An Interview with Rus Snyders, your 2022 KBF National Champion
And KBF Trail Series Champion.
And KBF Challenge Series Champion.
Extreme efforts yield extreme rewards.
To say Rus Snyders sacked ‘em up on Kentucky Lake would be a bit of an understatement. And a bit misleading. He fished far from the lake, but well within tournament boundaries which sprawled up the tributaries of the Duck River where Snyders ‘camped’ for 3 days of competition and literally camped for 2 weeks while pre-fishing prior to the start of the 2022 Kayak Bass Fishing National Championship hosted by the fair town of Paris, Tennessee.
“Kentucky Lake, Lake Barkley and all the rivers connected to them are kind of my home waters,” said Snyders. “I live about an hour away from a lot of that water. I set aside a lot of time. I knew coming in that it’s a big tournament. A lot of money was at stake. I devoted quite a bit of time to pre-fish.
“My buddy from Arkansas, Cody Milton, came up and joined me. We teamed up, figured we had a similar game plan so we tried to cover as much water and find as many of these good spots as we could and when it came down to the tournament, we were just going to have to split up the areas that we found and see what happens.
“He had a good tournament too.”
Milton indeed had a good tournament. He placed 3rd and secured his 3rd KBF Angler of the Year title in 7 years of competition. We talked with him as well – stay tuned to Kayak365 for his story later this week.
As for Snyders, he amassed 282 inches on his 15 best bass over 3 days and outpaced runner-up Eric Jackson by 23 inches.
The 2022 KBF Championship included a Trail Series competition, a Challenge Series competition, and team competition along with the overall National Championship. With 190 inches for his 10 best bass, Snyders also won the Trail Series title and the Challenge Series title to sweep the event.
Snyders narrowed his focus to just a couple of techniques and caught a mixed bag of largemouth and smallmouth.
Snyders found himself way, way up a creek but not without his Bending Branches paddle, though it was his Torqeedo 1103 motor, coupled with the smooth bottom of his Wilderness Systems ATAK 120 kayak that granted him access to miles of the skinniest water which held the fattest fish.
The water cooled down 10 degrees and cleared up a couple of feet over the first competition 2 days. During practice, “Ah, the leaves were changing and the weather was gorgeous. It’s a great time of year to be out there in Middle Tennessee. That was the days leading up to the tournament. Come tournament time it did get a lot colder.”
Getting away from angling pressure was important. So too was bait selection. “In a lot of the areas where we were catching better fish, we found gizzard shad.”
To imitate the large gizzard shad Snyders threw swimbaits, mostly a 6-inch Megabass Magdraft Freestyle. “Cody was getting some on a Bullshad. I was getting a few on a big S-Waver as well, something that really mimicked those big gizzard shad and attracted the bigger fish.
“We shook a few off, trying not to catch too many of them because we feel like, especially in these smaller bodies of water, these rivers and stuff, the fish are susceptible to pressure.
“We tried to find areas that are hard to access, or single access areas, where it’s hard to do a float. In those cases, we motored a little farther than we thought most people would go.”
On Day 1 of competition Snyders caught 97 inches and big fish of the tournament, a 22-inch largemouth, all on the Magdraft. “I barely made a cast with another rod.” Of the big bass he said. “It was fat too! Pretty short and stocky, probably between 7 and 8 pounds.
“I also got a fat 20-and-three-quarter-inch smallmouth – just at, or maybe a little under, 5 pounds. It was a good day,” chuckled the champ.
“I didn’t have service that day, so I had to get in my truck and drive in to town to submit my fish, about a half-hour period there so I had to give myself enough time.”
On Day 2 Jeff Little – YouTube channel The Little Stuff – tagged along to document Snyders’ 93-inch effort. Snyders enjoyed the company on his wilderness cruise that featured deer and bald eagles. “I had a great time with him. He was a great person to talk to. Glad he was able to share my story.
“That day I caught most of my fish flipping wood. It was a really cold morning. It got to about 25 degrees in the morning and all my guides were freezing up, my reel handle, the thumb bar – everything was freezing up that first half an hour. It was over an hour before I got bit, after I decided to run another couple of miles downriver.
“I caught them really good down the river in that new area that I hadn’t fished yet. By the time I got back to the area where I had caught them (on Day 1) there wasn’t much there. It really opened my eyes to how fast those fish can migrate from day to day.
“A couple days before we got just enough rain, I noticed, to make the water level go up about 2 inches, just enough to get the bait moving downriver and the fish followed.”
On the final day Snyders mined his newfound hot spot for 92 inches and the win. “I pretty much worked that same area. I actually moved down a little farther and expanded. I slowed down a little more and really worked that whole area once I found that they were still in that section of river. Really picked it apart. Got a lot more fish that day on the swimbait including another big smallmouth on the Magdraft.”
Details on the Magdraft Freestyle: “The first day I was throwing the White Back Shad color on a 6/0 Owner Beast hook – ¼oz. Later in the day they would just follow or would miss it, wouldn’t get it that good. The night after the 2nd day I started thinking about it and said ‘I should be throwing it on a little bit heavier hook’. In some of the areas that had more current I had to reel it too fast in order to get that tail kicking right. It was riding too high in the water column. So, I went to an 8/0 3/8oz. Owner Beast hook on the 3rd day.
“I was still throwing that White Back Shad in the morning and then I made another adjustment, switched to the Brownie color. The water had cleared up from pre-fish. Because the temperature dropped, it killed off a lot of the algae or plankton and the water got a foot or two clearer. In the middle of the day, in that clearer water, that Brownie color looked a lot better, and I started getting bit again.”
Snyders was dialed-in on the jig bite too. Flipping to laydowns, mostly from a seated position he had a solid 2nd round. “I was looking for areas that had medium-paced current or a little faster, looking for those stagnant little pocket at the base of the laydown where the root system met the trunk of the tree – the roots were facing upstream and the trunk would be laying downstream – there’d be these little slack pockets. You need to keep your line off the water so it doesn’t get swept away. So, I was trying try to get pretty close and flip into those little stagnant pockets where the water wasn’t moving which allowed my jig to fall straight down without getting swept away. Most of them would hit it on the fall but some of them would sit there and shake it for a little bit.”
Boat positioning was critical. The Torqeedo made it possible. “If you were doing a float downriver, you couldn’t get the angles on the cast. You’d float right by. There’s no way to really flip the wood without getting swept by it. The whole key to my success, all the days, was to motor down and work my way upriver, into the current where I could have the motor working just enough to hold myself into the current while I picked apart those laydowns.”
A huge advantage for Snyders was the remote nature of his stretch of river. Some specialized equipment helped him on land as much as on-water. “A lot of these areas are hard to access. I have a Ketch Cart made by the same guys who make the measuring boards, Ketch Outdoors. They make a badass cart for the kayak. They’re not cheap, but they’re durable – just as tough as they get – and that really allowed me to get my kayak down to the water in some hard-to-reach areas.
“Couldn’t have worked out better. Every time I made a decision on where to fish or what to throw it always ended up being the right one.”