The Tidewater Kayak Anglers Association hosted their 8th Annual Kayak Fish for Charity Tournament on the last weekend in September, with a record 275 registered anglers coming out to raise funds for Heroes on the Water and Project Healing Waters. I hadn't had any time to prefish for this one, but being that we would be fishing my "home waters", I wasn't very worried about it and felt confident we could find fish. Although we had caught Bull Reds a couple weeks previous, the weather wasn't looking great, so I figured Kam and I should stay inshore and fish the slam. The difficult part was deciding where to fish- the usual spots were sure to be slam packed full of other fisherman, and parking was sure to bean issue, as well as access to the water at launch time.
At the captains meeting Friday, I still didn't have a solid game plan, but after some careful deliberation, the decision was made to go fish Fort Monroe, and a game plan was laid down. When we woke up the next morning, I had a text from my from buddy William Ragulsky, saying he and Matt Greschak had decide to change up their plans and join us. We had a strong team assembled, and even though we had pick the one spot none of us had ever fished before, we were all feeling good about the day. We were at the ramp a little late and after getting unloaded, I had to figure out where to park the trailer. It was 7:15 by the time we left the ramp, but that didn't bother Kam or I, and we headed out in high spirits.
Billy and Matt were ready to roll at 6:25 when it was legal, and by the time we caught up with them, they had already found smaller Reds, but had to paddle back to the ramp- rules stated the first picture on everyone's camera had to be of them at the launch with their ruler. Luckily, its wasn't far and they wouldn't lose but 15 minutes of fishing time. Kam and I started fishing the same area where they had found fish, and I hooked up with a small redfish on my first cast. It came unbuttoned at the boat, but with the numbers of 14"-18" reds in the water, I knew there were more to be caught. Our focus for the first couple hours of the morning was Speckled Trout, but we weren't find them anywhere. Instead we caught puppy drum after puppy drum, but being 14-16" we knew they wouldn't be competitive. Persistence paid off, and eventually I hooked into a stronger fish and landed a healthy 18" pup.
I didn't expect this fish would place, but I figured it was a good start to a slam, and moved on still in search of Specks. Kam stayed there and kept at it working a popping cork and jig head combo and cut mullet on a Carolina rig. It paid off and she hooked up with 2 good fish at the same time. After carefully fighting both fish to the boat simultaneously, she scooped both fish into the net.
A healthy 17" Redfish
A solid 17.25" Flounder
The rain had been on and off all morning, and we had been periodically taking shelter under the bridge when the rain got too strong and too cold. I decided to make the best of it and on my second drink past the pilings, I got a bite. It fought like a bigger fish, but when it surfaced I could see it wasn't very much longer than the 14" minimum.
Billy and Matt had headed off in search of Speckled Trout earlier in the morning, and we decided to go looking for them. Me and Kam both had a couple decent fish and if we could find a Speck we might have a chance at this thing. I figured we should troll and see if we could cover some ground and hopefully locate fish, then fish the school. We hadn't paddle more than a 1/4 mile when my rod started bouncing from the tell tale head shakes of a Trout. I hoped it would make 14" but came up short by a 1/2". As soon as I released my fish, Kam hooked while up bouncing bottom. Her fish was bigger and putting up a little fight, but she quickly landed her much needed Speck.
She landed a healthy 15.75" Speckled Trout, catching her first inshore slam, a solid tournament contending 50"er. I was excited for her and super proud, but all that was quickly overshadowed, as I went to reposition and my paddle blade folded over backwards. As bad as we wanted to stick around looking for bigger specks, my paddle was just barely usable and I would have to limp back to the ramp. We made our way over to Billy and Matt, gave them the good and bad news, and headed in.
We arrived at the check-in early and were first in line to "weigh in". Kam had caught 3 solid fish and we were thinking she might win the Slam Division, and place in the Women's Division. I was hopeful that my Puppy drum might actually place after hearing talk of only smaller Redfish being caught, and we felt even better knowing that ties went to the first person to check in. There was thousands of dollars worth of prizes to be raffled off that were generously donated by the Tournament Sponsors, and a much needed dinner to be had before the results were announced, making it a long wait. As it turned out, Billy, Matt, Kam, and myself were all called in to have our pictures reviewed- we had all placed in the tournament, fishing an area that none of us had ever fished before!
Billy was the first to get called up, taking 4th place in the Striper Division with his 17.5" fish.
Billy, being President of TKAA, was busy reviewing pictures and judging fish, so unfortunately his award had to be accepted on his behalf.
Next up was Kam in the Women's Division, where she took 3rd place with her 17.25" Flounder.
I was super proud of her. Although her 50" slam didn't place, it was later confirmed, she was the first female in tournament history to turn one in! Way to go Babe!
Matt was next, placing 2nd with his 20" Flounder.
My 18" Redfish was big enough to hold on to 3rd place.
We all headed home that night still pumped up about how well our "team" had done. There were some exceptional fisherman that fished this tournament and alot of good fish caught. It felt great to finally get called up there in front of everyone and be recognized in the 3rd largest kayak fishing tournament in the county.
I want to thank all of the Tournament Sponsors for their support. The most amazing part of this whole story is that a group of like minded kayak fisherman and a very generous group of sponsors were able to raise $15,000 to help support wound Veterans. I can't think of a better cause to support or a better way to spend weekend. The full list of divisions and winners can be viewed on the TKAA website. We'll be headed south next week for the NCKFA Oak Island Classic to give it another try, so until then... Tight Lines.