So what is the deal with kayak tournaments? I’ve been fishing them for the last seven years or so but I also understand that to the general public they remain fairly unknown. Other anglers always seemed shocked on the water when I mention that I am fishing a tournament. People I work with always have questions about how my tournaments work, where do you keep the fish, and how do you keep people from cheating? This article will hopefully shed a little light on the subject and at least explain how the kayak bass fishing tournaments that I’m involved with are run.
In a time where the trend seems to be a downsizing of bass boats, downsizing of tow vehicles, and a great expenditure of energy in making the American dollar go farther it only seems logical that many people are turning to kayaks as a more economical solution to getting out on the water and catching fish. These “little plastic boats” are low maintenance, easy to transport, beginner friendly, and can be as cheap or as expensive as you want to make them. Kayaks come in all shapes and sizes. Your local big box store will have selections ranging from $200 right on up to some of the top of the line offerings that may run you several thousand dollars. How much you spend is up to you but all of them will get you off the bank and out on the water enjoying the fun.
Kayak tournaments aren’t very discriminating when it comes to your choice of paddle craft. All types are welcome whether you own a sit-on-top (SOT) or a sit-in-kayak (SINK), whether you prefer paddle or pedal powered, and even those that opt for the electric motor powered kayaks are able to join in most events. The largest nationwide organizing body currently hosting kayak tournaments is KayakBassFishing.com or KBF as most of us refer to them. The group was founded by Chad Hoover, a retired Navy Officer, that
after leaving the service has poured his heart into getting more and more people on the water in kayaks and more recently is making strides at uniting the kayak bass clubs across the nation by hosting regional events, trail stops, and having a National Championship event each year that brings us all together for a single “main event” where we not only compete for a substantial monetary prize but where we also get to enjoy the community, put faces with names from social media, and just plain have some fun!
I’ll use the KBF National Championship tournament as my example here. There will be slight differences in tournament rules and structure depending on what club you choose to look at but it seems that most groups pattern themselves off of KBF since it has been proven to work and be successful. Just like boat tournaments we have a five fish limit per day for the events. Where we differ is in the fact that most kayaks don’t have the deck space or carrying capacity to hold a “livewell” capable of keeping five fish alive all day. A new format had to be developed that removed the need for bringing fish into the scales for an actual weigh in. Catch-Photo-Release has become the accepted standard in kayak fishing tournaments. CPR events are based off of the length of fish rather than a weight. Because we aren’t carrying the fish around all day in a livewell fish mortality is greatly reduced. We simply catch our fish, measure their length, snap a quick photo and then they are released. In order for this to work everyone must use the same model of
measuring device, have a unique identifier in the picture to prove the fish was caught during the event, and follow the same set of rules as to the positioning of the fish on the measuring board. For example we all use the Hawg Trough measuring device. It is a concave plastic ruler with a bump stop or fence at the end and has raised lines on the board in ¼” increments. The fish must lie on the board facing to the left, with mouth closed, dorsal fin facing up, lip touching the fence, and the tail cannot be pinched to try and gain extra length. Cell phones are used to capture the photograph. The cell phone geo-tags the photos with position information as well as a time stamp.
In order to keep all these fish straight and maintain the tournament standings we utilize a website called TourneyX.com. Dwayne Walley, a kayak tournament angler and Wilderness Systems Regional Manager for the Gulf Region, developed the site as a way of hosting tournaments and speeding up the process of fish submissions and judging. He also developed an app for smartphones that streamlines the process and simplifies it for anglers that already have enough to worry about on the water. After taking a photo of your catch you simply open the app and submit your fish to the leader board. The
software automatically culls your fish to only show the five largest that have been submitted and maintains a “real time” leader board for the tournament so that you can see how you’re doing compared to your competitors throughout the day. Judges are employed by KBF to check each fish picture that is submitted to ensure that the fish conforms to the tournament guidelines, the correct identifier is visible in the picture, and that the angler entered the appropriate length for the fish. If the picture was taken correctly and all of the guidelines are met then the fish is approved and your total length is tallied by the software. At the end of the tournament day everyone can see how they did and can view the pictures of each fish on the leader board by simply clicking on an anglers name and each of the fish are displayed.
Kayak fishing tournaments provide different things for different people. Some folks, like me, grew up fishing bass tournaments from boats and for whatever reason have now become part of the kayak community and like to maintain that competitive aspect of the sport that tournaments provide. Other people came into kayak fishing as a way to get away from the bank and view tournaments as a way to further hone their skills to become more proficient at putting fish in the boat. Kayak tournaments in general are a little more laid back than boat tournaments. There seems to be a greater sense of community and those that are struggling to figure out the fish are more apt to receive help from a fellow tournament angler. We consider each other as family and genuinely want to see everyone succeed while out on the water. If any of this sounds like something you’d be interested in then contact your local kayak fishing club and consider joining them for their next event. You’ll find that there are people of all ages, genders, and experience levels in every club. All are welcome in the kayak fishing community!