Tournament Kayak Setup

Tournament Kayak Setup: Developing the Layout to Fit Your Needs

It is tournament day and your kayak loaded with gear is in the water. There are still five minutes until the official launch…one final check is in process. The tournament kayak setup mental list playing; phone/camera in the right pocket of my NRS Chinook, Ketch measuring board attached with a lanyard, Diet Pepsi, snacks, water, tackle, lucky duck, depth fin…. dang it.  Coming back from the truck, attaching the depth finder… paddle, net, identifier, flag and light, truck locked (again)… keys in the left pocket of the Chinook, with my wallet. Extra bump board stowed, maybe rain… so the rain suit is on board… toilet paper in the hatch (‘cause you just never know).

Time to push off from the ramp, “here we go”.

Pull up to any site where kayakers are launching, you will find them attaching widgets and gadgets to fit their style and deck space. These moments are the culmination of a lot of work, decisions, trial, and error. If it is the first tournament you have ever entered, congratulations; you will learn what you forgot soon enough. If, like many of us, it is August and you are at your twenty-fifth tournament, there is no doubt you have spent countless hours developing the layout of your kayak.

Tournament Kayak Setup: Maximizing Accessibility and Space

I am a manufacturing engineer by profession so I approached setting up my Hobie PA14 as a project. I had two goals in mind; use as much space as possible and make everything accessible.  

Tournament Kayak Setup(1)

I needed space because I am not a light packer and I needed it easily accessible because I am too old to be climbing all over to reach equipment.  

I began by making a mental list of all the tackle and boxes in my arsenal, lay out all of the rods I think I might need, choose a depth finder, grab my net and paddle… then sit down in the kayak to map out an imaginary day fishing.

Tournament Kayak Setup: Using Mounts and Rails

Before you can catch ‘em, you have to find ‘em, so I looked for the best depth finder location.  My Hobie has predetermined wire routing and the H-Rail system gave me the ability to move the finder close so my old eyes could see the Lowrance Elite TI7.  If you don’t have the H-Rail, YakAttack makes it easy to mount almost anything with their GearTrac, so it becomes a matter of where you want to put it.

After mounting that unit on the right, I chose to mount my net holder (YakAttack RotoGrip) on that side since I am right handed.  Now, some guys like their nets behind them, some beside them; I chose in front of me so I didn’t have to turn to get it.  To be very honest, I lost three nets in trees or choppy water with it behind me, so it was not only that I struggle to turn around during the fight; I wanted it where I could see it fall over.  You can carry one of hundreds of nets, but after losing a few I started picking up the Frabill rubber net from WalMart; cheap and effective.

Mounting the paddle opposite the net and depth finder made sense to me because it makes it easier to step in at the ramp. I could survive with no net in my pedal yak, but I carry a Bending Branches Pro Angler Carbon paddle because my style of fishing often lands me in the shallowest areas of a lake. There are also times where the wind keeps the kayak from being responsive so to overcome these obstacles, this paddle is light and easy to manage one handed in case I need it while fighting a fish.

Tournament Kayak Setup: Find What Works for You

Tournament Kayak Setup(2)

I travel thousands of miles each year, often with little sleep, so I felt that I needed a “system” because I still remember how unprepared I was to fish my first tournament.

Sitting in the garage was the start of that system. I reached for gear in my tackle boxes and bags, picked up rods and put them back, grabbed the net and paddle. Then, fishing a few days on the water helped me to refine the setup.

Now, it is the same on every trip. I have an order to loading tackle and rods, attaching the depth finder, net and paddle; reducing the time it takes to load and unload allowing maximum time on the water.  A place for everything and everything in its place.

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 is truly good.

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2 replies
  1. Samuel G Cushing
    Samuel G Cushing says:

    Good read, everyone needs a system. I double check my checklist on my phone before every trip. I think tournament anglers underestimate the importance of the net and its placement on the yak. I place my net in the same position on my hobie using the same Rotogrip but on my left side (my preferred landing side due to anchor trolley on the right). Out of the way of pedaling but an easy snatch and close to the water for instant fish landing. Fighting with your net behind your yak or unfolding it before landing is wasted time and potential for letting slack in your line.


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