Kayak fishing is a popular activity these days and as a result we’re seeing more and more people trying their luck in tournaments. Because competitive events can sometimes be confusing and maybe even a bit intimidating, we wanted to share this advice from regular guest blogger Chris Payne who recently had his first tournament experience. Let us know what you think and share your own tips below!
Yesterday was a first for me. I fished my first official kayak bass fishing tournament with the North Texas Kayak Bass Fishing Club. I had a great time with these guys over the weekend and would do it again in a heart beat. And while these guys are great, this is not a piece on promoting the NTKBF tourneys (though I need to do that). This is a piece to confess mistakes, make some lists and hopefully pass on some knowledge to future tournament kayak anglers.
Ruler Board/Hawg Trough
Most kayak tournaments use the Catch-Photograph-Release (CPR) technique to determine a winner. If you buy a hawg trough from one of the many retailers like Austin Canoe and Kayak, they come marked every inch. They do have ridges so you can measure up to 1/4 of an inch but they are the same color as the board. You quickly find out at “weigh-in” that those 1/4″ lines are very important and very hard to see in a picture. Take a sharpie and run over those ridges and the judges will never have to guess. But to even get a picture, you have to keep the fish on the board. This is a dexterity challenge while floating in a kayak with a paddle, a fish with hooks in him trying desperately to stab you with the hooks, a trough and camera, not to mention the required identifier that has to be in the picture. A friend, Bryan Row, had a great idea and attached three small bungees to the board so he can strap the floppy slime rockets to the board for a picture. It was ingenious and I had to pass it along. It must work because Bryan placed second this week!
Confidence Baits and Techniques
You know them and use them. They are your go to baits and styles. These are usually the first thing you go to when a new method or bait is failing after the first 10 casts that you tried it. Mine is a drop shot rig with a F4 Hag’s Tornado. I can catch fish out of a dry sewer line with this setup and yet I didn’t fish it on tournament day until an hour before weigh in. Why? I over thought the lake. I had never fished Purtis Creek before except for pre-fishing the evening preceding the tournament. In that time I tried what people told me would work, different locations, depths I normally didn’t fish and it hurt. At 12:30 I had two fish out of five and I caught those in the first 30 minutes of the day. When push came to shove, I switched back to my confidence setup and was rewarded with the three fish I needed to round out my limit. They were not huge by any stretch of the imagination but five fish on tourney day is never a given. The lesson here? Don’t deviate. After talking to the winner, rodmaker Walker Nelson, my thoughts were reaffirmed. He said he stuck to his game plan and didn’t deviate. Congrats on a great win Walker!
Planning and Homework
I spent the better part of the last two weeks planning for this event. I scoured what topographical maps I could find and used overlays from satellite maps to determine the most likely places I could catch fish. I prefished the day before and did okay but felt lack luster about it. At dinner that evening I got some tips on where some fish were. After a slow morning I abandoned my plan and spent the next three hours chasing someone else’s plan. That did nothing for me. In the time I left my prep work and techniques at the door, not a single fish came into the boat. Not a single, solitary fish. When I abandoned other plans and went back to my own, I caught the rest of my fish for the day. Lesson learned. If you doubt this, go back up a paragraph and read Walker’s comments.
Always Be Prepared
You just never know. It will creep up on you when you least expect it so pack accordingly. Not all of these things happened to me but some unexpected events at the tournament this weekend produced a bit of hilarity, some panic, some disgust and even some hunger.
Raccoons will steal your food. All of it.
Branches barely sticking out of the water get caught in scupper holes. Have a plan. And a saw.
The sun doesn’t rise until well after 6AM this time of year. Have what you need to be legal on the water. And a light to see the dangers.
You can get sunburned even when it’s raining.
Cameras fail. Have a backup plan.
The weather is like a good woman, usually beautiful and complex but she’ll lose control every now and again and you should be ready for how you’ll handle it.
Until next time, keep your food in the car and stick to the game plan.
Chris Payne is an avid kayak fisherman from Temple, TX. Paddling since 2003, he is spreading his adventures, foibles and knowledge to those who have a couple of minutes to read a post or two. Chris loves to talk kayaking with anyone who wants to share stories, learn more about kayak fishing or just chew the fat. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.