From yak to plaque: An angler's path to his first kayak competition

The horizon line was barely visible, blurred from the white sky and its reflection on the water. A hint of light broke over the hills, giving notice that "lines in" would soon commence. Anglers around the lake were either amidst launch, pedal, or float, amping up for competition.

Meanwhile, rod in hand, first-cast ready, Jason Borofka, of Salinas, Calif. was fighting newbie jitters on Clear Lake, the famed, big bass fishery that he once felt so familiar with. 

"Just a few days before, I had never even been in a kayak and there I was sitting in one – one they called the big banana – because it was big and it was yellow – and, I was about to fish a tournament from it," he recalled.

Borofka, a longtime pro competitor in the western bass fishing scene, was making the leap from bass boat to kayak.

This is the tale of how it played out and his takeaways from the experience.

Side note: Now that it is over, Borofka doesn’t put as much weight on the “bad luck banana” superstition held by many competing fishermen.

FLASHBACK: 48 HOURS AND COUNTING TO GAME DAY LAUNCH

Borofka arrived at Clear Lake, slid into a kayak for the first time, hit the Rattlesnake arm, and began practice for his first-ever kayak bass battle.

He launched last, watching and learning from the 10 or so guys that put in before him.

“Dude, where's my trolling motor,” he said to his brother David, also practicing for competition, as he looked down at the big yellow kayak he borrowed for the event. “I didn’t realize there would be guys with actual trolling motors and I would be pedaling; but... there was.

"I dropped in, got a quick lesson in the rudder and fin, adjusted the pedal drive to my size and was on my way. Before I got too far away, I took a couple of trial runs at standing up. I wanted to do it near the shore, in case I fell out; but... I didn’t.”

The first practice fish Borofka landed from the kayak went 13-inches. It may have been close to a short, but it got the skunk off the big banana.

“I practiced positioning the fish on the measuring board, taking pictures and sending ‘em out for proof, he stated. “I wanted to get comfortable with doing that; because it’s not like you get another chance at it after you’ve released them back in the water.”