We are joined by Rick Garavaglia who recently participated in the KBF Trail Series event in Kissimmee, Florida this past spring. We are super excited to have him join us for part one of a three part blog on how to fish a tournament. So whether you are new to fishing tournaments, or a seasoned tournament fisherman, sit back and enjoy this conversation with Rick.

Thanks for joining us today Rick. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about the KBF event you fished, starting with your prep and travel?

Yeah, thanks. This was the opening week for my 2022 kayak fishing season and my first year on the Feelfree Competitive Fishing Team. I pre-fished Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday prior to competing in the KBF Trail Series Kissimmee 1 and 2, and the TENvitational held on the Kissimmee Chain of lakes in Florida on Saturday and Sunday. I finished 48th and 78th in the Trail Series 1 and 2 respectively, and 43rd in the TENvitational. This was my first time ever fishing Florida and a major cold front or series of cold fronts were hammering Florida the entire week making fishing tougher than normal for this time of year. 

I traveled 830 miles one-way to get to the rental house and another 30 miles or so per day while in Florida. In total I traveled over 1700 miles this week. I fished Lake Kissimmee, Cypress Lake, Lake Hatchineha (Hatch), and Lake Tohopekaliga (Toho) while in Florida. I chose to fish Lake Toho for both competition days due to the fact that my travel partner and roommates for the week were fishing there and both had previous experience in this area of Florida.

That is so fun. You got to fish Florida for the first time, and as an outsider to Florida fishing, you did really well. You said that you traveled 1700 miles. How do you go about preparing for a tournament that is so far away from home?

Honestly, preparation began about a month prior when I realized that I had qualified for the TENvitational by winning the 2021 Lake Murray 1 KBF Trail Event last February. Kissimmee is a 12 hour drive which creates a few more logistical details than trips that are less than 8 hours away. I typically like to fish KBF Trail Events that allow me to drive home on Saturday evening and be at church on Sunday mornings with at least seven hours of sleep before services start.

I finished setting-up my Feelfree Lure 13.5 that I received last Summer. It had not been in the water yet. I installed the YakPower system with navigation lights, work lights, Micro Power-pole power, and all the wiring for my DIY Minn Kota trolling motor system that was mounted on my IdeaWerks LLC trolling motor mount. I put blue Loctite on the main six bolts that hold my Gravity Seat together. I also mounted spare tires to my kayak trailer since I was traveling so far from home.

I was aware that colder weather was possible in Florida. So, I packed extra sweatshirts and my rain suit anticipating some cooler weather. I had no clue what was about to happen while I was down there though.

Another portion of the preparation was housing. I was invited to stay with a couple of buddies in a house that they rented. I accepted their offer and shared in the expenses of the rental ($240), and even provided dinner one night. I baked Venison (deer) tenderloin in cream of mushroom soup, butter, and onions. And made some mashed potatoes to use with the extra gravy from the deer meat.

Okay, now I’m hungry. What did the actual travel look like for you?

My buddy and I left after I finished work on Monday and drove through the night to get to the rental house that my other friend had already checked-in to with his wife and daughters. The plan was to arrive as early as we could, get a few hours of sleep, and prep our kayaks for the next day to start our pre-fishing. 

We arrived at the house around 6:30 a.m. and I slept until about Noon. I then began installing all of my components like my seat, rod holders, trolling motor controllers, and finalized all my tackle and rod preparation for the first day of practice. I had no clue really what to prep, since I had never fished Florida before. I didn’t figure topwater would play a part with the cooler temperatures. But I had a rod for that ready. I prepared a few different punching rods, a weightless Texas senko for follow-up casts, spinnerbait, chatterbait, jerkbait, lipless crank, 1.5 crank, swimjig, shakyhead, wacky rig, and one other rod for a total of 13 rods. 

Holy smokes. People make fun of me when I take out 7 rods. 13 has got to be some sort of record. I’m excited to hear about your prefishing and tournament, as well as what you learned. That will be in part 2 of our blog series which you can access here. If you would like to follow Rick on his KBF adventures, you can find him on Instagram and Facebook.

Written by Rick Garavaglia, Feelfree Competitive Fishing Team Member

Edited by Bobby Ulrich, Feelfree US Pro Staff Team Member

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