Twelve fun kayak contests

Matthew Pyatt won the Topwater Trail Series Angler of the Year title mostly by throwing a diminutive Ned rig during the 12, three-hour tournaments that took place every Tuesday evening over the summer.  

Tuesdays were the funnest nights of the week for yours truly. I competed in a series of 12 kayak bass tournaments, three-hour contests every Tuesday night starting back in June at Morrison Lake, and ending last week at Big Pine Island Lake.

If you’ve never heard of those lakes, welcome to the club. When the schedule was announced, I realized I’d only been on two of them, and had never heard of most of the rest.

The Topwater Tournament Series sponsored by Berkley was the brainchild of Kyle Van Leuven and his brother-in-law Mike Anderson. The duo wanted to provide a fun way to help newcomers experience the fun of fishing a bass tournament.

I liked them because they were only three hours long starting at 6 p.m. and ending at 9. The key was to catch a five-fish limit as quickly as possible. A good limit was often enough to get into the money (the circuit paid down 4 places for the $30 entry fee). It surprised me when I learned how close to winning the circuit’s Angler of the Year I was. I ended up in second place, beaten by new friend Matt Pyatt.

Pyatt beat me largely by tossing the small Ned Rig at almost every tournament, I did best when I just started fishing right in front of the ramps from which we launched. The strategy mostly worked right up to our last tournament last week at Big Pine Island Lake near Belding. I marked lots of fish on my sonar screen, but caught just one little rock bass in front of the launch. While lots of other 20 folks caught plenty of bass, Pyatt made me feel better when he told me he’d caught nothing too. Misery does love company.

The tournaments were basically centered around Grand Rapids, which meant a lot of them were around 90 minutes from home.The long drives on Tuesday afternoons and late-night returns were worth it. I fished with a bunch of really great people, with entrant numbers ranging from about a dozen up to more than 20 as the series’ first season progressed.

We didn’t win a lot of money, but for this circuit I won enough to cover my entry fees.

The best news is that Kyle Van Leuven asked me to run a similar circuit on a weeknight next summer, and I plan to do it. Watch for the schedule featuring lakes in Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties and feel free to email me at the address at the end of this column for more information.

Hunting begins

Although the official start of autumn doesn’t happen for another three weeks, the calendar flipping from August to September is one of the most exciting times for many folks who enjoy hunting and fishing.

The early Canada goose hunting season began statewide today and runs through Sept. 15 in most of the state. The daily bag limit is five.

For the fastest shotgunning imaginable, try dove hunting in Indiana. Somehow the great outdoors state of Michigan lost its dove season several years ago before it even started and that’s a shame. Dove hunting is fun and a successful shoot harvests some great meat for the table. Such a shame that Michigan shotgunners can’t get a resident license and shoot doves here.

The Michigan Liberty Hunt allows kids 16 and younger and hunters with disabilities to shoot deer in September. This year it’s Sept. 14-15.

September 15 is also when grouse season opens across the state. Woodcock season starts less than a week later on Sept. 21.

Also open as of Sept. 15 are small game seasons for rabbits and squirrels.

Bowhunters know deer archery season starts Oct. 1.

The problem with all these hunting seasons is they start when fishing for many species is good and getting better as the days grow shorter and the water cools.

Salmon are already moving into area rivers and some steelhead have been in rivers since early summer. More steelhead will get into the rivers as fall progresses.

This is a great time to target big flathead catfish at night on local riers including the St. Joe, Black and Kalamazoo. My friend Capt. Tony Wolte who fishes out of Saugatuck guides clients for catch-and-release catfish fishing. Contact him at 616-836-8452.

Outdoors columnist Dave Mull lives in Paw Paw. Write to him at dave.sportfish.mull@gmail.com.