Kayak AOY leader Snyders fishing to his strengths

When he moved from California to Tennessee, Rus Snyders began kayak bass fishing to meet people in his new state and to start a guide business on the little rivers around Nashville.

After just seven years, however, Snyders has ascended to the top of the kayak tournament world. He currently leads the 2023 Dakota Lithium Bassmaster Kayak Angler of the Year standings with 484 pounds after the first two events of the Yamaha Rightwaters Kayak Series powered by TourneyX season.

He leads second-place Nick Dyer by just a point. Kayak Series champions Eric Siddiqi and Greg DiPalma are tied for third with 481 points.

Mixing in early spawners and prespawners, Snyders finished third at the first event of the season at Lake Guntersville before notching a 15th-place finish at Lake Hartwell in the second event.

In between those two events, Snyders earned a signature victory at the Kayak Series National Championship on Lake Chickamauga. As an avid Bassmaster fan growing up, it was a dream come true for Snyders to hold up a trophy on the Bassmaster Classic stage.

Snyders has found that he is always more consistent in the spring season, finding it easier to find the bass in shallower water, a depth range he prefers fishing from a kayak. 

“This time of year, the spawn and prespawn, are the times I usually do best and cash checks more times than not,” Snyders said. “As we get into the summer and fall, I’m not quite as consistent. I’m glad I got off to the start I did for sure. On Hartwell I was bed fishing, and I can’t remember the last time where I spent an entire tournament doing that.”

On nearly every lake, he feels he can be more efficient in shallow water. Shallow is where kayakers hold an advantage over bass boats, unlike in offshore situations.

“Sneaking up on them is a lot easier to do out of a kayak than it is in a bass boat. If you can fish some of those areas that get targeted by bass boats and be a little more stealthy, I believe you get more bites out of a kayak than a bass boat,” Snyders said. “I seem to do a lot better where I can hit visible targets and see the ambush points where fish are hiding — anything I can make short, accurate casts around.”

Starting out as a bass boat angler and then a guide in northern California, Snyders hasn’t always been such a shallow-water guru. In his home state, he learned how to be versatile by fishing for deep spotted bass in places like Lake Shasta and then shallow tidal water on the California Delta.

“I grew up in the bass boat world and kind of got out of tournament fishing when I was about 25 years old. I got into guiding until I was about 30 and moved to Nashville,” he said.

When he moved to the East Coast 10 years ago, float trips were his introduction to kayak fishing. He would leave his bike where he planned to take out and then drive up to where he wanted to start fishing.

Once his day was complete, he rode his bike back to grab his truck, occasionally followed back by unwanted company.

“I got chased by dogs a few times. It was a lot of work.,” Snyders said. “I spent a lot of time exploring the rivers and creeks around middle Tennessee. My goal at the time was to learn these rivers well enough so that I could start a guide business.”

Then in 2016, he discovered the Kayak Bass Fishing Tennessee club, and he was bit by the tournament bug once again. Close to 100 anglers were competing in these events around that time, and Snyders met Adam Riser, Josh Stewart and Siddiqi, who have become great friends, travel partners and Dakota Lithium teammates.

Snyders jumped in his first national kayak event on Lake Barkley in 2017 and finished 16th. From there, he has built an impressive resume, collecting 28 wins and 80 top 10 finishes in 127 attempts as tracked by TourneyX.

Those range from local trail events to the Bassmaster Kayak Series and Hobie Bass Open Series tournaments. Not included in that tally is a KBF National Championship victory last year at Kentucky Lake.

“I really had no idea this success would come my way,” Snyders said. “One thing led to another, and next thing I know I am traveling to bigger tournaments, and they started paying out big checks for the national championships and stuff. At this point, I’m just about doing it full time.”

Snyders owns a power washing business that allows him to make his own schedule and gives him plenty of flexibility when filling out his tournament schedule. He has a specific truck, a 2004 GMC Sierra, he uses to travel to tournaments. That Sierra has almost 500,000 miles on it, and Snyders has designed it to maximize his efficiency on the road.

Instead of back seats, Snyders has two large boxes, one that houses his tackle and the other has two Dakota Lithium 100 AMP batteries that charge his Torqeedo motor and other smaller batteries. He also replaced his passenger seat with a refrigerator, and his truck bed features a Yakima rack that helps him carry two Wilderness kayaks to each event, one in the bed and one on the rack, as well as a Yakima Topwater rod box.

“It is nice to have all of that and not have to tow a trailer or anything. It makes it a little easier when I get on the dirt roads and park in tighter spots,” he said.

To stay sharp on the road, Snyders also makes time to meal prep and create healthy dishes. He also practices yoga, rock climbing and runs when he can to keep himself in shape and have as much positive energy as possible.

Three events remain on the Kayak Series schedule: Possum Kingdom in June, the Upper Mississippi in July and the Susquehanna River in October. Snyders said he isn’t sure if he will make it to the Possum Kingdom event, but the final two events set up in his shallow-water wheelhouse.

The Susquehanna in particular sets up like some of the little rivers around Tennessee.

“The Upper Mississippi River is a great shallow-water fishery, and I have had a lot of luck there in the past. I have won there twice and had a second-place finish,” he said. “I’ve been to the Susquehanna once, and I am excited to have my Torqeedo on my Wilderness Systems A.T.A.K 120 for that event. It will come in handy.”