On Saturday, April 13, the beloved Beavers Bend Kayak Classic will return to Broken Bow Lake for its seventh year. The tournament has, over the years, become a must-attend for region kayak anglers and spectators, and this year organizers expect 150-plus competitors to enter. Proceeds will benefit the charity Heroes on the Water, which offers alternative therapy programs—including kayak fishing—for veterans, active-duty military personnel, first responders, and their families.
The tournament’s primary sponsor is Oklahoma Kayak, whose two locations in Tulsa and Oklahoma City offer kayaking lessons in addition to selling gear and the vessels themselves.
David Lindo, owner of Oklahoma Kayak and event coordinator for the tournament, said this year’s Classic will continue in the come-one-come-all tradition of previous years.
“It’s very welcoming for people who haven’t done it before,” Lindo said. “Whether they’re renting a boat or just getting their first kayak, there’s always that intimidation factor like ‘Oh, it’s gonna be a bunch of really good fishermen, why should I even enter this thing?’ It’s a very welcoming atmosphere even for people who have never fished from a kayak a day in their life.”
Seven years ago, competitive bass fisher Jeff Hillhouse approached Lindo with the idea for a high-dollar kayak fishing tournament with a higher than normal payout—one that would also be inviting and friendly to novices and those less interested in competing than having a good time. The event would be held at Broken Bow Lake.
Lindo was concerned that the high entry fee ($100) would price people out of the competition, and he worried that Broken Bow was too off the beaten path for the large tournament Hillhouse was proposing.
“I was kind of wary,” Lindo said. “But I said ‘Jeff, we can try it. We’ll try one year and we’ll be the main sponsor.’”
That first year, Hillhouse took on the role of tournament director (the role in subsequent years has since been filled by Jerrod Young). Lindo, as event coordinator, recruited more sponsorship and secured a first-place payout of $3,000, which Lindo said was “unheard of” in the kayak fishing world. On top of that, they invested in multiple placing awards, door prizes, and raffles.
“I want everybody to participate, including maybe those folks who are new to fishing in general, or new to kayak fishing,” Lindo said. “So let’s incentivize this so anybody and everybody has a chance to win big prizes.” They received 127 entrants. That first year was, by any measure, a success.
Lindo credits the success and continued growth of the competition with, among other things, the beautiful location—headquarters for the tournament is Lakeview Lodge. “There were all these people coming not just from Oklahoma but from around the region—Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas—all over the area, and some folks from far away, like Florida. They said ‘Holy moly, this is not what I envisioned for Oklahoma!’ They couldn’t believe the venue.”
The event isn’t just for competitors—Lindo emphasized that friends, family, and curious spectators are all welcome. “A lot of folks will come out and they maybe wanna try different kayaks during the weekend to not only see how a lot of these people have rigged up their boats, we have a lot of people who maybe are thinking about doing tournaments in a kayak but aren’t quite ready to dip their toe in yet,” Lindo said. “So you have a lot of people coming out just perusing and checking out how others have done it. We have a friendly, welcoming atmosphere and folks say, ‘Well check my boat out, take mine for a paddle, test how stable it is, look how I’ve rigged mine up with a fish finder or anchoring system.’”
Lindo said it’s not uncommon for competitors and their families to arrive days before the tournament or stay a few days after to explore other areas of Beavers Bend State Park and the shops and restaurants of Hochatown.
“We see a lot of folks going to the local pizza restaurant or the local barbecue joint or Girls Gone Wine or the local breweries,” Lindo said. “The Mountain Fork River is one I like to always do after the tournament is over on the following Sunday. I mean, you thought the lake was pretty, and it’s super gorgeous, but guess what? Just around the corner from here is one of the most spectacular scenic rivers in the entire state, if not the region.”
The cost to enter the tournament this year is $125. First prize is $5,000, and thousands more in gear and door prizes will be given away.