $875. Well done, Nathan. Veteran fisherman and Grand Ol’ Man of KATS Ervin Coonrod overcame heart surgery from a month ago to post an 86.25” limit and a third-place finish for $525. There you have it – from the youngest to the oldest, Stillhouse Hollow tested everyone and the top finishers were crowned. Bass are not age, class, race, or gender-biased. It takes skill to win, the ultimate decider, and that’s why we love our sport. Skills, baby!
The next tier of finishers were fourth-place winners Joshua Pohler with 85.75”, taking home $350, and Jacob Moeller’s 85” was good for $175. Jacob staked out first place for much of the day, sacking a pace-setting early lead, but was overtaken as the day wore on. Sixth-place winner Daniel Thomison took home a Daiwa Exceler reel with his 83.75” limit, using his local knowledge of the lake to full effect. Scott Spencer sacked a 81.75” limit, earning him a Yeti Rambler in addition to those ever-so-valuable Angler of the Year (AOY) points. Excellent job, gentleman.
Then there’s Big Bass. If you want to check out the TourneyX pics, this momma looks ready to pop at any moment, a stout 22” beast of a largemouth caught by Steve Labreck, which netted him $740. The fish is almost as big around as it is long. Congratulations, Steve – must have been an epic battle landing that donkey.
In the Social Division, top finisher John Martinez came in with an 85.25” limit, which garnered him $220 of ACK gear. That would have been a money spot from the Pro ranks, so consider a move up your next event, John. Way to go. He was followed by T.J. Leonard with 74.50’ and $120 ACK bucks, and Jonathan Day who’s 61.25” sack earned him $60 of ACK store credit. Brandon Gilroy had 54.75”, earning him a Stohlquist PFD, and Michael Heiting’s 47.25” limit won him a fishing rod. Sometimes it’s not the size of the fish, it’s catching five that don’t flop off the board. Glad you fellas caught ‘em up.
Lastly, let’s not overlook the KATS Advantage winners. We had 24 entries, which is a healthy number of entries for the program, allowing anglers to extend their winnings into truly impressive amounts, topped by Kayden Drake’s additional $563, followed by Jacob Moeller’s $270, Daniel Thomison with $146, Jeremiah Smith’s $120, David Davis took home $50, and rounded out by Bobbie Lebeuf, also with $50. If you’re not familiar with how it works, read up about it in the KATS rules section – it’s a great way to double your money, in some cases.
Next up, perennial favorite Fayette County Reservoir is on for April 11th at Oak Thicket Park, KATS event number three. Come on out and join us that Saturday, you reprobates and sinners, and ask for forgiveness on Easter Sunday. Or hunt eggs – whatever’s your jam. Just be sure to make Fayette part of your weekend, because, oh, mama! There are limits to be caught a-plenty in that body of water. Joseph had it relatively easy at Stillhouse. Let’s keep him busy on the 11th. Thanks for coming out, and see y’all at the next one!