Tournament kayak fishing is absolutely incredible. The fishing, the comradery, and (of course) the competition. The problem is that 95% of the field won’t cash a check; most events pay 5-10% of the field.
Although I have had a little success tournament kayak fishing, admittedly, I have way more experience with the long drive home asking myself, “what happened?”
Recently, I fished a Hobie B.O.S open event and although I didn’t finish anywhere near the money, I felt really good about my overall finish. As I sat on the water with only 3 fish on the end of day 2 (5 fish limit each day) with 6 minutes left to fish, I realized something surprising. I realized I was content and proud of how I fished. I fished the last six minutes as hard as I fished the first 6 minutes the day before. Just like arcade games as a kid my fish-finder flickered and shut off as to say “game over” one minute after the tourney ended and the time for last cast had past.
I spent the next day driving from Lake Fork, Texas to Taos, New Mexico thinking about why? Why was I happy? I came up with a list of reasons that I felt good about this the event and how I fished, versus other events where I wanted to drive my car off a cliff on the way home. I then started to analyze the events that I drove home from angry or frustrated at my results and what I was angry and frustrated about specifically.
What I realized is that when these boxes were not checked, I was disappointed and found blame in myself. I knew I didn’t do my best; I knew I was a huge part of the problem. When I checked the boxes below, I knew I had done my best, and I had nothing to regret!
1) Were your expectations realistic?
Rank 1-5: 1 being unrealistic, 5 being completely realistic.
If you are new to kayak fishing or tournament kayak fishing you should answer this with a 5 and have zero expectations for a while.
It’s hard to cash a check at the best of times out here – be humble and patient, it will come. Also, if you have zero pre-fishing time or the field is huge and stacked with top anglers, your expectations need to be tempered.
The answer is “I have no expectations “if you are new. On the other hand. I view high expectations as a parallel to high confidence. Confidence is the MOST important part of fishing period.
2) Did you make good decisions?
Rank 1-5: 1 being bad decision, 5 being good decision.
Note: there is a huge difference between good and right. Anything that works out could be classified as right. Right is easy to grade, good is a lot more complicated.
Good decisions take a lot of data and reflection to judge. Good decisions will always give you the most potential for productive results. For example, choosing 3 B spots in close proximity on a tough bite vs. 1 A spot is a or could be a great decision. On the other hand, choosing 1 A spot vs. 3 B spots on a very solid bite situation could be a great decision.
Choosing to pack up and relocate to get your kicker fish might be a great decision. Choosing to wait a spot out because you know the bite will turn on and being patient might be the winning decision.
3) Did you fish clean?
Rank 1-5: 1 being very dirty and 7 being very clean.
Fishing clean is fishing smooth – fishing without gear malfunctions and fishing in the strike zone. Fishing clean is a Zen state, a place where you are putting the bait where you want it without issue. Casting accurately and often. NO drama.
Losing or forgetting your identifier or phone is dirty. Constant birds’ nests are dirty. Missing eyelets on your primary rod is dirty. A cluttered deck that causes you to lose a fish is dirty. Anything that is not your best fishing environment is fishing dirty.
4) Did you fish hard?
Rank 1-5: 1 being weak and 7 being hard.
Fishing hard is paddling or peddling hard to every spot-on tournament day. Fishing hard is making as many effective casts as possible until the last possible second.
My good friend Matt Ramey has a hawg trough that has “Keep fishing Never stop” & “out fish them all” on his board. Matt is a rock-solid angler that is almost always in the money or sniffing the top of the leader board. If an angler like Matt needs to remind himself of the importance of not quitting, we all need to pay extra attention to fishing all the way to the end.
We have all caught fish with seconds to spare or right before we got off the water. If your name is Champion or Fischer, Wallen or Gonzalez you FISH HARD!!!! and you never give up. Ask them …
5) Did you learn anything?
Rank 1-5: 1 being I learned nothing and 10 was inspirational
At the end of the day we are doing something we love. Not many of us are doing this to earn a living, so enjoyment and growth are essential. Did you learn or refine a technique? Did you make new friends? did you catch a PB, or a new species? Are you better now than you were before that first cast?
That Hobie BOS Open on Lake fork was a powerful experience for me. I made new friends from the great state of Louisiana. I fished clean and hard every second of the event. I made solid decisions that got me a solid limit day one, when some of the best in the game got skunked. I caught my PB at 23.25 inches. I really dialed a technique that was not my strong suit (frog fishing). and I had fun!
Since that tournament, I have used these categories to guide me and make me a better angler and maybe a better person as a calm has come over me (at least while I’m fishing).