provided by John E. Phillips
Tyler Cole, from Manchester, Iowa, is the first Mossy Oak kayak tournament bass fisherman to be invited to join the Mossy Oak Fishing Team. We generally don’t think of Iowa as a place where you’ll see a large group of kayak fishermen, just as in the movie “Field of Dreams,” Iowa wasn’t known for having a baseball field in the middle of planted corn.
Currently, there are three major kayak bass-fishing tournaments. The Hobie Bass Open Series qualifies 50 anglers for Hobie’s end-of-the-year tournament. The Bassmaster Kayak tournaments are growing fast and allow anglers to qualify for the kayak angler’s Bassmaster Championship. Right now about 150 kayakers have qualified to fish the end-of-the-year tournament. Lastly, there’s the Kayak Bass Fishing (KBF) National Series. The way these tournaments select what water to fish is they work with chambers of congress and tourism organizations around a large body of water. Too, generally tournaments are held on lakes that most kayak fishermen want to fish.
My favorite lake to fish is Lake Fork in Texas because it has such a diverse type of habitat where the bass can live, and you have a really good chance to catch a 10-pound bass there. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department offers a great program that if an angler catches a 10-pound bass, keeps it alive and donates it to the Texas Park and Wildlife Division, state biologists will use that bass to spawn other big bass and then give the angler a fiberglass reproduction of the bass he’s caught. I wish more states would get involved in a program like that.
Now, trying to land a 10-pound bass is a real thrill because a bass that size will pull you and your kayak around in a lake. Even a 3-1/2 to 4-pound bass will pull you and your kayak wherever the fish decides to go. I always keep an inexpensive landing net that I bought at Walmart in my kayak to land a bass of that size. When I get a heavy fish, I set up my measuring board and a camera, measure and photograph the bass and then put the bass back in the water at the same place where I’ve caught it. This type of tournament is really good for the fishery, especially during the prespawning and spawning seasons. Generally when a bass fisherman catches a bass, he has to take it in to the weigh-in and then release it out in the lake. I’m not sure how that affects the fish, or how the bass get back to their beds to spawn.
We’ve also found that by using this catch-photograph-release program, fishery departments in every state have become very friendly with kayak anglers. The chambers of congress really enjoy seeing a kayak tournament in their area. For instance, we just had a big All-American Kayak Classic in Clinton, Missouri – The Mo-Yak Series. The people in town were really blown away when they saw 170 kayaks being trailered in the backs of pick-up trucks or laying on tops of SUVs. When I talked with some of these folks, they’ve said, “It looks like every vehicle in town has a kayak tied on to it.”