With its popularity and the vast size of the North American sport angling market, many outsiders get the wrong impression about the dollars involved in localized Canadian fishing clubs. Around Our Lakes, the Kingston Canoe and Kayak Fishing club is a true labour of love for a core group of supporters.
“Mitch LeCoupe and I are generally the backbone, although last year we have had a number of other members step up to help us moderate the group and the administration of our tournaments,” said Jeff Dicks. “I found the passion for it in 2018 after my daughter was born and my wife bought me my first kayak for Father’s Day. I went to Facebook to try and find some other people doing it and linked up with two local guys in a different fishing community.”
At the time, there was no local group specific to kayak fishing in the Kingston area he recalls, so they banded together to create the KCKF. “Subsequently this is also how I started my YouTube channel as well. Mitch was one of the earliest members after the group was formed, but since then, the other two founders have sold their kayaks and left the group,” he said. “Truthfully, the day-to-day administration of the group is pretty easy, we have a really great community of anglers with very little, if any, drama or other negativity you see in some of the other fishing communities on Facebook. There’s just something special about fishing from a kayak. It’s great exercise, the community is amazing, but most importantly, it lets you experience fishing and nature from a whole new perspective.”
The barriers to entry are relatively low compared to other tournament series in Ontario and elsewhere. The group is very accommodating, too. “We’re called the Kingston Canoe and Kayak Fishing club for a reason! It doesn’t have to be a kayak, as long as whatever vessel you’re in is [largely] human powered – pedal, paddle, belly boat wearing flippers, it really doesn’t matter to us. As long as your boat doesn’t have a combustion motor on it, we’ll probably accept it for competition.”
They also reserve the right to make exceptions to this rule on a case-by-case basis in order to accommodate anglers with physical disabilities. “That’s a bridge we haven’t had to cross yet, but we would need some kind of proof to verify the requirement,” he explains. “Aside from all the stuff you use to catch fish, all you need is an accepted brand of bump board (Hawg Trough, Ketch Board, or Rapala brand), a phone to take your picture, the iAnglerTournament app on your phone and the Tournament ID that is released the evening before the opening day.”
Anglers set their phones to enable geotagging on their photos so you don’t even need data service. “You can take your pictures throughout the day and submit them via your phone when you get home or in an area with cell service,” he said. “We can use the meta data from the photos submitted to verify it was in an acceptable body of water.”
As of late March, the group was sitting at 411 members with people from all over the province, not just Kingstonians. “We’re not really focused on trying to grow the group size, it’s just not something that’s particularly important to us,” he said. “We have a pretty good relationship with many of the other kayak fishing organizations in Southern Ontario, so we are able to reach anglers from a wide area when we start promoting our tournaments. I would say we’re growing pretty steadily at about 100 new members per year though.”
The KCKF season includes three or four virtual bass tournaments a year and each runs for an entire month – except June, that event starts on the FMZ 18 bass opener (the third Saturday of the month) and ends on June 30.
“Our tournaments are all ‘Catch, Photo, Release’ through a mobile app open to everyone in Ontario,” said Dicks. “You can fish on any body of water in Ontario that is publicly accessible (no private stocked ponds allowed). When you catch a fish, you measure it with your bump board and submit it through the mobile app to be reviewed by our judges and added to your stringer.”
Anglers can enter as many bass as they want with the top three places awarded based on anglers’ top five fish. Each event costs $25 to register, a low entry fee by design intended to make things as “new angler friendly” as possible to encourage those new to tournament fishing to give it a whirl. It also makes participating an option for folks who might only have a month when they can participate, they don’t need to fork out a season-long entry fee and still get a taste of competition.
“That doesn’t mean it’s a pushover though, we do have a lot of really good anglers and you’ll likely need a bag of around 100 inches of fish to make it into the Top 3,” said Dicks. “That said, whenever there are cash prizes, there will always be people who might try to gain an unfair advantage, so we have a very extensive set of rules that is constantly evolving. We get on average 15-25 people registering per event and all the entry fees, minus the service fees we pay to iAngler and PayPal, go right into the prize pot.”
The biggest pot KCKF has ever had was still less than $500 – payout structure is an uncomplicated 50% to 1st, 30% to 2nd, and 20% to third. “Any funds we have left over after the prize pot is calculated and our fees are paid are awarded to the angler who submitted the biggest bass in that tournament,” added Dicks. “We also have a number of event sponsors that give us prizes to be awarded randomly. So even if you didn’t make the Top 3, you still have a pretty decent chance of winning something like a gift certificate for Frontenac Outfitters Canoe and Kayak Center or a Limestone Lures prize pack.”
In addition to the virtual events, KCKF is also bringing members together physically once in 2022 for a fundraiser in support of Soldier On, a charity dedicated to assisting Canada’s military veterans.
“It’s happening at Beaver Lake in Erinsville (near Tamworth). We expect we’ll have about 40 kayak anglers there to compete,” said Dicks. “While there are no cash prizes for this one, all of the entry fees will go towards the fundraiser, we’re pretty excited about the prizes we do have to give away.”
The group’s sponsors have already donated some amazing items – a few individual anglers have even purchased fishing gear to donate as prizes. “We’re constantly reaching out to companies in the industry to expand the sponsor list, too,” he said. “All the items we’re giving away can be found on the fundraiser Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/KCKF-charity-tournament-for-Soldier-On-102614772337159.
“This is the first fundraiser event we’ve organized, many of our members are currently serving or veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces,” explained Dicks. “While I have not personally benefited from the programs Soldier On offers, many of our veteran members have. It is near and dear to our hearts and was an obvious choice for our first fundraising effort as a club.” The Soldier On tournament will be held on June 25 and the group’s target is to raise $1,000 for the cause.
If you are on the fence thinking about trying out the KCKF club, Dicks’ advice is to just do it. “You don’t need a really expensive kayak, or even one designed specifically for fishing to have a fun day on the water catching some fish,” he concluded. “Consider starting by joining the Kingston Canoe and Kayak Fishing group on Facebook, there are a lot of people with a lot of experience that can help you get started.”