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Kayak Fishing Tournaments: The Ultimate Challenge

If you love to combine your love for kayaking and fishing, then you might want to level up your game and take advantage of a fishing tournament! Kayak fishing tournaments are an exciting challenge, an opportunity to hone your skills, and a chance to win some prizes. The beauty of our interconnected world today is that you can find a tournament that fits almost any time frame, location, or budget. 

What is a Kayak Fishing Tournament?

Fishing tournaments have been around for a minute, but tournaments intended specifically for kayakers are also a growing trend. 

Anglers compete with others in an arranged contest which usually includes an admission fee, timeline, judging, and prizes. Tournaments can be serious business, so it can be intimidating if you are just starting out. But don’t worry, kayak fishing is a great community where people are very willing to help each other out. By doing a little due diligence (i.e. reading the rules) and asking questions, you will soon find yourself enjoying the world of competitive fishing, as you hone your skills and win prizes.

What are Some Different Fishing Tournament Formats?


Traditional bass fishing tournaments are usually site-specific (all anglers on the same body of water), predominantly include bass fishing boats (not as many kayakers), require a live well (or a way to keep your catch alive until the end of the day for judging), award by weight (largest x# of fish caught is the winner), completed in one or two days, and include large cash payouts. These tournaments can be big business with professional anglers, qualifying rounds, large entry fees, strict guidelines/rules, and commiserate awards. 

Progressive / Online

New technology allows for a new wave of fishing tournaments that bring these opportunities to more and more people. You can find fishing tournaments today that run completely online, last for a month (or more), award a variety of different prizes (length, number of fish caught in a period of time, specific species, etc), and even focus on kayak anglers. With this new approach, many more people can get involved. Entry fees are often much lower. You can fish your own local waters. You can build an online community of like-minded enthusiasts as you hone your skills. And it even helps the environment. One of the benefits of digital record keeping is that you take a picture of your fish with a specific measuring board and tournament identification in the picture and release the fish right back into the water. No more live wells or stringers that stress fish. 

There are two kinds of digital tournaments:

Live: If you join a live event, then all anglers will come and fish the same body of water like a traditional tournament. However, you still digitally log your catch and use the app to keep up with the tournament announcements, judging, and progress. The benefit is that judges can allow launching from numerous entry points since they can monitor anglers digitally with GPS tracking. Anglers can get real-time access to results as others report their findings (although this usually closes near the end of the tournament closing to add suspense to the final results).   

Online: Another popular tournament option is a strictly online competition. These virtual tournaments are run through an app manager and can be regional, statewide, or even nationwide. They can run much longer (weeks to even months), encourage a wide range of participants, allow you to fish your own local waters, and give prizes for a variety of catches. 

Where & When are Kayak Fishing Tournaments Held?

Kayak Fishing Tournaments are now being held almost anywhere and almost year-round. With the advent of online technology, tournament creators can launch competitions of all sorts. With a specific app and regulations to ensure each catch is legitimate, they let you fish from your own waters and upload your catch for judging. 

What Gear Do You Need for a Kayak Fishing Tournament?

  • Kayak: This may go without saying, but you need a kayak. One specifically designed for fishing is excellent, but not a requirement. Anything that floats will get the job done.
  • Propulsion: Paddle, pedal, or trolling motor, most are allowed in tournaments
  • PFD: A life jacket is a requirement for all tournaments. Most have a zero-tolerance policy around this. Get one and WEAR it. (Some tournaments might require additional safety items like a whistle, knife, or light.)
  • Tackle: rods, lures, etc that you need to get the job done. Whenever you are kayak fishing, remember that less is more!
  • Smartphone & tether: most competitions have you log your catch on an app. This is easiest if you have your smartphone (protected and within reach), so you can take your picture quickly and release the catch back into the water.
  • Measuring board: You will need a board that can be used to measure your fish and show the results clearly in a picture that you upload to the tournament app. Hawg Trough, YakFear Fish Stick, and Ketch Board are popular options.
  • Net: While not required, a net is an excellent addition to your stash. It is gentler for the fish, allows you to keep it in the water longer, and holds the fish while you prepare to take the photo.
  • Tournament ID  & holder: This last item is unique to whatever tournament you are fishing and it provides verification to the judges. It must show up in any picture that you upload to the app for judging. Many anglers get a holder that fits on their wrist so that the ID is visible in the picture as they hold the fish steady on the measuring board. 

Tips for Preparing & Competing in a Kayak Fishing Tournament

  • Read all rules and regulations carefully. Not all tournaments run the same. Some might require that all pictures show the fish with a closed mouth. Some might allow trolling motors while others don’t. 
  • Practice with your measuring device. The more skilled you are at taking the picture, the better! You WILL have a fish get free and flop back in the water. Don’t be discouraged; try again. A net is beneficial in this situation. It allows you to get your things together, wet the board (so you don’t burn your fish on a board that has been baking in the sun), and then hold the fish again while you check for your picture. Don’t just release the fish until after you’ve checked the picture. 
  • Download & familiarize yourself with the app. Not all tournaments use the same app. Make sure that you have the correct one downloaded before you are on the water. Also, take some time to ensure you know how to use it.
  • Take care of yourself. This may seem silly, but sometimes in the hustle and bustle of tournament time, you are more focused on your gear for the fish than the equipment for YOU. Make sure that you are rested, hydrated, and fueled. Take along layers and snacks so you don’t ruin your experience with a headache from low blood sugar or chills from an unexpected weather change.

Fishing tournaments are more and more accessible to all. Find one and get your line wet with some friendly competition and community-building. Happy Fishing!

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