Kayak Fishing Tournament Gear Guide

Ryan Herzog is a competitive kayak angler who’s participated in a number of Kayak Fishing Tournaments including several consecutive seasons of Texas’ Kayak Angler Tournament Series (KATS). See what he recommends bringing out on the water for your next kayak fishing tournament.

Kayak Fishing TournamentKayak tournaments are sweeping the nation.  With their growing in popularity, many folks find themselves competing in their very first event.  With that, comes a degree of uncertainty of what as is needed to get out and compete. The following is a list of items that you may find handy when considering on competing in a kayak fishing tournament.

Kayak

While this may sound like a given, there are several aspects that you need to consider when selecting the right kayak for you to fish in a tournament.  Will you be fishing a lake, river or bay?  What will the weather be like?  Do I want to stand or sit?  Which is the best all around kayak for me?  These are just a few of the questions that you may find yourself asking. Visiting an event like an Austin Canoe & Kayak (ACK) demo day, where you can literally try out numerous different kayaks all at once can really help answer these questions. Also be sure to check out their lineup of fishing kayaks online.

Paddle

Like kayaks, paddles come in different lengths and weights.  There are variations for virtually all body types.  Selecting the right paddle can be the difference maker when it comes to a full day on the water.

PFD

Personal Flotation Device (PFD/Life vest), not only is it a good idea, it is required that you wear one in most tournaments.  There are various types of PFDs, from the low profile, auto inflate to more fishing oriented life vests with various pockets and compartments for putting pliers, terminal tackle and other kayak fishing related items at east access.

Camera

Since most kayak tournaments are CPR (catch, photo, release), a good camera is required.  Some good features to look for would be:  Waterproof, shockproof, freezeproof, flash and ability to accept SD media cards.

Hawg Trough

Using the Hawg Trough to measure a HAWG!
Using the Hawg Trough to measure a HAWG!

The “Hawg Trough” is a measuring board that has pretty much become the standard for measuring fish in kayak fishing tournaments.  In addition to bringing your Hawg Trough with you to a tournament, it is advisable to do a couple of things to it.  First, would be to darken the measurement increments with a sharpie.  It makes it much easier on the judges.  Secondly, make sure you have a way to secure it or to make it float because it will sink.

Stake Out Stick/Anchor

Being able to hold a spot in a tournament can be essential to your success.  A stake out stick, which come in various lengths, usually anywhere from 5-8 ft, can help hold you in place.  It’s pretty much what the name says it is, a stake that is shoved into the mud and used as an anchor point.  In places deeper than the stake out stick will allow or on rocky bottoms when the stake out stick will not penetrate, an anchor may be the best course of action to hold in place.  Both can be used in correlation with an anchor trolley system.

Anchor Trolley

An anchor trolley system is comprised of a two pulley system, cord, bungee and nylon ring.  One pulley is secured to the bow of the boat and the other to the stern.  The cord loops around the pulley system and is connected to small section of bungee.  The bungee is then typically connected to the nylon ring.  The cord allows for the positioning of the nylon ring along the length of the boat thus creating endless anchor point scenarios.  The bungee provides shock absorption.  Used correctly it will take the hassle out of anchoring into the wind.

Electronics

This Pro Angler is rigged for tournament kayak fishing!
This Pro Angler is rigged for tournament kayak fishing!

Electronics like fish finders and/or GPS can be essential in providing water temperature and a layout of the surrounding underwater area.  Some are simple as they only provide the depth of water you are sitting in while some will provide exact GPS locations, down scan imaging, weather updates and various other bits of information.  Deciding what you would like to accomplish by using a fish finder, should help you decide which model is right for you.

Battery

With any electronics you add to your kayak, you will need to find a way to power them.  In most cases a simple 12v battery will power all electronics for the day.  Others may use a battery pack of AA batteries to make the 12v needed to power the unit.  Be sure to check the power draw of your electronics to ensure you choose the right solution for you.

Waterproof case

It is a good idea to always have some sort or waterproof case to protect your items that you do not want to get wet.  Whether it is a dry bag or hard case, this minimal investment can save you big from ruining your phone, key fobs or whatever else you want to keep dry.

Food/Hydration

Having the correct food and drinks can make for a great day out on the water.  While trying to pack a light as possible for a kayak tournament, the last thing that a lot of guys will think about is food and/or drinks.  Pack foods that will not spoil and are high in protein.  Keeping up your energy for the entire day can be difficult but can make the difference in a tournament.  Beef Jerky and granola bars seem to be favorites with the kayak fishing community.  Freezing your drinks the night before eliminates the need to bring a cooler.  The drink will melt over the course of the day providing something cool at almost any point during the tournament.

Sun protection

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is not preparing for a full day in the sun with it reflecting off of the water directly at you.  Items like sunglasses, cap or hat, a buff, sun block and chap stick are essentials.  With today’s fishing clothing, you can even wear long pants and sleeves without burning up.

Tackle/Rods & Reels etc

There's really no limit to how many rods you can bring...
There’s really no limit to how many rods you can bring…

Always make sure you have the proper tackle for the task at hand.  Pre fishing during the allotted times can ensure that you are properly prepared with the tackle that you think you will need that day.  Making sure your reels are in good mechanical order and that your line is not old and damaged can help ensure a successful day as well.

Landing Net

good net is something that you may not use on a regular basis but can be the difference in between landing a key fish and securing a victory and finishing 20th.  A net can also determine on whether or not you will get a handful of hooks when you go to lip a fish or not.  In a tournament I always use a net on a keeper fish.  I just do not see the need to take the chance.

First Aid kit

You may never use it BUT first aid kits are one of those things that you will be glad you have when you do need them.  Most times you can stow these out of the way and access them only when you need to.

Extra Clothes

It is always a good idea to take a change of clothes with you, especially during the winter months.  You never know when you may need to get out of cold wet clothes.

Bug Repellant

A good bug repellant can make a HUGE difference in the comfort level of a tournament.  It is especially handy for the overnight tournaments,

Lights

Texas Parks and Wildlife requires that all kayaks have a 360 degree light to be displayed from sunset to sunrise when not at dock.  Most are LEDs that are pole mounted and battery operated.  Additional LED lights can be wired in for safety and visibility.

Sharpie

In most tournaments you will write a code on your hand as well as record your score on to a score card.  It is advisable; to use a black sharpie as it shows up very well.

So what do you bring when you fish a tournament? Let us know by commenting below!

A Plethora of New In Focus Videos!

We’ve all been pretty busy over here at ACK HQ but we’ve recently taken the time to show off some of our favorite products in our ongoing series of In Focus product spotlight videos. We thought we’d dedicate a blog post to highlight what we’ve put in the spotlight recently.

Whether you’ve barely wet your feet in the world of kayak fishing or you’re a seasoned pro, you’re going to want to watch Jerron’s Kayak Fishing Essentials.

No matter if you’re a renter or an owner of a SUP, everyone needs a place to put their gear while out on the water and Jenny shows off Tahoe SUP’s SUPack Day Pack in detail.

YakAttack’s BlackPak is both a controversial and well-loved product at the same time and we’ve made another video (see the first one) showing you exactly what you get when you buy one and why you’ll want to try it out.

Cooler bags are essential if you plan to catch (and not release) fish on the water and Native Watercraft’s Behind the Seat Cooler Bag is tailor-made for Native boats and Jenny walks us through the key features.

There are a lot of mounting options out there for your kayak but Railblaza makes some of the more innovate products out there. Jerron takes you through the accessories you can use while out on the water (or wherever else you might find them useful).

-Trent @ ACK

Rookie Mistakes in a Kayak Fishing Tourney by Chris Payne (Payne’s Paddle/Fish)

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.

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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 paynefish@gmail.com.