It is that time of year again when the weather is cooperating and the seas are settling down. Tournament directors have had their dates chosen months, sometimes years, in advance and you have finally decided to take the next step and challenge yourself by jumping into the world of competitive kayak fishing. Today I am going to go over some of the Do’s and Don’ts of competing in offshore kayak fishing tournaments. Let’s dive into some of the most important lessons I have learned from doing all the wrong things over the years. Here’s to hoping you will not make the same mistakes as I did.
DON’T: First thing’s first. If you haven’t ever been fishing offshore on a kayak, tournament day is probably not your best choice to debut your skills. And by “skills” I mean getting tossed around in the surf and losing your sweet Ugly Stick rig and that pack of night crawlers. The ocean is a different animal and demands respect.
DO: Make sure you have a few trips under your belt, preferably with a qualified offshore fishing guide if at all possible. I have some great recommendations if you want to message me. Either way, practice launching, practice landing and have a solid understanding of how your rig works before you get there.
DON’T: Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. If you are already accustomed to fishing offshore and you already catch fish, there is no reason to buy any special lures or baits or to try and do anything spectacular. Same goes with your routine for sleep, food, water and caffeine. For example, when I’m fishing offshore I never take more than a large bottle of water and some beef jerky. There is no reason to pack a cooler full of food just for a tournament.
DO: If you ask me, the most important thing about preparing for a tournament is to plan on doing whatever you normally do that catches fish. Tournament days are no different from ordinary days and your skills and equipment are just as effective here. Stick to your usual sleep habits, eat like normal, and keep caffeine to a typical level. When you’re on the water, do what you regularly do. Tournament day is no day to break in your new downrigger or to start learning how to fly a kite. Keep it simple.
DO: Know the rules before you launch that little plastic boat. Earlier this year I made the mistake of skipping the captain’s meeting at the EKFT Sailfish Smackdown and I tossed back a fish that would have won me the Trashcan Slam Division and a pretty sweet prize from Jimmy Jigs. I just didn’t pay attention to the rules. Classic Captain Googin. The last thing you want to do is show up with gear that isn’t allowed, or not have gear that is required. For example, if you show up without a flag or PFD, you’ll likely have to hustle one up before you’re allowed to launch. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
DO: Make sure you secure bait from the bait boat prior to tournament day. You have the option to reserve bait and if you don’t, you may be left to fend for yourself on the water. Even if you plan on catching bait before the tournament starts I would highly recommend reserving bait from the bait boat as a backup plan, just in case the targeted baits are not cooperating that morning. If you don’t have fresh bait you’re probably better off staying on the beach and posting super sweet beach selfies with your bros. Seriously though… reserve bait.
DO: Last but not least, remember to leave your overly competitive, Tuesday morning basketball session ego at home. It’s fishing. It can be extremely frustrating. Going in with the right mindset and attitude is going to save you a lot of heartache. Take it from the guy who impulsively sold his $3,000 kayak and all his gear after having not caught a fish in three tournaments straight. It’s not worth getting all crazy. Have fun. Hell, I still haven’t weighed in a fish and I have fished ten EKFT events. It’ll happen for you if you just keep a good attitude and stay positive. Good sportsmanship is essential. Be the person others want to be around and you’ll find that the tournament scene is about much more than trying to weigh in the heaviest bag. Tight lines! Browse more useful stuff here.
By Fred York