A Roundtable – The Importance of Events, Part 2

In this, the second installment of our round table discussion, our panel turns its attention to the subjects of competition and commercialization. The first installment can be found herePhotos courtesy of Jose Chavez and Rory Gregg.

Eric:  Pat – you are officially invited to my tournament!

I agree that competition is, of course, a big part of our events, but it’s much less of an influence than it is in most other tournaments. There’s such an ethic of sharing that I see in some of our most talented and competitive members – an almost apologetic reluctance to go all out in a tourney – especially those who’ve been previously recognized by the group in another competition. I’m not saying competition isn’t a huge part; rather, I feel that the overriding feel of the event is one of brotherhood, where a sense of wanting to see others achieve is a high priority for all, and that level of positivity and gregariousness actually leads to a winning feeling for all who participate.

I’m waxing here, and will hand over the crate for awhile. In short, I feel that our group has got Love down pat!  My event works on that premise (AND I hope to catch the biggest fish!!  That’s the beauty of it).

Pat:  Eric, you are correct, there is much more sharing in our competitions.  I could not agree more.  From my end, what I have seen in the bass fishing kayak tournaments that I fish or been a part of in one way or another, is that nobody holds back from winning.  They fish as hard as they can, and they want to win.  That is not to say that most kayak anglers won’t do whatever it takes to help another competitor win also, especially the newbies to the sport.  I think that is what sets kayak tournaments apart from most others.  I agree, and seeing the group perform well as a whole is important to most kayak anglers that I have been around.  It is something special to be a part of.

I have fished several kayak tournaments that have taken place on the same body of water and at the same time as power boat tournaments.  I can honestly say that at most of these events, the kayak anglers, hands down, outperform the power boat guys.  I think that is because we share and grow off of each other.  If you want to be the best, you need to beat the best, when they are at their best!

Allen:  It’s kind of funny.  In the early 2000′s, it was a struggle just to find anyone to kayak fish with. For rugged individuals, we sure were lonely and looking for others.  We’d hide out in the corners of large fishing bulletin boards and Yahoo groups.  We’d even gather to have tournaments.  I remember turnouts of 10-12 kayak anglers.  While we were so into doing our thing as the captains of our own ships, we still sought out the comforts of other like minded individuals.  The bonds of community were being formed even in our infancy.  And look where it brought us today!

Rory:  I believe that kayak angling started out with a sort of cult following; we were the rogue fisherman creating a whole new genre or style of fishing that has really held on and gained some serious traction over the last decade! It is the people at the forefront, the kayak angling pioneers and ambassadors that have drawn more anglers into the sport. Fishing in general is a traditional sport, like myself from father to son, or friend to friend etc. It is our underlying duty to pass the torch, and, with this torch being passed, the fire is set ablaze for other anglers to jump in the game. Yes, kayak angling is an individual sport with one man to one vessel, but just as in any experience, it is always great to share in those experiences with others (and have a witness to tell the fish-tales of all those great and not so great days on the water). As the sport has grown, the natural progression was to hold tournaments, which has helped in many ways to elevate the sport. Fishing, by nature, is competitive, and as we challenge ourselves against the elements and the fish, in the spirit of competition, we naturally want to extend our fishing knowledge and prowess against the best in the field to in turn make ourselves better anglers. Tournaments have also brought great amounts of exposure to the sport of kayak angling by means of charitable endeavors, industry and sponsor visibility, and growing micro-communities and federations all around the country and to other parts of the world. At the end of the day, it is the camaraderie of the events, the sport, the knowledge sharing, and the fact that we all get to be a part of a movement in an industry that is crawling out of its infancy, on its way to running full steam ahead year by year to gaining notoriety in the angling world, and further legitimizing the sport which attracts more and more anglers by promoting the 5-Fs: family, friends, fitness, fishing, and fun!

Pat:  I first started kayak fishing, probably about 10 years ago, because my friend had this old purple kayak wash up at his grandpa’s after a flood. When he couldn’t find the owner, he decided to call me because he thought it would work pretty well to fish a small local river.  The first day we took it out, I rolled the thing in some upper 40 degree water on a cold January day.  I had no idea what I was doing; I was cold and wet, but I didn’t care.  It was a fun way to hang out with a friend and fish.  A few years later I started to notice a few more people showing up on the water in kayaks.  “Us kayak guys,” began to hang out and started forming bonds that I had not seen among other anglers.  And about 3 years ago, I started to notice some small kayak tournaments popping up in the area.  I did not enter these at first because of the bad taste I had left in my mouth from power boat tournaments, but eventually I started to enter a few of them and realized that these guys were just like me.

Over the last 3 years, I think the sport has been growing faster than I had ever seen it grow, and I think this growth will continue, and eventually lead to a couple big time, nation wide, kayak fishing tournament trails.  I think we will soon see some sort of bass fishing tournament trail and some sort of Redfish or other saltwater tournament trail.  I don’t know if these will be started by B.A.S.S., FLW, or some sort of consolidation of the larger but still regional events, but I think it will happen.

Whether this will be a good thing for the sport, I don’t know.  It will definitely change it.  I personally would be for something like this happening.  I feel anytime we can bring new anglers into the sport, either converted power boat guys or new anglers, is a good thing (especially for the environment and the waters we fish).

Sorry if that got a little off topic there.

Andy:  No worries; in fact, you bring up something that I was just about to add into the mix….

Some once-individualized sports, and let’s take the low hanging fruit and use surfing as an example, have, in many people’s eyes, become too commercialized and competition driven, often to the point where a counter-movement has blossomed.  In surfing, the counter-movement would be the tournament culture-eschewing free surfing community of still-sponsored riders who make money through their appearances in magazines and videos. Do you all fear a scenario in which our sport will be tainted in any way, and therefore lose some of the individualistic wanderlust that put us into kayaks in the first place? And, if so, what are your predictions related to any sort of counter-movement?

Allen:  It’s kind of hard to have a counter movement, when the “actual movement” is less than defined.

Andy:  Get out your crystal ball then, brother. Predict me some future.

Rory:  I will jump on this, as most of you may or may not know that I have been a surfer my whole life and have worked around the industry for awhile.

I agree that commercialism has hit the surfing industry hard in transforming events that were formerly remote events into main stage spectator sports. Beyond Pipeline and Huntington Beach, pretty much every event was a smaller venue in more remote locations, but just as the fishing industry has taken somewhat of a hit with the economy, so has the surfing world. With events such as New York and San Fran last year, the commercialism of the sport has had a big push to draw in the average person into the surfing culture and lifestyle. These events are in areas where millions of people live, and they want to attract the masses that will help them push their brand out harder to the general public with industry parties, and other events centered around the main event. There are only 44 guys that are on the world tour, and 100s vying on the WQS to make it to the top, and it is a long road traveled and few and far between make it. There are a few journeymen, and vagabonds that do make a living just being free-surfers, but they do still have obligations for appearances, movies etc.  It’s all about money when it comes down to it; without money the industry doesn’t survive, just as in fishing. I always liken a surf shop (or kayak shop) to a casino, when you are trying to get to your show or restaurant in Vegas, you have to go through the casino first because they know that you are going to throw $20 in the slot machine or drop $50 on black on your way through, just like a surf shop keeps their boards in the back of the shop or upstairs, most kayak outfitters keep their yaks in the same fashion, because it is POP (point of purchase), and the shops want you to go through the shop to pick up a new hat, t-shirt, and pair of shades on your way to looking at the new board or yak. Surf shops and kayak shops make minimal margins on boards and yaks; it is all of the other gear that they sell the most, and that is their bread and butter of the retail side of the business. I think there will always be surfers that are just free surfers, and kayak anglers that just want to go fishing and could care less about the tourneys, but even the guys on tour in both surfing and kayak fishing will tell you there is still nothing better than going to your favorite spot at the perfect tide with just you and a buddy or two, and having a banner day on the water! I don’t really predict a “counter-movement” in kayak fishing, but you may see some paradigm shifts over time. One things I dislike in any sport in politics, but it seems to find its way into every sport, even surfing and fishing.  Bottom line is still the bottom line – without tournaments and other public avenues to promote the sport, the growth will be stunted as the industry will be out of site out of mind, because people want to be apart of a culture, and the kayak angling culture is still growing, as did the culture in surfing to the mainstream in the last 30 years. I believe that, for the most part, kayak anglers carry the right attitude towards the sport and what we are all about, and attitude = altitude!


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