n mid-November last year, Crappie USA, a major national crappie-fishing tournament circuit based in Benton, Ky., announced that it would add a kayak division to its 2015 tournament events. Fishermen in kayaks will compete only against only kayakers, with the purse being 100 percent of all kayak entry fees for the event, paid to the top three finishers. In addition, 100 percent of a big-fish pot will be paid to the angler who catches the biggest slab.
Darrell Van Vactor, president of Crappie USA, the American Crappie Association and Cabela’s King Kat Tournament Trail, said his organization reached out to the kayak community because the kayak community reached out to him.
“We have already had folks fishing the Crappie USA Trail (who) were fishing in kayaks, competing directly with boating anglers,” Van Vactor said. “We just felt like it would be a fairer situation for them to have their own division. That way, they only fish against other kayakers and are not fishing against 200 HP outboard boats.”
To fish in any Crappie USA event, kayak or otherwise, anglers must pay a $25 annual ACA membership fee that brings with it a year’s subscription to an on-line publication heralding tournament news, events and articles about the sister tournament trails. Entry fees for kayak division events are $50, with a $10 optional big-fish pot entry. Van Vactor hopes the participation level in kayak division events increase exponentially as the amateur and semi-pro divisions did when Crappie USA trail first started, so kayak pay-outs can approach the high level of regular pay-outs.
“We kicked it off with what we feel like is a low entry fee and 100-percent payback,” Van Vactor said. “They get every dime of their entry fee back, plus, they still have the opportunity to win all the merchandise prizes that are given away at our seminars before each tournament. It’s a no-lose situation for them.”
The best news for Palmetto Paddlers is that Crappie USA’s tentative 2015 schedule includes a stop on March 6–7 at Clarks Hill. The event will be held from Wildwood Park on the Georgia side of the lake in Appling, Ga., but all of Clarks Hill will be open to fish.
One adjustment for seasoned kayak anglers is that Crappie USA has considered, but is not quite ready to embrace CPR (Catch-Photo-Release) as a tournament entry. For now, paddling anglers will weigh in three live fish daily.
“We are looking at the possibility of doing a CPR-type tournament the following year, but for 2015, we’re going to do a three-fish limit,” Van Vactor said. “We are not set up to do CPR entries at this time, and we want to look a little bit longer and closer at this CPR concept, just to get a better handle on it.”
For paddlers who may not be panfish enthusiasts, Van Vactor asks them to simply wait until 2016, when the Cabela’s King Kat Trail, like Crappie USA, will also offer a kayak division. He said that trail has already seen a kayak winner in one of its South Carolina tournaments.
“Back 6 or 7 years ago, at one of our catfish tournaments on Santee-Cooper, the event was won by a gentleman named Don Sweet,” he said. “In fact, Don was with one of our television film crews doing a show on that tournament. He won that event out of a kayak.”
With major sponsors like Ranger, Cabela’s, Mercury and Minn Kota behind both tournament trails, it only stands to reason that CUSA and King Kat would go looking to add a kayak manufacturer to the stable.
Van Vactor, a former Johnson Outdoors promoter, said the group first approached Johnson, whose signature paddle boat is Old Town, but based on timing and resources, Old Town could not sponsor the two trails. The next name on the list was Hobie, which Van Vactor said has shown tremendous interest in the two trails.
“We went straight to Hobie, and they are looking at it now,” Van Vactor said. “One of our directors met with a Hobie rep at the SEOPA Conference this fall and just mentioned the possibility and Hobie said, ‘Hey, if you do that, we want to be involved.’”
Paddling anglers who qualify by winning or placing high enough in a kayak division will be eligible to compete in a kayak division at the 2015 Crappie USA Classic, which will be held at Patoka Lake in Jasper, Ind.
Winners will be awarded fully rigged kayaks, with cash prizes also being awarded to the top 20 percent of the field.
For more information on the Crappie USA tournament trail, including rules, regulations, and tournament dates, visit their website at www.crappieusa.com.