Kayak Fishing Tournaments

Kayak Fishing Tournaments | What You Need to Get Started

So it’s time to get started into your new adventure, your first of many kayak fishing tournaments!

Let’s run through our checklist:

  • Kayak; check.
  • A paddle if it is not a pedal kayak; check.
  • A rod and reel; check.
  • A PFD; check

Well, now you are ready… except there is just one more thing.

Enough confidence to overcome the fear of entering; well, why not?

It can be a bit intimidating trying to figure out how it all works. What you need to know, what you need to carry, and what to do or not to do. Anyone who fishes on local trails, KBF events, or the Hobie BOS has asked the same questions of themselves; deciding at some point to give it a try.

Kayak Fishing Tournaments: Use the Helpful Community to Your Advantage

Fortunately, the kayak community is full of welcoming and helpful individuals who are more than willing to teach you the ropes. There are kayak clubs across the country where you can get your feet wet (hopefully not everything you brought with you) with many even offering beginner events; events that allow you to learn the basics in a no pressure tournament style.

In our local clubs, it is accompanied by a get together with kayak demos, hot dogs, burgers, and door prizes; everyone wins something. It is an opportunity to meet people and fish while deciding if you are interested in a little competition. The guys more familiar with tournaments follow along with newbies to coach them through the day.  A quick search on Facebook or the internet will find local groups or you can download TourneyX to find tournament events in your area.

Kayak Fishing Tournaments(1)

Intro to a kayaking tournament with demo day – Nathan Wood teaching Daniel Elkins how to measure a fish.

Kayak Fishing Tournaments: The Bare Essentials

Let’s start with the bare essentials to fish your first tournament; since we already said kayak and rod/reel, we will skip those.

Kayak Fishing Tournaments Essential #1: A PFD (Personal Flotation Device)

I prefer an NRS Chinook for comfort and functionality. Even if a local group does not require you to do so, and all but one I know of does, wear it – don’t just carry it. You are in a small plastic boat.  

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There are several guys on the trail who are only here today simply because they had one on when things went bad.

Note: There are more things that you will need in order to fish the tournament and be in compliance with local laws. Since this is not meant to be a comprehensive list of safety equipment required by every state, club or country, please consult your local regulations, the club or event rules and the Coast Guard. You are required to follow the Coast Guard regulations for all vessels (https://www.uscgboating.org/images/420.PDF) regardless of any local event rules.

Kayak Fishing Tournaments Essential #2: A Measuring Board

You need one of the following measuring boards; a Hawg Trough manufactured by Hagen, the Ketch Board manufactured by the Ketch Company or the FishStik Version 2 manufactured by YakGear. Be aware that the FishStik is not accepted by many local tournaments.  

Kayak bass tournaments are CPR (catch, photo, release) and a board is required for the photo.  CPR is a major difference between kayak tournaments and those with larger boats, and one of the most common conversations you will have with non kayak anglers; “Where do you keep the fish?” You take pictures and release them, then either carry your phone to check-in or submit them through a tourney management system like TourneyX or iAngler.  

Kayak Fishing Tournaments(3)

Keep some of the pictures, you will get asked about this process and it is an opportunity to educate others about the sport.

Kayak Fishing Tournaments Essential #3: An Identifier Holder

In addition to the board, you will need something to hold an identifier. This is a code that must be in the picture for it to be a valid catch. If you take photos with this code not clearly visible, blurred or partially blocked; your fish will be disqualified. If, for instance, a fish knocks your identifier into Kentucky Lake during the first hour of the Hobie Open in 2018… well, just make sure to secure that identifier or you will have a long ride to check in; a very long ride.

Tourney Tag makes a good tool to manage the identifier. A fellow angler, Jim Strunk, has also created one specifically for the Ketch Boards.  

Kayak Fishing Tournaments Essential #4: A Device to Take Pictures

An electronic device capable of taking pictures and loading them to the tournament management systems. Selecting the correct provider for these devices is virtually impossible; sooner or later you will land between cell towers. This is why I have personally carried an iPhone with AT&T and an iPad with Verizon; and still had to drive over the river and through the woods a bit beyond the speed limit to find two bars!

Some local kayak fishing tournaments will not have this requirement, they allow you to bring the pictures to check in and review them on the spot.

Kayak Fishing Tournaments Essential #5: Knowledge and Skill

Knowledge and skill, well technically, these are not required, but an understanding of how to fish will certainly help. In my first tournament, I ventured out on to the local trail thinking I was the new master angler of the century and immediately posted a double digit goose egg on water I grew up fishing.

Humbled, I realized that I was ready to try and willing to learn, but I needed to hone those skills; and I continue to do so at every event I can find. Remember those welcoming and helpful kayak anglers mentioned earlier, they are a great source of knowledge and love to help the new guys figure it all out. So, skill will come (one day for me…I hope).

Kayak Fishing Tournaments: Final Thoughts

If you fish a few local tournaments you can survive with those items. Honestly, you can compete on any level. I had a young man wear me out on the water with one rod and reel. He was in the cheapest sit-in kayak on the market, with no electronics and a paddle; and he taught this ole boy a thing or two.  So, don’t think it takes the latest and greatest equipment to win or that you are not good enough to compete because you are not set up like some of the road warriors.

Come on out and meet the community, it just might be for you…and it might just be your day.

This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert

Become an ANGLR Expert and apply here.

Mike Cheatham


May 2016, sat in my first kayak. October 2016, skunked in my first tournament. Spring of 2017, placed 11th in the KBF Open and have chased the addiction since. Fishing is the one place my mind gets quiet, the place I have always found peace. To do it competitively with a great bunch of folks is just a bonus. To have an opportunity to combine my love for fishing with writing...I feel like I have finally found a place in this world! I do have the support of a wonderful woman who understands my need to be on the water; she supports my dreams fully....life is truly good.

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4 replies
  1. Chris
    Chris says:

    Hi I was wondering if you knew of any Saltwater kayak fishing clubs in Southern California preferably around Los Angeles.
    Thank you,
    831 252 3919


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