This is going to be a different kind of write-up about kayak fishing. Most of the ones I’ve done so far are of successful and awesome trips showing some crazy good fishing, and others that I’ve read on the internet are lovey dovey every cast was a fish-blah blah blah. What I want to show you is the behind the scenes of getting to a kayak fishing tournament several hours away, and what needs to be done sometimes in order to save a few pennies along the way but create memories of a lifetime. So check it out!
My good friend Danny Cabo and I loaded our gear up non-chalantly around 9am on the day of the captain’s meeting for the Jacksonville Classic. We had roughly a four hour drive ahead of us and we were pretty much going on a whim, packing things in the truck as we thought of them instead of having it all out the day/night before like usual.
“So where are we going to stay tonight?”, I asked. “I dunno, we’ll think of something”, Danny answered. After finally getting things packed it was time for breakfast and some toasted, everything bagels with cream cheese sounded like they would hit the spot. In the blink of an eye it was already 11am and time to get on the road, north.
After getting in the Jacksonville area, Danny wanted to show me the area we were going to be fishing so another 30 minute drive and we arrived at our spot. Instead of taking our time and enjoying the sights, a cold and brisk 20 mph sideways rain greeted us as we got out of the 4Runner – within a minute or two we were quickly back in the vehicle, turning on the heat and heading back into town to get to the captain’s meeting.
I have been in a decent share of tournaments but this was my first Jacksonville gig, and it truly showed how the sport of kayak fishing is as big as ever when walking through the entrance. Kayak anglers truly love their sport and the comradery between the competitors is bar none. I saw some good friends that I had only known for a short while from previous tournaments but it was like we were just talking the other day, although it had been a few months. The organizers did a great job with the captain’s meeting and the awards banquet, starting off with hula dancers and a fire show, followed by numerous great prizes and an always epic game of paper-rock-scissors by Woody Callaway for a new Native kayak.
Stepping back a few hours, we brought with us a few sleeping bags just in case we found a decent spot to crash since we would be waking up in only a few hours and not really worth getting a hotel room. Instead of a tent with the non-stop rain and wind we had a comfortable sleep in the back of the 4Runner, with a pair of battery fans to keep it cozy and cool. Simply put, it was awesome.
Rested up we were ready to take on the miserable day in the rain and wind with our kayaks. Which, as you may know, kayakers do not really prefer the wind when fishing – and paired with a ripping current, forget about it. Anyhow, like a pair of warriors, we worked the edges of some banks and drop offs with mud minnows. After a few hours with some ladyfish and catfish to show for it, finally a nice flatty took one of my minnows, measuring in at 19.5″. As the rain was coming down I was able to get a few good pictures of the flounder to turn in but since the conditions were so horrible my normal routine was out the window, and into my raincoat pocket my camera went. After reviving the fish and heading over to Danny to get a shot of me with it, as I looked down I see the camera falling out of my pocket in slow motion and into the dark moving water. As my reflexes were stiffened from the cold rain, I watched my camera sink into its resting place, with an hour long effort gone by of scouring the bottom with my net, unrewarded. Darn. It would have been good enough for a 5th place flounder out of 400 anglers!
After searching a few creeks I saw a nice size red curl on my artificial lure, then followed it with a cast of a mud minnow, pulling up a barely legal trout. This one, little six foot hole produced more fish than the entire area the whole day with 3 or 4 croakers, a jack, and eventually a few other small trout. Bummed and cold, at about 1pm we headed back in to dry our bones and get some grub. We tried our best.
The drive home was no less of a test of our patience, as a tractor trailer had jack-knifed and lost it’s cargo along 95, destroying the median rails and shutting down the north bound lane while slowing down the south bound for a few miles. With some good tunes and finally sunny skies, the hour long wait in traffic didn’t seem that long.
The moral of the story, all kayak writeups usually have these fun little tid-bits behind the scenes, and hold up shots with big grinning faces usually take center stage – but I’ll be one to say that the journey along the way is part of the story. Mental notes: floating lanyard on the next camera; bring more padding for my back in the 4Runner. Overall: a fun trip with a great friend!
Since I don’t have any pictures to post as they are somewhere on the bottom of a river, thanks to Danny Cabo for providing this post’s shots!