In late September, I made the trek from Jacksonville, FL to Norfolk, Virginia to attend the 9th TKAA tournament hosted by the Tidewater Kayak Anglers Association. I penned the trip and tournament in Kayak Fishing Magazine. The story can also be seen here at Kayak Fishing Magazine.
1290 miles. That’s the exact distance from Jacksonville, FL to Norfolk, VA and back. Of course that includes driving to the hotel, kayak launch, and the occasional beer run. But that’s what it took to attend the 9th Annual TKAA tournament this September. I’d never fished Virginia, so when Tournament Director, Wayne Bradby approached me about joining in on the fun, I jumped at the opportunity. It’s my belief that kayak fishing tournaments are simply so much more than who won, and who placed where. Most kayak fishing tournaments support a local or national charity, so it’s great to give back to the community by doing what you love. The most appealing theme with going on a road trip to attend a tournament is the memories, sights, and stories that develop.
For me, the chance to fish a new area, see old friends, and to catch a redfish in Virginia was the icing on the cake. Of course, it’s human nature to compete, so yeah, I hoped to do well. The weather forecast for the tournament looked ominous at best, with winds sustained at 20 out of the northeast and gusts upwards of 30mph. It was going to be an interesting tournament. The trip up was fairly uneventful and actually flew by pretty quickly. We did notice a bevy of signs along I-95 for some fantastic wings, but we wanted to get up there to get settled in so we didn’t stop. We met up with some friends (Mike, Johnny, & Billy), grabbed lunch, and got some insight on where to fish for the tournament. The trip had gone very smooth until we stopped, and for some reason those last 2 hours seemed to drag on.
Finally arriving at the tournament hotel, we got settled in and made ourselves ready for the events of the weekend. My tournament partner, Lee, and I made a quick run up to the local Wal-Mart to grab some snacks & waters for the next day’s fishing, and of course a 12-pack of Shiner Bock for the evening. We also took a look at the area where we’d be fishing with Mike & Johnny the next day. We’d decided to fish Lynnhaven as it offered the opportunity to catch the different species we’d need to get our “slams.” While the winds were blowing pretty hard, they weren’t as tough as the next day was predicted, and the water was churned up so we knew we’d be in for a ride tomorrow. We hit the Captain’s meeting, got registered and signed in. It was a great time as I got to catch up with old friends like Rob Choi, Mark Lozier, Seth Goodrich, Tom Vanderheiden, Kevin Romano, William Ragulsky, and others. Little did we know what fun was waiting for us.
Tournament morning is always a delight when you’re hungover, especially around 430am. I’m sure the other competitors at the kayak launch didn’t know what to think about us cutting up and my impromptu singing while getting gear ready to launch. The winds were already blowing pretty good, but we’d set up a plan of attack the day before. Safe light hit, and we were on our way. We got out of the channel and hit the bay.
Mike and I pretty much scrubbed our plan right off the bat as we headed straight for the deeper water by the bridge. This was also the roughest place to fish, as the winds & current made it a bowl of soup. Mike quickly hooked up with a nice redfish and while trying to grab his measuring board, overboard it went. I paddled over to help out, and personally I think we deserve some sort of medal for being able to stay next to each other, hold the board to measure and photo the fish. And maybe a hero shot while sitting in 5-6 foot rollers. We fished there for a little while longer, with no luck, then moved off to get away from getting beat up anymore. I took off to secure my goal of landing a slot Virginia redfish, and found a nice little creek mouth that looked too fishy. It only took a couple of minutes, and it was fish on! While only measuring 21.5”, he was good enough to achieve my goal of landing a Virginia redfish. I honestly have to say it was the strangest redfish I’ve ever caught in my life, as it had a reverse Quasimodo look to it. We fished the rest of the day and everyone caught fish – which was a great feat in those conditions, then headed back in tired and wore out.
At the check in and awards ceremony, everyone was telling stories of how their day went and their catches. My buddy, Mike, had landed a 24” redfish earlier in the day, and it started looking like his fish might actually place. The funniest story of the day was when Johnny had somehow lost his reel arm and didn’t notice until he went to reel in his line. We all had some good laughs as he relived his turning the spool by hand to retrieve his line. Mike had his own “oh!” moment, as well. It seemed there was a three-way tie for first place in the redfish division, and it came down to who checked in first to determine the winner. All three anglers checked in within 5 minutes of each other. Mike,, being the last to check in, netted third place. The “doh” moment was in the midst of the 5-6 foot rollers we were sitting in, he measured his fish wrong and shorted himself an inch, which would have given himself first place! We all felt bad for him, but lesson learned and third place was still very respectable, especially in those conditions.
I witnessed some great moments at the tournament, as it was a charity tournament for Heroes on the Water. Many of the anglers who’d won fishing rods, lures, etc., donated their winnings to the local chapter. We also had a Moken 14 that was donated to the tournament to be raffled off to raise money for this great organization. Tournament Director, Wayne Bradby, won the raffle and quickly donated the kayak to the local HOW chapter for the vets to use. In my humble opinion, this is what kayak fishing is all about – giving back to the community and promoting the sport in a positive light.
We concluded the night, and prepared to head home the next morning. Suffice it to say, we were all pretty worn out and exhausted and crashed pretty early. The ride home was fairly uneventful, albeit for the gazillion billboards along I-95 leading up to the South Carolina border. Seems there’s a wonderful place there called “South of the Border”. Normally, I wouldn’t be so inclined to stop, but there’s so much there, tincluding a small water park, fair rides, restaurants, and who could resist “Pedro’s Gift Shop, with gifts from over 200 countries”! That stop will definitely be on the “To-Do List” for the next trip!