Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Case for a "Big Time" Kayak Fishing Tournament Trail

If you agree with this, send a copy of this letter to FLW or BASS and maybe we can convince them to get a tournament trail for Kayak Anglers going!

To whom it may concern,

Has FLW or B.A.S.S. ever considered entering the kayak fishing tournament realm?  Paddle sports are the fastest growing water sports today, and this growth is dominated by the kayak angler.  There are many reasons for the rapid growth of Kayak Fishing including economic, ecological, and ease of access, to name a few.  This growth has lead to several kayak fishing tournaments and tournament trails appearing all over the country.  It is about time for a “big-name” tournament trail to capitalize on this.

I am a professional kayak angler from Texas.  I am fishing several kayak tournament trails in 2012. Two of the larger tournaments I will be fishing are the KATS tournaments and the River Bassin’ Tournament trail, in which I finished 3rd nationally for the River Basser of the Year standings last year.  Both of these tournament trails regularly bring at least 40 anglers to “local” events.  The River Bassin’ Trail is national, but it is small and generally localized.  I do not believe there is enough money in it at this time for anglers to travel far across the country (although I did, and really enjoyed it.)  Also, the River Bassin’ Trail is exactly as its name states, a River Bass Fishing Tournament Trail.  Although I love and spend most of my time fishing rivers, most anglers I know prefer to fish big waters like lakes.  A big tournament that fishes both lakes and big rivers would be a huge draw.  There is a lot of money to be made in a larger national kayak fishing tournament trail.  There are plenty of sponsors jumping on board these smaller trails, and I am sure a trail with B.A.S.S. or FLW backing and support would attract many more sponsors.

I fish recreationally, competitively, and instructionally, having taught and introduced several anglers the sport of kayak fishing.  I have found that kayak fishing has been a breath of fresh air.  I became discouraged with the culture behind what I call “power boat tournaments.”  Priorities in money making and a disregard for the environment have left me jaded.  Shortly after my big-boat tournament days were over, I picked up the sport of Kayak fishing and have not stopped since.  Growing up in the Texas Hill Country, I learned to fish on the beautiful spring-fed rivers that flow all around me.  River fishing still remains my favorite, and the River Bassin’ Trail has become my favorite of all the tournaments I fish.  Kayak tournaments are much more focused on the environment and protection of the fish.  Every tournament I fish is a CPR (Catch/Photo/Release) tournament.  The fish are released shortly are caught, photographed, and then released immediately right where they were landed.  There is no period of time spent in a live-well!

The growth of Kayak Fishing is due in large part to economic reasons.  Many Americans just cannot justify spending $30,000 to $70,000 on a bass boat when you can buy an excellent kayak for $800-$3000.  Not having a monthly boat payment leaves left over money to buy top end tackle and to pay for travel expenses and tournament entry fees.  There are many more anglers in the local kayak tournaments than in the local power-boat tournaments, and many of them are better fisherman and come back with better catches than the “boat-guys.”

That leads to another reason that kayak fishing is growing so rapidly.  Fishing from a kayak opens you up to much more water that you cannot take a boat.  They float super shallow, that is why many boat guys are selling their boats and buying kayaks.  You can access many more fish.  Saltwater trout and redfish anglers are flocking to kayaks in droves, and the professional bass anglers are not far behind.  Many of the top bass fishing professionals are now carrying kayaks with them on their boats for practice days in order to scout new water without disturbing the fish.  The kayaks that companies such as Jackson Kayak, Hobie, and Wilderness System, are now producing are truly amazing fishing platforms.  You can stand and fish with plenty of room to store all your gear, while still being able to access skinny water and hit the rapids on the river.  I really believe that they are the ultimate fishing vessels.

Another huge reason for the growth of kayak fishing has been the “green” movement.  Kayaks simply are much more Eco-friendly than a motor boat.  They are human powered, not gas powered.  Kayak tournaments are also much more concerned with the environment and waters.  Most kayak tournaments are CPR tournaments, allowing anglers to release the fish shortly after being caught and not requiring them to transport the fish long distances in a live-well.  The fish are simply photographed on an approved measuring board and released immediately back to the water that they were caught in.  Tournaments are therefore based on length rather than weight.  Even the IGFA has recognized the growth of Kayak Fishing and has created categories for length in the world record books.  It seems that only the big bass fishing tournament trails are yet to jump on board, and it is about time!

I would be more than willing to help you in any way possible create and grow a B.A.S.S. or FLW Kayak Fishing Tournament Series.  If you have any questions, or need any help, please let me know.  I would be more than excited to be offered a position in running these tournaments and can provide you with a professional resume if needed.  I look forward to hearing back from you soon.


Patrick Kellner
Professional Kayak Angler
Owner – P. H. Kellner – Quality Custom Fishing


  1. Very interesting read Pat. I agree with your points. The problem I see with this is finding the anglers who can do it. Fishing a true national scale tournament series requires participants to fork over a lot of money. When you add up entry fees, travel, lodging, etc. I don't know many yak fishermen/women who could afford it. Even with major sponsorship, it would be very tough. I know I certainly could not afford to do it, but would be extremely interested in the idea. Another thing to think about is whether or not anglers would have to qualify. To me, the money just isn't in the sport right now.

    I noticed that the IFA Redfish Cup Series struggled to bring in participants to its kayak division last year and most of the anglers who did enter only did 1 or 2 local stops. The same can be said for RiverBassin, as I only know a few guys who actually fished qualifying events in different states. And in NC, where kayak fishing is quite big, I only know a couple people who travel to different states for events.

    I hope some day this can happen...and I can fish it! Tight lines, friend.

  2. Drew, you bring up some very valid arguments. Arguments that no doubt would be brought forward by B.A.S.S. or FLW. I did not want to write to long of a "letter," so I really did not get too deep into the logistics. Quickly though, I think if the Trail were set up similar to most trails now, with 3, 4, or 5, regional divisions that then lead to a larger national trail, and finally a "classic," it would work. I bet people used the same arguments against B.A.S.S. when it began its national bass fishing tournaments. I know it would be expensive, and many people could not afford it, however cost is an issue for at least 90% of bass anglers who would like to go for it all.

    I know several anglers who didn't fish the River Bassin Trail simply because it was a cash tournament. I think having money involved would bring more anglers in. I also wonder if the IFA Redfish Cup saw similar declines in the number of participants who entered the boat tournaments. I know a few guys who fish those who don't travel out of state for those. I would be interested to see their overall numbers, because that possible could be good comparison.

    I also think that Kayak Fishing is still growing, and hasn't reached anything close to its peek popularity. Any support or promotion from FLW or BASS would definitely grow the sport further and faster.

    1. ***NOTE - I meant that they did not fish the River Bassin Trail because it was NOT a cash pay out tournament.***

  3. Gotcha - definitely good points and honestly I agree with you. I would love to see regional divisions set-up and it done that way. The good thing is that no matter what happens I don't see kayak fishing slowing down any time soon.

    One other thing I forgot to mention. One of the reasons I like the RiverBassin trail so much is because it comes down, more so, to basics. In the lake events I fish, I think doing well is based much more on how many toys you have versus pure skill. The guys with expensive depth finders, pedal boats, sonar, etc. have big advantages on the big waters. Granted, you still have to know how to use those toys, but with technology getting better by the week, it makes a big difference.

    1. I agree! River fishing to me is more about skill. Now today with the sounds that are being played to get fish feeding, alabama rigs, and sonar the is better than a camera, it seems it is easy to find fish and get them to bite in a lake. Nothing against fishing a lake and all those tools, but river fishing can take a lot of that out of play and get down to skills. There are only a couple reasons that I see that might prevent river fishing will ever getting big enough. 1) The size of the body of water limits the number of anglers you can put on the water, and 2) people like to fish lakes where they feel bigger fish can be caught (although my biggest bass have been in the river!)

  4. I love the whole ideal/concept of such an endeavor that you are referring to in your blog here. However there is one big point to why organizations like BASS/FLW would not be too keen on supporting your ideal. Keep in mind that they are heavily connected to the boat/motor industry; think about it FLW is run by Forrest L Wood, founder of Ranger Boat Company. I would also like to add regarding an establishment of a national synchronized organization of freshwater bass fishing kayak events; you need to tie in all the different kayak fishing associations together under one governing ruler/body to get something going in the future. Ideally too, some big named TV fishing pro like (Hobie endorsement) Hank Parker needs to be the face on any movement to get things rolling to your ideal.

  5. I will be honest. I had not thought about the tie-ins they had with the boat companies. That would really be something that someone would have to work around. Any you are right, I had thought about combining several different associations from around the country under one umbrella. And, Hank Parker would be a great person to get on board with this. I will look into contacting him about this effort. Thanks for the comment.

  6. You have some large trails in Texas and some in the Southeast that are growing. Why not send the top 10-15% from each trail to a 'Classic' held somewhere between Texas and the Southeast? That would be a good start plus the top anglers are more likely to have the time and money for a big event out of state. The tournament directors from those trails could also be used to judge fish at the Classic.