Kayak bass fishing continues to grow in popularity and as a result, more and more glitter rocket anglers have moved into the kayak tournament scene. How does bass boat vs kayak tournament fishing compare? Is there an adjustment to transition from bass boat tournaments to kayak tourneys? Why are boaters moving into the kayak realm? Can kayak anglers compete with bass boat anglers?
Experienced bass boat and kayak tournament anglers Cole Sikes, Nathan Henthorn, Bo Sarratt and Carson McBride weighed in on the topic in this roundtable discussion. These anglers have proven their abilities on the water with tournament wins or top finishes in the Natural State Kayak Anglers (NSKA) trail – one of the largest kayak fishing groups in the country.
Why do you participate in kayak bass fishing tournaments after having competed in the bass boat category?
Carson – I always loved fishing the War Eagle Creek and wanted to explore more of it so I really wanted a kayak. Once I finally got one I found out about tournaments and now I love it.
Cole – I still fish both boat and kayak tournaments but i just love to fish because of the challenge. Every day is different and a new puzzle to solve. With kayak fishing, there are more elements to deal with so it is even more of a challenge.
Bo – I do the kayak tournaments because I fish with my uncle out of his boat in team tournaments. I bought a kayak so I could go fish on my own time and doing the kayak tournaments is just a lot of fun for me.
Nathan – I am from Oklahoma City and moved to northeastern Oklahoma after college, away from my dad and his boat. I needed a cheap and accessible way to get on the water, and fell in love with kayak fishing.
What has been the biggest adjustment in moving from big boat tourneys to kayak tourneys?
Cole – The biggest adjustment from moving from bass boat tournaments to kayak tournaments is determining the location you’ll be fishing. The obvious thing is that you can’t cover as much water from a kayak than a bass boat but wind is one of the biggest variables. If you have 10+ mph wind from a certain direction then it typically groups the kayak anglers on one part of the the body of water which decreases the amount of fishable water.
Bo – The big adjustment for me between kayak and big boat fishing is the limited amount of stuff you can bring and not being able to move around. In our big boat tourneys we have 25-30 rods in the boat along with lots of tackle. In my kayak I can take 8 rods and my 8 small boxes I have in my black pack.
Carson – I constantly move back and forth between boat tourneys and kayak tourneys. I would say the biggest adjustment is limiting yourself to not as much water and not having as many rods. In the boat I can take 15 rods out there but in the kayak I normally only take 6 rods. I always bring my tackle crate in the boat so I normally have the same amount of tackle.
Nathan – The biggest adjustment is committing to an area like Carson said. That makes decision making about an area to fish that much more important.
Do you prepare any differently for a bass boat vs kayak tournament? How?
Nathan – I prepare by doing much more Google maps research. And if I pre-fish, I might trailer to different locations. I don’t do a lot of actual pre-fishing because I like to have an open mind, and what caught them one day might not catch them the next, especially in the springtime. I will do more paddling around and looking at my graph than anything.
Cole – Overall, I do not prepare any differently for a kayak tournament than a bass boat tournament however you have to be more methodical in the area you’re choosing to fish. Since you’re not able to run and gun as well from a kayak you need to fish high-percentage areas depending on the seasonality and stages of fish. If it’s a new body of water that I’m not familiar with, I like to choose an area that provides a variety of different structure and cover that are relatively close. This gives me the ability to try and determine if fish are shallow, deep, or are they relating to flats, weeds, rocks or wood and then expand on any patterns I might have discovered.
Bo – The only difference in a kayak tourney is that I have to narrow down the one area that I want to fish all day. I never do that in a big boat tourney.
Carson – I do prepare myself differently for a kayak tourney because like I said you are limited to a smaller area. I try to find a place that has a little bit of everything as far as fishing terrain goes. With the boat we have been down at hickory creek on Beaver Lake and weren’t catching them so we motored up to the dam. In the boat your only limited to as much water as you want.
Is there anything that is easier in a kayak tourney than a boat one? Harder?
Nathan – It is easier getting started fishing kayak tourneys than bass boat. Kayaks are much cheaper than bass boats!
Cole – Overall, kayak fishing is much more difficult than fishing from a bass boat. There are only a few instances of where I think fishing from a kayak is easier. One is that you’re able to get to areas that a bass boat might not be able to which means less-pressured fish. Secondly, sometimes it’s easier to skip baits around cover from a kayak because of how close you are to the water’s surface creating a better casting angle.
Bo – I do not think there is anything easier about fishing a kayak tourney. Wind effects more, have to deal with your phone and Hawg Trough are the main things I can think of making kayak tourneys harder.
Carson – One thing that’s easier in most kayak tourneys is length limit is 10 inches for all species but in boat tourneys depending on where your at it’s different. Beaver Lake is 15 inches for Largemouth and Smallmouth and 12 inches for Spots. That’s a lot tougher than trying to catch five 10 inch fish. So, normally it’s easier to get a fast limit in a kayak tourney. One thing harder in a kayak is dealing with wind and conditions and also trying to measure your fish and take a picture and then submitting them rather than sticking your fish in the live well real quick and then getting back to fishing.
“My advice to a boater getting into kayak tournaments is…”
Nathan – … learn how to take and submit photos correctly right off the bat. You also need to learn boat control and position. Casting angles are a little different. The wind is a much bigger factor. A kayak with a rudder is a must-have.
Cole – …just because you get a fish in the boat doesn’t mean she is getting an easy ride back to the weigh-in. There is still work to do. You must practice handling and taking clean photos of your fish because they could flop off your board at any moment and could result in possible loss of winnings.
Bo – …is get you a couple techniques that you have confidence in and take them with you on the kayak. Get a finesse technique for tough days and some good power fishing techniques for when you’ve got wind and clouds or dirtier water and go with those.
Carson – …to learn to fish smaller areas instead of having the mindset to be able to run all over the place. And, to learn to fish slower and more patiently.
Could kayak anglers be competitive vs boaters in the same tourney? Why or why not?
Nathan – Kayak anglers could be competitive if it’s on a lake where that angler is seasoned and has some good spots. But on a trail that has many stops it would be very difficult.
Cole – No doubt, and a few anglers proved that this past year at the Beaver Lake tournament on April 15th. I wasn’t able to fish the kayak tournament because I was fishing the Everett Team Trail bass boat tournament that same day on the same body of water. We had a little more than 150 bass boats in that tournament and it took 17.64 pounds to win. In the kayak tournament, Dwain Batey, Craig Wood and Nathan Henthorn all had just under an 18” average that day which is probably around a 3 pound average. To put this into perspective, their best 5 weighed at least 15 pounds. My dad and I placed 4th with over 16 pounds, however, these kayak guys did it by themselves without a partner. This proves that they can be competitive but on a day to day basis the bass boat guys would have an easy advantage.
Bo – If the tourney started like big boat tourneys all from the same place I don’t think they could compete, but if the kayak people were allowed to put in where they please I think it could be. I know I had an Everett tourney last year the same day there was a kayak tourney on Beaver and Dwain Batey probably would’ve gotten top 10 in our tourney with what he caught that day. I think the body of water would make a difference as well.
Carson – Yes I do think that kayak anglers could compete with boat anglers because in a kayak you fish slower it seems like and you really pick everything apart and catch more fish in a smaller area. In the boat it feels like your fishing faster and you miss fish that you could catch in a kayak. I’ve fished many kayak tourneys while there was other bass boat tourneys going on at the same time and have done as well as I could have if not better than if I was in the boat.