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Huddleston man headed for national championship

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By John Barnhart

    A Huddleston man is headed for a national bass fishing tournament in March.

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    This is a different type of bass fishing event than they typical fishing tournament. While it is a catch and release tournament like others, the fishermen fish from kayaks rather than boats.
    The Huddleston man is Brandon Overstreet. He placed sixth, out of more that 40 competitors, at a Virginia Kayak Bass sanctioned tournament held on May 13, 2017, on Smith Mountain Lake. His finish qualified him for the national championship tournament, which will be held in Kentucky.
    “I was very shocked,” he said.
    The kayaks they fish from are different from recreational kayaks. These are fishing kayaks and the fishermen sit on top of them. Sometimes they stand on them and this can make it easy to catch spawning female bass. Overstreet said female bass create a small bed on the lake bottom, lay their eggs on it and then guard the eggs.
    “I can catch her off that bed and put her right back,” he said.
    This is because the kayak bass fishermen each have a unique iden and can photograph their bass on a measuring board and immediately release the fish. This means the bass can go right back to her eggs.
    Overstreet said it also means kayak bass tournaments have a lower death rate among the fish that are caught because they are immediately released. In standard bass tournaments, the fish are held in live wells and must be taken to a central location to be weighed in before they are released.
    The photos are uploaded via an app, which also loads the fisherman’s GPS location. Winners are also subject to lie detector testing. Overstreet noted the quick release is good for conservation, especially if the fisherman pulls up a female that is full of eggs.
    Overstreet  said kayak bass fishermen have an advantage over people fishing from a boat.
    “We can stand up on our kayaks, look down and see her on the bed,” he said.
    They can also go into very shallow water.
    “I can probably get into one foot of water,” he said.
    What if you hit the bottom? No problem. It’s easy to get the kayak off the bottom. The fisherman just has to get out and the kayak, minus his body weight, floats on top of the water.
    Actually, a fisherman in a tournament can get out of the kayak and fish. He just has to be tethered to the kayak at all times for what he catches to count. Overstreet said he did that once on a lake in North Carolina. It was very hot and there was no shade so he got out of the kayak and stood in two feet of water to cool off.
    Like boats, Overstreet’s fishing kayak has a fish finder. However, the kayak lets him get into places that a boat can’t go.
    Overstreet has been doing competitive fishing since 2015, but he likes kayak fishing just to fish. He enjoys kayak fishing on the James River and the New River. It’s easy to portage the kayak around dangerous spots. He mentioned Balcony Falls, on the James, in particular. This is a stretch of serious white water and Overstreet said somebody dies there almost every year. He said the victims are usually teenagers.
    “They don’t know the danger of it,” he said.
    The national kayak bass fishing tournament will take place on March 23 and March 24 on Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley.
    “The are compound lakes,” he said. They straddle the Kentucky/Tennessee state line.
    Overstreet said there will be 787 anglers and the first place prize in $100,000.
    “I want to win it,” he said.
    Overstreet said he started preparing for the tournament in December. He’s been searching the Internet for information on the lakes and talking to other kayak fishermen.
    He plans to go out a couple of days before the tournament begins and fish the lakes. He’s also taking his wife and children with him. His wife, Cynthia has gotten into the sport, as has his 5-year-old-son.
    Cynthia Overstreet, comes from a fishing family and Overstreet is dedicating his fishing season, this year, to her late uncle, Benjamin Choate. Choate died on Dec. 10, 2017, and Overstreet will have a sticker on his kayak that reads “Fishing for Ben for the national championship” when he heads for Kentucky next month.
    “He was an avid fisherman,” Overstreet said. “He loved to fish.”
    The national championship will be televised on the World Fishing Network channel.