Boat: 2006 Puma
Minnesota Bass Cat owner Kyle Erickson opined that the lakes of northwest Arkansas reflect a totally “different world than what we’re used to in Minnesota,” but he and partner Rick Nichols adapted ably, catching fish at all but one stop of the five-lake Bass Cat National Team Championship. They tried to find situations that mimicked what they’d fish at home, and employed techniques in their wheelhouse, particularly at Taneycomo, where they had the third best overall stringer.
“It was definitely the single most mentally and physically challenging event I’ve ever fished,” Nichols said. “But the experience was top notch. It was kind of like a fishing vacation that turned into a grind. Kyle had done a lot of research, but the warmer than usual temperatures threw us for a loop.”
They split their practice period between Norfork and Table Rock, but if they had it to do over again Erickson likely believes he would’ve spent some time on Bull Shoals. He relayed that he also would’ve bought a map chip in advance, since “fishing those lakes blind is tough.”
Their success at Taneycomo came by fishing areas with laydowns and grass, similar to spots they might fish on the Upper Misssissippi. Erickson quickly caught a keeper on a jig, but the rest of their fish came on jerkbaits, a Jackall Squad Minnow and a Rapala Shadow Rap Deep. The jerkbait was also their tool of choice at the White River. One disappointment was a monster fish at Taneycomo that pulled drag and eventually got off without the pair seeing it. Nichols speculated that it might’ve been one of the lake’s huge trout, and if it weighed as much as they think it did, it would’ve vaulted them up the leaderboard.
The Minnesota pair fished out of Erickson’s 2006 Puma. He only started bass fishing five years ago, and commenced tournament fishing shortly thereafter, but when he began his boat search he consistently got feedback that Bass Cats could handle his state’s inland oceans like Mille Lacs and Leech Lake. “Every Bass Cat guys raved about the support you get from the company,” he said. “It’s a great boat and a great family. I’m a Bass Cat guy for life.” Nichols currently owns an aluminum boat, but he reported that he “spent a lot of time in Kyle’s Bass Cat this summer, and if I was going out to buy a glass boat tomorrow, I’d buy a Cat. I’ve seen what the boats can do and I’m impressed.”