Cody Milton has had quite the year on the kayak trails. He won the 2022 Kayak Bass Fishing Angler of the Year title last month then turned right around and won the 2022 Hobie Bass Open Series AOY a couple of weeks later.
Milton entered the Hobie BOS Tournament of Champions in good position and then nailed-down the AOY title by placing 8th in the tourney, held on Caddo Lake astride the Texas/Louisiana border during a week that saw changeable weather and an everchanging leader board.
How, exactly, does somebody consistently find fish enough to win 2 Angler of the Year awards in a single season? Never mind that this was also his 3rd AOY with the KBF trail in 7 years.
Even Milton is a bit baffled by his success. “I can’t believe it. Cannot believe it. Two in, what, 3 weeks or something like that,” chuckled the affable angler who gets his mail in Arkansas but has lived many miles out of his Fish USA-themed van.
“I won a few tournaments on KBF, but I never won a Hobie. I think if you look at the last 3 people who’ve won the Hobie (AOY) only one of them has actually won an event. It seems like just being consistent throughout the year, obviously, that’s what it’s all about.”
Milton said he has typically fished well in autumn and that has played the biggest role in his previous AOY wins. This year was different. “This was definitely the first time all my best finishes came from the spring. I was able to close it out at the championship, which is cool because, man, I struggled during the summer. Getting some good tournaments out of the way in the spring was key.”
Hobie considers an angler’s best 3 regular season finishes, along with their TOC performance, for AOY points. “There were 9 events this year. I think I used my first 3 tournaments. I think I placed 4th, 3rd, and 4th.”
Milton has said before that he feels it’s important to be in a good place, mentally, when competing. This year was no exception.
“I just kind of fell in love with the season. It’s pretty easy with such a good schedule that Hobie put out this year. And so many good springtime tournaments. I keep saying that, but that was one of the best. Springtime tournaments are so weather dependent. I feel like we got lucky with some good weather patterns, across the board too. Not just Hobie. All of them. There were a lot of fish shallow up until May.”
People love to trumpet the old truism that anglers must be versatile, especially in order to accomplish a season-long endeavor such as angler of the Year. But Milton relied on a single lure to capture one of the most coveted titles in kayak fishing.
“For the Hobie events it was 100% a spinnerbait.
“This weekend I threw the exact same spinnerbait I threw at Santee Cooper which is the only other cypress tree tournament we had. Three or four years ago I came up with a spinnerbait that’s won me a lot of money. For whatever reason it works really well in tannic water on those cypress trees. It gives me a lot of confidence when we get in those areas like that. Even on Caddo earlier this year when I won that tournament with KBF it was on that same spinnerbait.
“I don’t talk about the spinnerbait much anymore though. It’s time I give the guy a little more love. It’s an Accent (brand) spinnerbait. It’s a custom bait but their stock lines are good too. Fish USA caries them.”
As is often the case for high performers, Milton will go his own way when need be. At the Hobie TOC most top anglers fished grass, but Milton notes, “I think I was the highest finisher that was actually fishing trees. It seemed like most people were hammering that grass flat out there.”
Milton also mentioned that many anglers used electronics heavily but he doesn’t care much for it. He is proof that anglers can still catch fish without investing thousands of dollars in the latest technology.
Then again, if Milton wants to get into the techno side of the game, he now has some cool toys thanks to the huge AOY prize package provided by numerous Hobie BOS sponsors. “I’m still finding new things in the (prize) kayak by the minute! I found a reel in the hatch, found a battery in there. The AOY package is absolutely unbelievable. The whole Top 10 went home with, I think, over a thousand dollars’ worth of gear, rods, reels, and a lot of things.”
Milton found a groove with his boat and rode it to the top of the sport. “One of the biggest things I did this year was I didn’t really change anything during the season. This is the first year in the last three that I fished out of the same boat all year. Last year I cashed checks out of 4 different boats. The year before was the same.
“I got really comfortable in that PA12 360 this year. It held up well all year.”
Milton dotes on the mobility of the 360 drive system. “Especially on those cypress tree lakes. You can do little U-turns. I would throw a spinnerbait and drag it halfway around the tree just working my pedals. It’s awesome when you can do that.”
While motors were not allowed during the TOC competition days, Milton credits one from Newport Vessels for his “Being able to cover a lot more water than most people. It’s a NK180 hooked up to a Dakota Lithium 24volt 50-amp hour. I’ve done so many 16-to-18-mile days this year in practice it’s not even funny. A lot of people say they’ve never killed one, but I’ll kill one and plug-in the other one at a second ramp. I don’t do a lot of fishing in practice but I do a lot of looking.”
While he’s known for going to lengths that others will not, Milton says that’s not always necessary in order to catch fish. “Checking the extremities, like usually there’s some happy medium in the middle. Usually it’s not actually pushing those extremes but just knowing what those extremes are kind of gives you a better idea what is going on. Whether that’s water color differences on the lake or water temperature differences.”
He found a rod he likes too. “I caught every single fish on a 683 Dobyns Champion – best spinnerbait rod on the market – 14lb Gamma fluorocarbon line on a Shimano Curado 200K with a 7.3:1 gear ratio.”
Attitude was everything at the defining moment of the season for Milton. “Every day I would be in the low 70s’ going into that last hour-and-a-half. For whatever reason that last hour-and-a-half was the deal for those big ones biting. It was hard to remember that when you’re catching small fish all day and then catch a couple of good breaks at the end.
“It’s hard to be confident the whole time when that’s going down.
“I knew the area I was fishing very, very well. That’s one of the only things that gave me the confidence to actually know that I was going to get a few of those big bites each day.
“I don’t think I caught a fish deeper than 3 feet of water, most of them coming from a foot-and-a-half.”
Milton is still in awe of how things went down on Caddo Lake where conditions got tough, and the front runners ran away with the lead. “I really thought I would have caught them better than I did that last day. I did have my best day on the last day, but those guys were kind of outpacing the rest of us by quite a bit, so I felt pretty fortunate to get up there like I did.”