Would you ever leave the launch with only six lures? That’s exactly what more than 100 kayak anglers did recently, and the results were impressive.
Although often referred to as a “mimimalist” sport, kayakers, like most powerboat fishermen, usually bring too much stuff.
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. It has proven to be one of the most-popular events of the year.
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. But that is thrown out the window in the Minimalist Challenge during which all participants must fish with the same few artificial lures provided by tournament officials on the morning of the tournament.
With no favorite lures or colors to instill confidence, anglers must go back to basics and rely on true fishing skills.
This year, the anglers received five GoldenEye jigheads. Additionally, they received five plastic tails: three Matrix Shad and two Vortex Shad. They also received one Top Dog Jr.
That’s it. No floats or other lures are allowed on the ’yaks. Using lures other than those provided is grounds for disqualification.
The anglers were allowed to have leader material, but no scented dips or fish attractants could be used.
It’s a pretty sobering thought to realize you are leaving the launch with such a small handful of weapons.
With the confidence factor mostly gone, anglers have to dig deep into their fishing skills. They also had to adapt to the current conditions to make the best use of the lures they were given.
The tournament was held in January out of the Leeville public kayak launch. Although Louisiana has great fishing year-round, January is generally one of the tougher months.
However, this year’s warm weather saw the tournament shatter prior records for the number of anglers weighing in fish and the total pounds caught.
Limited to the first 125 anglers, the event sold out quickly. 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 make their way in all directions. With no motor noise, the kayakers are able to talk and joke along the way.
The tournament allows each angler to enter a full limit of specks, reds and flounder.
However, flounder must be at least 12 inches long, and redfish are limited to those shorter than 27 inches.
While no one had a 10-fish limit of flounder, many anglers did get their limits of 25 trout and five redfish.
The winner is the angler with the highest combined total weight. It’s quite impressive to see these little boats hauling in 30 to 40 pounds of fish.
In addition to the combined redfish, trout and flounder category, anglers also can pay a small fee to enter the optional big fish and leopard red (redfish with the most spots) categories.
This year, the fishing was nothing short of fantastic. The weigh-in line was long, with 80 anglers bringing fish to the scales.
How much fish? Just more than 1,200 pounds hit the scales. The top three finishers weighed in more than 40 pounds each, and were separated by just a few ounces.
All of the lures provided caught fish. The majority of fish were caught tight-lining the Matrix and Vortex plastic tails, but there also was some great topwater action.
Ingenuity plays a big part in tournament success. Since no corks are supplied or allowed, several of the kayakers “MacGyvered” their topwater lures into popping corks. Many removed the hooks, but some left at least one on just in case the “cork” received a strike.
It worked. The make-shift rig offered a different presentation and kept the baits from snagging on the bottom.
The Minimalist Challenge is the first event of the year-long BCKFC series that consists of five tournaments to be held at five different locations, all with a different format.
Each contestant’s top four finishes are used to get a final point total. The “drop-one” format is in case they cannot fish all five events or simply have a bad day fishing.
In addition to the individual tournament cash prizes, participants also accumulate points that are added together at the end of the series to crown the club’s Angler of the Year.
The unique format of this first event reminds kayakers 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.