Tired of losing? 5 tips to make you a better kayak tournament competitor.

By Nick Taylor/Jan 3, 2024/Two More Cast Media

“Diligence is the mother of good luck.”– Benjamin Franklin

It has become common today to dismiss how much skill, preparation, and knowledge is necessary to place in the Top 5 in kayak bass fishing tournaments. It’s often suggested that it’s more luck than skill. It’s not uncommon to hear a winning angler talk about how, where, and what was used to catch the winning fish, and then still allude that it was just luck later in a conversation. Though I concede that there are times I feel like luck is on my side, I still maintain that the work I put in before the tournament led me to the top of the leaderboard. If you are out of luck or looking to improve your tournament success, I have a few tips that will help you make your way through the pack.

1. Tournament Preparation

Tournament preparation begins long before the pre-fishing period begins.  Bassmaster Classic and Bassmaster Kayak Series tournament winner Mick “Ike” Iaconelli had this to say about tournament preparation:

“Tournament preparation is a big process. It’s not something where you hop in the back of the truck, you hop into the garage the night before a tournament, and you pull out a bunch of stuff. It begins months and months before the event (YouTube.).”

Study Lake Maps

I use maps with contour lines to look for points, main channels, creek channels, and other structures. Boat launches are often included on these types of maps, I look for a ramp that is the closest to at least two different types of structure. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJSPdciJ8g4- Fish the Moment on YouTube is a very informative video on how to read a topographic lake map to find structure.

Pay attention to what time of year the tournament is taking place, is it during pre-spawn or the middle of summer? The time of year the tournament is scheduled for will give you clues on what areas of the lake you should spend time pre-fishing.  

2. Take advantage of pre-fishing

At this point, you will take what you learned during the preparation stage and verify that the information you have matches what is on the water. Graph the structure you have found on the map, mark waypoints, and familiarize yourself with the lake. On the first day, I spend more time graphing and marking waypoints than I do fishing.  

Day 2 I start fishing my waypoints trying to build a pattern, what baits and color combos are working. You don’t want to overfish any one spot; the idea is to eliminate baits, structure, and cover that is not producing any action. 

Take notes in a journal, of the weather, time of day, the bait that has produced, and any cover and structure that you have found while graphing. Chances are that you will be fishing the same body of water in future years.

3. Know when to adjust your plan

It’s tournament day and the strategy you had planned is not producing, don’t panic, this happens often, and the ability to adapt a new game plan is what separates consistent winners from the “lucky” finishers. The circumstances have changed but the main goal is still the same, catch fish and win. As far as knowing when to change your plan, there isn’t a set standard, I will fish my first two spots for at least an hour before I decide on a new strategy.

That’s about the same time the sense of panic kicks in and I remind myself that I am just fishing, and the plan now is to find the fish. It’s just another day of fishing at that point.

“I have noticed an interesting phenomenon recently occurring at the B.A.S.S. Tour events. The winner is the angler who finds a new pattern or area for quality fish that emerges during the competition (Yelas).”- Jay Yelas (2002 Bassmaster Classic Winner)

Yelas, J. (2021). Prefishing strategies that win tournaments

4. Build Confidence

Every angler who decides to compete has built some confidence in their ability to catch fish consistently. Our confidence can fade with different circumstances, whether it’s a lake we never fished, a weather pattern that doesn’t favor our go-to techniques, or competing against highly skilled anglers, confidence is constantly being challenged.

One method I use to combat the lack of confidence in fishing an unfamiliar lake is to fish as many new lakes as possible during my practice time. I don’t look at a map, watch YouTube, or ask my friends for any tips about the lake. I come up with a pattern as I fish, over time, you will gain enough knowledge from repetition that finding structure and cover becomes second nature to you. Challenging yourself will build confidence and prepare you for competing in unfamiliar territory.

The second method is to find a lake near year that has the same type of structure and cover as the lake you are competing on, it doesn’t have to be exact. If you see a lot of ledges while studying the map, start fishing ledges on your home lakes. The idea is to prepare yourself for different structures in different conditions. Not all lakes have docks, grass, bridges, or deep water. Gaining experience in all techniques is necessary for success.

As far as competitors go, you can’t control what someone else is going to do, it’s best just to keep a positive mental attitude, stay confident in your abilities, and ignore what other people are doing.

 5. Be Consistent

Keep showing up to the launch even on days you don’t feel like it, fish on windy rainy days, and never stop being a student. Those who power through the mental blocks caused by mundane routines will separate themselves from their competition and will finish in the Top 5 more consistently. It’s not going to come easy, it’s a battle of the mind and body.

“Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals.” -― E. James Rohn


It’s not an accident that the same names appear on the top of leaderboards across the world, it’s not luck, it’s skill, knowledge, dedication, and confidence that keep these anglers in the money spots. At the end of the day, we are not just catching fish, we are cashing checks.

Works Cited

Yelas, J. (2021). Prefishing strategies that win tournaments | the ultimate bass fishing … https://www.bassresource.com/fishing/prefishing_tournaments.html. https://www.bassresource.com/fishing/prefishing_tournaments.html. n.d.

YouTube., (2010). n.d.

No AI was used in the writing of this article.

© 2024 Two More Cast. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the written consent of Two More Cast.

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