The fall bite on Lake George is legendary—if you time it right.
The two-day Elite Kayak Fishing Championship took place on October 14–15, a time of the year when bass should have been bunched up across the lake, feeding and getting fat for the winter. A sense of excitement and anticipation filled the air as thirty-six of the Northeast’s top anglers gathered with one goal in mind…
Become the 2023 EKF Champion.
But while the autumn foliage and crisp fall breeze painted an expected picture above water, things weren’t so predictable beneath the surface.
Record-breaking high temperatures preceded the week of the event, which meant the water temperature was warmer than normal this time of year (or higher than anglers had hoped it would be). This presented a challenging experience for those seeking to take home the EKF championship trophy.
With the bass less predictable, and the fall feeding frenzy only beginning to turn on, consistency over two days would be the key to victory.
As Matthew Zapala noted before the event, “Consistency will be an issue with the temps the way they are and how random it can be when it’s like this.”
After a week of cool temps, some rain, and windy conditions, day one of the event presented mostly sunny skies and light wind. Smallmouth were active this day, with only one largemouth showing up in the top-five anglers’ limits.
At the end of the day, last year’s EKF Champion and Angler of the Year, Nick Audi, no stranger to the top of the leaderboard, found himself there once again with 95.25 inches. But with this being a two-day event, and with John Ferreira (94.5), Frank Matylewicz (94), Todd Dyer (93), and Rey Morales (90) close behind, there were no guarantees for victory.
Sunday arrived with a dip in air temps and a strong northerly wind for most of the day, changing things dramatically for some anglers on day two.
When the waves settled, Ryan Matylewicz landed in fifth place with a solid limit of 177.25 inches. Ryan covered miles of water, starting at the southern end of the lake each day before packing up and moving to a mid-lake area. A dropshot presentation was how he enticed them into the kayak.
With another strong performance in his first season with EKF, Rey Morales expertly used a jig to haul in 178.25 inches of both smallmouth and largemouth, giving him a very respectable fourth-place finish to cap off an excellent year.
On Saturday, smallmouth pushed Nick Audi to the top spot, but on Sunday his quality smallmouth bite had disappeared. A last-minute 20-inch largemouth saved the day, giving him a much-needed 4.5-inch upgrade, which was the difference between a sixth- and a third-place finish. He had 180.25 inches total.
Nick also landed the Three Belles Outfitters Big Bass of the event with a giant 20.50-inch smallmouth.
Frank Matylewicz and Benjamin Bornhorst also caught 20.50-inchers, but Nick caught his first, which was the tie-breaker.
As noted, consistency over two days was key for this event, and Todd Dyer’s persistence was on display as he finished in fourth place each day. His masterful jig work in deep water earned him a two-day total of 181.5 inches and a well-deserved second-place check.
While being consistent will always benefit an angler, luck can sometimes throw a wrench in the works. John Ferreira worked a large area of the lake for three days during pre-fishing, putting up over 90 inches each day, utilizing a variety of baits. Like Rey and Todd, the jig was his most productive bait, and on Saturday it resulted in his best day of the week with 94.50 inches. Everything was going his way.
Come Sunday, however, things changed. Before noon, John’s biggest bass was a 17.50-incher. It appeared that after five days his luck—or good fortune, if you will—had finally run out.
Under pressure, John remained focused and covered nearly ten miles in his tricked-out Jackson Kayak Take Two. It was a game of hide-and-seek, and finally, at 11:58 AM, he found the first of four big smallmouth that would ultimately propel him to the top of leaderboard.
In quick succession, John hauled in a 19.75, a 19, an 18.50, and a 19.25, among others that didn’t make the cut, to firmly secure the championship crown with 188.50 inches, seven inches over second place!
John’s ability to track down schools of quality smallmouth bass led to a pattern that held up for the duration of the event.
The top ten was rounded out by Benjamin Bornhorst (175.75), Matthew Conant (172.00), Matthew Zapala (171.25), Ken Wood (167.75), and Joseph Horgos (167.75).
Over the course of two days, thirty-six champion-worthy anglers put up 354 green and brown Lake George bass. Payouts totaled just over $6,000 (with more in prizes), bringing the season total cash payouts to nearly $50,000!
And with that, the 2023 EKF season has come to an end. This season would not have been possible without the support of Dakota Lithium Batteries, Three Belles Outfitters, and National Trade Services, as well as Bending Branches, Crosskix, Catch Co., Fresh Baitz, Harpoon Brewery, Hobie Eyewear, Lunkerhunt, Rogue Gear Co., and YakAttack!
Though our sponsors are the foundation on which we all stand and compete, we must always thank you, the angler, for making EKF the great success that it’s been! It has been an amazing season for us and we’re looking forward to making 2024 even better!