Are You Setting Yourself Up For Success or Failure?

I just recently got done with my 3rd kayak fishing tournament of the year. I have been really looking forward to this tournament for about 6 weeks now. Before I get into why let’s start with all the tournament details. 12 Mile Lake is a quality producer of big bass and was the 4th stop on the Iowa Kayak Anglers (IKA) tournament trail this year. This tournament was held in conjunction with the Midwest Kayak Fishing Series (MKFS). The IKA 12 Mile tournament is an open, while the MKFS was not. At the start of the tournament there was 53 anglers signed up in the open IKA 12 Mile tournament. The tournament had a first cast at 5:30 am and lines out by 3 pm. Anglers have nine and a half hours to put the best combined length of their top 5 bass together. Bass are tracked using the C.P.R. method – Catch, Photo, Release.

So why was I excited for this tournament? I started to pre-fish 12 mile about 6 weeks ago. I went 3 times between 6-5 weeks ago and caught quality fish, while getting a limit within a couple hours each time. I had a day where I could throw any lure I had, and I would catch fish. Those are just fun days. Most fish averaged 17 inches and I had a couple over 20 inches. I had multiple days where I was on fish in the same spot. This is a great feeling.

Large mouth bass

Photo Caption – Bass caught while pre fishing

Now you must be thinking this is where his excitement turns into results on tournament day. It is actually where, underneath that excitement, I recap how I set myself up for a bad tournament. I did not consciously set myself up for a bad day. I did prepare for a negative outcome by being lazy, under prepared, and over confident.

I quit pre-fishing 12 Mile Lake about a month before the tournament. Life happens, and I was left without a way to transport my fishing kayak. I was lucky enough to be able to fish at Lake Ahquabi because I was able to leave my kayak there while my car and trailer got fixed. I continued to fish Lake Ahquabi up until the tournament. Getting the kayak out and going fishing is better than no fishing, but not continuing to pre-fish 12 Mile hurt me. Looking back on it now, I should have found a way to continue to pre-fish 12 Mile. The conditions changed and so did the patterns. Techniques I was using a month ago were now useless with current conditions.

This leads up to me leaving for the tournament right as I got off work at 3 pm the afternoon before the tournament. I loaded my kayak before work in the store’s extra truck. I was not happy with the way it was loaded so I switched to our smaller rental 12’ ATAK fishing kayak. It fit well with the tailgate down and I was happier taking it safely down the road. What I didn’t do was even look it over. I did notice the morning of the tournament that the seat back was broken in several areas. They were easy fixes if I had the right equipment. I forgot to bring my boat repair kit and now I had to improvise a makeshift solution. This was unneeded time and attention on something that should have been caught before loading the kayak in the first place.

Yellow/black Kayak in truck bed

Photo Caption – Loaded up with an unknown broken seat

So on to the actual tournament. A couple things really hurt me on the water. One was no pre-planning of meals. 9.5 hours on the water is a long day. I winged my “food plan” on the way out of town. A bag of beef jerky and a couple gallons of water was not a solid plan for tournament day. I knew it was going to be in the 90’s and having plenty of water was a good plan. Not actually planning time to eat, along with what to eat, hurt me throughout the day. That bag of jerky was also forgotten in the truck and had to be retrieved around 1 pm when I was really hungry. By now you see the “winging it food plan” was not a success.

Photo Caption – See what is wrong in the picture?

The other thing that hurt me on the water was my picture taking. I landed a solid fish to start, 17.50”, and took a good picture of it. It took me a while to find a second fish. I ran into a friend leaving a cove and asked if he was done fishing it. He said yes, and I told him I was going to go clean it up for him and find the ones he left. 1stcast in the cove I just nail a 15” fish. Super pumped because it’s a fish that will score and I can now talk some smack. I take my picture to score the fish. I upload it to the TourneyX to be scored then fire of the same picture in a text message to talk some trash. I get almost an instant reply of “hope you took a better picture, you cut off your identifier”. Well of course not. I didn’t even check the picture while I still had the fish on the board. Dose of instant karma for trying to talk some smack. 15.00” of fish just gone. Lesson learned the hard way. Make sure your entire identifier is in the picture.

Photo Caption – Leaderboard before losing the 15.00” fish due to bad picture taking

That was right around the time I headed back in for my bag of jerky. By then I lost the motivation to stay on the lake and fish. I gave up 1.5 hours to help my chances of finishing better in the tournament by calling it quits at 1:30 pm. Hindsight I should have stayed and fished. Anything could have happened in the last hour and a half.

Photo Caption – Final leaderboard results

What can I say? Everything that went wrong was my fault. The IKA put on a great tournament and I blew it on my end. I would have liked to finish better, but I did not set myself up for it. Let’s learn from some of my mistakes here-

  1. Pre-fish the tournament lake up until the time pre fishing ends. Don’t expect to magically be on fish.

  2. Check your gear before and after use. Identify those problems so they are not found on tournament day.

  3. Have a food plan along with your fishing plan. I’ve never winged it like this in the past for any kind of day outing. It really did knock any motivation to stay out on the water by being hungry.

  4. Take good pictures and verify it before releasing the fish. This should be a no brainer, but I had no clue on my bad picture until it was identified by someone else.

Hopefully you can learn from some of my mistakes. Looking back on this tournament I was really setting myself up not to do well. Did I know it at the time? Maybe a little. Will it happen again. No. If you are not consciously planning for a positive outcome you could fall into the same pitfalls as I did. If you need to make yourself a checklist, do it. I plan on making something similar to my pre-trip sea kayaking checklists, but gear it towards tournaments. Now after some self-reflection it’s time to prepare for the Brushy Creek tournament in 3 weeks!

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Logan Ballew is an employee of CanoeSport Outfitters and has been paddling for 8 years. He recently has dived into kayak angling and has been sharing his experiences around social media and through CanoeSport Outfitters events. Logan has recently joined the Iowa Kayak Anglers and will have fished in 5 tournaments in 2018. He is an ACA Level 3 Coastal Kayak Instructor and teaches classes on the weekend. Currently Logan paddles a Wilderness Systems ATAK 140 and a Current Designs Gulfstream.

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