Kayak fishing tournaments are held year-round across the coast, and offer friendly competition and great prizes. No matter your skill level, fishing these tournaments makes you a better kayak angler. We’ll catch up with the anglers that come out on top of a variety of tournaments and learn what they did, and possibly more important — didn’t do — to earn their win.

Ride The Bull: As the world’s largest kayak fishing tournament, any angler that comes out on top of nearly 600 competitors certainly gets bragging rights. With its unique format allowing any type of bait and a confined fishing area, it’s often said this is purely a ‘luck tournament.’ However, it also takes some skill to make your own luck. 

This year, Steven Pracht’s 36.78-pound bull red was larger than the other 115 reds entered, and earned him a new Wilderness Radar 135 kayak with a Helix pedal drive and $2,864.25 in cash. Not too bad for a self-proclaimed kayak newbie.

Pracht was in a borrowed kayak, using borrowed gear. His set-up was a large 8000-class spinning outfit with 80-pound braid. He hooked up a live crab on a bottom rig using a three-way swivel and a 4-ounce weight. “The three-way rig allowed the crab to swim freely away from the main line and sinker,” Pracht said. While luck plays a part in whose bait gets hit, the angler still has to get a good hook set and successfully fight and land the fish before it’s handed off to the assist boat. “Using the heavy gear allowed me to get the fish under control quickly and lessened the chance of it getting tangled up in the many nearby fishing lines and anchor ropes,” he added.

Staying calm and in control is a tournament skill that cannot be over stressed. “I was using a circle hook and got the fish up and on the fish grip really fast. If live bait is allowed, it gives you advantages over dead bait that many others were using. You eliminate dealing with catfish and bait stealers that just pick apart the dead stuff,” Pracht said.

Asked what he would do differently, Pracht said his big mistake was not continuing to fish. “I went in with about two hours fishing time left. I nervously watched fish continue to come in and was worried I would get knocked out of first place. Next time, I’ll fish until the end.”