Written by KATS angler Ryan Herzog. Ryan is a competitive kayak angler who’s participated in a number of Kayak Fishing Tournaments including several consecutive seasons of KATS. See what he recommends bringing out on the water for your next kayak fishing tournament.
Kayak tournaments are sweeping the nation. With their growing in popularity, many folks find themselves competing in their very first event. With that, comes a degree of uncertainty of what as is needed to get out and compete. The following is a list of items that you may find handy when considering on competing in a kayak fishing tournament.
While this may sound like a given, there are several aspects that you need to consider when selecting the right kayak for you to fish in a tournament. Will you be fishing a lake, river or bay? What will the weather be like? Do I want to stand or sit? Which is the best all around kayak for me? These are just a few of the questions that you may find yourself asking. Visiting an event like an Austin Canoe & Kayak (ACK) demo day, where you can literally try out numerous different kayaks all at once can really help answer these questions. Also be sure to check out their lineup of fishing kayaks online.
Like kayaks, paddles come in different lengths and weights. There are variations for virtually all body types. Selecting the right paddle can be the difference maker when it comes to a full day on the water.
Personal Flotation Device (PFD/Life vest), not only is it a good idea, it is required that you wear one in most tournaments. There are various types of PFDs, from the low profile, auto inflate to more fishing oriented life vests with various pockets and compartments for putting pliers, terminal tackle and other kayak fishing related items at east access.
Since most kayak tournaments are CPR (catch, photo, release), a good camera is required. Some good features to look for would be: Waterproof, shockproof, freezeproof, flash and ability to accept SD media cards.
The “Hawg Trough” is a measuring board that has pretty much become the standard for measuring fish in kayak fishing tournaments. In addition to bringing your Hawg Trough with you to a tournament, it is advisable to do a couple of things to it. First, would be to darken the measurement increments with a sharpie. It makes it much easier on the judges. Secondly, make sure you have a way to secure it or to make it float because it will sink.
Stake Out Stick/Anchor
Being able to hold a spot in a tournament can be essential to your success. A stake out stick, which come in various lengths, usually anywhere from 5-8 ft, can help hold you in place. It’s pretty much what the name says it is, a stake that is shoved into the mud and used as an anchor point. In places deeper than the stake out stick will allow or on rocky bottoms when the stake out stick will not penetrate, an anchor may be the best course of action to hold in place. Both can be used in correlation with an anchor trolley system.
An anchor trolley system is comprised of a two pulley system, cord, bungee and nylon ring. One pulley is secured to the bow of the boat and the other to the stern. The cord loops around the pulley system and is connected to small section of bungee. The bungee is then typically connected to the nylon ring. The cord allows for the positioning of the nylon ring along the length of the boat thus creating endless anchor point scenarios. The bungee provides shock absorption. Used correctly it will take the hassle out of anchoring into the wind.
Electronics like fish finders and/or GPS can be essential in providing water temperature and a layout of the surrounding underwater area. Some are simple as they only provide the depth of water you are sitting in while some will provide exact GPS locations, down scan imaging, weather updates and various other bits of information. Deciding what you would like to accomplish by using a fish finder, should help you decide which model is right for you.
With any electronics you add to your kayak, you will need to find a way to power them. In most cases a simple 12v battery will power all electronics for the day. Others may use a battery pack of AA batteries to make the 12v needed to power the unit. Be sure to check the power draw of your electronics to ensure you choose the right solution for you.
It is a good idea to always have some sort or waterproof case to protect your items that you do not want to get wet. Whether it is a dry bag or hard case, this minimal investment can save you big from ruining your phone, key fobs or whatever else you want to keep dry.
Having the correct food and drinks can make for a great day out on the water. While trying to pack a light as possible for a kayak tournament, the last thing that a lot of guys will think about is food and/or drinks. Pack foods that will not spoil and are high in protein. Keeping up your energy for the entire day can be difficult but can make the difference in a tournament. Beef Jerky and granola bars seem to be favorites with the kayak fishing community. Freezing your drinks the night before eliminates the need to bring a cooler. The drink will melt over the course of the day providing something cool at almost any point during the tournament.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is not preparing for a full day in the sun with it reflecting off of the water directly at you. Items like sunglasses, cap or hat, a buff, sun block and chap stick are essentials. With today’s fishing clothing, you can even wear long pants and sleeves without burning up.
Tackle/Rods & Reels etc
Always make sure you have the proper tackle for the task at hand. Pre fishing during the allotted times can ensure that you are properly prepared with the tackle that you think you will need that day. Making sure your reels are in good mechanical order and that your line is not old and damaged can help ensure a successful day as well.
A good net is something that you may not use on a regular basis but can be the difference in between landing a key fish and securing a victory and finishing 20th. A net can also determine on whether or not you will get a handful of hooks when you go to lip a fish or not. In a tournament I always use a net on a keeper fish. I just do not see the need to take the chance.
First Aid kit
You may never use it BUT first aid kits are one of those things that you will be glad you have when you do need them. Most times you can stow these out of the way and access them only when you need to.
It is always a good idea to take a change of clothes with you, especially during the winter months. You never know when you may need to get out of cold wet clothes.
A good bug repellant can make a HUGE difference in the comfort level of a tournament. It is especially handy for the overnight tournaments,
Texas Parks and Wildlife requires that all kayaks have a 360 degree light to be displayed from sunset to sunrise when not at dock. Most are LEDs that are pole mounted and battery operated. Additional LED lights can be wired in for safety and visibility.
In most tournaments you will write a code on your hand as well as record your score on to a score card. It is advisable; to use a black sharpie as it shows up very well.
So what do you bring when you fish a tournament? Let us know by commenting below!