DAYTON, Tenn. — With the help of a last-minute giant, Tyler Cole, of Hopkinton, Iowa, secured the victory at the Huk Bassmaster B.A.S.S. Nation Kayak Series powered by TourneyX presented by Abu Garcia at Chickamauga Lake with five bass that measured 89.5 inches.
Cole earned $6,907 and will join the Top 29 anglers from this event at the Huk Bassmaster B.A.S.S. Nation Kayak Series National Championship scheduled at Lewisville Lake March 17-18 in conjunction with the 2021 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk.
“This has been pretty amazing,” Cole said. “Especially after the Lake Fork event this spring. I had four good fish down there and I lost my fifth fish at the net that would have gotten me to the Top 3. This gave me a little redemption from that. All I’ve ever wanted is one of these blue trophies and now I’ve got it.”
Cole used his grass-fishing experience on the Mississippi River, fishing only a Booyah Pad Crasher to catch his bass.
“Frogging is my forte back home so I stuck with something I know. I caught two smaller fish on a ChatterBait and two on a frog (in practice), one was 18 and one was 19.5,” Cole said. “And I thought if I could string together five of those bites, I should be able to get up there pretty good. I thought it was going to take more than 89.5 to get there.”
Cole launched from Chester Frost Park on the Southern end of Chickamauga — an area that has been historically productive — and targeted grasslines in 2 to 3 feet of water. He started slow, catching just one bass in the opening hours before he landed back-to-back fish around 10 a.m.
The rest of the day, Cole worked the same stretch of his most productive water. One bass short of a limit and minutes removed from losing another quality fish, Cole landed a 21-inch bass with 15 minutes remaining to fill his limit and ultimately secure the win.
Tennessee angler Brandon Strock found success fishing in the same area as Cole, catching 87 inches of largemouth to finish in second place and earning $3,207. Strock focused on grasslines that had rock present.
He crawled a Z-Man JackHammer ChatterBait across the rock and when he got hung, ripped the bait out of the grass.
“It is a known winning area,” Strock said. “I started out throwing an A-rig and I missed a couple on that first thing in the morning. It wasn’t really productive, so I switched to a ChatterBait.”
After switching lures, Strock was able to find a rhythm, catching four keepers by midday. Then he went searching for a kicker — and with about five minutes to go, he landed a 21-incher to fill his limit.
“I knew if I had one good fish, I would at least give myself a shot,” he said. “I was like Iaconelli back there, just whooping and hollering, and everyone in the campground was looking at me.”
While Cole and Strock caught all largemouth, Minnesota angler Scott Stuhlmann caught 81.5 inches of smallmouth to finish third. With the water level approaching winter pool, Stuhlmann said he had a feeling smallmouth could play.
While foggy conditions hurt his early morning bite, Stuhlmann found success cranking rocky shelves with a DT 16 and a DT 10 on the very North end of Chickamauga.
“The bite picked up after the fog burned off,” he said. “All the places we had marked from before were really active.”
South Carolina’s Terry Smith landed the B.A.S.S. Nation Big Bass of the tournament, a 23-inch largemouth that earned him $500.
The 2021 National Championship at Lewisville Lake will be a two-day event, starting on March 17 and concluding on March 18. The awards ceremony will be held on the Bassmaster Classic stage in Fort Worth on March 19 prior to the Day 1 Classic weigh-in.
The tournament was hosted by the Rhea County Economic Development & Tourism Council. Digital coverage was presented by Old Town Canoes.