Kayak Fishing Tournaments 101

Kayak Fishing Tournaments 101

Kayak Fishing Tournaments 101

Schedules are out for the trails.  Gift cards are in your pocket or, like mine, already used up with lures and gear on the way.  And, if you are like those of us who are starving for the tournament season to start; you have spooled new line, cleaned reels and organized tackle boxes that are loaded up for the first trip of 2021.  Even if restrictions about masks, distance and crowd size continue; you can still socially distance and enjoy the competition.  It is going to be a great year for kayak events; even if you have never fished a tournament; this can be your year. 


…did you spend last year (or the year before, and before that) thinking “Hey, I really would like to fish one of those kayak bass tournaments” but were not sure? 

…did you not sign up because you had no idea what to do, or were intimidated by the names you see at the top of the leader boards all of the time?

…maybe you fished local events and considered Hobie or Bass but thought you are just “not good enough”? 

How Kayak Fishing Tournaments Work 

Let me tell you a little secret about the kayak trail crowd; most of us ain’t good enough – but winning or losing, you will make friends that will be there for everything!  Even those guys you see on top of the leader boards…they are just good folks.  I can promise you, almost without exception, they will help you to learn how it all works and walk you through it.  If you are having a bad day, they will encourage you – maybe even cut the lure off the end of their line to help you to become better.  If you have no idea how to photograph, measure or submit fish; look over at the guy beside you and know that there was a day when they couldn’t….and they remember.  If you have trouble on the water, everyone helps everyone.  That is just our community. 

To give you a step up, I am going to give you the basics and just a little bit of homework so you can look like you have been doing this since you took your first steps.  Really not a lot to it, mostly some very basic things you need to know. 

8 Must-Know Tournament Fishing Tips 

  1. Life jackets are required.  Buy it, wear it, hope you never need it.  Period.
  2. Read the rules for the trail you choose to fish.  BASS, Hobie BOS, KBF or any local trails may have slightly different rules.  Some allow motors, some do not.  Some prefer different measuring devices (Ketch Board vs Hawg Trough); do I need something on the bump board.  There are different size and limit restriction.  Read the rules, and then read them again.  If you have questions, reach out to the admins.  It makes their life easier to help you, so they are there for you.
  3. Buy a metal Ketch Board.  I say this because it just makes it so much simpler to never have to guess.  This year, there are some trails that allow others, but they all allow this board.  Make this one thing you do not have to think about.  If you already have a different board, see number 2. 
  4. Read about, watch videos about, talk to people about (practice) the correct way to measure a fish on that board.  I have seen grown folks brought to tears over an infraction that causes their fish to be disqualified.  There are some extremely slight differences in the rules about pinching tails, so I never do, but…see number 2 again. 
  5. Print the latest KBF identifiers if you plan to fish with them.  These can also be used with most local tournaments, so I keep a few on me all the time.  I actually have some laminated copies so I can erase the identifier code.  It comes off very easily with hand sanitizer or bug spray. 
  6. Some events will give you an identifier printed specifically for that day.  Get yourself a Tourney Tag or some method to keep that safe and in the kayak.  It REALLY sucks to have a fish knock that thing into the water at 7:30 a.m. day one, of a two day event, on Kentucky Lake; ending your day.  I use a clipboard with a tether to keep them safe and on board since that day.
  7. Buy a bunch of Sharpies.  Keep at least one in the truck, one in the kayak, one in your tackle and one in your life jacket.  Not sure if you can tell that I have found myself at a ramp before sunrise trying to write with a stick and mud.  
  8. Download the latest tournament management software and make sure you understand how it works.  TourneyX is the most widely used and recognized so make sure you have it readily available.  Sign up for their Facebook page and you will find no shortage of veterans willing to help you use it. For KBF, you will also need FishingChaos for certain events. 

For the record; my first tournament, I skunked.  My second, not much better.  By the third one, I made a few dollars – then, picked up a $900 check at a KBF event; my life hasn’t been the same since that day to be honest.  My spare time has been consumed with tournaments, but I wouldn’t trade the experiences I have had for anything! 

Fishing kayak bass tournaments is a way to compete with the best, gain lifetime friends and enjoy the community with all it has to offer.  Again, never think you are not good enough or be intimidated by it all.  We are all here to help you learn how it goes.  Just ask.

Hope to run into some of y’all at some events.


This article was contributed by Mike Cheatham

"On May 2016, I sat in my first kayak. We picked it up at Caney Fork Outdoors to carry on camping trips. October 2016, skunked in my first tournament.  Shortly after, I picked up my first Hobie. Spring of 2017, placed 11th in the KBF Open. They handed me a check and I have chased the addiction since; fishing in KBF, Hobie, BASS or any local events I could find. Fishing; 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. Combining my love for fishing with writing… I feel like I have finally found my place in this world! I have the support of a wonderful woman who understands my need to be on the water; she travels with me across the states and supports my dreams fully… life is truly good." For more from Mike, visit his blog at www.topwatermoon.com.