Kayak Fishing Tournaments – Where do I Start?
If you are like me, your Instagram and Facebook algorithms feed you kayak fishing videos. Big catches, cool release videos, slow-motion casts, and kayak tournament podiums dominate your social media scrolling.
Whether you are new to kayak angling or have some experience, the thought of entering a kayak fishing tournament is both exciting and intimidating. Maybe you haven’t honed your kayak fishing skills as well as you’d like or maybe you don’t know what gear you need to be most successful. Or, it is as simple as trying something new for the first time is always scary.
The first attempt at anything is always the hardest. Let’s break down some of the basic gear setups you need to make your tournaments less stressful. We’ll also look at some of the simple benefits of kayak fishing tournaments that don’t require winning to earn.
Basic Gear Suggestions with Jake Pruett
Building out your kayak takes time and trial-and-error. The more you use your kayak, the more you learn about your own preferences and needs. How you fish and what you fish for will dictate how you rig your kayak.
When it comes to kayak fishing tournaments, however, there are accessories that will make your experience far more enjoyable. Eco Fishing Shop Pro Staffer, Jake Pruett, shares some of his tips on essential gear for kayak fishing tournaments.
“First and foremost,” Jake says, “tethers on everything you want to keep and not lose to the bottom of the lake or river.”
Jake’s other basic gear that will make your day more enjoyable include:
- PFD (personal flotation device) that is ALL DAY comfortable
- Ketch measuring board
- Small first aid kit affixed to your kayak for emergencies
- A sharpie for tournament codes
- Rain gear – A quick pop up shower can ruin your day or be dangerous on cold days
- Dry bag with a change of clothes, especially during cold season tournaments
Different Gear for Different Styles of Tournaments
In general, there are two main types of kayak fishing tournaments. First, the more traditional style you likely already know about, is the live one-day event. There is a designated start time and a concrete end time. You must catch your fish within that timeframe and the biggest total catch wins.
Second, and gaining more popularity, are online tournaments. These can be single day events or even multiple days – sometimes months or season long.
Your choice of gear depends on the type of tournament you do. Here are a few suggestions for each type of tournament.
Live In-person Tournament
Timeframes for these tournaments are tight windows. You’ll need to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. For this type of fishing, some sort of propulsion drive is extremely beneficial.
Adding a propeller, fin, or powered drive will help you cover more ground to fish more spots. Beyond that, it will also help you get to your spots quicker and return the launch faster at the end of the tournament giving you more time on the water to catch more fish.
If you research this topic online, you will find many posts urging you that a powered drive is absolutely necessary. Jake, however, has a different take on that:
“I have run pedal only for about 12 trips now and I find it almost as good as having a motor,” Jake says. “If you pace yourself you can cover an enormous amount of water and not feel worn out.”
Online Tournaments over Multiple Days
When you have multiple days to fish, your gear selection can be more relaxed. You have more time, can launch and fish in different locations on different days and don’t have a hard start and end deadline with a limited fishing window.
Because of this, a propulsion drive system is not as critical as a live one-day tournament. These tournaments are a great way to start for newcomers. If you are shy about the idea of a same day live tournament, online tournaments allow you to fish at your own pace and by yourself. It is a great way to learn.
This style of tournament also allows you to switch your gear on a day-to-day basis. You don’t need to overload your kayak as much and adjustments can be made each day rather than by the minute. Online tournaments are a great way to practice fish submission, fishing techniques, and potentially find your own personal hotspots on waters you may participate in live tournaments in the future.
Other Gear Considerations for Both Styles of Tournaments
While not absolutely essential, some gear can make your life much easier.
A gear crate in your stern cargo area, like the YakAttack BlackPak, with rod holders can make your life much easier. When you are on a fishing boat, you probably don’t think twice about line breaks or loss of gear because your full tackle box and deck space is available to you. When on a kayak, space is limited, so bringing extra rods with different gear setups makes switching out much faster. Time saved is time gained for fishing.
The right fishing net. While this may seem obvious, having the right size of net for the fish you are targeting is crucial. If you are targeting smaller to medium species, you don’t need a large net that takes up deck space and is a magnet for hook snags. However, having a small net for larger species, like northern pike or ocean fish, will lead to lost fish. In both cases, rubber nets are better for fish health and are far easier to get hooks out of.
Jake has learned his fishing techniques through experience and mistakes and has this advice to share:
“I’m still new but have several years under my belt and have had to learn the hard way. I either didn’t know anyone to ask or was too stubborn. I have been wet and cold trying to make it back to the truck after an accident. I have lost valuables in the lake. Learn from me and save yourself all the heartaches.”
Jake says meeting other anglers and asking them questions is the best way to learn. Don’t be stubborn and assume you’ll just figure it out. A great place to start is this discussion on the Kayak Anglers Resource, “Enjoy Tournament Fishing!
Everyone’s fishing kayak is rigged differently. Each angler customizes their setup to give them their perceived edge. But, almost every kayak angler has the same base gear. Hopefully this guide helps to give you an idea of where you need to start. From there, you can build your kayak as you learn. First, you just have to take that leap of faith and give it a try.
Join the Discussion – Share Experiences & Learn
If you find yourself still with some hesitation or a question we didn't address here, join the Kayak Anglers Resource. Our member-driven forum has a conversation dedicated to getting started in tournaments. With a mix of pro staff members and newcomers, the conversation focuses on mistakes made early on and things people wish they would have been told. If you have any questions, this is a GREAT place to start. Don't go in blind, learn from those who have been in your shoes. Join the Enjoy Tournament Fishing!! discussion.
Take your research a step further with Jonathan & Travis on the Kayak Anglers Resource podcast. Each week Jonathan have a mix of guests and touch on topics related to all things fishing kayaks. Post your questions there as well and our hosts will talk about them on the next episode!