A few years ago I began competing in bass tournaments put on by the Colorado Kayak Fishing Club (CKFC). I was a little intimidated at first; worried that I was going to embarrass myself by breaking a rule, getting skunked, or falling into the lake. Eventually I calmed down, however, and had a pretty good day for my first tournament. Since then Iíve competed in a few more tournaments including club tourneys, online tourneys, and most recently a regional tournament as part of the Hobie Bass Open Series. Iíve experienced some high highs and some low lows, and Iíd like to share with you my thoughts on competing in fishing tournaments. If youíve been thinking of entering any tournaments yourself this article may help you make that decision of getting involved or avoiding the tournament scene altogether.
To start off, if you are worried about looking like an idiot your first time out, donít be. All the anglers Iíve met tournament fishing have been nothing but supportive of one another. I think it could be because weíve all been there at one point. If you have questions about anything theyíre always eager to help out and put you on the right track. If youíre worried about getting skunked, just know that it happens to the best of us. Many anglers in our club have gotten skunked one tournament day while going on to win other tournaments and finish highly in the Angler of the Year race. My point here is that if itís the little things keeping you away then I challenge you to just go for it and youíll see that those things donít really matter.
That being said, there are a few aspects of the tournament game that I donít find so enjoyable. There is obviously a competitive aspect to tournament fishing, and this is a double edged sword for me. I want to win every tournament I enter, and I work hard to try and make that a reality. This means that instead of just going out to enjoy fishing in my free time, I may end up going ďpre-fishingĒ at the location of a future tournament to learn all that I can about that lake. When I pre-fish I am searching for spots to fish come tournament day as well as what lures seem to be the most productive. This means that you may find fish in a location but instead of having a fun filled day hammering fish, you leave them and search out other locations. On the other hand, fishing this way really helps you become a better angler. Every year I think back on my skill level in the past and see areas where I have vastly improved. For example, two years ago I was able to use my strengths in power fishing to perform well in our club tournaments. This year I havenít been able to power fish with much success come tournament days so although Iíve gotten my butt kicked, I have put a lot of work in to improve my finesse game.
Another thing that I donít like about tournaments is the crowds. When you throw 50 kayaks on any given lake on a Saturday it can be tough to get away from not only the other competitors but also from the weekend traffic. My worst experience of this was at a recent tournament on Pueblo Reservoir where my predominant pattern was fishing main lake points. All the boat traffic on that sunny Saturday afternoon was tough for me to deal with, as I had boats speeding by throwing waves at me while party boats were parked in the cove that I had planned to use as a retreat area. Overall this hasnít been a big issue for me, but it does happen and some anglers have had worse experiences than I have.
Now to focus on some positives that come along with tournament fishing. I already mentioned that it pushes you to become better, but it also heightens the amount of excitement (and the amount of disappointment) that goes along with fishing. Suddenly, a fifteen inch bass becomes the most important catch youíve ever had, while also causing the most heartbreak when it jumps off. If you have an ounce of competitiveness in your blood, the higher stakes of tournament fishing can really add to the excitement of catching any fish.
One last thing Iíll mention is that once you get hooked on fishing competitively, youíll see an upgrade in your fishing but a downgrade in your wallet. I went from a pretty basic paddle kayak in the Vibe Sea Ghost, to a pedal drive Jackson Coosa FD, and finally to the Big Rig FD which I have completely decked out and continue to make little upgrades to enhance my experience on the water.
Overall my tournament experience has been a positive one. There are times when I need to take a break from them and just have fun on the water, but there are also times when I need to get out there and push myself to get better and hopefully make it into the money. Thanks for taking the time to read this article. I hope you found it useful if youíve been thinking about getting involved in tournaments, and feel free to leave a comment or question if you would like further information on anything!