How to Set Up for Tournament Fishing


I have jumped head first into the world of kayak fishing. I recently took my new Wilderness Systems ATAK 140 on our Everglades National Park trip and loved the aspect of fishing and paddling. My next big event is going to be my first kayak fishing tournament. I have joined the Iowa Kayak Anglers, and plan on fishing at least 4 bass tournaments this upcoming season.

Kayak Fishing - Everglades

Getting ready for these tournaments has been eye opening to say the least. I have talked to numerous anglers on a suggested number and type of rod/reel setups to use. The best feedback I have gotten is to take what you know how to fish. If you’re unfamiliar with a baitcaster, don’t expect to figure it out the day of the tournament. Keep it simple to you and have at least one back up. That means if you’re only fishing one technique, have that rod/reel setup and the same setup as a backup. You want to be able to continue fishing if your main setup fowls up.

I have decided to start my first tournament with 4 setups. I will add or subtract setups after using these for a bit. I will be able to cover the top, middle, and bottom of the fishing zone with these. Without further delay, here are my setups going into the Iowa Kayak Angler’s Lake Wapello, April 14th tournament.

  1. Top water casting setup. I want a rod that has a lot of backbone with a fast action that can pull fish out of the weeds and lily pads (my top water fishing zone). I want a run with a reel with at least a 7:1 ratio. This is to take up line slack as fast as possible and get the lure back to me fast when I leave the target zone. I want a heavier braided line in this setup. The braid should hold up well when pulling fish from the target zone of lily pads. I plan on throwing a bunch of frogs in this setup. Those frogs will be weighing between a ½ to ¾ ounce.

  2. Rod – FX Custom Rods Xtreme Angler Series 7’3” Heavy Fast casting

  3. Reel – Lew’s MC1SH Mach Crush Speed Spool SLP Series, 7.5: 1

  4. Line – 50 lb braid

FX Rod

2. All-purpose casting setup. This is going to be my “everything” rod. The main purpose will be running mid-depth crankbaits and spinnerbaits. It will also have the ability to throw my top water and bottom lure setups. I want a medium heavy rod with a fast action. I went medium heavy because it can it can perform so many different applications, and do them well. I will be starting off with a slower 5:1 reel for the spring time. The colder water and slower reel should entice those sluggish fish to chase down a lure. If water temperatures jump up, I can always move to a faster retrieve reel. I will be using braid also on this setup, but lighter than my top water setup. I will also have some fluorocarbon available if the water clarity dictates I need a leader.

  1. Rod – FX Custom Rods Xtreme Angler Series 7’1” Medium Heavy Fast casting

  2. Reel – Lew's SSG1S Speed Spool Reel 5.6:1

  3. Line – 30 lb braid