|Properly positioned and photographed fish|
- Read the Rules - Knowing the rules before tournament day ensures you have the right equipment, length minimums, fish limits, start/stop times and understand what techniques are allowed for whatever tournament you fishing.
- Fill out paperwork ahead of time - Most events will offer entry forms, liability waivers etc.. online. Getting this stuff done ahead of time eliminates congestion at the registration table and gives you more time to get tournament ready.
- Check your equipment - Take the time at home to check and organize all of your fishing gear before tournament day. Doing this will give you more confidence on tournament day and let you focus more on what your strategy will be.
- Purchase a quality camera - The essence of kayak fishing tournaments is the CPR (Catch Photo Release) format. Having a quality camera with motion reduction software makes it easy to get a high resolution picture in spite of the motion of the kayak and/or your shaky hands after landing that giant! If you are using a phone, bring the proper cables to hook it to the judges computer.
- Take good pictures - Most tournament directors will either deduct inches and/or disqualify a photo if it is of poor quality. Position the fish correctly according to the rules, make sure the assigned identifier is in the photo, and take multiple photos of the same fish if necessary to ensure the tournament director has a good photo to work with.
- Be on time - Being at the ramp in plenty of time to launch, register, and get organized makes everything flow smoothly for you and the rest of the anglers. Getting back and turning in your cards by the tournament finish deadline seems like a no brainer, but some people push the limits causing conflict where there doesn't have to be.
- Take care of the fish - Practicing the process of landing, photographing, and releasing the fish on non tournament practice days is very important. Anglers need to be efficient with the process to minimize stress on the fish.
- Ask questions - Last but not least, ask questions. If you are confused about any rules involved with a particular event, don't wait until its over. Tournament directors or other competitors are more than willing to help answer questions to make sure you have a fun day on the water.
- Clog up the ramp - Don't be that guy that backs down the ramp, unloads the kayak, and leaves the vehicle/trailer there while retying, re-rigging, and putting your whole boat together. Unload, park, put your kayak to the side, then do all of that.
- Come unprepared - Don't show up without a PFD, camera, paddle, or some other essential piece of equipment. (see #3 above)
- Try to pass off a bad photo - If you take a bad photo, do not linger by the judges table and try to explain why there is no identifier, why you can't see the lines on the board, or why the mouth is open when the rules say otherwise. It is not fair to the other competitors or the tournament director judging the photos.
- Crowd other anglers - Even if the rules at your event don't explain this, there is a unwritten rule that anglers should not crowd or cross other anglers during a tournament. Be courteous while on the water, if fishing a tight area ask the other angler if it's ok that you fish nearby, but still try and keep your distance whenever possible.
- Make excuses - "My identifier fell in the water", "I forgot what time the tournament ended", "I forgot the mouth of the fish had to be closed". These are some of the common excuses tournament directors hear for a rules infraction. Save your time and theirs by accepting whatever penalty comes with a violation, don't make excuses.
- Be a jerk - This is not to be harsh, but one of the greatest things about kayak fishing in general is the quality of the people involved with the sport. If you like to lie, cheat, steal, or cause drama. Kayak fishing, especially tournament fishing, is probably not for you.
This is just my version of the do's and don'ts of kayak tournament fishing. There are directors and experienced tournament anglers all over the country that can probably add to it. If you know of something else that can help add to the tournament experience for a kayak angler please post it in the comment section below. Have fun out there, see you on the water!