SILOAM SPRINGS — A passion for bass fishing and art took Dwain Batey to the top of his sport.
Batey, of Siloam Springs, placed ninth out of 461 competitors in the 2019 Kayak Bass Fishing National Championship in Shreveport, La., March 28-30. His placement in the top 10 qualifies him and pays for his entry fees for two upcoming professional kayak tournaments that are co-hosted with Fishing League Worldwide.
“Kayak fishing has become incredibly popular in recent years and continues to grow,” said Dave Washburn, Fishing League Worldwide vice president of operations. “We are excited to work with KBF as the kayak fishing community leader to elevate the sport to new highs with tournaments offering 100 percent payouts throughout the course of the season and the biggest media platform available to kayak anglers.”
Kayak anglers were allowed to catch up to five bass a day during the three-day national championship, totaling the inches to determine the winners. Batey caught a total of 260 inches of fish, including one very large 10.64 pound, 24-inch fish.
Batey’s best catch didn’t even make the biggest fish of the hour because a Texas angler caught the largest fish of the tournament — a 25.25-inch bass — around the same time.
Batey’s team, the Ketch Team sponsored by Ketch Products, also placed third in the team challenge portion of the championship, earning the team the opportunity to be filmed on the television show Kayak Bassin’.
The show airs on WFN, the Outdoor Channel and the Sportsman Channel. It will be the second time Batey has filmed with the show. He first appeared after winning two Kayak Bass Fishing trail events in 2017.
Batey’s love for bass fishing and art started when he was about 2 years old and set him on a trajectory toward his current career. He was born in Idabel, Okla., and lived in Ada, Okla., for many years before moving to Siloam Springs in 1999. He grew up fishing tournaments from bass boats in Oklahoma, and his interests led him into a career of painting custom baits for Skirmish Baits.
He made the switch to kayak fishing in the fall of 2015. While the number of people participating in bass boat fishing has remained fairly level, the number of people who fish for bass from kayaks and kayaking in general is rapidly increasing, he said.
“Once I got into it, there was lots of opportunity,” he said. “It’s the fastest growing part of bass fishing right now.”
One reason kayak fishing is growing is that bass boats are more expensive, Batey said. An entry level bass boat can cost more than $50,000. In comparison, an entry level kayak costs around $200, while a top-of-the-line model with everything included might cost $5,000, he said.
“The community around kayak fishing is just so much more relaxed and more open than the bass boat community as well, which is great,” he said.
Kayak bass fishing offers several other key advantages, according to the Kayak Bass Fishing website: It’s healthier for anglers and the ecosystem.
Kayaks are quieter than bass boats and fish will often swim right up beside them, Batey said. They can also get into more places than traditional boats, he said. Some kayak anglers use traditional paddles to get around the lake, while others use a foot pedal system (his preferred method) or electric trolling motors, he said.
Kayak fishing tournaments are also easier on fish, he said. When anglers catch a fish, they measure it on a board along with a marker for the day and take a picture with their phone, then use their phone to submit the picture to a tournament management app. The fish is then released in the same location it is caught with no delay.
Fish are kept in live wells for hours during traditional fishing tournaments, measured and weighed and then released in a different part of the lake, which can cause trauma or death.
Batey makes his living selling custom painted baits, but he hopes to transition into a full-time career in professional kayak bass fishing over the next few years, he said.
The tournaments offer prize money and sponsorship opportunities. This year’s national champion took home nearly $73,000 in total prizes while last year’s won around $100,000, Batey said.
Batey is sponsored by the Hobie Kayak Fishing Team and his local kayak shop, OMTC of Garfield, in addition to Ketch Products.