What started as a peaceful escape from reality, quickly became a hobby and passion over the last four years for Shad Schafer, FreeState’s enterprise applications supervisor.
Shad had always enjoyed fishing to decompress but was searching for a new challenge, or a better way to fish instead of from the bank. Fishing from a kayak allows a fisher to maneuver through deep and shallow waters.
“I had never been on a kayak before,” he said. “So, I bought a cheaper one to start with. Since then, I’ve upgraded to what I would call the Cadillac of kayaks called a Pro-angler. It’s geared toward fishing, and I could stand up on it and fish all day long.”
Prime bass fishing begins in the spring, along with some of the most anticipated kayak bass fishing competitions of the year, and Shad is ready to get his entries in.
“Spring is the best time because the bass are spawning so the females are eating a lot more because they are about to lay eggs.” he said. “They tend to be found shallower because that is where they want to lay their eggs.”
Shad said he’s had a wide variety of hobbies but somehow finds himself turning each into a competitive hobby over time. He first began competing in local competitions throughout Kansas including Lake Shawnee, Shawnee State Lake, and Banner Creek.
“The people I’ve met at competitions have taught me new techniques.” he said. “And I have a core group of five friends that I’ve became close with through fishing, and we all try to go to the same competitions. Even if it’s only three of us that can make it.”
Shad and his friends make an annual trip to a weekend competition at Lake Okoboji in northwest Iowa.
“We get a campsite together,” he said. “We don’t even set up tents, we just throw up hammocks. One of us brings a grill and we just do our thing.”
Although fishing competitions are back in person now, one of Shads greatest achievements happened in a unique way, given the circumstances.
“All the live tournaments went away so a group decided to still have a tournament where you could fish any public water.” Shad said. “Tournaments are usually done in a bracket-style, and I ended up qualifying for the National Champion tournament of 32 people.”
For the first three rounds of the championship tournament, contestants draw for their component each week and fish at their own local lakes.
“I drew a Texas guy my first round.” he said. “For bass fishing, Texas and Florida are places you go to catch the biggest fish. So, immediately I was the underdog.”
Shad easily came out on top and continued to move forward to the next rounds. He qualified in the ‘Elite Eight’ and traveled to compete in Tennessee where he ended up placing 6th in the national tournament.
“To me there are two ways to have a good fishing day,” he said. “You can have a day where you’re nonstop catching fish all day long, and it’s just fun or you can have a day where you struggle to catch any fish. Then, you catch that one really big fish, and it makes it all worth it.”
Although Shad looks forward to competing in the state league and local tournaments this upcoming fishing season, he is more excited to make more memories with his buddies.
“We almost have more fun at practice.” Shad said. “Instead of competing in the Lake Okoboji tournament, we may go up there the weekend before and just fish as a group for fun.”
No matter where Shad fishes, he’s bound to spark a connection – even if it is with the competition.
Follow along on all of Shad’s bass fishing adventures on his YouTube channel!
Story by Tory Blosser, communications intern
Photos courtesy of Shad Schafer