My first year competing in kayak bass fishing tournament trails was a real learning experience. Each and every event taught me something new – and sometimes the lessons were painful, but made me a better competitor and helped me accomplish a successful Razoryak Tournament Trail season. Here are some of my top kayak bass fishing tournament lessons learned from 2015:
- Fish security is very important. This seems obvious, but if you don’t get a quality photo on the hawg trough, you can’t count the fish. In my very first kayak bass fishing tournament on a tough day of fishing at Swepco Lake, I lost three bass off the board while taking the picture – leaving me only one to turn in on the card. It was a bad start for the AOY points race and I finished far down the rankings for this event! Some people use a clip or fish grips (as their circuit may allow) and others just have a certain technique that helps control the fish. What I learned here is I hadn’t practiced this enough going into the tourney. When getting started, this is something you should practice over and over with your hawg trough and camera when pre-fishing or fun fishing so that it is second nature on tournament day!
- Take care and time when taking photos. In my second kayak bass fishing tournament of the year my luck improved and I caught a very competitive limit (and kept them on the hawg trough for the pic) but in my excitement I didn’t focus enough on making sure each
bass had its mouth fully closed for the photo. I was in too much of a hurry and not taking the time to work a bit with the fish to get the mouth closed. I finished third in this event, but lost out on Big Bass and second place due to deductions on three of my five fish. Learning from this, I didn’t have a deduction the rest of the year.
- Don’t give up! You hear this all the time and read it in almost every article, but staying focused and not giving up on a bad day is difficult. During the WAKA River Run event I had scouted a location where I’d never fished and got off to an OK start, picking up a couple of largemouth bass early. Over the next several hours I didn’t get any bites and didn’t have a clue. I wanted to quit, give up, and was thinking about an early start on the long drive home. But I kept going and kept trying. With less than an hour left before tournament turn-in I caught a 16″ and 17.5″ on back to back casts and then one more a few minutes later. Caught on a wacky rig, check out Yum Dingers for some great color options) This resulted in my first win of the year and Big Bass for the tournament. If I had listened to my self-doubt and frustration then I would have missed out on a great finish. Two other times in 2015 I had similar experiences with catching an important fish in the last 30-45 minutes – don’t give up!
- Pay attention to the details. Another difficult lesson learned this year is not to take small details for granted. It’s not enough to pick the right bait, make the best cast and work the lure perfectly. I paid the price a few times this year for not doing some little things to help make sure I landed the bigger fish you need to win. Some things to focus on include ensuring your hooks are sharp (change them out if necessary!), check the drag settings on every reel, and take time to tie the right knot for your technique and re-tie as often as needed. On one tournament day at Lake Charleston I lost one of the biggest largemouth bass that I hooked all year when the knot broke from worn line and my drag was too tight. This could have changed a fourth place finish into a first place finish!
- Take an inventory before you launch. Finding the pattern on tournament day to get bass in the kayak is a terrific feeling. Losing the lure that’s catching them, or running out of the plastic bait that’s pulling them in is an awful one. If you have a go-to confidence bait or some key lures for a particular event, be sure you have more than one in the boat. One of the things I enjoy about kayak fishing is the challenge in managing a limited amount of space and gear I can take on the water. One event this year I did a very poor job of this and it cost me when the key pattern emerged and I wasn’t prepared to take advantage.
- Map out your time. This is one item I figured out fairly early and it works well for me. Before a tournament starts I know exactly how long it takes me to get on my fishing location and how long it takes me to get back to turn in my card. This allows me to maximize my time on the water casting for bass without risking missing the cutoff. Things can happen such as a vehicle or equipment breakdown, but other times people just misjudge paddling or driving time. This is particularly helpful in Beaver Lake style road runner events, or if you keep paddling further, clock your time. To help with this I keep a visible watch face in my kayak so I know what time it is at all times and can keep tabs on when I need to get moving.
Many of these tips are fairly basic but are all related to some personal lessons learned and I hope are helpful to kayak bass fishing tournament anglers regardless of experience level.