Words and photos by Chris Payne
As the 2015 kayak bass fishing tournament trails get started, many new kayak anglers are thinking about trying their luck. Some of these folks fished power boat tournaments at one time or another while others are embarking on a completely new experience, fishing their first one of any kind.
Successful tournament anglers have preparation in common. I've visited with some of the top finishers in Texas, Alabama and Tennessee to compile a list for my own personal use this year. I've decided to share it so that others can look it over, tweak it as needed and hopefully find better finishes.
30 Days Out
About 30 days before a tournament I'll start studying topographical maps. I will take into account the time of year, reported water temperature, review any reports available and try to make a scouting trip. On the trip I need to verify water levels, look for structure using my down scan across interesting places from the topographical scan and try to find a pattern if I am marking good schools of fish.
21 Days Out
I want to start looking at historical weather data about three weeks out. I want to make sure that I have what clothing I need for possible conditions and make a gear checklist.
On my gear checklist I put everything from gloves to the specific boxes of baits I want to take. I almost always forget to load my 360-degree light. In Texas it is required before sunrise and most tournaments launch before that time. I won't forget it this year thanks to the list.
14 Days Out
Two weeks before an event I'll make my last scouting trip. Water temperature charting, reviewing the previous places I have marked on the earlier trip, and searching for a few new places fill the agenda. I'd like to line up between six and eight different spots that have been holding fish.
Comparing my previous notes and locations of catches with as much detail as I can gather will help me eliminate barren sections of water.
7 Days Out
Pouring over the details of my tackle starts about a week previous. I respool each reel or trim off the first twenty yards of line to avoid breaking off fish. I want to avoid errors as much as possible. I verify hooks are sharp and write down a game plan for which order to hit what spots. This process happens over about five days.
48 Hours Out
At this point the lake is off limits. I make the final game plan, verify weather and clothing and make sure I have the baits I need lined up and finalize the gear check list. If something is needed, I make a quick run to the tackle shop or sporting goods store.
The Day Before
If a lake is far away this may be a travel day. If so, I load up, following the checklist by laying everything out in the driveway. From there, in the order it is on my list, I put it in its spot for transportation. The kayak is always the last thing on the list. I secure it for transport, lock up the house and head to my destination.
If it is a close drive, this all happens two to three hours before the mandatory check in time. In the past my load ups took approximately an hour. The list shaves a few minutes off but not much.
I won't tie on my baits until I am waiting on first cast. Often there is a 20- to 40-minute lag time from check in to first launch. I use that time to chat and tie fresh knots. This also keeps me from getting a treble hook caught somewhere and having to clip a hook.
That's my plan. I'll have to check back in the fall to let you know how it went. If you are new to freshwater kayak fishing tournaments and need a plan to follow feel free to steal this. Failure to plan is planning to fail.