Another kayak tournament? In the Everglades? These questions rolled around in my head from being asked by teammate Vickie Sallee to join her on this expedition. I had never fished the Everglades so that appealed to me and also made me raise an eye-brow as I’ve heard of big gators, big snakes, and hopefully lots of big fish. Without much thought I agreed to fishing this tournament with Vickie, not knowing fully what was ahead and to come. Within a few weeks we found ourselves heading south to do some pre-fishing and get a taste of the area. I had heard that the tides ripped which wasn’t too much of a concern for me since I’ve lived in Maine the majority of my life, and have literally watched the water sink a sandbar, then just hours later leave it to dry in the sun.
The boundary of the tournament, put on by Native Watercraft, was from the east side of Chokoloskee to Indian Key Pass south into the Gulf, roughly 20 miles around, a lot of new area to learn in three days of pre-fishing. One area was completely different than the next, from mangroves laying over deep moving water, to oyster filled shallow water, to open water with sandy bottoms – this area is both beautiful and vast. Over the course of three days, we made a small dent in the learning curve but too quickly found ourselves returning home already waiting for the return trip.
The rules of the tournament was simple – to survive! With all kidding aside, that was one of the major concerns of the event – safety. Individual anglers had to carry a gallon of water, rain jacket, and headlamp and other normal gear while the team of two anglers needed to carry a flair gun, gps, compass, map, sound making device and med kit in order to be able to handle any situation on the water. At each of the five checkpoints, check-in and check-out times were recorded in order to help locate teams just incase they didn’t make it back at the end of the day.
There were many things to take into consideration which made this one of the most physically demanding kayak tournaments to date. For starters the tide; starting high in the morning, flushing out fast and turning around about noontime – planning the course of the day around this was crucial, if you didn’t, fatigue would quickly set in as you would be paddling against ripping currents the majority of the time. The wind was forecasted to kick up to 25-30mph around 1pm.
Teammates could not help each other with paddling or towing, which would result in elimination. Anglers had to find five checkpoints (one being a double point checkpoint) scattered throughout the area and couldn’t fish until they picked up a wooden token from each, enabling them to then fish and take pictures with the token included, then having to return it before making the trek to the next checkpoint. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough to make you think about where to go, it was only until just minutes before launch that you were given an envelope showing the location of the checkpoints – making quick decision making an important task.
Fishing was decent on tournament day, I was able to pull in a slam and we certainly had a good log of trout between the both of us with fish hitting the topwater and Logic Lure scented jerkbaits. The mixing and experience of planning, fishing, paddling, with an area as big as the Everglades made this tournament a true slam. With the first turnout having 33 teams (2 per team), I can only see this tournament getting bigger every year. Vickie and I were able to finish in the top 10 at 7th place and took home a nice pair of Watershed dry bags. A big congratulations to Mike McDonald & Billy Alstrom who had an impressive finish of 152 total inches, who each received a Native Slayer and other prizes.
Thanks to all of the sponsors who made this unique and ground breaking even possible. I can’t wait to do it again next year!
Check out more on the even on their homepage: http://adventurefishingworldchampionship.com/
Also, sit back, relax and enjoy this excellent video they put together on the event.