Kayak Fishing; A community

With tournament season winding down and winter encroaching upon the nation, we as kayak anglers find ourselves in a momentary, almost uneasy state of tranquility.   9 months of fast paced chaos and determination, fueled by gas station pizza and overly packed campsites and bunkhouses has abruptly dissolved into an abundance of free time and resources.  The road warriors thankful for a few months of rest, but eager to refuel and plan their tournament schedule for 2019.  The newcomers to the sport twiddling their thumbs, jonesing for the next chance at making a name for themselves.

During these few months of down time, we are able to reflect on our season in many regards.  The wins and losses, memories, blessings and tragedies.  For me personally, it is a way to remember why I became a part of this community years ago, and reading the latest posts from fellow anglers reassure me that many of us share the same reasons.

  • We are broken– Having spent three years in this sport, and getting to know more of its members more intimately, there is a common theme; The outdoors is our sanctuary, and fishing is our refuge. We come from all walks of life, and have found peace in the still mornings on the water.   Many of us have relied on this sport to carry us through the traumatic experiences of war, help us on the road to recovery after various addictions, cope with painful loses and the ending of relationships.   Each and every one of us has a past, and our pasts have been intricately woven into a giant blanket of consolation that shelters us and offers understanding and grace in this community.   We are the best versions of ourselves when we are doing what we love, and our sport allows us platforms to share our stories and encourage each other in every area of our lives.

  • We belong– One of the neatest things I’ve noticed about our community is how quickly friends become family. Over the course of my life, I’ve never really felt quite “at home” in large gatherings. I have had to feign interest at many social events and parties, and eventually decided I preferred to go about things alone, until I became a part of this family.  I distinctly remember my first national tournament, and how easily the conversation flowed with each and every person I met, as if I had known them since kindergarten.   I’ve been to local events of 15 anglers to events with over 700, and the air bellows with laughter and is alive with fellowship.   As human beings, we all have this innate, indescribable sense of wanting to belong.  And as I rifle through the relationships I’ve made in this sport, the striking age differences and personality types, it is unmistakable that we belong here.

  • It gives us purpose- Through kayak fishing, we have been able to take part in charity tournaments, volunteer for Heroes on the Water events, help get our nations youth involved in the outdoors, and aid in conservation and preservation of the land and wildlife we respect and cherish.  I’ve witnessed so many clubs, individuals and companies come together, offering aid and relief in our most recent tragedy. I’ve seen anglers selflessly give when other anglers are experiencing loss.   Being able to be part of a movement that does so much GOOD for our world is powerful.  Each and every one of us have people that look up to us daily, whether they be our children or our peers, and we are able to influence lives in every post that we make and every conversation we have.

  • It allows us to satisfy our competitive sides, while staying grounded– I’ve had a rather tenacious, competitive side ever since I was a kid.  Sometimes that hasn’t always brought out the best in me.  But what I’ve been able to learn is that winning actually isn’t everything.   As I recollect my favorite memories this season, only 1 of them involves one of my top tournament finishes, and that isn’t anywhere near the top of my list of favorites.  Strange, right?  Many of these memories include fishing with the friends I’ve made kayak fishing, whether during a tournament or not.  For instance, Andy Moore sharing his last few baits and beckoning anglers over to fish with him when he was on wining fish. The growth I’ve made in this sport is owed solely to my veteran peers, like Andy, being able to witness how they handle themselves while competing.

There was a time where I was known as the girl who would never allow guys to help me load my boat, and I was too proud to accept help from anyone.  Fast forward three years later and I’m asking friends to tow me off the lake after a long day like a damn princess.  I have been able to move past that girl who almost swore off fishing after a horrible performance three years ago at a national tournament, to the woman who just recently had another poor performance but was able to leave the event grateful to have everyone arrive safely home, and thankful for another incredible weekend with my kayak fishing family.   I was able to take the time during the event to fish with friends, share tips, and throw a crankbait my grandpa brought down to me, even though I wasn’t in an area that accommodated crank fishing.   Understanding that we all love to compete, but we love our competitors more.

We have to remember it is all about perspective.   We have anglers just starting out, guys who have made the switch from the glitter boat world, and devote kayak purists who have been in the game for decades.  We have guys and gals that are disappointed with their seasons, not hearing others praising and congratulating them on an incredibly successful year.   That is the beauty of it all.  In our sport, there are blessings radiating out of every corner, we just have to open our eyes and receive them.

Lastly, I want to elaborate on something Elite Pro Dave Lefebre said after our tournament on Lake Erie.  He commended us all on our unique, tight knit relationships, and touched on the rarity of that type of camaraderie in this industry.  Now, I understand the kayak entities don’t necessarily provide the means to make a living in this industry… yet… and perhaps that is why we have managed to uphold our integrity and reputation for so long.  But with increasing interest and sponsors, resulting in larger payouts and more limelight, I pray that we don’t forget the grassroots that paved the progressive path we have found ourselves on.  I hope that we are reminded of that feeling we get as we prepare for our next tournament.  The feeling that is mostly devoid of the merciless, cutthroat tactics often used in the big bass boat world, and filled with eagerness to see friends from all over the country, waiting to greet you with some sarcastic remark, usually reminding you that you somehow still weren’t able to qualify for the NC, but they’re going to start a pity fundraiser to get you there.  (sorry Kittrell 😉 )

To close, I want to give a special thanks to each and every one of the people in this community.  I’ve learned selflessness, humility and kindness from all of you.  You’ve made me a better competitor and more importantly, a better person.  See you all in 2019.   God bless!

*Photo credit to @ICToutdoors and @beardedgloryoutdoors