Winning a Bass Boat Tournament from a Kayak

Winning a Bass Boat Tournament from a Kayak | How it Went Down

I decided to fish a little pot derby out of my kayak a couple of weeks ago. We have a weekly Wednesday nighter from 6 to 10 PM on Yates Lake here in central Alabama. At the time I was fishing out of Tea Cup, the Sun Dolphin Journey SS I bought from Tractor Supply for $299. I recorded the whole brutal experience and you can watch it here. Some guys laughed when I showed up, including myself. We all had fun with it. But in my first attempt, I zeroed and that always stings. 

Fast forward to a week later and I decided to fish the Wednesday nighter again in a kayak I had borrowed from a buddy of mine, Scott Beutjer, a Bonafide SS127. You can check out the boat here in the video I put together when I picked it up.

How I Kept Bass Alive for Weigh-Ins

The previous week in the Sun Dolphin, I didn’t have room for a cooler to try to make a livewell, so I brought a wire basket that I was extremely anxious about using. I hate to kill a fish and figured it would be very difficult to keep a fish alive in a basket in the July heat in Alabama, but I had no other viable option. 

Winning a Bass Boat Tournament from a Kayak(3)

Fortunately for the fish, I lost the only little keeper bass I hooked all night. 

However, the SS127 has a large area in the back with enough room to try to rig a livewell. So I grabbed a cooler, did a little redneck engineering and voilà, I had built my first kayak cooler/livewell, which you can see me assemble at the start of this video. The 2.0 version of my livewell is coming soon. It’s almost complete and I’ll have a DIY article on the build process out to you guys as soon as possible. 

My Second Attempt to Win a Bass Boat Tournament from a Kayak

So, I set sail with my DIY livewell in tow and decided to make a little “run” to a spot where we catch fish in a bass boat sometimes. It was about 90 degrees and a billion percent humidity. Hot, muggy and miserable. I stopped to make a few casts here and there but mainly kept my head down trying to reach some water I had confidence in. 

The week prior I chose to fish near the ramp and try to keep a bait in the water as much as possible. After getting only one bite that night, I decided to try to reach a good stretch at the most optimal feeding time near sundown. 

I have seldom had a game plan come together as smoothly. I caught a solid fish near 3-pounds right away during one of my pitstops. I was literally shaking once I got the fish in the boat. 

Winning a Bass Boat Tournament from a Kayak(1)

I’ve caught hundreds of fish bigger than that one in my lifetime, but for some reason being in a kayak just changes things. 

The challenge makes each little bite a victory in itself and gets my adrenaline pumping. This lake is notoriously tough in the summer with 5-to-7-pounds winning some nights and as little as a 2-pounder winning big fish at times. So with all that in mind and after zeroing the week before, I was all jacked up and off to a great start. 

As dark grew near and I reached the supposed money stretch, I caught 4 little keepers in about 20 minutes. The most we had ever caught on that stretch in that length of time. 

My livewell worked great at keeping the fish alive (all were released and swam away great at the end of the night), but man was it sketchy opening the lid to put the fish in. Each time I cracked it to add a keeper, there seemed to be miles of opportunity for the other fish to escape (I have fixed that problem on my new setup though).

So the first two hours leading up to dark were action packed and saw one of only 2 or 3 limits my dad and I have had in about 14 tries in the Wednesday nighters this summer. 

Since I had a limit, I decided to throw a spinnerbait and buzzbait after dark in hopes of catching a big fish, though I had no idea how I would cull or even get the fish into the livewell without losing one of the others. But all of that proved moot by the end of the night. I had one more bite but missed it. I made the paddle back to the ramp and it was time to see how I faired.

Weighing In and Seeing the Results

I was excited regardless. I had managed to catch a limit in a kayak and keep all my fish alive all night. But the previous week it had only taken 9-pounds to win and I figured I had around 7-pounds so I thought I might have a chance. 

I bagged my fish, toted them to the scales and they settled in around 7 and a half pounds. I was so excited that I didn’t hear the exact weight but I knew it was more than anyone else had weighed. My big fish came in at 2.94-pounds and after a couple of other guys weighed-in, the results were in. 

Winning a Bass Boat Tournament from a Kayak(2)

I won!! 

I beat 5 bass boats in a $30 pot tournament and you’d have thought I won the Bassmaster Classic. I was so jacked up and proud. It seems so silly. But that’s what I’m loving about fishing from a kayak. It just amplifies everything. All the work and adversity involved with it just makes fishing fun and meaningful again. 

The True Meaning of Kayak Fishing for Me

Little derbies like that or fishing on ponds and creeks that I have lost interest in, I now see in a brand new light. I’m having a blast. Feel free to join me over on my YouTube channel if you’d like to tag along or give a rookie kayaker a little advice. I know very little about the sport of kayak fishing but I’m soaking up as much as I can and loving every minute of it. 

Will I win another little derby like this from a kayak? Highly unlikely. Should I quit while I’m ahead and keep my record at 50/50? Probably. But I rarely do what I should do and don’t see it happening here either. I’m already eyeing the Tuesday nighter up on Lake Martin. 

If you decide you want to try something like this, just please be safe. If you’re fishing after dark be sure you have Coast Guard approved navigation lights like I do, wear your PFD and stay close to the bank. Obviously, make sure you’re in compliance with all other safety regulations and applicable laws. 

Have fun but don’t forget you’re a small fish in a big pond. 

As a final note, please make your best effort to keep your fish alive. We have to protect the resource. You can checkout my first livewell system here. It did the job but was inefficient. The new livewell build is going to be legit. You can find info on it here through Anglr or on my YouTube channel soon.

This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert

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Shaye Baker


Shaye Baker started fishing with his dad in Alabama as soon as they could find a life jacket small enough to fit him. Competing with his father in local tournaments, Shaye quickly found a hunger for competitive bass fishing. He furthered his fishing career at Auburn University helping to establish the Auburn University Bass Fishing Club. While at Auburn, Shaye served as the President of the club and qualified to fish on the traveling team amassing six Top 5 finishes including two 3rd place finishes in consecutive FLW College Fishing National Championships. While beginning to dabble in the world of outdoor journalism, Shaye continued to fish semi-pro events finishing in the Top 5 in the Bassmaster Opens, FLW Costa Series and BFLs. Finding himself at a crossroads, Shaye chose to put down the rod and pick up the pen and camera to focus on his career in outdoor journalism. Shaye has had work featured in Bassmaster Magazine, FLW Outdoors Magazine, B.A.S.S.Times and the Japanese bass fishing magazine Basser. Shaye has also had work featured on ESPN and, and While working with B.A.S.S., Shaye initiated and spearheaded their GoPro division which brought more video coverage to the fans than had ever been done before in competitive fishing. After his tenure with some of the best companies in the business, Shaye identified a need for competitive fishing where participation didn’t cost a fortune. By founding UPLOADED, the Online Fishing Series, Shaye established a free tournament series where anglers could film their fish catches and upload their videos to compete against other anglers for prizes.

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