We all met each other years ago at the tournament before I started guiding for Jerry at Captain Kayak (who later sponsored and organized the tournament). While we always arrived with intentions of non-stop fishing and visions of kayak fishing fame and glory, what we invariably got as well was intoxicated and over-fed on BBQ. By the end of a three-day tournament, it wasn’t so much about the fishing anymore. It was just nice to be surrounded by like minded individuals at a time when kayak fishing was arguably first getting popular as an everyman’s thing. Tournaments came and tournaments went over the years and it was always JBay because there weren’t a lot of options as far as kayak fishing tournaments in the northeast.
All of that changed
That changed over the last decade and now the repurposed milk crate outfit that my buddy Pete made – at the time so novel an idea that it was featured in a magazine article – is now sold by Hobie for about $50. Our mindset did not change regarding the tournaments, which were primarily a reason to camp, fish and socialize. Until Jerry decided to retire from retirement and the (official) tournament ended, Misfit Kayak Fishing Team had no reason to try very hard. It was just fun. Without a centrally located tournament though, it got harder for all of us to get to connect, and last year I joined the Striper Cup in the Hobie World Qualifier. Jerry closed the kayak rental and and so I figured I would have time to test my mettle and see how well I could do when I really tried. The top 10 were in a raffle for a $5000 kayak, and the winner was flown to compete in the Hobie Kayak Fishing World Championship. My efforts were the inspiration for a post back in September that chronicled the months I spent fishing "hard."
It changed me, because it forced me to answer some hard questions; How "hard" is too hard to fish? Do I make myself go out into a cold rainy night when I don’t want to – just because the tide is right and I know I’ll catch? What social events are OK to miss because you know that you will catch a 30-lb fish if you go? Are your friends your competition now, if they’re in the same tournament? It was a season-long competition, so the question raised was always "Am I missing something by not being out there?" I’ve "willed" myself out of bed at 3am often enough to answer that in the affirmative. The real question becomes "Is it worth it?" After a lot of soul searching and a lot of fishing, I found peace with myself regarding those questions, even as that tension remains today. This year circumstances have enabled me to join other tournaments. With different structures that raise still more questions. Who knew catching fish from a floating piece of plastic could be so philosophical?
Should I fish Anyhow?
One of the tournaments that rewards total lengths of all fish caught has me taking pictures (the only way to do it) of every fish. On a good night, that could easily be 30 fish. Even with a 10-fish-per-day limit. I have to ask myself "Is it worth it to drift away from a hot bite as you spend the next 5-10 minutes trying to secure a fish in your lap in a kayak to get a picture? That thought came into sharp focus the evening that I found myself actually thinking about NOT fishing because my camera (phone) wasn’t charged. That moment, that night, made me realize that I wasn’t thinking right. I’d gone "tournamental," and had forgotten why I was there. OK, that’s ridiculous and I was ashamed to be thinking that way, but what if it’s a blitz and I’m marking bigger fish? Do I take the picture of the 28 incher and bank some points or keep fishing? I was able to answer these questions the same way that I was able to solve my moral dilemma.
I was able to answer these questions the same way I ultimately answered them last summer; with a renewed commitment to keeping it "social" (I don’t need the fish) and a pause for the thought "Will I be happy with myself afterward?" Don’t get me wrong; I take my kayak fishing seriously, not just because details make the difference between catching fish and not, but because in kayak fishing details are the difference between getting back and not. But when it comes to fishing with a sense of purpose, there have to be limitations. Limitations are personal.
The Fishing Report
That brings me (finally) to the fishing report part of this. Half of Misfit Kayak Fishing Team made it to JBay for the annual get-together. We fished Friday and Saturday and conditions were great. I was surprised by a couple of things: Happily, the presence of a lot of horseshoe crabs and bait but sadly no other kayak fishermen.
Hopefully it will not be the end of an era and someone will step up and keep the tournament going. My "competition" this weekend was my teammate Pistol Pete Kelly. I outfished him by a sea robin on Friday, each of us landing four bass, and he outfished me by 3 bass the next day. Pete had the right tool for the job and even though I was drifting into 30-pound stripers, Pete was the one who brought the sand worms they were feeding on. Rule one: match the hatch. Pete had bass up to 34 inches and my biggest was only about 25.