Kayak Tournament Schedule

Building a Kayak Tournament Schedule | Mike Cheatham Style

Not sure how everyone puts together their kayak tournament schedule. But with hundreds of local clubs, KBF, the Hobie BOS and now B.A.S.S. entering the arena, there are opportunities to fish on some body of water every weekend. So it’s getting harder to choose between them all. I have been doing this a few years, only missing tourneys because I had obligations I couldn’t ditch or was on the physically-unable-to-perform list.

Thought I might share how I am putting together next year’s kayak tournament schedule, and mention factors that I have always avoided. This is not a definitive guide on “how to spend your year away from home“, but it can help you plan miles (and miles) on the road… if you are up for it.

First, Let’s Get The Noise Out Of The Way

I see many conversations online discussing the merits of one kayak tournament trail over another. It can be exhausting trying to separate fact from fiction, emotion from reality or the benefits of one over the other if you get caught up in it all. Social media posts and the resulting comments can make it difficult to know which events are for you: the kayak angler.

So, from the beginning I will suggest you try them all for yourself instead of becoming involved in trail or series bashing; just do you. They are all awesome in one way or the other and offer different opportunities.

Then I hear conversations about “return on investment” being a consideration when choosing events. I will do that for projects at work to justify capital investments that have solid income potential based on markets, available resources, and annual operating plans — with a need to get a two year (or less) payback… because I can predict (with some margin of error) what that return will be for those two years.

Now. I will calculate the miles and the expenses before Joy and I decide whether to carry an extra vehicle with the camper instead of getting a VRBO or hotel. But to consider ROI for a tournament based on hope?  Your odds of winning everything you attend, well, I can promise you that 90% (an extremely conservative estimate – most likely way higher) of us are not breaking even and never will in the near future. But we can still live the dream, so we keep going.

If you are only purely concerned with making money… at this point in the evolution of kayak tournament fishing… focus on the day job.

Next comes the one question I never even thought about until I ran across a tournament bashing post: “Does the tournament have a 100% payback?” I will never think about it again. Unless you are fishing a tournament where you and ten of your best friends throw money in a pile with winner taking all on a Sunday afternoon, don’t expect it.

There are costs to running events. Coordinating, managing, building pots for championships as the year progresses, tournament management systems… as the events get larger it isn’t just that trail you and your bud started, it becomes a business with overhead. Most tournaments, I am happy if I get 100% of my entry fee back… or maybe enough to cover the lures I lost… or just afford a diet Pepsi. Joy and I consider the expenses as vacations where we see places we have never been, and eat food from different locales – we make it fun while spending our kid’s inheritance. (They can get their own job.)

Ignoring those thoughts in the order in which they were written, let’s break down a “No social media, ROI, payback influenced, I just love kayak fishing” method of planning your tournament year. 

Also known as: “Here’s how Mike does it.”

Building My Kayak Tournament Schedule


  1. Make a list of all the events you can find; local or out of state clubs, KBF (trails, pro), Hobie BOS, B.A.S.S., Ron Champion’s, Jaxton Orr’s, Fishing for Soldiers, Fishing for Blue… fishin’ to be fishin’… all of ‘em. 
  2. Put that list in a spreadsheet, this will become your kayak tournament schedule. This helps to see conflicts, add events or edit when one of them changes their schedule. It also allows you to track standings, miles, meals, etc..
  3. Pick the ones where there are no conflicts.  
  4. Look at those with conflicts, where more than one is on the same day.  Prioritize them, then choose. My method for 2020:
    1. BASS – since there seems to be little conflict.
    2. I want to go to Hobie World’s so I will pick Hobie events next (with hope!) unless there is a body of water I just love to fish, or have always wanted to visit that falls under KBF or BASS.
    3. KBF Southeast Region.  That is where I live.
    4. Enough local events to make the KAST state tourney.
    5. KBF, all other regions. Considering where I have fished, where I have collected data with the ANGLR app and the time of year.
    6. KBF Pro if there are no conflicts.
    7. Any other tourney I can find on a date that has none of the above; any local or out of state club’s event… or fishing with anyone at all!
    8. Compare this against the vacation days calendar I keep for work; getting creative to decide how many I get to pre-fish vs. how many I will drive down and sleep on a ramp vs. how many I may need to drop… who am I kidding, not drop, but how many I will have to call in sick to be able to attend.
    9. Now I go to my accountant, Joy, and to my sponsor (this is also Joy) and show her the plan. Not for permission, she is the most supportive person I have had in my life, but so we can start looking for things to see and do along the way. 

Building a Kayak Tournament Schedule: Final Thoughts

In the end… how little, or how much you fish (tournaments or not) is entirely up to you. I absolutely love being in a kayak.

I love fishing tournaments and have made money, spent money, I hope for more money …

But if I never win or place in the top ten again; I will see you at the check-in, no matter whose tournament it is, as long as I can dig the entry fee out of the couch cushions. I never base my decisions on payback. I know that historical data tells me there is no financial ROI that I can plan or put in a business case, and I am way too old to let social media posts drive my life.

I trust my gut and do what feels right for me. The only sure thing is the emotional health that comes from doing what I love with people I love even more. Hopefully this helps you when building your own kayak tournament schedule! 

This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert

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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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