Topwater Tournament Experience: Kevin Brandtonies

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Wapsi GM Karl Schmuecker in the game in the rain

 It was a gray and rainy morning this past Saturday when I arrived at the Cotter Pavilion at 6:00 am. I was part of team Wapsi this year, which consisted of Karl Schmuecker, Clint Wilkinson, and myself. There were 29 teams entered, all of them with 3 contestants. The teams had to catch 1 brown trout, and one of the other 3 species of trout(Rainbow, Cutthroat, or Brook) in either the White River, or the Norfork River. These two fish would be measured for length, and the combined total length would be the what decided the tournament. The contest began at roughly 6:30 am and everyone had to be back at Cotter by 2:00 pm for the tallying of numbers, and the winners to be announced. 

            Karl, Clint, and I decided we would fish the Norfork river instead of the White. Truthfully….Clint was the one who decided our game plan, and why not,…. he has been on the winning team that won the tournament 3 years in a row. We headed out towards the Norfork with our gear, boat, and faith in our leaders decision. We were fly fishing, but most of the teams were using bait, or artificial lures with conventional tackle. There was one generator running on the Norfork, and the White was at minimum flow. 

              Clint would try first with foam dry flies, and Karl was going to do some nymhing. I would row, and control the boat first. The first hour was slow going. The rain was almost constant, but the water clarity was not bad. Clint got a take on one of his own foam dry fly patterns. I watched the the fish grab the fly and yelled out “He’s got it!” clint had already set the hook before I could get the words completely out, he is an old veteran guide on these rivers….and didn’t need me to call out his bites. I netted the fish for him, and it was a 19 inch rainbow, a real beauty! We were all very pleased, and high fives went around the crew. Photo’s taken, we went back to work. Karl hooked up on a small Brown, and a 16 inch Cutthroat in the next hour. We were hoping to get a larger Brown, but the bite was spotty on any fish. Clint put down the dry fly, and started nymphing along with Karl. 

                3 hours into the tournament, the bite started to pick up. Karl and Clint, both laying down some REAL good drifts,(thanks to my excellent boat handling) and they were rewarded. Karl hooked and landed a 19 1/4 inch Rainbow! It was a football in shape! We were very happy to beat the first Rainbow we caught. Clint said, after we landed that one, “Now we need a yella colored one!” It wasn’t too long after that, he hooked one. The fish took his nymph, and proceeded to do everything it could to get off the hook! Clint showed how he has won 3 times in the past. That Brown never had a chance to throw the hook. We landed it, and now felt that we had a chance to make a good showing. It was a beautiful 19 inch specimen! Clint told me to to get ready to fish. I told him to “keep fishing 3peat, I want to win this tournament.” He smiled and went back to fishing. 

          We wound up catching around 8 or 9 that morning, all of them quality fish. Karl kept right on fishing, and caught another nice Cutthroat that was wasn’t as big as the first one, but a real nice fish all the same.  Clint was tired and told me to take over fishing with an hour left to go before we had to leave. I started nyphing and managed to get one hookup. It was a really nice 18 inch Cutthroat. Time had expired for us, and we headed back to Cotter at 1:15 pm.

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Kevin and his cuttie

               We didn’t think we would win, but we knew we had some fish to register. When all the registering was done, we had 38 1/4 inches of trout. We anxiuosly awaited the results. When it was all over, we had claimed 4th place!  We were very happy, to say the least! It was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed fishing the tournament with my close friends. 

         (Clint has always been my fishing “Hero.”)

      Team Wapsi will be back next year, and we already looking forward to it.