This past Saturday, the final regular-season Elite Kayak Fishing event of the year unfolded against the backdrop of Messalonskee Lake and Great Pond in Maine’s Belgrades Region. With a total of 64 anglers, from as far away as Pennsylvania and Canada, the stakes were high as many of them aimed to secure a coveted spot in the two-day championship event set to take place on Lake George in October.
Snow Pond Center for the Arts once again played host for this event. Situated along the eastern shore of Messalonskee Lake, in perfect view of the sunset (or an evening thunderstorm in the distance, as many saw Thursday night), Snow Pond offers a unique tournament experience for the anglers and their families who choose to stay on campus.
Leading up to the event, the weather was consistent: sunny, hot, with light winds, if any at all. The forecast for Saturday called for a cool morning with cloudy conditions all day, something many anglers, especially those who struggled during practice, were hoping would change their fortune. But as the day dawned and anglers made their way to their starting spots, there wasn’t a cloud in sight.
Under bright blue skies, the strategy adopted by many was to utilize their electronics to pinpoint smallmouth bass congregating around schools of baitfish. What set the top contenders apart was their reliance on the controversial forward-facing sonar technology, which proved to be the linchpin of their success. With the bass constantly on the move chasing schools, this gave those anglers the unique ability to spot fish in real-time, a significant advantage over those relying on traditional 2D sonar and sidescan.
In the end, it was New York’s Matthew Zapala who clinched the top spot, boasting an impressive 95.75 inches of Great Pond smallmouth. No stranger to either Great Pond or Messalonskee Lake (Matt finished third in the KBF Super Trail event there in 2020), he focused on offshore smallmouth, targeting the bigger fish with precision, which ultimately proved to be the winning strategy, producing not only the biggest limit but the biggest bass of the tournament: a 20.25 smallmouth!
Defying the odds once again, Ken Wood targeted largemouth bass as he did at our St. Lawrence River event last month, where he placed second. Ken fished the Belgrade Stream area on the southern end of Messalonskee Lake, power-fishing his way to another second-place finish with 94.50 inches.
The competition for the top spots was fierce, with three other anglers—Ryan Matylewicz, Benjamin Bornhorst, and Nick Audi—also boasting 94.50 inches. Tie-breakers are determined by the anglers biggest bass, which lead to Ryan securing third place, Benjamin taking fourth, and Nick rounding out the top five.
Jake Angulas secured the final paying spot with a respectable 93.75 inches, while Stephen Hedges (92.25), Mike Morcone (91.75), John Ferreira (91.50), and Anthony Campbell (91.25) completed the top ten.
Congratulations to all!
With the championship on the horizon, the stage is set for another thrilling showdown on Lake George in October, where the best of the best will vie for the titles of EKF Champion and Angler of the Year.
With 64 anglers, we paid out six spots for nearly $8,000 in cash and more in giveaways! A total of 411 bass were submitted to the National Trade Services Live Leaderboard.
Please support them whenever you can, as well as our other amazing sponsors: Bending Branches, Crosskix, Catch Co., Fresh Baitz, Harpoon Brewery, Hobie Eyewear, Lunkerhunt, Rogue Gear Co., and YakAttack!
And a big shout-out once again to Snow Pond Center for the Arts for having us back. Thank you!
Our championship event on Lake George is up next! This two-day event will not only determine our 2023 Champion but also our Angler of the Year!