In “A Tale of Two Cities”, Charles Dickens famously wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….”. Although Mr. Dickens’s novel would continue on and eloquently explain the dichotomy of social classes as well as Paris and London in general during the French Revolution, what he didn’t realize is that he was also describing my rookie season as a kayak bass fisherman on the tournament trail.
Don’t get me wrong. I am excited, pumped, stoked; add your own superlative here, but it is a lot of hard work. It also requires either a single, out on your own; I’m my own boss lifestyle, or a very, very supportive family. Fortunately for me, I have the supportive family. I say fortunately because they are a big part of this as well and it would be tough to do this alone.
On the surface, fishing a kayak bass tournament is fairly easy. You need a kayak, a fishing license, some gear and a few bucks to sign up. If your plan is to hit a few local tournaments and have some fun, you should be good to go. However, my plan for 2017 is much more involved, and my hope is that by sharing some of my challenges as well as how I overcome them, the next guy or gal who follows in my footsteps will have it a little bit easier.
I made the move to kayak tournaments for a couple of reasons. First, I am a competitive guy. While I could certainly run boat tournaments in a used $5k boat, the reality is it would gnaw at me every time another angler with more horsepower, a more stable platform and better electronics beat me to a spot and was able to concentrate more on fishing then on keeping his boat afloat. The boat I would feel comfortable fishing in simply isn’t in the budget. Yea, I know; sounds like my ego is getting the best of me. To be honest though, I spend a fair amount of time fishing with guides and they always have great boats. When you fish from top-notch boats, you realize the advantage that they give you and it makes it tough to downgrade.
I could and have fished tournaments as a co-angler. I had a blast doing it and will continue to fish the occasional club level event. But more times than not, as a co-angler, you are at the mercy of the boater. While you can offer suggestions on where to fish and the pace to fish at, ultimately, it’s his boat and he is generally steering the boat so that he has first crack at the fishy spots. This will make you quick on your feet in determining how to change up your game at a moment’s notice, so if you get a chance to do it, give it a shot. I just prefer to carve out my own destiny in competitive situations.
Remember that supportive family I talked about? My choice to fish bass tournaments from a kayak was really my wife’s idea. She wanted a kayak for herself. She also saw my boat dilemma/frustration and she knew that there was no way I wasn’t going to compete and just kick back and watch MLF on cable every weekend. She told me to look at my options and it just snowballed from there. Now the only time I am putting my paddle down is to pick up a rod.
Which brings me to the coolest thing about competitive kayak fishing; you are in a kayak! Maybe it’s my St. Louis roots and in my mind I am not William Reynolds, I am William Clark heading out with Meriwether Lewis to explore the great unknown. Whatever it is, there is something soothing and soul healing about heading out in a kayak and connecting with nature. I don’t need gas, I can carry my boat, I can launch anywhere, and if I am ever going 70 mph, something has gone horribly wrong. Fishermen are very connected to nature and a kayak just helps to strengthen that connection.
Stay tuned for more insight as well as my trials and tribulations during the season. I hope to be an inspiration to some and comic relief to others.