So you want to be a kayak tournament angler? Sounds easy doesn’t it? I just need a kayak and a fishing pole. I catch fish all the time from my bass boat or at my local pond, right? Well, I was that guy four years ago and got a rude awakening my first tournament. I have been an avid kayaker for over 20 years. Yes, I’m that old.
I primarily kayaked only on creeks and rivers in my Perception Patriot 12. It was a great kayak and did what I needed. My first kayak fishing tournament came in 2016 and it was my first time on a large body of water in a plastic boat. I took everything I thought I needed to catch fish. Well, everything that works in the creek and at the pond. I was in awe with all the angler setups. From the sit on top kayaks to “what the hell, that thing has pedals”! Look, are those fish finders? Needless to say, I had my butt handed to me. Mostly because of not being prepared and of my arrogance.
Now that I have got the newbies rethinking this easy sport, I will discuss the basics to get started so maybe it will help someone coming into the scene. I am by no means a professional at this sport, but I do have hundreds of hours in the tournament seat. The main focus is to have fun and learn.
Kayak: Let’s start with the most important item, the kayak. I cringe when I see a post about “what is the best kayak”. Everyone is going to respond with their brand and the person asking will end up buying the popular suggestion because that’s how
people are. I am going to say, GO DEMO AT LEAST 6-10 KAYAKS BEFORE BUYING! Your second or third should have been your first purchase. With all the propulsion options, get a kayak that fits you not everyone else!
PFD: Personal Floatation Device. This is of the highest priority, no questions asked! This is mandatory at any sanctioned tournament. There are only two accepted types: inflatable and standard. You need to make sure it fits comfortably because you will be wearing it for 10-12 hours in different types of weather conditions. Also make sure it floats your body. A sinking PFD does you no good in a time of need.
Measuring Device: Kayak Tournaments are CPR (Catch Photo Release) based. You will need an approved measuring device. Luckily there are only two to choose from. The Hawg Trough and Ketch boards are the only accepted devices.
Your phone required to upload pictures to the tournament scoring server, i.e. TourneyX or IANGLER. Make sure your phone is secured in a weatherproof floating case or a tethered leash. Of course you need fishing tackle. You will eventually figure out how many rods to carry. Some carry 2 or 3 and others can carry up to 10. I’m not going to say you need a fish finder, trolling motor, or any other super cool gadgets to help you win a tournament. That will be for you to decide. The interweb is your friend for how to videos and social media pages for kayak fishing. Do your homework and study the bodies of water you plan on fishing. I use Google maps and Navionics to dissect the water. It is especially helpful when I can’t prefish or have never been on a body of water. Lastly, be proficient with the rules of each tournament for they may change between organizations. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Remember, everyone was a beginner at one time.
There is always vast knowledge by seasoned anglers that will be shared. Have fun! Once the fun leaves, the sport is pointless.