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Kayak Fishing ClassicS

Kayak anglers comparing prospective fishing areas.

Kayak fishing tournaments have become fairly common throughout Florida. Whether it's a charitable event, a local tournament or a tournament series, there is an event for everyone. There are large kayak tournaments like the annual Jacksonville Kayak Fishing Classic or the DOA Paddler's Tournament and there are club events like the Hard Core Kayak tournaments.

Then there are the series. The IFA has the Kayak Tour that is very popular, and then there is the Kayak Fishing ClassicS. Recently, the Kayak Fishing ClassicS had the Pine Island Master Slam tournament in Pine Island. I have participated in KFC events before and found them to be competitive and very well run, so I decided to sign up and write about it as well.

A little fish helps!

Since I live nearby and know the waters fairly well, I did not pre-fish but instead checked into the hotel. The Lodging Host of the Pine Island Master Slam was the Tarpon Lodge in Pineland. This is a very nice historic inn right on Pine Island Sound. I caught up with Captain Pat Horrigan, the National Tournament Director of the Kayak Fishing ClassicS as he was preparing to film an interview with several of the anglers. They were talking about prizes won from a particular sponsor. Capt. Pat puts on a great show with the tournaments, frequently interviewing anglers for videos and articles.

After the video shoot was complete, several of us anglers caught up and talked fishing, particularly about the next days plans. We went over charts and I tried to share some local knowledge. The KFC attracts anglers that are friendly and while there is competition, it doesn't keep the anglers from helping each other out. The KFC has some of the friendliest anglers I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. They are also some of the best.



We turned in early in anticipation of the next days fishing. The launch time was at first light. In the morning we all headed our separate ways while wishing each other good luck. For the Master Slam, we had to catch one tarpon, one snook, one redfish and one trout. I was fishing this tournament alone so I went to an area that gave me access to the Indian Fields area of Matlacha Pass.

In the early morning light, I saw tarpon all around me at the launch. I started with topwater lures but the tarpon were not interested. I tried a Gulp shrimp next, and I hooked a small tarpon. I was able to video a portion of the fight which is all I needed. I released the fish and moved on to the next species.

As I moved into the Indian Fields, I was blind casting to whatever deeper holes I could see. The water was muddy and there was no chance of sight fishing anything. I managed a couple of trout to 18.5 inches, and started the long paddle to the mangrove and flats area where I was hoping to find the redfish. The wind had picked up considerably and that was making the fishing much harder. While attempting to locate redfish, I hooked a small snook. I measured and released him.

A lucky third place finish!

It was afternoon when I decided to start back toward the launch. I had been searching for a redfish to no avail. Finally, I tossed a Gulp shrimp at the mouth of a creek and I saw a large copper flash. It was a very large redfish and I set the hook. The drag began to scream and my rod tip bent in an impossible arc. This was a big fish and he was running hard and fast away from me. When I set the hook, I got a good look at him and he was a bruiser. I had not seen a redfish all day so I was a little panicked as I tried to get control of this scaly freight train. It was all over in 30 seconds. That big fat redfish pulled so much line out that he was able to get around branches and stumps and managed to free himself.

I sat there for a few minutes to reflect and found that I was not mad or upset about losing the fish. Sure, I was a little disappointed, but it sure is a lot of fun just to be able to fight a big fish like that, even for 30 seconds. I made my way back in figuring I didn't have enough points to place in the tournament.

Sunset at the Tarpon Lodge.

The weigh in was at Miceli's Restaurant in Matlacha. I met up with all the other anglers and most said they had tough days as well. There were many FS forum members there, Steve Miller (SMiller), Mark Knowles (ridgeback), Marty Meakin (ultralight), Steve Gibson (shallow pockets) and many more. We all had stories to tell, I had my big redfish story. We all shared those stories over good food and cold drinks while waiting for the results. We also talked about the unbelievable amount of prizes that are always awarded at the KFC tournaments. Soon, Capt. Pat came out and began awarding the prizes. I was very surprised to hear my name called for third place! I thought I was out of the event but it seems the other anglers really did have a tough day like I did.

Tournament fishing is not for every angler. It can be very rewarding and fun. You will certainly meet other kayak anglers and if you are as lucky as me, make new lifelong friends. I hope to see some of you on the tournament trail!




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