As I am about to head out to pre-fish for the Kayaks n Greenbacks tournament this weekend I had some interesting thoughts about where this sport will be in 10-15 years. I mean, this tournament will pay out $30,000 total and $10,000 to the winner (if we hit 200 anglers) and that would set a new record in terms of cash payout! We’ve come a long way from just giving away some kayaks and prizes to now potentially giving out $30,000. Of course, this is still just entry fee cash and not really funded from sponsors, but with so many kayak fishing tournaments and tournament series popping up it is only a matter of time until this does become a full time occupation for some 6 year old kid living in Ohio right now.
I often get asked, “how big will this get?” In 10-15 years will anglers be fishing these full time to make a living the way our BASS and FLW counterparts are? It may happen that soon or it could take longer because what will have to occur is the financial backing of the SUV and truck manufacturers (who act as our “outboards” motors) as well as other large non-endemic sponsors. The bass boat and redfish tours have the big boat and motor manufacturers to pull from as well as the other non-endemics. Unfortunately, as any of us who work in this industry know, the kayak manufacturers and paddle sports industry isn’t lucrative enough to pitch in large sponsorship cash. Who we need is Toyota, Subaru, Geico, Coca Cola etc. When these companies finally see the value in our sport (estimated to be about 2.5 million anglers to date) is when anglers will start owning RVs and traveling the country doing nothing but fishing tournaments.
Now, what about all those people who got into this sport to get away from all that? The ones who want the seclusion and competition as far from their mind as possible. How will this affect them and can we all co-exist? The short answer is yes, and here’s how.
For one, the kayak is so much more versatile than any other type of boat and can go into 4 or 5 inches of water in a small creek or inshore flat but at the same time can be take in 400 on the Atlantic or Pacific to catch sailfish or marlin. The fact that you can access these remote waters allows us to all be spread out and do our own thing because most of the tournaments are on lakes or inshore areas that have plenty of room for everyone.
Do you have to choose one camp or the other to belong to? No! So many people seem to be anti tournaments or anti those who don’t fish tournaments. Everyone is different; we likedifferent foods, different vehicles, different religions and different forms of entertainment and relaxation. If you have more fun competing then who am I to have an issue with how you have fun so long as you’re not harming myself or others? Likewise if I am into tournaments hard core who am I to question you if you simply like to take it easy and relax while kayak fishing for simple recreational enjoyment?
I choose to live in both camps. As many of you know I even run the River Bassin Tournament Trail, which boasts 35 tour stops across the US and run College Kayak Fishing, so I definitely don’t have an issue with tournaments. I personally do enjoy the spirit of competition from time to time which is why I’m fishing the tournament this weekend, and fish about 4 or 5 a year. Then again I am not a hard core jersey wearin’ tournament guy either. Even though I don’t wear logo’d out jerseys and fish tons of tournaments or talk smack on the forums, I don’t look down upon the anglers who do and think it is all good for the industry. I enjoy the diversification of the kayak and targeting many different species in different location in salt and fresh water. I enjoy seeing what kind of wild fish I can catch in wild waters and filming the experiences to share with others. My enjoyment comes from both sides of kayak fishing – competition and complete seclusion – and it just depends on the day and location as to what mood I’m in.
So, in a sort of “can’t we all get along” spirit, I hope that you enjoy the sport of kayak fishing the way you want to enjoy it and, likewise, don’t let it bother you how others choose to enjoy it either. Good luck to all anglers fishing this weekend and look for me on the water in my lime green Cuda 14!!