BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — With a fifth-place finish at the Yamaha Rightwaters Bassmaster Kayak Series at Lewis Smith Lake powered by TourneyX, Justin Largen of Roanoke, Va., grabbed the lead in the Old Town Bassmaster Kayak Series Angler of the Year standings with 972 points. Largen logged his third Top 10 finish of the year at Smith Lake, adding to a season that includes a victory at the Harris Chain of Lakes and an eighth-place showing at Grand Lake.
“Going into Grand and into Smith, they weren’t places I have fished before, and I didn’t have a ton of confidence, but my goal was to be competitive and stay relevant,” Largen said. “Don’t have a bomb and take myself out of it. To be leading it feels great.”
Largen is followed closely by West Virginia’s Larry Edwards (967 points) and Arkansas angler Garrett Morgan (950), who led the AOY standings through the season’s first three events.
After lackluster tournaments before the start of the Bassmaster Kayak Series season, Largen arrived at Texas’ Lake Fork in February to freezing, low-water conditions but figured out a pattern that helped him grind out an 18th-place finish.
“Fork was really a turning point for me,” he said. “It was tough fishing, and the first day I had one bass and was 66th out of 150. The second day I decided I needed to get bites and picked up a spinning rod. I had seen a turtle at some point on Day 1 near the surface and didn’t think a whole lot of it. But later that night I started thinking that the surface water was a little warmer and that the fish might be holding shallower. I was dragging a Carolina rig and maybe I was dragging it underneath them. So on the second day, all I did was fish a wacky-rigged Missile (Baits) 48 worm on 6-pound line, and it was like a different lake. I had 95 inches.”
Largen then went to Florida and won at the Harris Chain, giving him his first national-level victory in a field of anglers he greatly respects.
“When I saw B.A.S.S. was doing an Angler of the Year, I signed up for all of them right away,” he said. “The win was huge for me. It was my first win at a national level, and there were a bunch of big names fishing. It was a huge confidence boost.”
Growing up on the Potomac River, Largen has grown into a power fisherman and would try to force a power bite during tough days. But this season, Largen has been more willing to pick up a spinning rod and finesse fish more, an attitude change that has made all the difference this season.
“That was something I noticed last year I wasn’t doing a lot of. I might bring a spinning rod or two, but I would try and force the power fishing,” he said. “This year, I have kept a spinning rod in my hand when it has been tough or the fish have had a lot of pressure. A lot of the lakes we’ve fished have been really pressured, and I have caught a lot of fish with that spinning rod.”
Largen added that a simpler approach has also helped his confidence.
“I’m not taking quite as much gear,” he said. “I own a ton of stuff, but I found the more things you take the more weight is in the boat. In addition to cluttering the boat, it clutters my head. Just having the Missile line of plastics and jigs, I can eliminate a lot of extra stuff, and if I’m not getting bit, I need to change techniques and think about the rate of fall.”
The Old Town Bassmaster Kayak Series Angler of the Year will be decided by an angler’s four best finishes. The worst finish for each angler who fished all five regular-season tournaments will be dropped.
With this format, there is still plenty to be decided.
The 2022 season wraps up Oct. 8-9 at the Yamaha Rightwaters Bassmaster Kayak Series at Pickwick Lake powered by TourneyX.
2022 Bassmaster Kayak Series Title Sponsor: Yamaha Rightwaters
2022 Bassmaster Kayak Series Partners: Old Town, MotorGuide