Davis wins first-ever Bassmaster Kayak event

Vance McCullough


“It’s unreal,” chuckled Jim Davis moments after being crowned the first-ever Bassmaster Kayak tournament champion. But a solid trophy and a $10,000 prize check proved Davis was not dreaming.

Asked to recall his winning aggregate length he said, “I don’t know. After they said I won, I just sort of tuned out. It was over 87 inches.” It was 87.75, exactly a win 3-inch margin of victory against a field of 222 anglers, the top of the leaderboard stacked with 84-inch efforts, the field peppered with some of the best-known names in the kayak angling sport.

To have those anglers come together under the Bassmaster umbrella means a lot to Davis. “We’ve been waiting for it for a long time. There are some other leagues out there, but we’ve been waiting for the one that takes it to that next level. (Bassmaster) has been around a long time on the boat side with all the other tournaments so they absolutely can elevate this sport.”

Logan Martin Lake was cold, wet and getting wetter. Prolonged heavy rain prompted flash flood warnings from local authorities. The anglers responded with 58 limits, 15 of them in excess of 80 inches.

Nobody capitalized on the conditions better than Davis. “I sat on a spot half the size of this room for 7 hours; never quit throwing,” he said from the press conference room beneath Legacy Arena in Birmingham where the 50th Bassmaster Classic Day 1 weigh in was about to begin. “I pulled in there, on the 3rd cast I caught an 18-and-three-quarter-incher. I knew they were there. The small ones had been moving in and out of there, I’d been catching those. I knew the big ones were in there so I just sat there and waited for them to come back. I think they just cycled in and out with the current, back in behind the rocks.

“There were some windows. One time, I probably caught 6 or 7 in 15 minutes, and some other times I sat there and threw for an hour and never caught anything but rocks.”

Logan Martin is fed by the Coosa River, renowned for producing bunches of very big, very mean spotted bass. A guy can easily win a tourney with just spotted bass here. Davis had a mixed bag. “I had 3 largemouth and 2 spots. I don’t know how many nice largemouth I lost.” The 3 he caught went 20, 19, and 18.75 inches, the pair of 15-inch spots bookending his 5-fish limit.

What was so attractive about Davis’s winning spot that he would camp there all day? Some type of piscatorial gold mine only visible via expensive electronics? “It was in a foot-and-a-half of water up in a creek. It was a hump. I think it was an ambush point for them and they were feeding up before they went on up in the creek. It was just a big mud flat and there were some rocks that came in off the bank, out into the water. They were sitting behind that and they’d run out into the current and feed.”

Davis, from Knoxville, TN, had never seen the lake. At ground level. “Google Earth. Google Earth is what got me to the spot.”

His on-water practice time was limited to 4 hours the day before.

As for lure choice: “We’d found baitfish the day before that were about 3 inches long. The only thing I had in my box that was close to that was a Storm spybait. I threw that up over the rocks and boom!”

Color didn’t make a difference. “I started out with silver with a black back and I had a sexy shad. I think they were keying on that vibration.”

Line choice is always simple for Davis. “I only throw mono. Talk to the guys I fish with, I throw 12-pound Big Game in grass, pads.”

A 6’6” medium action Johnny Morris CarbonLite rod and Lew’s Speed Spool reel rounded out Davis’s setup.

All of us who love to fish have a friend or family member to thank for the introduction to the pastime. For Davis, it’s a shop owner back home in Kingston TN. “Frontier Outdoors. Firearms, kayaks, fishing. He’s the one who got me into kayak tournament fishing.”

Derby day called for foul weather gear. Davis keeps dry in boots and waders from Chota.

An Old Town PDL works for Davis. “I’m not a fan of the trolling motors yet. The PDL is a big kayak but it’s small enough that you can still paddle it, so when I fish grass, I just flip the motor drive up and paddle around the grass.” Not that there was any grass to paddle around on Logan Martin. Just plenty of green cash to roll around in.