Saltwater kayak fishing tournaments are becoming more and more popular every day. Actually, it seems as though any kayak fishing tournament is becoming more and more popular with each passing day. The growth of kayak fishing has become astronomical and for good reason. What’s not to love about kayak fishing?!?!?! We predominantly fish saltwater due to our proximity of inshore species, and that’s more of a personal choice. There are several saltwater kayak fishing tournaments spread out across the southern part of the United States. Not only do you have many localized club tournaments, but there are the IFA Kayak Tour tournaments which ranges from Virginia to Florida to Texas. You also find some of the largest fishing tournaments as well with the Ride the Bull tournament held out of Louisiana and the Jax Kayak Fishing Classic held out of Jacksonville, Florida. Saltwater kayak fishing tournaments are growing and growing, and that’s a positive for the growth of our beloved sport.
Of course, with growth comes issues and complaints and there’s no avoiding that. We’re all adults here, and we all know that there’s absolutely no possible way of making everyone happy. I’ve heard several kayak anglers make complaints about the tournament formats and a so called “unfair advantage” with these formats. With most saltwater kayak fishing tournaments using a CPR format, it’s allowable to catch, photo, and count oversized fish. Granted, it’s different in each state with size regulations varying from state to state. Some anglers, especially those who are somewhat new to the sport, and those who are a tad more seasoned often ponder the question of even participating in saltwater kayak fishing tournaments. Their argument is that there are a certain few who always seem to be in the top 5 of kayak fishing tournaments, so why even bother. Perhaps it’s due to a lack of ability to fish as much as others in terms of preparation. Perhaps it’s due to an equipment issue where an angler in a big box retailer type of kayak isn’t able to compete with the pedal drive style kayak anglers.
Of course this argument could run for hours with both sides of the aisle offering valid arguments or complaints or facts, but the issue is still there. Many anglers I’ve spoken with simply state that they’re only fishing the tournament for the raffle prizes since they know that they can’t compete with other anglers. Is this possibly hurting our sport? The numbers might state otherwise with the amount of growth we’ve all witnessed with saltwater kayak fishing tournaments. But, the question still lingers… Would saltwater kayak fishing tournaments see an even larger increase in participation if there was a format where slot regulations had to be accounted for?
Granted, my personal take on fishing is not much different from most. There are always several factors determining how you do during a saltwater kayak fishing tournament. Tides, moon phases, salinity of the water due to rain storms, are simply a few of the factors. Of course, as most tournament anglers can attest to, the weather plays a large factor. It’s been a rare commodity to find yourself fishing a saltwater kayak fishing tournament in perfect weather. My experience has always seen Mother Nature raise her ugly hand every time there’s a kayak fishing tournament with high winds, rain, and all around undesirable weather. Perhaps these factors somewhat “level” the playing field during kayak fishing tournaments.
We all know that fishing is a fickle sport in itself also. Just because you caught a fish in Spot A yesterday doesn’t quite guarantee that you’ll catch a fish in Spot B on the very next day. Fish are creatures of habit, but they also do move. This is where the old adage of “that’s why we call it fishing and not catching” comes into play. So why not have our tournaments simply have slot regulations? Well, for one, we wouldn’t see the large numbers it takes to win a tournament. We love scoring, it’s just our human nature. Would you rather watch a football game with nothing but field goals, or would you rather watch an offensive showdown with touchdowns?
Kayak fishing will continue to grow, this is inevitable. Some will be better at tournaments versus others, but that’s simply a part of life. Some will be able to fish the deeper channels and oceans, while some will not. There’s nothing wrong with this outcome, it’s simply the way it is. Personally, I’m in full agreement with the CPR format with kayak fishing tournaments. It promotes conservation, and allows our children and our grandchildren the ability to enjoy our sport years from now. Kayak fishing is still in its infancy, as are saltwater kayak fishing tournaments. Some things we’ll all agree on, and some things we won’t be able to agree with. If you’re on the fence about participating in a kayak fishing tournament, don’t be. Winning is great, but it’s not the only thing. Most kayak anglers will agree, tournaments are a great way to meet fellow kayak anglers, share tips, and expand the camaraderie of our beloved sport. Besides, you never know when luck might raise its hand and give you a little boost on tournament day. And if the format is something that you’re not happy with, why not develop a new format and tournament? Who knows, perhaps your way would be better, but regardless, you’re helping grow the sport and build the kayak fishing community.