The Fernandina Fishing Rodeo is a boat tournament that added a Kayak Division allowing anglers to launch anytime with a 6:30AM fishing start time. I set out in my Native Watercraft Slayer Propel 13 kayak into the St. Johns River about 6AM. I went to my trout spot and fished for about 15 minutes before several boats showed up and proceeded to fish all around me. I was not getting any action and saw all the boat fishermen were catching sand trout so I moved off and fished down the shoreline. By now it was 8:20am and I was starting to think a skunk was a possibility. With no bites, I switched from soft plastics to a Rapala Skitterwalk chartreuse topwater lure on a whim and noticed that the lure was attracting swirls about 10 feet off the bank. After repositioning my yak parallel to the shoreline so my lure would stay at that 10 foot distance during the entire retrieve, more fish seemed interested and within 5 minutes had a hit so violent I thought it was a redfish. When it got close to the yak I saw it was a beautiful large speckled trout. I had a nice 5 minute fight before playing the net game with it for a heart stopping minute, but finally got it boated and measured it out at exactly 24”. Since I had only hoped to catch a trout in the 20” range I felt a surge of confidence and felt I had a chance to do well in the standings.
After a 30 minute peddle back to the ramp, the kayak was loaded back into my truck. I drove to ramp #2 where I launched and made my way to a spot in the river I had caught oversized reds earlier in the year. Half of a blue crab was hooked onto a Carolina rig and sent down where it sat unmolested for a good 30 minutes in about 38 feet of water. After checking it a few times I was worried as nothing was pecking at it, not even a pinfish. I decided to give it another 15 minutes before going to another spot, but it was quickly taken by a bull red and after a brief fight I winched it up and measured it at 37″ with the tail pinched. For some odd reason this contest set a limit of 35″ for a redfish so that is what they gave me.
On the way back to the launch I saw a small creek my SureSet Jigs teammate, Eddie Cabler, had mentioned sometimes held flounder so I decided to give it a try before loading up and driving to spot #3 which was a flounder spot. Once in the creek I started throwing a spinnerbait with a mud minnow down the grass line and got the flounder hit. I was sweating during the fight as I knew with the flounder (15”) my slam would have a huge number, but it is so easy for them to spit the hook. Once netted, I saw the Sureset Jig on the spinnerbait was hooked through the jaw so I was able to finally relax and started whooping and hollering as I took the pictures. I tried to upgrade for about an hour but only caught 2 smaller flounder, some rat reds and a mangrove snapper. Since it was close to 100 degrees I finally packed it in about 1pm and headed back to the ramp and home with a 76″ slam (they gave me tournament credit for 74″ due to the redfish cutoff).
I knew there were some great tournament anglers still fishing, but since we were entering fish via the 321.com app (which is awesome), I saw that Ryan Conner could beat me if he caught a 34″ redfish so I was a little worried. I headed up to the award ceremony with my wife Tammi and saw that Ryan had ended up in 2nd place with a slot red in his slam (and biggest flounder) and I was still atop the leader board when we arrived. They also gave me the big redfish award and Jim Miller edged out my trout by .2 inches to get the big trout award and he placed 4th in the slam.
Overall it was a great experience and I met some fellow forum members for the first time such as Meatwad (3rd place slam) and my fellow HOW volunteer Ron Collins did well with a 5th place slam. I will fish this tournament again next year and look forward to defending my Fernandina Beach Kayak Fishing Championship against the locals up there.