Three River Throwdown Kayak Tournament
An impressive limit of shoalies won this popular event.
For many Georgia anglers, the mention of these three rivers can bring up fond memories of years past. Some remember fishing as a kid with dad and paw-paw, chasing bream and small bass with crickets and red wigglers. Others might think back to an overnight fishing trip with high school friends. For some, it might just be as simple as a random Saturday away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
On Saturday, April 21, Andrew Wade, of Zebulon, made a memory he’ll surely have for a long time when he won the Three River Throwdown kayak tournament.
Now in its second year, the Three River Throwdown has already become the biggest annual kayak bass fishing event in Georgia. Last year’s inaugural event drew 91 anglers from seven different states, all vying for the first-place prize of $2,500. Brad Case, of Mississippi, was able secure the win in that first event by targeting largemouth in backwater areas, putting up a five-fish stringer of 98.25 inches. While this might just seem like another well-attended bass fishing event, there’s a lot that makes the Three River Throwdown unique.
Most tournaments require anglers to launch from the same point and fish the same body of water. For the Three River Throwdown, anglers had the option of fishing—you guessed it—three rivers. The Chattahoochee, Flint and Ocmulgee rivers were all eligible waters. Largemouth, spotted and shoal bass are found in all three rivers, but fishing conditions can be very different from one river to another. Two of the rivers are fed by impoundments, so generation schedules can affect conditions.
Anglers were able to begin fishing at 7 a.m., and all scoring fish had to be uploaded to the TourneyX scoring app by 4 p.m. Competitors were then required to be at check-in by 5:30. Since the check-in and awards were held at Sprewell Bluff Park on the Flint River in Thomaston, travel time was a consideration for those fishing away from the Flint.
Besides the complexities of the watersheds and the bass species available to target, what makes the Three River Throwdown unique is the support of the local government, in this case the Upson County Chamber of Commerce.
“We worked with Sprewell Bluff Park,” said Tournament Director Shane Williams. “The park is on the Flint River and is a central location for anglers fishing any of the three rivers. Sprewell Bluff Park is managed by Upson County, so we were able to work closely with the Chamber of Commerce in the planning stages. They took an interest in our event and were very helpful, both with sponsoring our prize package and making sure the event was well cared for at the park.”
Laura Adams, park coordinator for Sprewell Bluff Park, explained the relationship and support of the county.
“Upson County was approached in 2016 about partnering on the (first)Three River Throwdown,” said Laura. “Sprewell Bluff Park had never hosted a kayak fishing tournament before, and we saw this as an excellent opportunity to promote the park, the Flint River and create shoal bass awareness. After some discussion, Upson County decided to move forward as the main sponsor and put up $2,000 for the cash prize.”
With the Upson County Chamber of Commerce on board again this year, the prize pool for anglers was off to a great start.
At launch time, a total of 72 anglers from seven states (including Aaron White who drove 12 hours from Delaware to chase shoal bass) were spread out over 120 miles along the three rivers. Conditions were tough, with morning temperatures in the low 40s, high winds most of the day and generation on both the Chattahoochee and Ocmulgee rivers.
Despite fighting the wind and generation on the Chattahoochee, Jamie Dabbs, of Lanett, Ala., fished his way to a second-place finish, scoring a five-fish stringer of 97.75 inches to take home $1,350.
“(They) generated for about three hours Saturday morning, and (I) tackled the brutal wind after the sun came up,” said Jamie. “Fishing was pretty tough. I only had two fish under 14 inches for the longest but just kept grinding it out and slowly caught and culled until I luckily got five good ones.”
Nick Dyer, of Phenix City, Ala, also battled tough conditions on the Chattahoochee with good results—a 94.75-inch stringer putting him in fourth place and earning him $700. Nick’s stringer was anchored by a 23.25-inch largemouth, garnering big-bass honors, an additional $900.
“I caught her 20 minutes after I caught a 20.75-incher in the same area, which is not an area that had produced for me in the past, but I am normally not in that area in those conditions,” said Nick. “Generation was kicking, and the wind was gusting to the point I was about to give up that area and find somewhere to hide and fish that was more sheltered.”
Despite the good results from the Chattahoochee, this year’s winner chose a different river. Andrew Wade fished the Flint and put up a five-fish stringer of 99.75 inches, an amazing feat considering he only scored shoal bass.
“I had a game plan just like everyone else does tournament morning,” said Andrew. “It consisted of reaction baits and covering water. However, I realized after my first stop, which is always good for a decent shoalie, that reaction baits weren’t going to get the job done. Something, and I’m still not sure what, had the fish in a funk.”
Like any good angler, Andrew fished the conditions presented to him and made adjustments.
“When I realized the reaction bite wasn’t going to happen, I slowed down and started picking my areas apart,” said Andrew. “I caught a couple decent ones in the 17 1/2- to 18 1/2-inch range, but I knew if I wanted to beat the largemouth crowd, I would have to cull those two by the end of the day.
“Around 9 o’clock, I had somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 inches, and then everything just started going right. I caught my 21-inch kicker and was pumped. I had gotten the toughest one to get out of the way. Now all I needed were a few more 18s, and I’d be in check range.”
Within the next 30 minutes, Andrew caught two more longer than 19.5 inches and realized he had a chance to win the tournament.
“I started trying to target strictly big fish and just could not seem to cull up, so I conceded defeat on the reaction baits completely and left my worm rod in my hands the rest of the day,” said Andrew. “Sure enough, shortly after going back to the old Senko, I picked up my next biggest fish with other competitors looking on, a solid 20.25-inch shoalie. The other competitors congratulated me and poked a little fun my way, and we had a good laugh. I still had that one 18.5-inch fish; however, I knew he was going to have to go if I wanted to seal the deal on a win.”
It took Andrew a little longer than he wanted for the final good bite, but he got it.
“I tossed my Senko in behind a boulder into an eddy and ‘Bam,’ I had her hooked up,” said Andrew. “After a crazy fight, I managed to land a spunky 19-inch to cull up a half an inch. The very next cast after she was photographed and released in the same spot, I pulled her twin sister out. She was a quarter inch longer, giving me what I was sure would be enough to win. I knew at that point that if someone was going to beat me, that they had earned every bit of it.
“I decided to paddle out and make sure all of my pictures were submitted properly. It was 1 o’clock. I possibly could have stayed and truly broken 100 inches, but I was completely satisfied with the stringer of fish I had accumulated that morning.”
Andrew’s stringer held and was good enough to earn him the win and $2,500 for the day.
In all, the top-seven anglers took home money for their day at the Three River Throwdown, but they weren’t the only ones who took home something. Courtesy of some great sponsors, like Oakley, NRS and Cadence Fishing, some great prizes were given away as door prizes. Michael Davis, of Rome, took home a Power Pole Micro Anchor kit. Two lucky anglers even took home brand-new kayaks. Stephen Howell took home a NuCanoe Flint, and Dwayne Walley won a Wilderness Systems A.T.A.K. 120.
“We really appreciate our competitors making the trip to fish this event with us,” said Shane Williams. “We want to especially thank Lori Smith and the Upson County Chamber of Commerce for their support and sponsorship, as well as Laura Adams and the staff at Sprewell Bluff Park for all of their help and hospitality.”
After having a chance to reflect on the day, Andrew shared his thoughts with us.
“I really hope that my win will bring light to what an amazing resource we have here in Georgia,” said Andrew. “The shoal bass is an incredible species that doesn’t live, let alone thrive anywhere else. The Flint, Chattahoochee and Ocmulgee rivers are truly amazing fisheries that host a species of game fish found nowhere else in the world. These fisheries need to be cared for and protected so that all of the memories that I have and love from these rivers and these fish are there for future generations.”
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