The Resurrection - A KATS Saltwater Story
The 2020 calendar year was coming to an end. New Year resolutions were being shared on our private Facebook page; composed of ACK Fishing and Syndicate team members. Mostly the chat is used for sharing ideas and upcoming events; but let’s be honest, as anglers it also contains a few fishing lies amongst the business talk. Forgive me, I mean fishing truths; yes, anglers never lie! On that particular day we were recapping the successes and opportunities for improvement that played out over the past year. How exciting the competition was in the Kayak Angler Tournament Freshwater Series and how we could make it better for next year. Pre-planning had already started. For most, the behind the scenes work that occurs to secure prizes as well as work with potential sponsors goes unnoticed. It takes months of pre-planning to pull off a successful event. Not to mention, which lakes would be chosen, permits, and the most important, the payouts. We knew the anglers would be excited about a $10,000 championship purse.
As primarily a saltwater angler, all that freshwater talk normally doesn’t spark a flame in my soul; but as a good teammate, I’ll support the conversation. Hit the like button on the main post, then begin to scroll down through the comments. That is one thing I am grateful for; we all show mutual support of our anglers’ passions; even if they differ from my own, and don’t require a freshwater rinse after getting off the water. Here a like, there a like. Oh, this spot feels like a good point in the conversation for an emoji; followed by a few more thumbs ups to show my appreciation for the dialog. Then, something magical happens. Buried deep in the comment thread about a teammate asked, “Why don’t we have a saltwater version of KATS?” It was at that moment I felt it; a spark that had been missing. My attention to KATS had just received the jolt I needed.
Why don’t we have a saltwater version of KATS?
Why a jolt? Well, my journey with kayak tournament fishing started a few years back. Six years ago, I had my first duel in the kayak tournament arena. Prior too, I would dabble in competitions from the boat divisions. Truth be told, it was often my ass handed to me. As I spent more time on my Hobie, I quickly realized my heart belonged on a kayak. I enjoyed the slower pace, a more personal experience with nature, but more importantly my relationship with redfish changed. Instead of strategically blind casting, it gave me the ability to visually hunt them, quietly, shallow, and sight cast to them. Six years ago it was only by chance that I had walked into the Austin Kayak San Antonio Store in search of a new life jacket. At the checkout counter sat a flyer. It advertised a saltwater catch, photo, release tournament. It read, “Come join us at KATS Saltwater 2015, Corpus Christi Texas, $50.00 entry.” A promise at a chance to win money, prizes, and a benefit raffle for a new Ocean Kayak. I signed up as soon as I could, followed by almost every other subsequent KATS saltwater event. Then unfortunately as quick as it came into my life, it disappeared two years later. KATS saltwater had been cancelled.
The seed had been planted. KATS saltwater had started an addiction in me. My wife calls it a kayak competition drug. Since then, I’ve been chasing that high since that first hit in 2015. Was I going through a relapse? Over the next few days the comments from our group chat would itch inside me. Why is it that we don’t have a Saltwater version of KATS today? I sure as hell would love to fish it. Heck, I would love to win it. But more importantly I would love to compete. As bad as I wanted it to return, I did nothing at that moment. In a subtle attempt to revive the original post, I returned to the Facebook page and changed my comment reaction from “like'', to a “heart.” I thought that surely should get someone’s attention. It didn’t. Over the next few days, the spark that was originally ignited, began to smolder out. Why won’t someone take the reins?
Facebook Message, DEC 30. 2020, 8:29PM, “Do it….”
Not long after I received a message from my good friend Drew Turner. Drew is an ACK Syndicate member, as well as the co-host of the Paddlers Play Book. I absolutely love the guy and the content on his show.
Drew Turner, “Do it…..”
Matt Murphy, “Done”
Messages are funny like that; I had no idea of what I agreed to. If he needed help, I was there. Strangely inside I felt the smoldering flame start to ignite again. I hoped in some way he was talking about resurrecting the KATS saltwater event.
Drew Turner, “Make Kayak Tournaments Great Again. Be the TD for KATS Saltwater; I’ll help.”
The angler in me wants to fish every competition. While on the other hand I’ve always enjoyed helping anglers with video cast either on the ACK Facebook page, or my Tackle Talk Tuesday events on Matt Murphy Outdoors. I promote kayak tournaments with almost every angler who will give me their ear, and I damn sure fish a whole lot of them.
Who was I fooling? It was time for me to do my part and attempt to make an event that I would love to fish myself. Why not put on a show that reflects what I always try to talk about? Show a few anglers why I love the tournament scene, and here was my chance.
Matt Murphy, “Let's get to work Drew.”
Give the People what they want!
This should be easy, right! Right. Right?
As an angler you have the luxury to criticize the event that you paid to participate in. It’s not unnatural to say, “Well if I were in charge.”
I thought to myself, this time I would be; in charge. Does that mean I’m solely reliable to make the calls and set the rules? Do I also need a large rubber stamp with the words VETO embedded in the bottom should I need to make the right call, my call?
It had been three minutes since I accepted the role as Tournament Director, and in my head I went straight to one of the characters from my son's Disney movies. A personality from Aladdin; the evil sorcerer Jafar.
Jafar wanted it all, power, money, the girl, the kingdom. My mind took me to the scene where he makes his final 3rd wish. A wish to become a tournament director for a Saltwater Series. No, just kidding. His wish was to become the most powerful genie in the galaxy, ultimate power. Fast forward through an action-packed drama filled with two minutes. He eventually gets defeated and on his final descent into his genie lamp which ultimately becomes his jail, the good genie mentions, “Ultimate cosmic power, itty bitty living space.”
I can’t be an evil tournament director who feels power hungry. That’s not me as a person. However, I will carry the weight of any mistakes or tough decisions that need to be made. Luckily, I wouldn’t have to do it alone. I needed a team; individuals who I could count on to make this successful. We were backed by ACK from the inception. Drew Turner had already committed, followed quickly by Vincent Vo. The only thing left was to get to work. And that’s what we did. Our goal was to give the anglers what they wanted. A fun, honest, high dollar tournament, with lots of prizes. Not to mention food, beer, an unbiased weigh-master and that one thing every other tournament reserves the right to perform on an angler but rarely happens, a polygraph.
After what seemed like hundreds of flagged hours, long nights, arguments over details, and quite a few Fat Tire beers, we finally had everything covered. Everything we could possibly plan for was under control; or so we thought.
To be continued……..
KATS Saltwater Tournament Director