Hi! I’m Antoine, Canadian member of the Feel Free Kayaks family. I have been competing in kayak fishing tournaments for 4 years now and I’ve had early success in my career. These tournaments require a lot of preparation, investments and travel time. Now I’m not saying I’m the best angler of all time, because I’m not. I still have so much to learn. But I take these tournaments seriously, and now that I have a good amount of experience under my belt, I want to give you 10 tips I’ve learned over time to be successful on the water.
1 - Do online research about the specific body of water. Read articles, fishing reports, watch YouTube videos and use tools like Google Maps or Google Earth to make yourself familiar with the area. You’ll be more ready and comfortable once you get there.
2 - Preparation/organisation. Make sure you are ready for any situation, especially when the tournament is far away from your home. That includes things like clothing, food, fishing rods and tackle, camping gear etc… Also, be ready for the unexpected. If something breaks while you're away, it’s good to have a backup.
3 - Get out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to travel far from home to explore the unknown. Without exception, exploring new areas and new bodies of water makes you a better angler! Just go out there and try to learn every time. Talk to people and learn from them too! Every lake or river is different, that’s what makes fishing so exciting all the time.
4 - Pre-fishing or practice, makes a big difference in my opinion. You don’t necessarily need to practice to do well in a tournament, but you put yourself at a disadvantage if you don’t. You’ll want to cover a lot of water in practice. Scout different areas and try as many different launches if possible. Go out with an open mind. Try a lot of different techniques and fish different types of cover. Pay attention to every bite you get. If you don’t get any bites and notice an area that seems dead, no worries, you can then eliminate this area and focus on another one.
5 - Ideally, if you can, try to fish your practice the same hours as the tournament will be. If the derby runs from 7am to 3pm, try to practice at the same time. That way, if you find a pattern in pre-fishing, you’ll have a game plan coming in the tournament. BUT, always have a plan B if possible. That way if weather changes and your pattern dies, you won’t panic and you’ll know what to do.
6 - Have confidence in yourself and fish your strengths. Once the tournament starts, you’ll find yourself on the water with a lot of other people. That means someone might hit one spot before you. It can be frustrating, but that doesn’t mean the person was fishing the right way or caught something. So many times I have fished a spot after someone else and still caught quality fish. Just stay focused on the next cast and what you can do better to get more bites. Pay attention to where others go, but don’t let them fool you, you can do better than them.
7 - It’s all about decisions making. Learn how to adjust and learn when to make a move to another spot. Time management is also very important in a kayak as you can’t run to another area at 40mph! This comes with practice.
8 - Have a routine when taking pictures of the fish. Personally, I always have my measuring board, my phone and my net in the same places. That way, I don’t waste any time or worse, lose a fish off the board! Again, this is something you learn over time. Oh and, always double check your photos before releasing your fish.
9 - Never give up! I know this sounds cliché, but it’s never over until it really is. Every cast counts. Fish hard until the very last minute, especially if you are in the race! I have a few personal experiences that show the importance of never giving up.
10 - Have fun! Keep a positive mindset even when things don’t go your way. Enjoy your time on the water! If you enjoy yourself, usually you will fish better!
I hope these tips help you out! Tournament fishing is about challenging yourself and pushing your limits. It’s often difficult but it can be so rewarding. You also get to meet some cool people and make new friends along the way! I love it!
Thanks for reading!
You can find me on Facebook, Instagram and Youtube @easternkayakangling
Stay safe and tight lines!
Written by Antoine Desrochers-Gagnon, Feelfree Competitive Fishing Team Member
Edited by Bobby Ulrich, Feelfree US Pro Staff Team Member