Skip to main content

Tournament Bass Fishing in Kayaks with Tyler Cole

Tyler Cole made $6,907 for one day of tournament bass kayak fishing. 

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. 

Tyler Cole kayak bass fishing

I bought my first kayak in 2011, so that I could fish for walleyes and crappie. Not long after, I found a tournament that included anglers catching a variety of fish. I fished on the bass side of the tournament, caught a number of bass and enjoyed myself. That first tournament lit my fire to compete in kayak bass-fishing tournaments. 

I just won the HUK Bassmaster B.A.S.S. Nation Kayak Series, which was the last regular season event on this circuit. The tournament was held on Lake Chickamauga in Tennessee. One reporter asked me, “How does a kayak fisherman from Iowa know how to fish the Tennessee River?” I really didn’t know how to fish Lake Chickamauga or the Tennessee River, however, I’ve been traveling and fishing national kayak tournaments for the last three years. Every time I go to the Tennessee River, I get my butt kicked in those tournaments. But in this tournament, I found some grass on the main river just off the main channel. So, I used my grass-fishing experience on the Mississippi River. Since the lake had been drawn down 5 feet, I knew the bass had to be moving from the shallow water to the deep water. 

Before the tournament started, a cold front hit the lake and drove the water temperature down to the low 30 degrees. I think the bass were confused, and the bite was almost nonexistent. I decided that besides moving to deep water, the bass probably would be moving up the river. I thought they might want to stop off at these grass patches and feed on bait fish. I camped at the Chester Frost Campground, in Hixon, Tenn., and I started fishing about 100 yards from the campground. The main base for the judges was in Dayton, Tennessee. Kayakers could launch from any public landing on Lake Chickamauga, so most of the competitors launched from several different areas. 

When the tournament ended, all the contestants meet at the boat dock in Dayton to learn the results of the event. We didn’t have to weigh-in, but instead used a system called catch-photo-release. We all had to use a specific measuring board, take a picture of the board with the bass laying on that board, and the board would reflect the number of inches of the bass you’d caught. The board also had a unique identifier for that day. The time stamp and your GPS location had to be on your camera when you photographed your fish and the board. We uploaded that photo to some software called TourneyX Pro. We also had to follow certain criteria: the bass we measured had to be face left; the belly had to be flat on the board; the mouth had to be closed; you couldn’t have your fingers on the tail; and you couldn’t cover the fish’s eye. The angler who had the most inches of bass caught and released during the tournament was the winner. 

The biggest bass I caught in this tournament was a 4-1/2-pound largemouth that measured 21 inches. I only caught and measured five fish during the entire one-day tournament. When the tournament was over, I learned that I had won first place in this tournament with 147 anglers, $6,907 and an invitation to fish the Bassmaster Classic Kayak Division to be held on Lewisville Lake in Texas in March, 2021, during the Bassmaster Classic there.

Latest Content