St. Croix Rod and Hobie Pro Adds Another Win to Impressive Competitive Track Record Benton Parrott Takes Tops at 2018 IFA Kayak Fishing Tour Championship
Three-time IFA Kayak Tour Champion and Team USA member Benton Parrott has added another win to his already impressive competitive track record, taking tops at the IFA Kayak Fishing Tour Championship held October 19-20 in Grand Isle, Louisiana. This most recent win makes it Benton’s fourth IFA Kayak Fishing Tour Championship win.
The Navarre, Florida-based angler narrowly edged out competitor Aaron Clay’s two-day, four-fish score of 120.125 inches of redfish and speckled trout with 120.375 inches, taking home a Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14 boat and PowerPole Micro Anchor valued at $4,450 retail combined, and $420 cash in the Anglers’ Advantage program.
While Parrott had planned to pre-fish the day before the event, fierce winds kept him and others off the water. Nonetheless, Friday, October 19th, saw competitors launch to compete in Day One of the 2018 IFA Kayak Fishing Tour Championship, although fishing conditions were described as terrible.
“It was a grind to catch decent trout on Day One given how the wind had stirred up and dirtied the water,” says Parrott.
Still, Parrott persisted. “On Day One I started in the marshes by working points, flats, and reefs. The key was jumping spots, hitting seven different areas and working baits through the three main areas of the water column. I threw topwaters; Rapala Ripstops to work the midrange; and also bounced bottom with soft plastics. But after jumping seven spots, I only had a 16 ¼-inch trout. I decided to drive the half hour down to Grand Isle where I launched out into the Pass and was able to land a 43-inch redfish working depths anywhere from 20 to 60 feet of water. With three hours left in the tournament I pulled out of the Pass and went back to the marsh to try to upgrade my trout, which I did with a 17-incher.”
Day Two of the tournament saw conditions greatly improved with reduced wind and drastically improved water visibility. “The water cleared up significantly and we had calm conditions—it was really a perfect day weather-wise,” says Parrott.
“On Day Two I decided to start in the marsh, strictly fishing for trout. But the trout bite was almost non-existent, and I had to work really hard for them. I threw soft plastics, working them on the bottom; a Rapala Ripstop for the mid-range and topwaters, too. I had several large trout blow up on top but not take the bait. That’s when I made the decision to go and fish an old camp with lots of old pilings and oysters, working the Ripstop through the pilings where I was able to pull out a 19-inch trout. I immediately drove the half hour down to Grand Isle, launched out into the Pass and then spent the rest of the day culling through reds, finally hooking into a 41 3/8-inch red throwing a Hogy Pro Tail on a St. Croix Avid Series Inshore rod.”
Speaking of rods, the seasoned kayak pro credits his equipment as a mainstay in keeping him competitive against the finest kayak anglers from Texas to the Carolinas. “It sounds kind of funny, but with St. Croix I know what my rods are, what they’re doing and what they’re capable of, so I know what baits I want to throw with what rod and what I’m comfortable fishing. The confidence in that alone makes a world of difference,” says Parrott.
Depending on the application, Parrott uses a number of different St. Croix models ranging from new Mojo Yak models to Legend Xtreme Inshore, Avid Series Inshore, and Tidemaster Inshore.
In this event, his primary rod for speckled trout was an XIS70MF (7’ medium power, fast action) Legend Xtreme Inshore spinning rod paired with a Shimano Stradic 2500 CI4+ reel spooled with 15-pound Seaguar Smackdown braid and a 12-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon leader. For targeting the bull reds, Parrott’s primary rod was a VIS76HF (7’6” heavy power, fast action) Avid Series Inshore spinning rod paired with a Penn Slammer 5000 size spinning reel, also spooled with Seaguar Smackdown braid and fluorocarbon leader. “Given the size of the redfish we catch around Grand Isle and the schools of jacks you can get into, I definitely size up. That rod and reel combo handles bull reds like nothing else,” says Parrott.
He also sings the praises of the new Mojo Yak, which he’s been fishing since day one. “The Mojo Yak rods have been great. I started playing with the prototypes—some of the first ones that came out—and I’ve been out fishing everything from bull reds to bass with them and they’re great overall rods for kayak fishing a number of species. From the comfort and ergonomics of the custom Winn split grip handle to their unique combination of sensitivity and backbone, they’re ideal for kayak anglers.”
Parrott also notes that when competing internationally he turns to St. Croix Legend Trek spinning models, three-piece rods comprised of high-modulus/high-strain SCIV graphite that come with a rugged travel case.
Besides his rods, Parrott stresses the importance of his actual watercraft and how without easy to transport, fast, and stable boats, he has no idea where he’d end up on the leaderboard each year.
“I’ve been with Hobie since 2010 and they’re always outfitting me in the top-of-the-line, new Hobie Mirage kayaks. Being comfortable out on the water in tough conditions and being able to hold your position makes all the difference in the world. For example, on Day One I was fighting 18 to 20 mph winds in the Pass but was still able to go out in big water and get the job done,” says Parrott.
In tournament situations, he says that typically means fishing from the Hobie Mirage Outback. “The Mirage Outback is my utility vehicle. I use it for everything from inshore to offshore fishing. Twelve feet nine inches and only 103 pounds fully rigged, I can get it in and out of my truck quicker for tournament situations. It may hold less equipment but I don’t carry a lot with me when I tournament fish. I try to carry the minimal amount of gear as possible.”
Other times, especially when weight and size isn’t at a premium, Parrott prefers the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14. “I’ll swap from the Outback to the Pro Angler 14 if I’m out fishing with my son, or if I’m going to be standing all day fishing on the flats. I also use it a lot at night sight-casting bull reds or tarpon. When you’re tossing baits to 150-pound tarpon a very stable platform is essential because when you hook up you have to drop down and set the hook all at the same time. The Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14 is a great tool for situations like these.”
When asked how it feels to have a fourth IFA Kayak Fishing Tour Championship under his belt, Parrott just laughs and shakes his head.
“To be honest, being able to say I ever won one IFA Kayak Tour Championship is still a shock to me and that was in 2012. Then, to go back to back Champion and National Angler of the Year in 2014 and 2015 was an even greater shock. To win it again this year, I’m just really happy and excited about winning another one. During the Championship I’m just able to get out on the water, focus on the task at hand, and somehow do what has to be done to finish well. I try to fish hard and part of that is thanks to companies like St. Croix Rod, Hobie, and all the others who’ve been so awesome in supporting what I do as a competitive kayak angler. It really means a lot.”
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