I am like most of you kayak fishing folks reading this. I started kayak fishing to get out on the water more often and to access water that was difficult to fish from a big boat. In 2011 I had a truck that got horrible gas mileage and a big bass boat that was not much better. Whenever I went to the lake, I always knew I would spend at least $100 between the truck and the boat due to gas prices. This caused me to not fish as much as I wanted to. I started thinking about options to get on some of the smaller lakes closer to my house — ways I could easily throw and go. After looking at several options, I settled on a kayak. My first kayak was nothing special — a 12-foot Perception Pescador 12 purchased at a discount at Academy due to some shipping damage.
The boat was a great start, and by the next year I was ready to upgrade. (Over time I’ve learned that this would become a trend, but that’s another story altogether.) I got involved with my local kayak scene and found a tournament trail. When I started hanging around with some of those guys and checking out the events (I am a competitive person by nature) I felt it was a good way to still have a competitive sport in my life and matched what I enjoyed doing in my free time. That club eventually dissolved and a group of us started a new trail, which quickly grew. We went from a good turnout being 15 to 20 people to where, if we had fewer than 60, the anglers were disappointed with the turnout. After years of involvement, my fishing revolved around tournaments. I no longer went to those cool places I liked to explore, as I was always focused on pre-fishing and trying to pattern the fish.
Last year I knew a change was coming. My wife and I already had a 3-year-old little girl, and now had twins due in November. I tried hard to finish well in Angler of the Year standings and felt good with my finish just outside of the top 10 — out of well over 100 anglers. The main issue was that I was pretty burned out. I had already decided to step away from the tournament board to focus on the family and twins, but when the new season came around, I had no desire to compete. Lack of sleep from the boys may have contributed to some of that. I attempted to pre-fish for the first tournament of the year, but the excitement just wasn’t there. I could also tell me being gone all day put a lot of extra stress on my family. So, I decided I wasn’t going to fish tournaments either.
This year I got back to where kayak fishing began for me, back to what made my fall in love with this sport. My fishing has been focused on short trips, just enjoying the chance to get on the water like I did in 2011. The times where I could fish for longer periods of time or have an entire day, I went to places I loved, but which I hadn’t fished in years. I have fished more rivers than I have in the last three years combined. Just a couple weeks ago I got to take my daughter out and let her catch her first smallmouth in a small scenic river. That was an amazing thing to experience. I got to have more trips with my friends and just go out and enjoy the peace that being on the water brings. It has been an amazing reset.
I can tell as the season has progressed that my desire to get back out and compete is growing again. I think that, like everything in life, it is about balance. I look forward to seeing what next year holds and getting back out on the water with friends I have made with the Natural State Kayak Anglers group. And I look forward grabbing my YakGear Fish Stik measurement board and setting out to fish some of the tournaments again. If you are starting to feel burned out, I recommend stepping back and thinking about what got you into the sport. Take a break and go do those things, whether that means fishing with friends or fishing a body of water you haven’t had the time for.
About the Author
YakGear Brand Ambassador Tim Hotchkin is an Arkansas resident who has been fishing his entire life, thanks to his grandfather and uncle. He started out wading creeks and fishing ponds to catch bass, and later found that kayaking gave him the ability to easily travel from one favorite spot to another. He enjoys kayak fishing because it allows him to really get close to nature. You will often find him fishing in tournaments through Natural State Kayak Anglers.