I’ve wanted to put together my own tournament for quite some time now. I’ve traveled all over the southeastern United States participating in tournaments, so it really couldn’t be that difficult of a chore, could it? I’ve been fortunate to have a strong contact base with various manufacturers in the paddle sports industry, so it’ll be easy, right? Well, I learned firsthand just how difficult putting on a tournament can truly be. There are so many different hats that a tournament director has to wear.
I started the Inshore Xtreme Challenge planning process several months ago. Initially I started with the format and the dates, and then moved on to the structure for prizes and raffles, etc. Once the dates and tournament structure was established, I then started reaching out to various manufacturers in the paddle sports industry to secure prizes for the top anglers, as well as raffle items. Next up was choosing a charity with which to work, and we felt it important that said charity would benefit the fishery here in Northeast Florida in some capacity. With that we chose the St Johns Riverkeeper, due to their support of maintaining a healthy river, wetlands, and tributaries.
When putting together this tournament, I thought it important to utilize the knowledge gained from several of the tournaments that I’d participated in over the years. That experience was definitely a blessing. The format of the tournament had to be unique, as I felt that of the utmost importance. Most kayak fishing tournaments, regardless of area or location, were normally a redfish or trout tournament or a combination of both. Sometimes a slam format was used in the tournaments, but I still wanted something completely different and had never been done before. Thus, the ultimate slam was born.
When putting on a tournament, there are about a million pieces that have to fit together; venue, format, prize structure, seating, catering, and so much more. I have to admit that my head definitely spun several times leading up to the tournament and stress was definitely something I became very well acquainted with along the way. It should also be noted that having a support staff is of the utmost importance when hosting a tournament. Without having those to lean on, you’ll definitely lose what little bit of sanity you had before the whole process began in the first place. My support staff became my wife, Outlaws teammate Buddy, and a few others. The help and guidance these people awarded me were invaluable. My wife especially, as she put in hours upon hours of work coordinating catering, rental equipment, flyers, donation request forms, and so much more. Without her help, the Inshore Xtreme Challenge would have never came to be.
It’s amazing when attending a tournament, you can easily surmise that directing a tournament could be a fairly easy process. Unfortunately, you could not be further from the truth. A tournament director has an immense amount of responsibilities to contend with when putting together and managing a tournament. It’s almost as though the tournament director has to have 1 speed, and that’s a hundred miles an hour, to be able to bring everything together.
The weeks prior to a tournament, there’s a ton of planning going on. Where to hold the event, what kind of catering for the event, seating for the participants, prize structure, raffle items, captain’s bags, and the list goes on and on. Highly important on our list was to provide a captain’s bag that would be the envy of all tournaments. That meant reaching out to several manufacturers for support. As a tournament director, you have to have a strong relationship, not only with the fishing community, but also with those who will be sponsoring and supporting the tournament. Constant communication is the key, and you can expect countless hours on the phone, social media, and e-mail working with your sponsors. A large portion of your time will be spent communicating with sponsors for product, delivery, and set up.
Of course, all of this is simply part of the experience. Once you arrive at the time of the event, a new set of issues arises. Setting up is a beast all in itself. The Captain’s Meeting requires everything to be set up, this includes seating, catering, prizes, raffles, captain’s bags, etc. For this tournament, the set up process began several hours before the start time for the meeting. Those hours required a lot of mental and physical exhaustion, ensuring everything was set up perfectly. You can expect the whole process of directing a tournament to encompass every waking moment from set up, to the actual event, to tearing everything down.
Why go through all the stress, fatigue, and exhaustion with putting together a kayak fishing tournament? The answer is rather quite simple. Seeing the faces of your participants as they arrive, receive their bags, and get checked it; the sheer excitement of what the tournament will bring for them. Seeing the participants check in their fish, and share fishing stories of how their fishing trips went. Seeing a raffle winner get that special item that they’d had their eyes on and wanted to win so badly. Seeing the winners and the smiles across their faces as their name is called to receive their prize package and validation that they were amongst the best on that particular day. These are the reasons why a tournament angler goes through the hours, days, weeks, and months of hard work. My hat’s off to all those who’ve come before me, and to those who come with their tournaments. Having a successful tournament is something that is truly earned, and should be cherished.
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