Testing the Tournament Waters
Contributed by Tony Keill
There comes a point in your angling career when you must decide whether you will go the tournament route. This is a decision that I’ve been considering for about a year, and I can’t escape the question: Are tournaments for me?
For some people, competition is a natural course. For others, it seems that competition brings out an ugly side to something that is otherwise a peaceful outlet. When you enter a tournament, your otherwise private skunk becomes embarrassingly public within moments after the weigh-in begins. Instead of just a slow day on the water, you begin to wonder if all those who have supported or sponsored you will doubt their faith in you.
Fact of the matter is- if you want to be a pro, you have to prove that you are a pro in a public forum. No longer does it matter if you are your mom’s favorite angler.
I had been signed up for my first Lone Star Kayak Series Tournament for several months. The first event out of four was to be on April 18th. I was more than anxious on several levels. Before the 18th came around, I got the opportunity to fish in a local benefit tournament for Lance Linthicum . I was excited to be able to compete for a good cause, and this was also a great way to pre-fish for the LSKS.
It took me until about 10 pm the night before to rig up my gear and finally decide on a spot to fish. I wanted to be close to the weigh-in located in Sunny San Leon, but at the last minute, I decided to fish a familiar spot in Galveston. Since this tourney allowed bait or artificial, I decided to use both.
This proved to be a fun mistake on my part. I know live shrimp can be a great choice, but I usually go with dead shrimp if I’m using bait. I was confident I’d catch some reds on it. Instead of a beautiful red, I ended up catching the following (on dead shrimp):
– Two stingrays
– a 22″ gafftop
– several hardhead catfish
– one small black drum,
– a whiting
– a couple of croakers
I knew I had back-tracked into a pattern of fishing I had started out with years ago and although I don’t discourage it because it can be fun for some, it’s just not my style anymore. Too many unwanted fish caught and precious minutes with my line out of the water while releasing them. Running out of time, I found a familiar deeper channel in the marsh and started throwing a popping cork with a Vudu shrimp. A few minutes later, I felt that hit and knew I had a redfish. 17″ was not going to cut it, but I was relieved it was not a stingray. My buddy, Jose, joined me in my spot and he, too, quickly got a smaller redfish. He was smarter and using live shrimp. Sadly our time was running out, and we both ended up with an empty stringer. Later on in the day, I found out that only four kayakers had signed up and out of the four of us- only one caught some tourney-grade fish. One keeper redfish, flounder, or trout would have put me in second place. I’m sure I won’t get that opportunity again. This is likely something that will haunt me for quite a while.
The weigh-in was a blast as this tournament had a boat division as well, and I loved watching the fish being brought in, especially when so many were released to fight another day. Most importantly, they raised quite a bit of money to help Lance and his family out. I met lots of new people and saw some friendly, familiar faces. I’ll be back, better and with no dead shrimp. Add in that I missed a couple of flounder and had a nice trout get off at the boat somewhere.
After getting a few high-fives and hand shakes from the wonderful Pier Pressure Girls and Mike Bishop (the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winner – he and his lady are cool as a fan) in my first-ever tournament, it was good to learn that most people in the angling world are still supportive and understanding when a day on the water doesn’t turn out as expected. It was also important to learn that the only expectations I have to live up to are the ones I set for myself. No bad days on the water… only lessons learned.