This year I joined the Tidewater Kayak Anglers Association. Every year they put on a tournament to support Project Healing Waters and Heroes On the Water. Basically, it helps get our wounded or disabled military personnel out fishing.
The tournament has grown to be the third largest kayak tournament in the US. This year something like 275 people competed.
I have never been in a tournament before, so I had no idea what to expect and have nothing to compare it to. I suspect that I am now spoiled, as the prizes and comradeship was outstanding. There were hundreds of prizes. It was sponsored by lots of companies including Hobie Kayaks, Wild River Outfitters, Tar River Outfitters, Nu Canoe, Appomattox River Company, Hurricane Kayaks, Confluence/Wilderness Systems, Wild River Outfitters, Release Reels, Kokatat, Native Watercraft, and Dicks Sporting goods; just to name a very few. The first place prize in most of the divisions was a very nice kayak.
|This is what I was competing for.|
The tournament worked like this: I was given a ruler and a wrist band. I could fish at any public water within 50 miles of the tournament headquarters. When I caught a fish I had to take a picture of it against my ruler wile showing my wrist band (a skill all in itself) . At the end of the day I brought my score sheet and memory card to the tournament headquarters to be judged.
I decided to compete in the Largemouth Bass division. With the Largemouth Bass I figured that I had the best chance of at least catching something. Catching something was my goal. I knew my chances of winning were zilch, I just did not want to show up with an empty scoring sheet.
|Before headquarters got crowded|
The next morning I was excited and nervous. I had decided to fish an area called the Lone Star Lakes. They are a group of small lakes. I figured that if the fish were not biting in one lake I could just hop over and try another. The first lake I fished in is brackish. It holds a nice population of Largemouth, but also all of your bay fish. Right away I caught a largest Specked Trout of my year. Then I caught a few Redfish, Croker, Spot, and Catfish. I was beginning to think I entered in the wrong division! Come to find out, I did. I could see Redfish in the shallows that could have won that division, but I ignored them seeking a Largemouth.
The weather began to turn bad with a constant cold rain and slight wind. So, I decided to try another, smaller lake that would provide some protection from the wind. Plus, I reasoned that this lake was small enough to entirely fish in the time I had left.
I also switched up my gear from casting heavy soft plastics with a medium rod to casting crappy jigs with an ultra light rig and 4 pound test line. At this point I was not trying to win, I was just trying to qualify. Anyway, most of my large Bass have been caught with ultralight, including my biggest ever, so my confidence was high. As soon as I switched over to the ultralight rig I began to catch Largemouth. Small Largemouth. I caught probably two dozen small Bass with a few Crappy and Bluegill mixed in. It was fun, but I still didn't have anything over the 12" minimum.
And then my drag began to squeal.....
WHOOHOO!!!! I don't totally suck!
It was a 16" fish. It looks 15 1/2" in the picture because the ruler and fish were not lining up like it should, but it was totally 16". Even after about 20 pictures I could not get the flimsy ruler and the mad bass to cooperate. I claimed 15 1/2" on my score sheet. I'm practicing the picture taking next year!
Big enough to qualify, maybe big enough to place..... or so I thought.
Back at the headquarters I quickly learned the the Largemouth fishermen had a good day. There were a lot of nice Bass caught. The winner caught a 19 1/4" fish (If my memory serves). I was pleased and proud of my showing, but I didn't win anything.
I was kind of worried that the award ceremony would be like the captains meeting. Me, awkward, shy, and board. Thankfully I sat with a group of great guys. They were funny and just normal guys like me. One of them actually fishes the same lakes I do, so we were able to compare notes. It was the most fun I've ever had chatting with strangers.
All in all the tournament was a very rewarding experience. I learned that there are some VERY serious kayak fishermen in my area. I also learned a lot of new techniques and now have my sites set on a dedicated fishing kayak. I'm already planning my strategy for next year....