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  • Writer's pictureHoosier Kayak Bassin

CROWING A CHAMPION | PART ONE - THE RECAP

Did we just experience the most exciting HKB State Championship yet? We knew we would crown a new champion on Saturday, but no one could have imagined the series of events that led to that moment. Follow along as we break it all down. 



The 2024 Soremouth Tackle HKB State Championship, powered by Dakota Lithium, was full of twists and turns. There was no shortage of surprises and the action was non-stop. 


Nine of the best anglers from the 2023 season took on the waters of Lake Manitou in Rochester Indiana, not knowing what was in store for them, but hopeful they could put enough pieces of the puzzle together to have a shot at the title of State Champion. A title only held by 2 other anglers, until now. 



The 2024 State Championship got underway Thursday with an official practice day. Six of the nine anglers hit the water Thursday morning. For most, it was their first time seeing Lake Manitou and for a couple, it was only their second. The angler with the most previous experience, Adam Murray, also spent Thursday breaking down the water looking to see if his past success on these waters would be at play in this event. 


Three anglers, Wyatt Gard, Antoine Hayes (Tweezy) and Merlin Hammer III (MH3) opted not to practice. Each of them would experience Lake Manitou for the first time on Day One of competition. A bold strategy. The question is, would it pay off? 



Following practice Thursday, all nine anglers gathered at the Tournament HQ - Soremouth Tackle, for the annual Night of Champions Dinner and Captains Meeting. 


Each angler received various items from our supporting sponsors such as Bizz Baits, Rogue Gear Co., Xcite Baits, Flambeau, Soremouth Tackle, and Dakota Lithium. In addition to sponsor packages and dinner, this was each angler's first time to set their eyes on the Hardware. 



Of course, the most important piece of hardware is the Traveling OG State Championship trophy. Created by Ketch Products, this trophy was the Prototype of what would become the foundation for some of the most popular trophies in the kayak scene and beyond. 



More importantly, this trophy is marked with the name of every champion and is handed off from one Champion to another. We call it the “Traveling Trophy” because it remains with an angler for only the time in which they are the reigning champion. 


In addition to the traveling trophy, our champions, as well as runner up, 3rd place and Big Bass, all take home one of the famous Ketch Mini Bump Boards. 



During the Night of Champions, thanks to our title sponsor Soremouth Tackle, the anglers were able to grab some of those last minute items and stock up on their winning baits before heading out on day one of the competition. 


 

DAY ONE COMPETITION



Day one of competition on Lake Manitou started off with some chilly temps and moderate winds, but that didn't stop our anglers from getting to work quickly. Right off the bat, we started seeing catches come in from all over the lake.

Jumping out to an early lead though was Old Town angler, Tweezy, thanks to a quick limit of 64.25 inches. However, by mid-morning it would be the MH3 show. 




After posting a limit, including a 19.50 kicker, MH3 took control of the YakRods day one leaderboard and held that lead until shortly after midday, but once the leaderboards went down around noon the bite turned on and the anglers found yet another flurry that would shake things up quite a bit. 



One of the anglers who was able to capitalize on the afternoon bite was 2023 SIYAK AOY, Adam Murray, who had a surprisingly rough start to the day. Adam landed a solid keeper early before going on a spree of missed opportunities. That, coupled with some long periods without a bite, had Adam considering throwing in the towel. Like the true hammer he is though, he pushed through the struggles and put his past experience to work.


Adam rallied late in the day with 2 fish caught between 2:00 pm and lines out including an 18-inch kicker.

Adam’s 5 fish limit totaled 75.75", which was enough to catapult him up from the bottom of the leaderboard all the way to 3rd place on Day One. 


 


2024 IKA AOY,  Ryan Platt, made some big moves of his own in the final hours of day one. Platt had a decent limit by mid-morning but struggled to find a kicker bite. At least until around 1:20 pm, when he landed a 17.75" to cull his way to 2nd place on day one with 78 inches. 


 


The big surprise of the day though, was the late rally by double qualifier, Ryan Reedy, who  scored a 17.00 just minutes before lines out, putting him in the hot seat for day one with 79.00 inches. 


We asked Reedy what adjustments he made in the final hours to help him turn things around. Reedy said, “ I just quit being stubborn and fished the conditions” he went on to talk about how he had spent the first half of the day trying to force what he found in practice vs using the wind to his advantage. 


 

MH3 who held the lead for a large part of the day fell to 4th as he was unable to cull some of his smaller fish. He finished day one with 75.50 inches, but was on top of the Killion Tile Lunkerboard with his 19.50 Kicker. 


 

Here is a look at the final day one YakRods Leaderboard. 


 

DAY TWO COMPETITION


Thanks to some strong southern winds, the anglers woke up to nearly 70 degree temperatures on Saturday morning. Though it was nice and warm as opposed to the day one launch, anglers were all wondering how much the high winds would affect their bite, both positively and negatively. With forecasted wind gusts of up to 40 mph and sustained winds of 20 mph, the 800-acre Lake Manitou was choppy, to say the least.


For the anglers, it would be a question of whether they could fish the areas they felt would be the most productive. If not, would they be able to find an area out of the wind that was productive. 


For a handful of the anglers in the field at takeoff, it would be a race to the canals on the southwest side of the lake. This is an area that produced both quantity and quality on day one. 


This canal system is fairly large, giving the anglers plenty of opportunity to spread out and get away from the wind. One of the anglers targeting the canals was Adam Murray. As mentioned before, Adam got off to a slow start on day one but put his foot on the gas in the ladder part of the day and on day two, he kept his foot on it and never let up.

Adam started off day two with a string of 16’s first thing in the morning, followed up with a couple small keepers to land the first limit of the day. 


His early limit had to weigh on the minds of fellow competitors, simply due to the fact that three of his five were well above the average size for day one of competition. Adam had pulled away at the time. As the day progressed, the rest of our field would begin to try challenge Adam. 


Several other anglers were beginning to find some key bites, including Tweezy, who had started off his day with this 18.25 inch kicker.


By late morning though, the headline of the day wasn’t Adam‘s sizable limit, but the lack of fish submitted by day one Leaders, Ryan Reedy and Ryan Platt. 


Both anglers had virtually had gone MIA leaving the door wide open for Adam, Merlin, Tweezy, and others. 




Just before noon and shortly before we took the leaderboards down, Adam would begin to slam that door shut. Adam made two key culls thanks to a 18.50" and 16.00" separating him by more than 10 inches over Merlin Hammer, who had just four fish at the time. 


Merlin would fill his limit, but would need several upgrades or two very large kickers in order to catch Adam. The only anglers who stood a real shot at running Adam down were day one leaders Ryan Reedy and Ryan Platt. Neither of which had caught a limit by noon.


Reedy, facing several struggles on the water on day two, would finish the day without any limit and Platt just couldn’t find the size he needed to make a run at the title. 


Adam's early flurry was just too much for the remaining anglers in contention to keep up with.



Adam secured the victory, becoming our 3rd angler to be crowned HKB State Champion, joining an elite class of anglers alongside two-time champion, Mike Elsea and 2023 Champion, Glenn Landstrom. 


 

For more on Adam’s incredible journey to the Championship and how he went from almost giving up to hoisting the Trophy, Check out part two of our Crowing A Champion series "The Perfect Story” - coming soon! 


 


Finishing runner-up was back-to-back SIYAK Champion, MH3! 



Merlin posted a two-day total of 150.50 inches anchored on day one with a 19.50 and on day two with a 19.75". Merlin claimed a spot on the podium for the 2nd year in a row, after finishing 3rd in 2023.


MH3 is definitely moving in the right direction. On top of his 2nd place hardware and prizes, Merlin went home with some with a $100 Big Bass bonus from Killion Tile. 

 

Rounding out the top 3 in his first-ever State Championship, Antoine Hayes (Tweezy), found another solid limit on day two for a 2-day total of 148.50 inches. 


 

Here is a look at the full YakRods overall leaderboard

As the top angler on the leaderboard our champion, Adam Murray, took home a BFS rod from YakRods, designed and tested by fellow kayak angler, Justin Kevitt. 

 

On Monday afternoon following the event, we asked Adam if it had sunk in yet?


He responded saying, ”Yeah a little bit, I wish I was still kayak fishing! To put in so much work and end with a championship title was awesome.” Adam went on to say it replenished him after the struggles in his recent switch from competitive kayak fishing to the boat side. 


For more on that conversation and to learn about  Adam's path to victory, check out part two of the “Crowning A Champion" series - “A Perfect Story” and part three “Winning Ways”  shortly after. 


 

Congratulations once again to our champ and all the anglers who qualified. We wish you luck in 2024 and hope to see you back in 2025!

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