There’s a lot of talk around the ACK offices and our stores about the Kayak Anglers Tournament Series (KATS) and if you aren’t an angler, that can leave you feeling a little left out at times. Case in point: Myself.
While I do enjoy fishing for its relaxing, meditative and buddy-bonding aspects, I probably haven’t been since I was…. 12 or 13 years old. That leaves me with a lot more listening to do than talking when it comes to these conversations about KATS. Surprisingly, I’ve had my hands in several aspects of the tournament over the near-year I’ve been employed at ACK. When I first started, I was tasked with going out to the Decker Lake event to take some photos and simply observe the tournament and how things worked. For this year’s iteration of the tournament, I have helped lay out a poster, shoot and edit photos and videos and performed various other tasks along the way. In the middle of my time working here, the Hobie World Championships took place in Austin and ACK played a part in that as well so I’ve been around the fishing tournament world more than I ever thought I would be.
That being said, I have learned a lot and gained an enormous amount of respect for these tournaments and their competitors. It takes a lot to put these things on. At the minimum, months of planning are involved which entails a lot of scrutiny and late nights in the office or the stores trying to make the events as best they can be for the competitors, sponsors and ACK as well.
From 2012 to 2013, there was a huge amount of effort put into expanding the base of sponsors and making sure the anglers would be happy with the prizes they’d be winning throughout the tournament. At the Decker event after I first started, I learned that being out on the water all day is a tiring thing for these guys and gals. Doling out prizes at the end of the day can be a little tiresome for the water-weary but at the most recent event, Lake Bastrop, it was great to see the anglers more engaged and excited about the prizes and pay-outs. The KATS team really made an effort to reach out for sponsorship and they’ve made great strides in that area. That makes the anglers happy and in turn, the tournament organizers.
From an outsider’s perspective, “specialized hobbies” like kayak fishing can be a little intimidating. I am a part of two such “specialized hobbies” myself – concert photography and limited-edition movie poster collecting – that can be intimidating to outsiders. Every group has their vocal “veterans” that like to scare off or intimidate the newcomers and its hard to know who to talk to or where to start when you first take an interest in something like the aforementioned hobbies. While I may not know all of the insider lingo or be able to talk at length about medium-heavy moderate fast-action rods, top water poppers or casting techniques, I’ve never felt like an outsider at the tournaments. Yeah, working for ACK helps, but no one has made me feel dumb if I had a question about something I didn’t understand and I’ve also been able to learn a lot from simply kicking back and observing my surroundings. Now I just need to get out on a kayak and fish…
Since my last post, it became validated, birding from a kayak is pretty darn cool! I continue to work on improving my fishing skills and while I don’t get much better, I can think of a lot worse things to do with my day than spending it in a kayak casting and watching nature work it’s magic. This time, my plan was to fish but I also made it a point that when I came across any bird, I would take notes to later identify it.
The weather was perfect for what turned out to be a great day spent at Lake Bastrop here in central Texas. I took a Hobie Pro Angler 12 out on the water a little after 8am. The pedal drive function was great for quick turns and positioning. I was alternating between a weed less worm and a lipless crank bait trying to drum up some action when I spotted a large bird in the weeds! I moved myself into position and stayed real quite taking notes.
Brown and white Egret looking bird
Long pointy beak, yellow tipped
Yellow bent legs and orange eyes
So exciting! The bird stayed so still completely unaware of what I was doing. I kept my distance and tried to get a picture. Without a lens it just looks like an out of focus picture of a tree. When I finally got to do my research on what it was, I discovered that I had witnessed an American Bittern.
Six hours into it, I’ve caught no fish, which is just mind boggling at Lake Bastrop. The fish practically caught themselves here when Jason Voorheis tormented everyone during the last Friday the 13th movie, which turns out to have been filmed right here on Lake Bastrop. So no fish, but I cataloged 5 new birds I had previously never seen or even noticed in my past pre-birding lifestyle. I also saw plenty of other wildlife including a snake. Instead of feeling like a failure I left feeling very successful and even more inspired than ever before! I can’t wait to hit the coast and look for birds there soon.
If you hadn’t already heard, the Hobie Fishing World Championships rolled into Texas and brought with them competitors from 13 different countries (see more pictures of the kickoff here). After hosting the event’s kick off at our Austin store, ACK joined the competitors for four days of fishing at Lake Bastrop and Lake Fayette. Competitors, many of whom had never fished for bass, had one chance to pre-fish in Bastrop and then the following three days was all competition, one day 0n Bastrop and then two more 0n Fayette. My job at the event was to camp out with the 42 Pro Anglers 12 and personal gear that was left on the boats overnight.
Consistency was key for success in the tournament. Those that caught 3 ‘keepers’ (14″ or over) each day did very well by the end. Even having one day with only two fish took you out of the running for the top spots overall. It was a very fun and interesting few days with the competitors. We had plenty of laughs, a couple spills, and of course lots of great fishing. See all of the final results here. We’re very proud of all of the competitors and a big thanks to Hobie Fishing and the other sponsors for hosting such a great event. Other sponsors included Daiwa, Columbia, Lowrance, Ram Mounts, Hobie Polarized and Gamakatsu.
After 6 month of competition, the 2012 Kayak Angler Tournament Series has come to an end. The six events held this year proved to be a lot of fun as well as challenging due to various weather and wind patterns. Anglers came out to compete in groups of 40-60 throughout the season, making this one of the biggest KATS seasons ever.
The first four tournaments tested the anglers and produced a list for the series rankings. The Top 10 anglers qualified for the Classic Championship on June 2nd. A Wildcard event held on Decker Lake yielded an additional five entries into the Classic. Last Saturday, June 2nd, the 2012 KATS Classic Championship and simultaneous Team Charity competition took place on Lake Bastrop in Bastrop Texas. The Top 15 anglers from the series launched early, around 6:00am and were due back by 2:00pm for scoring. Meanwhile, the charity folks launched a bit later and returned just before 2:00pm.
Steve Garcia secured the Kayak Angler of the Year title earlier in the season with a trio of 1st place wins. A fully loaded Malone Microsport Kayak Trailer with a Feel Free Moken 10 Kayak was provided by our sponsors as his prize. In addition to this prestigious title, Mr., Garcia also secured the King of the Fish award, an award for the angler producing the most total inches over the entire series. 489.25 inches won Garcia a Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120. Congratulations on your wins, fishing, and prizes!!!
Bobby Lebeuf went home from Bastrop a 2012 KATS Classic Champion. He won this sought after title with 100.25 inches and also took home the Big Bass award for the event with a 22.25 inch bass. In second place, Brandon Campbell had 95.75 inch stringer followed by Mark Nordstrom in 3rd with 93.25 inches.
The Team Charity event helped raise money for the Core Health Fishing Pier Initiative and Tye Blackshear, with his team partner Ryan McDermid, took first place with a 102.25 inch stringer taking home a two-night stay at any one of Costa Ventures’ vacation homes. In second, Mark Bullock and Chris Pierce brought in 66.25 inches, and third place went to Eugene Reinhart and Wayne Mack with 43 inches.
ACK and Austin Kayak Fishing want to thank all of the participants for this year and we look forward to seeing you out at future KATS events. Big thanks are also in order for our more than generous sponsors who helped make these events possible.
The first tournament of the Kayak Angler Tournament Series (KATS) took place on Lake Bastrop this past weekend and was a huge success! Just fewer than 60 anglers (some from as far as Del Rio, TX) competed on a very windy and chilly day! The fishing was tough but a few lucky anglers took home prize money (pro division) and some fine kayaking gear (amateur division) donated by our generous KATS sponsors. Being a part of an event where the competitors are truly passionate about the sport is a lot of fun but it is also very competitive. The Bastrop tourney was definitely not a fair weather fisherman’s event but these guys paddled out in the 20 mph winds through the day and nobody went home early. Steve Garcia took 1st place in the Pro Division while Spencer Colins secured the 1st place spot in the Amateur Division. Click here to view the full results.
If you are not familiar with this event, it is one of the largest most sought after freshwater kayak fishing tournaments in Texas. The event brings together the most dedicated freshwater kayak anglers in Texas to compete for a chance to claim the rights to being the AKF Kayak Angler of the Year. The series runs from January to June and includes 4 qualifying events, a wildcard tourney, and then finishes with a Classic Championship. Competitors that do not qualify for the Classic will be able to participate in a team competition benefiting charity.
If you missed our first event, don’t be discouraged, there are several opportunities to catch up including the next event being held at Lake Fayette on Saturday February 25th. To learn more about the series and to find the rules, sign up, and forum information please click here.
I am very excited to be involved in this series and I cannot wait for the next tournament (Fayette).
To see some additional photos, visit our KATS photo stream (Join the group to add your own!).