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Beating the Boats

fishing tournaments started looking over their shoulders. Last summer, Gizel, Kayak Angler’s Great Lakes regional editor, qualified for the $60,000 Cabela’s King Kat Classic by landing trophy catfish from his kayak and scoring top- 10 finishes in two qualifying events. Mean- while, kayak angler and long-time bass tour- nament competitor Johnny Gardner topped a field of powerboats at a Texas event in July. Gizel and Gardner beat the boats by tak-


ing advantage of the go-anywhere simplicity of fishing from a kayak. Here are a few of their strategies for success.

READ THE RULES. “A lot of tournaments are set up for big bass boats so you have to find ways to play by their rules,” says Gard- ner. Since many team tournaments stipulate that both partners must be in the same boat, Gardner fishes solo against teams of two.

MAKE A GAME PLAN. Te day before a tour- nament, Gizel casts sonar for catfish hotspots with a side-imaging fishfinder. “In a kayak, you can’t just pick up and go if the fish aren’t biting,” he says. “I use a GPS to map productive areas within a few miles from the launch site.”


Curiosity caught the catfish. CREDIT: LUCIAN GIZEL


UCIAN GIZEL knew it was only a matter of time before the guys in the big boats in

KNOW THE WATER LEVEL. Gardner con- siders water level when planning strategy. “A change of one foot can have major impact on where fish will be in relation to cover,” he says.

GO AGAINST THE FLOW. On the slow-mov- ing rivers of the King Kat Tournament Trail, Gizel says kayaks have the upper hand when it comes to targeting hotspots. “In situations where the big boats would need to use a troll- ing motor, it’s easy to hold your position over the fish in a kayak,” he says.

PICK YOUR PASSION. Gardner prefers a pitch-and-flip bass fishing technique that’s perfectly suited to kayak angling. “Kayaks are a dream for fishing shallow, off-color water with short casts and spinner baits and worms,” he says. “I can skim across areas where the big boats don’t have a chance.”

AIM FOR STRUCTURE. Gizel looks for structure-rich, low-light areas where only catfish and kayaks can lurk. “In these areas, you don’t really have to cast,” he says. “With a kayak, you can get into areas where the fish don’t even know that you’re there.”

PADDLE A BIG BOAT. “When a big cat hits, there’s no nibbling,” says Gizel. “It just takes off.” Both Gizel and Gardner prefer bigger kayaks like the Ocean Kayak Big Game and Native Watercraſt Ultimate 12 for their in- creased stability.

KEEP IT ALIVE. Gizel says keeping fish alive in catch-and-release tournaments is the big- gest challenge for kayak anglers. He uses a large mesh laundry bag as a live well. When it comes time to transport fish to the weigh-in station, he fills a cooler with water and hopes for the best. “We’ve had no casualties so I guess we’re doing alright,” he says.—Conor Mihell


» Payout in dollars to Al St. Cyr, the winner of the 2006 Texas

Carp Championship in Austin, Texas: $250,000

» Weight in pounds of St. Cyr’s prize-winning (and Texas state

record) common carp: 43.2

» Total number of pounds of carp caught and released by 41 teams

16 … KAYAK ANGLER spring 2009

over 50 hours in the American Carp Society’s 2008 Northeast Regionals on New York State’s Seneca River: 36,282

» Weight in pounds of British pro golfer Gary Hagues’ world record

mirror carp, caught in France’s Rainbow Lake in 2006: 87.1

» According to The Compleat Angler, written by Izaak Walton in 1653,

“hops and turkies, carps and beer came into England” in this year: 1428

» Number of years of carp fishing experience required before an angler

can apply to become a member of the British Carp Study Group: 15

» Estimated lifespan in years of carp-species fish: 60

» Population of the village of Carp, Ontario: 1,500

» Number of scaled, mirror and leather carp imported in 1877 from Germany

to a pond in Baltimore, Maryland: 345

» Number of millions of carp distributed by the US Fish

Commission between 1879 and 1896 throughout the United States, Canada, Costa Rica and Mexico: 2.4

» Number of founding members of the Carp Angler’s Group (CAG),

which was created in 1993: 30

» Number of potential carp “boilie” bait ingredients listed on

CAG member Mario Kok’s boilie mix calculator (available on the CAG website): 30

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