The Rev­o­lu­tion Is Com­ing!

SA Bass - - Sa Bass / Kayaking - >> De­wald Viljoen*

As I sit here writing this ar­ti­cle I have to ad­mit I am con­fused! In re­cent months South African salt wa­ter kayak­ers have twice bro­ken the mag­i­cal 40kg mark for couta and only yes­ter­day a kayaker landed two mon­ster GT’s.

Ac­cord­ing to man­u­fac­turer’s the sales of fish­ing kayaks for salt­wa­ter use are con­stantly in­creas­ing and kayak only tour­na­ments are pop­ping up along the coast, and yet, we as fresh­wa­ter kayak an­glers re­main woe­fully un­der rep­re­sented.

If you are read­ing this mag­a­zine I think it’s safe to say that, like me, you are a bass an­gler first and boater or a bank an­gler sec­ond. As bass an­glers, our an­ces­tral home (at least in spirit and believe) is surely the USA. Ev­ery­thing we love and re­spect about our sport had its ori­gin in the United States, which is why I find the fact that we are not em­brac­ing the sport of kayak fish­ing whole heart­edly very per­plex­ing.

In the last few months, sev­eral Elite and FLW pro’s like Mike Ia­conelli and Randy How­ell have signed deals with kayak man­u­fac­tur­ers and started fish­ing kayak tri­als. Even the B.A.S.S. An­gler of the Year, Ger­ald Swin­dle’s love of kayaks is well doc­u­mented, yet our lo­cal mar­ket seems re­luc­tant to ap­pre­ci­ate the beauty and sim­plic­ity of these awe­some fish­ing plat­forms.

Well, it is said that com­pe­ti­tion drives progress, so let’s have a look at the com­pet­i­tive kayak­ing scene in the States and see what if we can shake things up lo­cally. Be­fore we go any fur­ther, it is im­por­tant to un­der­stand that kayak an­gling world­wide mir­rors mo­tor­ized boat sales in terms of use and ap­pli­ca­tion. While ded­i­cated bassing kayaks are grow­ing faster than any other seg­ment in the bassing in­dus­try the vast ma­jor­ity of fish­ing kayak sales are still for gen­eral fish­ing pur­poses. The beauty of a kayak though is that be­cause of its sim­plic­ity, size and ver­sa­til­ity, one is sel­dom locked into a spe­cific species or an­gling style when buy­ing a kayak, which cre­ates many op­por­tu­ni­ties to dis­cover new thrills and ad­ven­tures! As is usu­ally the case in life, a growth in in­ter­est and par­tic­i­pa­tion leads to com­pe­ti­tion, and in the case of kayaks it led to a whole in­dus­try of com­pe­ti­tion! At first the tour­na­ments were for the en­try level an­gler who did not have the re­sources for a big boat, then as those types of tour­na­ments in­creased man­u­fac­tur­ers came on board with bet­ter prod­ucts to im­prove the small craft an­gler’s ex­pe­ri­ence, which led to more peo­ple com­pet­ing and again to bet­ter equip­ment. The re­sult is what is cur­rently hap­pen­ing i.e. mas­sive tour­na­ment cir­cuits with huge prizes and pro­fes­sional pad­dle an­glers.

To try to un­der­stand the ap­peal of kayak tour­na­ments we should take an in-depth look at what’s hap­pen­ing. Work­ing from the bot­tom up we will start with club tour­na­ments.

Be­cause kayaks are in­cred­i­bly af­ford­able com­pared to big boats, clubs have mush­roomed up all over the world, with the USA, Canada, Mex­ico and Aus­tralia all show­ing strong mem­ber­ship fig­ures. Club an­glers are usu­ally di­vided into two groups namely the pad­dlers and the mo­tor­ized kayak­ers. At club level there is not re­ally a dif­fer­ence be­tween the

two since most tour­na­ments hap­pen in a so­cial en­vi­ron­ment and there is no re­ally dif­fer­ence in speed and range on smaller wa­ters. The rules are gen­er­ally very sim­i­lar to reg­u­lar bass tour­na­ments with only two ma­jor dif­fer­ences. First is that there are no spe­cific launch area. The an­glers meet at a pre-ar­ranged point for the cap­tains meet­ing, sort out the for­mal­i­ties such as iden­ti­fier tags and lo­cal reg­u­la­tions and then head off to launch at a site con­ve­nient to their fish­ing ar­eas. At the end of the fish­ing day ev­ery­one meets again at the pre ar­ranged point for the “weigh in” be­fore the cut off time.

The sec­ond ma­jor dif­fer­ence is the “weigh in”. Kayak tour­na­ments do not rely on weight to de­ter­mine a winner but on to­tal length. Since kayaks don’t have live-wells tour­na­ments rely on a catch, pho­to­graph and re­lease for­mat.

Mea­sure­ment takes place on a stan­dard­ized mea­sur­ing board and the an­gler is ex­pected to take a pic­ture of his or her fish show­ing the en­tire fish, a clear view of the mea­sur­ing marks and a tour­na­ment iden­ti­fier tag. Tour­na­ment tags are is­sued ran­domly be­fore each com­pe­ti­tion and must show clearly in ev­ery pho­to­graph sub­mit­ted to proof that the catch hap­pened on the tour­na­ment day. Ev­ery an­gler can hand in photos up to the tour­na­ment limit and within tour­na­ment size lim­its. Once a photo is sub­mit­ted the fish is con­sid­ered “weighed” and can­not be “culled”. The weigh­mas­ter will cal­cu­late the to­tal length of each an­gler’s bag and the long­est length wins. From con­ser­va­tion view­point this for­mat is very ef­fi­cient as fish are only out of the wa­ter for a brief mo­ment be­fore be­ing re­leased right back where it was caught, greatly de­creas­ing the risk of death or in­jury. Club tour­na­ments are grass­roots and are where most an­glers get started.

The next level is re­gional and na­tional level tour­na­ments. These share the same ba­sic rules ex­cept that in most cases the an­glers are ex­clu­sively al­lowed to pad­dle their crafts. No mo­tor or pedal drives. Re­cently the re­gional tour­na­ment also added a twist with on­line tour­na­ments. It is in­deed a strange con­cept but it has proven highly suc­cess­ful and very pop­u­lar. In very broad strokes, an on­line tour­na­ment work as fol­lows. You log onto a web site and se­lect a tour­na­ment in your re­gion. A tour­na­ment can run from one day to four weeks and you are only al­lowed to en­ter the bag limit for a cer­tain num­ber of days. In other words, over a four week pe­riod you can for in­stance en­ter five fish for con­sid­er­a­tion. They can how­ever only be caught over four fish­ing days that fell within the four week pe­riod. The four days don’t have to be nom­i­nated and they don’t have to be con­sec­u­tive and you are not lim­ited to fish­ing only four days but at least two of you fish must come from the same day. Now this might seem strange when one is used to fish­ing reg­u­lar tour­na­ments but the for­mat has brought thou­sands of new an­glers to the sport by be­ing in­cred­i­bly flex­i­ble and user friendly.

The top of the pyra­mid is ob­vi­ously in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ments. While these are still in their early days and bass fish­ing do not have a ded­i­cated Kayak World Cham­pi­onship, it is only a mat­ter of time be­fore it hap­pens. The two ma­jor world cham­pi­onships at the mo­ment are the Ho­bie World Cham­pi­ons and The Ad­ven­ture Fish­ing World Cham­pi­onship. The Ho­bie tour­na­ment has been around for six years and last year saw sev­eral en­tries with only 48 an­glers from 27 coun­tries qual­i­fy­ing, mak­ing it one of the tough­est tour­na­ment en­tries in the world to make. The Ad­ven­ture Fish­ing World Cham­pi­onship on the other hand is fairly easy to en­ter but is a team event that will re­quire a 30km plus pad­dle ev­ery­day with check­points, time tri­als and fish­ing thrown in the mix to make it prob­a­bly the all round tough­est fish­ing tour­na­ment on earth!

The days of kayaks be­ing the poor cousin of fish­ing in gen­eral, are num­bered. Our boats are faster, lighter, stronger and cheaper than the al­ter­na­tives and kayak­ers are break­ing fish­ing fron­tiers every­where. It is only a mat­ter of time be­fore we will be pad­dling for bass all over South­ern Africa! The rev­o­lu­tion is com­ing! Re­sis­tance is fu­tile!

The Ho­bie World Cham­pi­ons is well or­gan­ised

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