While most of us are accustomed to reading about prestigious fishing tournaments with big money paybacks and glistening game boats, we’re about to share something totally different.
With proceeds benefiting Palm Beach Reef Rescue, a volunteer, non-profit, grassroots conservation organization dedicated to protecting the fragile coral reefs of South Florida, The Extreme Kayak Fishing Tournament is gaining momentum with enthusiastic anglers relying on sheer manpower rather than fuel-guzzling horsepower.
Yes, you read it right. The Extreme Kayak Fishing Tournament is an open ocean tournament with no boundaries.
An experienced and dedicated kayak angler with numerous impressive catches to his credit, tournament founder and director Joe Hector commented, “I think you’re much more proud of your catches in a kayak. You work extremely hard for each and every fish. Kayak fishing continues to be one of the fastest growing segments of our sport and with over $7,000 in cash and prizes and more interest than ever, this year’s event is really shaping up to be something spectacular.”
Held in Pompano Beach, FL, this 8-hour fishing tournament is extremely affordable to enter at only $85.00 an angler. The event is full of thrills and spills, with the potential for big fish, and is a great way for kayak anglers and the next generation of paddleboard fishermen to meet one another and go head to head in some friendly competition. However make no mistake. A number of these anglers take kayak fishing to the edge, with well-equipped platforms that include livewells, fish-finder/chartplotter combos, multiple rod holders, ample tackle storage and much more. The latest fishing ‘yaks carry substantial payloads and like the Mirage Pro Angler, many feature Turbo Fins propelled by pedal power for improved speed and agility.
While it’s certainly nothing out of the ordinary to see kayaks floating around the backcountry or paddling their way across serene rivers and bays, what makes this kayak fishing tournament extreme is the fact that it’s held in the wide open Atlantic. Yes, you read it right. The Extreme Kayak Fishing Tournament is an open ocean tournament with no boundaries.
Unlike powerboats with the capacity to maintain plenty of live bait and carry an arsenal of tackle and amenities, kayaks are generally associated with extremely limited space and relatively limited maneuverability. Competitors can count on the fact that no one is paddling 10 miles in either direction to investigate the other end of the reef. This means participants have to make very smart decisions when preparing for the event. The competition kicks off with complimentary Starbucks coffee at 6:00 AM and concludes with the weigh-in on the beach at 2:00 PM. Strategy will certainly come into play when fishing the unpredictable ocean where choppy seas, stiff breezes and relentless currents all play a role.
Open to single and tandem kayaks, anglers launch directly off the beach adjacent to the Pompano Beach Fishing Pier, where there is ample parking and convenient access. Anglers are permitted to fish as far north, south or east as they can safely paddle. This is no easy task when you consider prevailing conditions could easily sweep a drifting kayak angler miles away. Fortunately, help is never too far away. Florida Sport Fishing is a leading sponsor of the event and provides a support vessel for the fleet to rely on. For safety measures, our crew is out there with the anglers from start to finish providing cold refreshments and assisting kayakers in distress. Basically, we see everything firsthand and are quickly on scene to render assistance for those affected by motion sickness or equipment failure. Some simply miscalculate how far they’ve paddled or drifted and require a lift back to the beach. The downside to the free ride is immediate disqualification.
The 1st Annual Extreme Kayak Fishing Tournament, with a reported 60 kayakers, was held in August 2011. At the inaugural event Joel Makielski took home 1st Place honors with a smoker kingfish. Joe, an experienced kayak angler, caught the big mackerel at 7:30 AM slow trolling a live goggle eye. Fishing out of a tandem kayak, Doug Perez of Fort Lauderdale earned 2nd Place honors with a respectable 9-pound mutton snapper. Doug nailed the fish as the duo headed back to shore for the weigh-in after what had been a tough day of fishing. The anglers installed rod holders in their boat just prior to the event but somehow forgot to seal them. They were approximately two miles offshore during competition when they realized they were taking on water.
“We were basically underwater,” Perez said. “We pretty much gave up and were coming back in when all of a sudden the reel started screaming.” Interestingly, the winning mutton snapper grabbed a small jack that the duo caught for bait as they paddled through the 50 foot depths just past the first reef line. Thankfully, they safely made their way back to shore and rushed to West Marine for some silicone. After properly completing the repair they paddled back out to finish the day.
Randall Seneff of Hollywood claimed 3rd Place with a blackfin tuna he caught on a vertical jig in 400 feet of water. The catch reveals the overall diversity of tactics and techniques that competitive kayak anglers employ, as well as the array of available species they can bring to the scales. Just for the record, eligible species in The Extreme Kayak Fishing Tournament include dolphin, wahoo, Spanish mackerel, blackfin tuna, king mackerel, African pompano, cobia, snapper, amberjack and yellow jack. The grand prize is based on the total accumulated weight of five eligible fish, and the victor will paddle away with $1,000 cash and a handsome trophy.
This year’s event takes place on March 3, 2012. That means by the time you are reading this editorial the 2nd Annual Extreme Kayak Fishing Tournament, dubbed The Winter Classic Tournament, may just be days away and you still have time to enter, or the event recently passed and you unfortunately just missed it. Either way, to learn more about this exciting paddle-powered competition be sure to visit extremekayakfishing.com.