Five years ago, Kristine Fischer started fishing local club tournaments. Following a string of successes, three years ago she went pro. Last year, the Nebraska native won the Hobie Bass Open Series Tournament of Champions in Lake Eufaula, Alabama, adding a gold star to her impressive collection of wins. Fischer is one of a growing number of full-time pros making a living on the tournament trail. Maintaining an active social media presence and recording and producing YouTube videos of each tournament appearance, Fischer isn’t just the latest champion, she’s setting the standard for the future of the sport. We sat down for an interview with Fischer after her big win.
5 Questions for 2021 Hobie BOS Champion Kristine Fischer
PM: What was a turning point in your career?
KF: In the last three years, I’ve maintained a consistent showing. I won my first big tournament my first year. I’ve done well all three years staying in contention for the top 10.
The thing that has changed is my overall outlook regarding my role in the industry. I don’t get flustered easily by social media trolls. I can navigate that stuff with grace and patience. I used to get upset. When I first got into tournament fishing, I used to despise getting credit for being female. I’m still not comfortable with recognition, but now I realize it’s bigger than me.
When I see a headline like “Woman Wins Tournament,” I can set my pride aside. Being a woman in a male-dominated sport is part of what I’m doing and who I am. People talking about me doesn’t bother me anymore. I won’t witness total equality in my lifetime, but I’m okay with that.
PM: What is an unexpected quality of a tournament pro?
KF: Paying attention to details on the water. I’m curious by nature and I notice things during the day. That’s how it paid out in the Tournament of Champions. I stayed away from the most popular areas. A lot of the other anglers were fishing deep. I fished to my strengths. I ran my pattern and covered a ton of water and fished new water all three days.
I hardly saw another angler all day. Obviously, there are giant fish living deep in the brush. I found a better size of fish in shallow water. After the cold front passed, the water temperature only dropped three degrees. I slowed my presentation and the fish didn’t pull out.
PM: What’s the most significant turning point in the growth of kayak fishing tournaments?
KF: We have a few key anglers with large influence who shed light on our sport and show how unique, credible and lucrative it is. Kayak fishing tournaments are getting respect. They’ll never be on the same level as boat tournaments, but I know our competition is second to none. We have guys who used to fish bass boat tournaments.
Greg Blanchard is incredibly successful with 100,000 followers and he posts his tournaments on YouTube. Big-time bass pros like Mike Iaconelli and Jordan Lee are fishing kayak tournaments, too. Still, everyone starts at the grassroots level winning local fishing tournaments.
PM: If you could change one thing about kayak tournaments, what would it be?
KF: I wish we had a camera boat for each kayaker. Or a camera on each kayak. I believe in the abilities of our top-level anglers and I would love to see exposure like the big tournaments get. I encourage others to run a GoPro on every tournament and post videos to gain attention and legitimacy. I record every catch and put every fish on video because people accuse me of getting help or not catching my own fish.
PM: What future do you predict for tournaments?
KF: There is talk about high-stakes, like $1,000 entry tournaments with qualifiers and a big payout. The challenge is finding 25 to 50 people who can fish every event and commit the money to it. As sponsorships increase, we’ll see this type of tournament grow.
Fischer is one of a growing number of full-time kayak fishing pros making a living on the tournament trail. | Feature photo: Shane Durrance