Kayak Wars started in 2006 as a friendly competition between a couple of Texas fishermen. Prior to that time, venturing beyond the breakers in search of large fish was deemed dangerous, even ludicrous, but kayak fishermen were discovering the thrill of fishing offshore for large fish like king mackerel and sharks. Kayak Wars founder Eric “Oz” Ozolins, based in South Texas, and his friend based on the upper Texas coast initially planned on a one-on-one, north vs. south, competition, but that soon grew into two five-man teams. Catches were photographed and submitted online where points were awarded on a per-species basis, with the winning team carrying home bragging rights for the year. The competing anglers caught a little over 200 fish that first season.
As the seasons went on, more and more participants submitted more and more catches, creating a logjam for scoring and keeping points. It was then that another good friend of Oz, who was also addicted to the sport, approached Oz with an idea to handle the massive amount of submissions that had to be tallied and scored one by one. Rick helped build the interactive website that allows for catch submissions with real-time scoring and leaderboards. Until then, such an idea had never been tried in association with this genre on this scale. This ingenious tool was a game changer in the fishing tournament world. The possibilities were endless. Kayak Wars could now keep and maintain the catch data in the system not just for that season, but forever. Anglers could now access career data, much like in a professional sports league. In addition, this also allowed them to establish an all-time record system for the largest of every species in Kayak Wars.
One of the most impressive things about this format of competition is that anglers get to share photos of their eligible catches, and have the ability to view the submissions of other tournament participants. Going to kayakwars.com and checking out a photo of a 150 lb. tarpon being held alongside a kayak by a thrilled angler makes it even more exciting and addictive.
With the advent of new and improved high-performance kayaks, kayak fishing has become ever more popular. The innovations Oz continually added to Kayak Wars attracted even more anglers. By 2011, they already had the entire coastline of the continental US available for competition, including the addition of freshwater species submission. Great interest from the Caribbean resulted in the addition of the first foreign region. Puerto Rico had several dedicated teams and heavily promoted the event. Canadians made up a large and competitive part of the tournament. Kayak Wars was going viral in the fishing community. In 2013, the event was truly global when several European countries joined the fray. By the end of the 2015 season, Kayak Wars had received around 175,000 catch submissions by anglers, unmatched by any tournament in the world! In 2015 alone, they had over 32,000 catch submissions - an absolutely remarkable feat.
In its history, Kayak Wars has given away nearly $100,000 in donated prizes and awards made possible by sponsor donations. These prizes have been distributed to over 750 different worthy individuals with more and more being awarded each year. Some prizes are distributed to the top teams/anglers in each region, and others are given to those who have obtained various specialized Kayak Man points throughout the season. Some of the ways these Kayak Man points are obtained are through various achievements such as three-fish single day slams, species count, and establishment of new records.
By 2015, the exponential growth of Kayak Wars had made it too much for one man to handle, and founder Oz began looking for a new home for Kayak Wars. He wanted someone who loved the sport and who could handle the technical challenges that the growing Kayak Wars presented. In January, 2016, he found a team up for the challenge. Texas natives Bryan Thomas and Jason Carter, both addicted kayak anglers, lead the new Kayak Wars team and promise to make 2016 a year to remember.
The 2016 season opened on February 27. As of this writing, almost 600 anglers have registered and more than 1500 catches have been submitted. Team and individual standings, both US and international, are available on the Kayak Wars website, along with photographs of recent catches.
Kayak Wars is currently soliciting sponsors for the 2016 season.
The most dynamic aspect of Kayak Wars is the interplay between the anglers and the KW leadership team on Facebook and other social media. Veteran participants have been supportive of the change in ownership and have offered many constructive suggestions regarding proposed rule changes and other tournament modifications. Reading their posts, it is clear that they consider Kayak Wars to be their tournament and that they will remain involved in the process.
The new Kayak Wars management team is planning several changes that will be introduced over the next few months and into the 2017 season. This year, the 2016 season, they are planning a variety of short-duration challenges along with the traditional season-long competition. Their goal is to provide at least one challenge a month with a unique competitive twist (e.g. Hawg Hunting Weekend, Hunt for Red October). Planning is also underway for mobile app which should make online catch submissions much more convenient.
The message from the Kayak Wars team: Good luck, tight lines!
Questions or Comments? Feel free to contact Kayak Wars at www.kayakwars.com.