Friday, March 20, 2015

Tournament Day- Stick to your guns

This article is brought to you courtesy of Tim Hotchkin. Tim is one of the founders of the Arkansas Kayak Anglers and an avid tournament fisherman. He recently won The Razoryak Tournament Trail's season opener on Lake Swepco, which drew 71 anglers from three states. 

Anglers coming in from a recent RTT event 
It’s a new season of kayak fishing and kayak tournament series are kicking off all over the country. Every tournament I have had the privilege of fishing in seems to start the same. There is a lot of excitement, social media chatter, and strategy in the weeks leading up to the event. I always try to pre-fish or research the body of water that I am going to be fishing and come up with a solid a game plan. I feel most anglers do this same thing. We are creatures of habit we know our strengths and how we like to fish. There are certain techniques that we are all more comfortable with.

With that being said, at almost every tournament during the weigh in I hear the same thing. "I was fishing how I wanted XYZ way. Then I heard guys saying they were catching them ____ way and changed my strategy." Most of the time it was a technique the angler was either 1) not comfortable with or 2) they have never even fished before. Needless to say they probably did not perform as well as they had hoped. Most of the time they find out this hidden nugget of pure fishing excellence didn't even happen, a little on the water gamesmanship destroyed their own game plan. 

It is very difficult to ignore the rumors and pressure of “they are really killing it on a crankbait on the other side of the lake”. When you hear this stuff you've just got to stick to your guns. I was fortunate to win the last tournament I competed in, and I know that it was due to sticking to being mentally tough and sticking to my game plan. I had planned to fish the same 300 yard stretch of water using a certain technique and told myself NO MATTER WHAT that I wouldn't change that strategy. I started off great. Boom first fish 20 inches, boom second fish 17 inches. I was feeling AWESOME then it happened. Fog cleared, sun came out, the bite completely stopped. I stuck to my plan; for a hour and forty five minutes I did not catch a single fish. I moved a little further down the 300 yard stretch and started to fish a flat where I felt I could at least fill my limit. I ran into other anglers and sure enough I heard “man I heard they are killing it at the discharge” I also watched several anglers start moving spots.

The temptation was surely there, I knew I had caught a lot of fish at the power plant discharge all winter. Even the week before I had caught several good fish there but it was not in my game plan. Soon I had the entire area basically to myself. Suddenly the bite started to get a little better. I was able to round out my limit and start to cull out some of my smaller fish. This turned out to be the right choice. My strategy paid off and I was able to take home first place as well as the big bass for the tournament. The same anglers I heard that gave up on their strategy were back at the ramp after weigh in wishing they had just stuck with the way they were fishing because they never caught a fish once they changed.

Tournament time is not the right time to try a new technique you are not used to. The best way to win is to have a plan of action based on your personal research and results, don't listen to dock talk. If you have caught fish and proven your idea why listen to someone that might just be saying something to get you to second guess your plan? Be prepared and stick to your guns this tournament season.

Tim Hotchkin
Arkansas Kayak Anglers

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