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Maybe you’ve been slaying the fish every time you slide your kayak into the water. After all, you’re on the water every weekend and whenever else you can sneak away from the office or have a break between classes. You’re the classic obsessed kayak angler.
Then again, maybe you just really like to kayak fish and only get out when your busy schedule allows.
Either way, these days the odds are good you’ve heard that there are a bunch of kayak tournaments around, and your interest in joining the fun has piqued.
Maybe the tourney results you’ve seen online or in print have you thinking, “The fish those tournament guys catch are nice, but they’re no better than the fish I tangle with on a regular basis.”
And if the competitive aspect of tournament participation isn’t for, you may be part of the growing contingency of yak anglers who participate in these events for the social aspect. Kayak tournaments are a great place to meet new fishing partners, share tales of the ones that got away, and build friendships with other anglers of all skill levels.
Now, you need to find out where these tournaments are being held, how to register and what details you need to pay special attention to that will quickly help you maximize the experience. Whether you’re “in it to win it” or just looking for a great way to escape the daily grind, kayak Tournaments have a place for everyone.
One of the great things about kayak tournaments is thier inexpensive nature. Unlike pro powerboat tournaments, yak tourneys aren’t about who can afford the fastest, most tricked-out boats. In no-motor tournaments, all anglers start out on a level playing field as long as you don’t have a hole in your kayak. The key to being successful truly lies in your ability to locate, catch and photograph fish in a timely fashion. (A little luck never hurts, as well.)
The majority of kayak events are CPR (catch, photo and release) format. This is beneficial to our fisheries as the fish are released to be caught again, and you are not burdened by having to drag a stringer of fish behind you all day.
So, what are the best ways to get information to locate the tournaments in your area? Today, many of us find that social media serves as the hub for almost everything in our lives. My number-one source these days for angling information is Facebook. You can get information about where the fish are biting, cool rigging tips for your kayak, new products hitting the market and what kayak tournaments and gatherings are going on around the country all in one place. So many anglers rely on Facebook these days that we jokingly call it Fishbook.
I turned to a real pro to see how he got his start. The 2012 Inshore Fishing Association champion, Benton Parrott, fishes more tournaments a year than the average angler with a full-time job could possibly squeeze into his schedule. Parrott attributes his start to Facebook, where he saw different tournaments being discussed and thought that they looked like a good time. He had friended as many people as possible who also had an interest in kayak fishing, and next thing he knew, he was traveling from his home in Mobile, Alabama, to almost every tournament he could possibly fish, from Texas to Florida. Benton is the exception to the rule, but definitely shows how the competition and camaraderie can be addictive.
Personally, my start was a bit different as I have been at this kayak fishing thing a bit longer than most. About a dozen years ago, I got my first kayak and set off to learn how to fish out of it. Back then, the best way to obtain fishing information was through magazines and seminars at local tackle shops. The problem was that those writing articles or hosting talks in shops had almost nothing available when it came to catching fish from a kayak. Lucky for me, one magazine started promoting their online forum. I signed up and was now part of a community that was falling in love with this relatively new sport.
A member on that forum saw that I live in Venice, Florida, and suggested I check out paddle-fishing.com as they were more of a local on-line club. Like most local groups, they host their own series of inexpensive competitions that stress socialization as much as taking home a prize.
Through these forums I found out about my first major kayak series, the Extreme Edge. By fishing that series, I became friends with anglers from all over the Southeast and met some participants who went on to become among my best friends. While placing in the larger tournaments is always the goal, it’s the friendships and experiences that last in my memory.
Once you fish a tournament, you will be part of a network giving you access to as many tournaments as you care to participate in and probably a bunch of new fishing partners. Ironically, these days, kayak fishing has become part of the mainstream, so now your local shops and some magazines keep close track of the kayak tournaments.
There are several different types of kayak tournaments. Some are kayaks-only, while others are built into much larger rodeo-type events. Probably the most common are the club tournaments that I mentioned above. While some clubs put on a series of events, others concentrate on a big annual blowout.
Tournaments are great for anglers of all skill levels; most have a bunch of categories that give anyone a chance to walk away a winner. There are pro-style circuits like the IFA that has little in the way of frills, but the payouts are great and you can be guaranteed that a bunch of kayak anglers from a large, surrounding area will be in attendance. The IFA also has its own TV show, so you will have a chance to be a star. Then there are charity tournaments, events truly designed for the whole family. They have a ton of added value; you get a captain’s bag that usually has a tee or tech fishing shirt, a bunch of quality tackle and coupons for local merchants. Most have large, picnic-style meals. And even if you don’t place, amazing raffles are loaded with amazing prizes, often including kayaks and great original artwork.
I hope this has helped you form a better understanding as to the different types of tournaments and how to find them. If you have more specific inquiries you can always feel free to pick my brain at [email protected]. You might also want to check out our Facebook page, Kayak Fishing U, where a couple of the top tournament enthusiasts in the South try to keep anglers informed about upcoming events, as well as, posting tournament results and photos from all over the country.
Don’t hesitate to take the plunge and join in on the fun. Kayak-tourney enthusiasts don’t bite!
– John “JD” Donohue is a proud member of Hobie Kayaks Pro Fishing Team and Team USA, as part of the 2012 Hobie Fishing World Championships. His true passion is stalking redfish and snook in shallow water up and down the west coast of Florida from his kayak.