“Did that just really happen?” 

That’s all Dylan Hays kept saying over and over as he walked off the weigh-in stage, seemingly in disbelief of what had transpired at the end of his day. But yes, Hays, as fairytale as it was, it did just really happen.

By Todd Ceisner
BassFan Editor


A lost fish here. A botched boat flip there. A 2-pound penalty for violating a no-wake zone.

The little things added up over the course of the season for Dylan Hays and ultimately derailed his charge to qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup, held a couple weeks ago at Lake Ouachita just down the road from his home in Sheridan, Ark.

“It’d have meant a ton to me,” Hays said. “I live an hour from there and I’ve fished there for 15 years and have competed in a lot of tournaments in August and September there so I’d have been comfortable with it. And my family could’ve made the trip. My grandma said she was saving her pennies to come to Hot Springs, so I kind of feel like I let her down. With the smaller field on a lake I’m familiar with and a style I’m familiar with, I would’ve liked to get a shot at it.”

The second-year pro is taking it in stride though, especially after finishing the season with back-to-back top-15s, including a runner-up showing at the Lake St. Clair smallmouth beatdown to close out the year. Despite missing the Cup by two points, he’s taking an optimistic outlook into the offseason. Knowing the Cup is back at Ouachita in 2019 only adds to his motivation for next year.

2/3. Hays, Knight come up just short fishing same area

If either (Hays,Knight) had the area to himself, maybe he could’ve won. Yet, despite sharing the same area and sometimes fishing within 30 yards of one another, both Dylan Hays and Brad Knight still felt they both had the bites to win. That’s how good their area was.

“If you look at my and Dylan’s fish, and our co-anglers, you’re looking at almost 300 pounds of bass being weighed from that area,” Knight says. “And that doesn’t include all the ones we threw back.”

Fishing within earshot of Grigsby on the southern Canadian side, the two had a few hundred-yard area with a magic combination of sand, patches of weeds and a lot of bait. How they went about fishing there, though, differed ever so slightly.

 

Lake St. Clair is a massive body of water, yet it seems one stretch along the southern Canadian side is where everyone’s focus will be on Sunday.

Dylan Hays, Chad Grigsby and Brad Knight are all fishing within sight of one another, with Hays and Knight essentially sharing the same area. In first, Hays put 22 pounds, 6 ounces in the boat to get up to a total of 72-3. Slipping slightly, Grigsby is just 15 ounces back in second. Busting 25-5, Knight moved up to third and is less than 2 pounds off the lead.

“Basically, one of us is going to bring in 24 to 25 pounds tomorrow between the three of us,” says Hays. “And whoever does is going to win.”

2. Dylan Hays – Sheridan, Ark. – 49-13

After coming off the weigh-in stage, Hays turned to his co-angler and simply said, “What just happened in our boat today?”

What happened was probably the best day of smallmouth fishing he may ever have in his life, and amazingly, he was done fishing by 10:30 a.m. with a staggering 26 pounds, 7 ounces in his livewell.

“We don’t fish for smallmouth in Arkansas,” Hays says. “So yesterday was my best day of smallie fishing ever, with my biggest, too. Well, now today is the best for both. I doubt I’ll ever top it.”

Anchoring his giant bag was a 6-8 kicker, and if you can believe it, he lost one even bigger.

Also unbelievable is that he’s sharing his spot with Brad Knight, who is sitting in sixth.

“We’ve really been working together, trying to fish our own sections of it without burning up the area,” says Hays of the stretch on the southern Canadian side. “It’s a half-mile area, but I don’t think either of us even fished 200 yards of it today before we both left. I don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface of what that place can produce.”

As for techniques, Hays says there’s no special bait.

“The fish are big, aggressive and hungry,” he says. “They’ll eat anything you throw out there.”

5. Dylan Hays – Sheridan, Ark. – 23-6

Count Dylan Hays among those who were pleasantly surprised by how well the big fish bit on day one.

“I didn’t really know how much I could catch,” says Hays, who fished the Canadian side of the lake. “I knew I was around some big ones, and fortunately today I got the right bites.”

Of course, surprises can be short-lived, and while Hays feels his area still has plenty more left in it, he also knows how fickle smallmouths can be.

“The nice part is it’s a large area, and there’s not a lot of people there,” says Hays. “So I’ll hopefully connect with a couple more big bites tomorrow.”