Mark Edwards has paid a visit to tournament bass fishing’s biggest stage, and he’s been on cloud nine ever since.
Edwards, a kayak bass angler from Pipestem, placed second in the Bass Angler Sportsman Society’s first-ever open kayak tournament, held in conjunction with this year’s Bassmaster Classic at Logan Martin Lake, in Alabama.
“I’m still having trouble believing it,” said Edwards, who switched from bass boats to kayaks three years ago and hasn’t looked back. “Since that tournament, a lot of opportunities have opened up for me.”
Kayak tournaments have been popular for several years now, and BASS decided to cash in on their popularity by creating a five-tournament series. They call it — no joke — the “Huk Bassmaster B.A.S.S. Nation Kayak Series powered by TourneyX presented by Abu Garcia,” which might just break the sporting world’s record for product mentions in a series title.
The tournament at Logan Martin Lake was the first event in the series’ inaugural year. The day after the kayak tournament, the Bassmaster Classic kicked off at nearby Lake Guntersville.
Like most of the participants, Edwards had pre-fished Logan Martin prior to the tournament.
“I had three patterns in place during my practice time,” he recalled. “So, after I launched on the morning of the tournament, I started working the pattern I thought would be most effective.”
Edwards had found bass schooled up during his practice session, and he went after them again. Weather conditions had changed, however, and he didn’t have much luck.
“I caught just one bass from my best spot,” he said. “So, I went to my backup spot. On the way there, I caught my biggest bass of the tournament, a 19-inch largemouth.”
Edwards’ backup spot wasn’t much better than his primary, but he did land a 15.75-inch largemouth there.
“By then, I was kind of in panic mode,” he admitted. “I’d fished my best spots, and I thought about going to my third spot, but I knew I’d spend 35 minutes just getting there. Instead, I decided to check my first spot again.”
That turned out to be a really smart choice. When Edwards returned, he found the fish he couldn’t locate earlier.
“I got there at 12:30 in the afternoon,” he said. “In a little more than an hour, I got eight keeper-sized fish.”
Because kayak anglers measure their catches and transmit photos of the fish to a panel of judges, they know almost immediately where they rank in the tournament standings. When Edwards first filled his five-fish limit, he was in 12th place.
“I was happy with that,” he said. “It meant I was going to earn some money.”
Each successive fish put him a little higher in the rankings.
“I jumped to ninth place, then sixth, then first,” he said.
Fishing ended at 3 p.m., but anglers had until 3:30 to upload fish. When Edwards got to the stage for prize presentations, he heard a rumor that someone had made a late upload that knocked him out of the top spot.
Sure enough, Jim Davis, an angler from Knoxville, Tennessee, had uploaded his last fish just 15 minutes before the deadline. Davis’ five-bass limit measured 87.75 inches. Edwards’ came in at 84.75 inches.
Truth be told, Edwards’ length total left him tied with Jonathan Lessmann of Madison, Alabama, but Edwards won a tie-breaker by having the biggest fish in either string.
Edwards finish earned him a check for $7,000, a ton of media requests, and a new kayak from Native Watercraft.
“It was a heck of an experience,” he said. “I think this new series is going to be a great thing. As far as opportunity is concerned, the sky’s the limit.”