Less is more
Minimalist Challenge pushes ’yaker’s skills
John Williams attaches a VisiPole light and flag to his Hobie kayak in preparation for the pre-dawn start of the BCKFC Minimalist Challenge tournament.
In an effort to rekindle the less-is-more philosophy for yak fishing, the Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club holds an annual "Minimalist Challenge" fishing tournament.
Can fish actually be caught with just a handful of artificial baits? You bet!
Many kayak anglers are comfortable fishing their preferred waters using their own proven methods. All of that is thrown out the window in the Minimalist Challenge. The real catch is that all participants must fish with the same few artificial lures provided by tournament officials.
With no favorite lures or colors to instill confidence, anglers must go back to basics and rely on true fishing skills in order to succeed.
Here’s the format. At check-in on tournament morning, participants are given a small selection of lures — and those are the only ones they are allowed to use. Everyone gets the exact same baits.
This year, they will get five lead jigheads supplied by club sponsor Rockport Rattler. Additionally, they will get five plastic tails and one topwater bait provided by club sponsor Texas Tackle Factory.
That’s it. No corks or other lures are allowed on the yaks. Using lures other than those provided is grounds for disqualification.
The yakers are allowed to have leader material and a marking pen to color the baits if they choose. No scented dips or fish attractants can be used.
It’s a pretty sobering thought to realize you are leaving the launch with this small handful of weapons.
The format can be a shock to those used to fishing with their favorite lures or live bait. No tackle box full of choices will be along on this trip.
With the confidence factor mostly gone, all anglers will have to dig deep into their fishing skills. They will also have to adapt to the current conditions to make the best use of the few lures in their selection.
This year’s tournament will be held on Jan. 19 out of Bason’s Marina in Cutoff. As usual, there’s no way to predict what the weather will be on tournament day. Although December saw some days in the high 70s, it could just as easily be below freezing.
Will there be any predictable patterns? What will be the water conditions? Will there be enough water to get to the preferred spots? That’s all part of the challenge.
After checking in and getting their lures, kayaks will be launched and bunched up in a holding area, awaiting the group start at 5:30 a.m. ("blast-off" would be an oxymoron)
The tournament is limited to the first 100 who sign up. It’s quite a sight to see all those kayaks with their white lights bobbing in the darkness while waiting on the start. When the horn blows, the light show becomes fluid as the parade of pedalers and paddlers eagerly make their way towards their favorite spots.
With no motor noise, the ’yakers are able to talk and joke along the way, as most will head for the famed sulphur mine area about three and a half miles from the launch site. As they near the general area of the mine, the crowd will disperse as each peels off in their desired directions.
It seems that every year someone makes a wrong turn and takes a few followers with them before they realize they are on an errant route. The lost sheep will quickly make a U-turn and rejoin the plastic armada.
As daylight breaks, most will be staked out on their choice spots, and some will already have fish on their stringers. Soon, the area will be a mix of kayakers and powered fishing boats ("stinkpots" as they are affectionately called in yaker lingo). In year’s past, many of the power boaters were thinking that a kayak invasion was taking place, as they had never seen so many ‘yaks in one area.
The day usually provides a good experience for both, and friendly conversations will be heard over the constant sounds of fish after fish being reeled in.
In past tournaments, the top finishers have found success tight-lining their TTF plastic baits in water less than 3 feet deep. However, with all the industrial debris and oyster reefs in the mine, a big concern is snagging and losing some of your limited lure supply.
Ingenuity can play a big part in tournament success. Several of the yakers in previous years saw that nearby powerboat fishermen were catching fish using a popping cork — which is prohibited under the tournament rules. However, combining of the provided lures is allowed, so they quickly "MacGyvered" the topwater into a make-shift cork by removing the hook(s).
It worked. This make-shift rig kept the baits off the snag-filled bottom and offered an attractive alternative to tight-lining.
The tournament allows each angler to enter up to a full limit of specks, reds and flounder. The winner will have the highest combined total weight. It’s quite impressive to see these little boats hauling in 30 to 50 pounds of fish on the few lures used.
If past results hold true, several hundred pounds of fish will be brought to the weigh-in at 1 p.m.
The Minimalist Challenge is the first event of a year-long BCKFC series that consists of five different tournaments to be held at five different locations, all with a different format. In addition to the individual tournament cash prizes, the participants also accumulate points which are added together at the end of the series to crown the club’s Angler of the Year.
The unique format of this event reminds yakers that sometimes less really is more. While most fishermen wouldn’t dare leave the house with only six lures, the tournament’s proven successful results say it all.
Go to www.bckfc.org for more information.
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