Georgia Kayaker Wins National Event
Clint Henderson take first in the FLW/KBF Cup.
This year, the sport of kayak bass fishing saw a ground-breaking partnership between Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) and Kayak Bass Fishing (KBF), resulting in the inaugural Dee Zee FLW/KBF Cup presented by YakAttack. This historic championship was held Aug. 9-10 in conjunction with the 2019 FLW Cup on Lake Ouachita in Arkansas.
When all the fish were measured, it was a Georgia kayak angler standing on the stage, having beaten 71 other anglers to bring home the win. His name should be familiar to GON readers; he’s been featured here before after his win at the 2017 Georgia State Championship. Congrats to Clint Henderson, of Rome.
“I had heard of Lake Ouachita, never seen it or fished it before, but I wanted to fish this event from the moment it was announced,” said Clint. “I’ve been very excited about where this FLW/KBF partnership could go, and when I heard how the awards would be done, with the Top 10 on the same stage as the FLW Cup, I knew I had to be there for that.”
Entrance into the tournament wasn’t as simple as paying your entry fee and showing up. For a chance at the first-place prize of $15,000 and a $3,000 Dee Zee gift card, anglers had to qualify their way in.
“There was a qualifying event held at Lake Nickajack earlier in the year. There were other qualifying events, as well, with the KBF National Championship being one,” said Clint.
Having never fished Ouachita, Clint knew that time spent preparing off the water would be crucial to his chance at success.
“(My fishing partner) Jim Ware and I had been talking about the lake ever since the Nickajack event, studying Navionics contour maps and marking spots, watching videos, reading articles. I watched every second of every video on YouTube that had anything to do with Lake Ouachita,” said Clint.
The Monday before the event, they left Rome and headed west to Ouachita.
“We were lucky enough to both get off work for the week before the event, something that seldom happens. He worked second shift Sunday night, and I got off at 5 a.m. Monday morning, and we left town around 6,” said Clint.
After a stop in Memphis for lunch and another at the Bass Pro Shops in Little Rock, they made it to Ouachita with time to fish.
“We got to our destination on the north side of the lake Monday evening with a couple hours of daylight left … so we launched the kayaks and fished a little,” said Clint.
Even with a short window of pre-fishing on Monday, Clint had a good feeling at his chances for the week.
“I felt very confident that we had found Clent Davis’s big-fish brushpile from his previous year’s FLW Cup win in that short amount of time we were on the water Monday evening, but we didn’t catch any fish.”
Things continued to look good on Tuesday.
“We got there not long after sunrise,” said Clint. “I caught some good fish that day on a Spook, a couple of 18-inchers, and when I would catch one, he would have lots of friends trying to get the lure from him.”
Wednesday would only get better.
“Around 6:30 a.m., I graphed across a point that had caught my eye on the map, and I couldn’t believe how many fish I saw on the screen of my Humminbird 9 Mega SI unit.”
Clint thought to himself that there was no way all those fish could be bass, but he soon found himself wrong.
“A few minutes later, around 7 a.m., I hooked up with an 18-inch bass. I caught two more real quick. We left that area around 7:30,” said Clint.
“We decided to split up at that point and look for other similar stuff in the area. We both found areas we felt could work as back-ups or might be big-fish holes, but nothing like the spot, the juice. I remember talking on the way in that afternoon about how I had never found anything like that before a tournament. I had never felt that set up and ready.”
With one last day of pre-fishing left on Thursday and a solid feel for the area, Clint had a nagging feeling biting at him.
“I felt like there was no way we were the only people who had found it,” he said. “A bass boat fished the spot for three or four hours that morning (Thursday). I just sat and watched them catch fish from afar. I sat and watched this spot the entire day without fishing it. One kayaker eventually went over it but didn’t fish it.”
Come Friday morning it was game on.
“We get to our ramp super early and had our kayaks prepped and ready to shove off the second the clock struck 5:30,” said Clint. “The launch was 5:30, lines in at 6:00. I think there ended up being five or six of us at this ramp. We took off and left everybody else and got to the spot first. It was still pitch black dark. I graphed over my GPS marks, and there was nothing there, at least not like there was two days ago.”
Quickly assessing the situation, Clint decided to move.
“We’d had a couple of good rain storms since we were there last, so the fish had pulled up a little shallower. I did want to make sure I made it back there before the lunar peak ended at 9:30 that morning,” said Clint.
“I shot over to a stretch of bank where I had seen fish chasing bait on Wednesday. I threw the Spook against the bank, start walking it, and a 20-plus-inch fish blew up on it. I had it for about two head shakes, and then it was gone. I ended up catching a good 17.5-inch fish there to start my stringer. I headed back toward the spot, but instead of going straight out to it, I followed the bank, started up shallow and worked my way out graphing and fishing.”
Taking his time and following the bank put Clint on the fish from practice.
“They had moved maybe 50 yards tighter to the bank into 12 to 15 feet of water. Some bait started to surface, followed by the fish that were pushing them and breaking the surface, and I caught a 19-incher on a Fish Head Spin with a Keitech swimbait. I filled the rest of my limit out with 14- to 15-inch fish by 10:45, doing what I had done in practice, catching them by dragging a creature bait rigged on a 3/4-oz. jig head. It felt really good to have a good day-one limit before lunchtime. That’s rare for me, I’m more of a last-minute heroics kind of guy.”
Clint headed to check in on Day One with a solid stringer of fish.
“I ended the day with 81.25 inches, and I felt good about that. Eighty inches was a number I had in my head. Eight-five inches would have been even better, but I was happy. I knew I had left some for Day Two,” said Clint.
Clint was in third place after the first day. The amount of inches he would have to make up to win the event was pretty shocking. Kayak angler Eric Jackson, of Tennessee, had 97.25 inches.
“I hadn’t seen anything near 97.25 inches worth of bass if I put all my fish together for the whole week,” said Clint.
“The plan for Day Two was to fish as hard as possible and leave it all out there, let the chips fall where they may, and have fun,” said Clint. “The spinning rods got left at the camp on Day Two. I hadn’t touched them on Day One anyway. I was selling out on the techniques that I had working and changing nothing. Just fish clean, no mistakes.”
Day Two didn’t start like Day One. The topwater bite wasn’t there, forcing Clint to refocus on the lunar peak from 8:30 to 10:30 and hoping to lock up a quick limit. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned and doubt started to creep in.
“The lunar peak ended, and I only had four fish,” said Clint. “Everything was one hour shorter on Day Two, which meant lines out of the water at 1 p.m. Could I really put together a limit after being third on Day One?”
Then his luck changed.
“We got some clouds rolling in, and I caught a 14.75-incher at 11:30,” said Clint. “You would have thought I had won it if you were there to hear me. I was so happy to get a limit on what had been such a different and tough day compared to Day One.”
A limit finally in hand with 90 minutes to spare meant that Clint had little time left to try to cull.
“With one hour left to fish, I’m burning the bait up to the boat to make another cast and one almost takes the rod out of my hands,” said Clint. “It short lines me, it’s big. I fight it around the front of the kayak a couple times and get it in the net. It measures 19.25 inches, my biggest fish of the tournament!”
That’s when the enormity of the situation hit him.
“I turned my kayak away from the school of fish and prayed, thanking God, and then I cried for 15 minutes thinking about my late brother and being so thankful in the moment feeling his presence,” said Clint. “I didn’t know if I had won or not, but it felt like a winning catch. I uploaded that fish right before they turned the board off, and my name was at the top.”
Then the stress started.
“On Day One, I had gotten the Top-10 text almost on the hour when upload time ended. Day Two, the hour had passed, and I still hadn’t gotten a text.”
Thinking he had been outfished and eliminated from a chance at winning, he sent a text to the tournament director checking in.
“Ten minutes later I got the reply I was looking for. I had made the Top-10 at the inaugural FLW/KBF Cup and was going to be on stage. I had accomplished my goal.
“Words can’t express what it felt like backstage, peeking through the curtains at the crowd, the stage, the lights, the music, the people, the Top-10 in the first-ever FLW/KBF Kayak Cup. Matt Ball, AJ McWorter, Henry Veggian, Josh Stewart, Drew Gregory, Dwain Batey, Garret Morgan, Eric Jackson, Dustin Murguia and myself. It was an honor.”
The countdown began with 10th place.
“One by one they called everyone to the stage, and they all got the mic and got to send love back home and thank everyone,” said Clint. “When they called out the length for second place, I knew it wasn’t mine… and I had won. I actually won the first-ever FLW/KBF Cup!”
So what goes through the head of a winner in that moment, that moment between realizing you’ve won and you’re stepping out on stage?
“Don’t trip walking up the stairs. Don’t do anything stupid (hard for me). Don’t forget to say hey to wife and kids. Don’t forget to thank everyone. Don’t forget it’s your wedding anniversary. Don’t forget to thank God first. Is my fly zipped? Never mind, I checked that 15 times backstage. Oh I’m gonna throw up,” said Clint.
Yes, you read that right: “Don’t forget it’s your wedding anniversary.”
Way to go, Clint!
The Dee Zee FLW/KBF Cup presented by YakAttack Top Ten:
1. Clint Henderson, Georgia, 157.75 inches
2. Dwain Batey, Arkansas, 155 inches
3. Garrett Morgan, Arkansas, 154 inches
4. A.J. McWhorter, Kentucky, 152.5 inches
5. Eric Jackson, Tennessee, 151.5 inches
6. Dustin Murguia, Illinois, 148.25 inches
7. Henry Veggian, North Carolina, 147.25 inches
8. Drew Gregory, North Carolina, 146.75 inches
9. Matt Ball, Ohio, 139.5 inches
10. Josh Stewart, Tennessee, 137.25 inches
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