First tournament of 2015 - Why refusal to change kept me out of the game

The first few kayaks getting ready to go
Well this past Saturday officially kicked off my tournament season and it was a rough one. The tournament series is the Great Lakes Kayak Fishing Series and I am defending my title as series winner.

I was in the garage getting ready by 2:15am. Rods, reels, and tackle was ready to go but as I was checking batteries, I realized that my Power-Pole wasn't powering up. I knew I charged the battery the day before so it should have had power. I figured that I probably forgot to reconnect everything so I went to open up my rear hatch and couldn't get it open. Great...it's 2:30 in the morning and now I have to remove a hatch so I can get to the battery. Grrrrr

I grabbed my screw gun and wouldn't you know it; the battery on the drill was dead so I got a screw driver instead, undid the hatch, and got everything fixed within 15 minutes. The rest of the loading went much smoother. I finally hit the road and got my coffee! That helped get my brain working almost instantly and put me in a much better mood.

I arrived a half hour later than I wanted to so I felt a bit rushed and disorganized. It's definitely not a feeling that I like to have but it is what it is. I got the kayak down to the beach and was ready to go with a bit of time left to spare. Ultimately, I felt really good going into this.  I have fished this lake multiple times before so I knew what I wanted to throw and where I wanted to throw it.

When I got on the water, I was a bit surprised at how clear the water was. At one point, I was in 20 feet of water and could see the bottom like I was looking at an aquarium. I guess since Saturday was "opening day" the water hadn't been churned up by the insane amount of boating pressure it gets. When I actually got to my first spot that I wanted to fish, the weeds that I had anticipated weren't there. Hmmmmm

As I moved around in the general area, I found the occasional weed patch here and there so I stuck to my game plan - chartreuse/white anything in the weeds. The target species was pike and I have caught them there every time with this combo. As I moved from spot to spot, the story was the same; not nearly as many weeds as I anticipated but I was actually seeing fish there as I passed over. Pike, bass, and even a musky were exactly where I thought they would be and exactly where I was.

For hours, I worked a mile or so stretch. I knew it was the right area because I saw the fish but I just wasn't getting hit. On multiple occasions, I thought that maybe I should downsize a bit and switch to dark colors. Based on my past experiences there, I simply ignored myself. "Eventually my proven pattern would start working" I thought..."It had to". After all, it has worked every time before.

As the day went on, I was running out of time and I was scratching my head. The boat traffic was picking up and the sun was getting brighter and brighter. Rather than switching up baits, I decided to move and check out some other areas that I though might be a bit more stained like I am used to on that lake. As I got to each spot, I regretted the decision to move. The water was definitely stained...too stained. It was either chocolate milk or crystal clear. I felt much more confident in crystal clear so I ultimately spent the last hour where I had originally started.

I was still seeing fish but not connecting with anything. By the time I decided to listen to myself, I was pretty much out of time. I had a twenty minute pedal back to the landing and only about a half hour left. I was defeated and I knew it. I knew why and I was mad at myself for not switching it up.

As the other anglers came in, many of them all had the same results as I did. Out of 36 kayak anglers, only 9 caught any pike. Of those 9, only 2 actually caught their 3 fish limit. The day was certainly tough but it wasn't impossible. As I talked with the people that had caught fish, they confirmed exactly what I thought...smaller and darker.

Congratulations are definitely in order to the winner of the event, Mark R. I have fished with Mark a few times and he is a fantastic fisherman!!

The optimist in me is looking at this as a learning experience. The lesson is simple - don't get stuck on what you think you know. Listen to your gut and change when you know you should change. To add one more bit of optimism to this story, I started off last year's series the same exact way - 0 fish - and I ended up winning the whole thing in the end. In other words, it's not over yet!!

The next stop is in June for bass. I placed 3rd at this stop last year and I have a few new tricks up my sleeve for this year. Hopefully they will come together and if they don't, I'll listen to my gut and switch it up if I need to.


  1. Yep. Sounds about right. When you need everything to go right everything goes wrong. Thanks for sharing your experience of your first 2015 tournament.

    1. Indeed! Thanks - as always - for coming by and commenting!

  2. Good read. Even for non tournament situations I think your insight is dead on, many a fishing trip was not nearly as successful as it could have been - had I not been so reluctant to switch up. We all get set in patterns and I think one of the greatest challenges we face as anglers is knowing when to make a change and when to tough it out. On the rare occasion I get an entire day to fish or a big block of time, I will actually give myself a timer and set a rule from the start... 2 hours of using lure X, no success then to Y 1 hour, and so on. At times this has made my fishing not as enjoyable as it feels less natural and more methodical - but I do think it has provided more success overall. Once again, good read and it made me think a lot about how I fish... everything amplified of course when you are in a tourney!

    1. Exactly!! I am getting ready for my next event - the 2015 Hobie Opens on Kentucky Lake - and I'm going to remember this event. I currently have 3 presentations set up but if they aren't producing, I'm changing!


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