It's no wonder kayak fishing continues to grow at amazing rates each year: It is an exciting, economical and eco-friendly sport for fishermen of all ages. The growth of the sport has also spawned kayak-fishing tournaments that offer unique, competitive challenges and the chance to win great prizes.

Claiming bragging rights — well, that's just lagniappe!

Born of the successful IFA Redfish Tour, the IFA Kayak Fishing Tour was designed to make kayak-fishing tournaments more lucrative and accessible.

The IFA kayak tour is presented by Hobie Kayaks, and holds tournaments across the coast from Texas to the Carolinas. Each one-day event awards a new Hobie Pro Angler kayak, along with other cash prizes.

The IFA Kayak Fishing Tour will hold at least three events in Louisiana in 2012. The series will culminate with a two-day championship later this year at a location yet to be determined.

The IFA Kayak Fishing Tour uses a CPR format (Catch, Photo, Release) in which anglers take photos of their fish on a provided ruler along with a unique token that must be in the photo. The token proves that the fish was caught on tournament day.

A combined total length of one redfish and one spotted seatrout is used to determine the winners.

The IFA Kayak Tour also challenges the anglers' skill level by allowing only artificial lures to be used.

Also using the CPR format, the JAX Classic Kayak Fishing Tournament in Jacksonville, Fla., has earned the title of "The World's Largest Kayak Fishing Tournament." The 2011 tournament continued to garner high participation with 406 'yakers participating in the one-day event.

The JAX Classic offers prizes in a variety of divisions, including the popular "Slam" category that includes a combination of a redfish, spotted seatrout and a flounder. Additionally, specialty divisions are held for junior anglers, ladies, seniors and fly fishermen.

In addition to the major kayak tournaments like the IFA and JAX, kayak anglers can participate in local and regional events hosted by kayak fishing clubs and associations across the Gulf Coast.

Single-day events, as well as series events that combine points earned by fishing multiple tournaments, offer kayak fishermen great opportunities to enhance their fishing skills and possibly take home some great prizes. Many of these tournaments offer kayaks as their top prizes, as well as cash and other kayak-fishing gear.

Many kayak anglers are comfortable fishing their preferred waters using their own proven methods. All of that is thrown out the window when fishing events like the Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club's annual "Minimalist Challenge," an early winter event held outside the core area fished by many Louisiana kayakers.

However, the real catch is that all participants must fish with the same few artificial baits provided by tournament officials on the morning of the tournament. No favorite lures or colors to instill confidence. The anglers must go back to basics and rely on true fishing skills in order to succeed.

In a different twist on the provided-lure format, the Lafayette Kayak Fishing Club holds a "Top Bag" tournament where the contestants are required to put together a tackle bag of certain specific lure types. Colors, sizes and brands are chosen by the individual contestants. Additionally, one "wild card" lure of the participant's choice is added.

On the morning of the event, the tackle bags are randomly picked, and contestants must compete using only the lures in the tackle bag they blindly selected.

Participants are encouraged to select productive lures to put in the bags, as they could end up picking their own bag. Additionally, a percentage of the winning pot goes to the person who supplied the lure bag used by the first place angler.

Billed as "Louisiana's First Extreme Kayak Fishing Challenge," the Ride the Bull tournament offers 'yak anglers the chance to catch giant bull redfish in Caminada Pass in Grand Isle.

Kayak anglers participate in a live-release bull-redfish competition that is different from most other tournaments: The shotgun-start rodeo format has all anglers launch at the same location and time. Confined to strict boundaries in the pass, powerboats are used to transport, weigh and release yak-caught bull reds.

Louisiana's two premier kayak tournaments are hosted by the Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club.

Paddle Palooza is held in March, and Fall 'N Tide is held in October. Both tournaments offer top prizes to those contestants who weigh in a "Cajun Slam" consisting of a trout, flounder and slot-sized redfish.

Paddle Palooza allows the use of live bait, while Fall 'N Tide contestants are restricted to artificial lures only. Both tournaments offer new kayaks as top prizes, as well as cash and kayak-fishing gear.

Paddle Palooza 9 recently set a record as the largest kayak tournament in Louisiana and the third largest in the country: 201 contestants from several states weighed in hundreds of pounds of trout, reds and flounder.

These tournaments are as much social happenings as they are competitive fishing events. Kayakers meet fellow 'yak anglers from all over and share stories and techniques. In typical Louisiana style, the tournaments allow keeping fish in accordance with creel regulations.

The fish are then "donated" for frying and grilling for the after party.

No matter what your kayak fishing skill level, entering a kayak tournament will challenge you and make you a better fisherman. You're guaranteed to go home with new skills, new friends and possibly even a brand new 'yak.

 

Kayak Tournament Info:

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 will make you a better kayak angler.

For information on participating, check out these websites:

http://www.bckfc.org/

http://www.lafayettekayakfishing.com/

http://www.gulfcoastkayakfishing.com/

http://www.mbkfa.com/

http://www.calmwatercharters.net/ridethebull/

http://www.ifakayakfishingtour.com/

http://www.jaxkayakfishing.com/

http://www.texaskayakfisherman.com/forum/