Wilderness Systems Pro Staff
My journey to fish the Extreme Kayak Fishing Summer Slam 2 started just four weeks prior to the event. Everyone, myself included, that knows about the Extreme Kayak Fishing Tournaments absolutely wants to fish this event. When Wilderness Systems called and said they needed an Angler to fish this tournament on a Radar 135, I could not have been more excited. Without even thinking about time off work, or finances, I immediately responded “yes, absolutely!” This was an opportunity to fish with some of the elites of the offshore kayak fishing scene.
Planning was priority #1, as this trip was going to be a long one. 21+ hours (one way) on the road and hundreds of miles away from home, I needed to have everything that made my time on the water most efficient. Luckily, I had an idea of what was needed, because just months before my girlfriend Diane and I had made the trek to Florida in route to the Bahamas for the Extreme Kayak Fishing Battle in the Bahamas tournament. Packing and sorting gear in the living room soon became the everyday norm. This would be the staging area where I would spend every evening until the departure date, getting everything organized and ready. Although I had tackle and gear from previous trips, another trip down to Roy’s Bait and Tackle was a must. Everybody knows an angler can never have enough gear. My excuse was that I was fishing against the best and needed to have lures X,Y,Z, and accessories for “safety purposes”.
Weeks passed and it was finally time to load up and head out. The initial plan was to drive straight through, rest in Pensacola, and then shoot down south to make it to Galuppi’s in time for the Captains meeting. Eleven hours and three tanks of gas later, we pull in and stop at the first rest area for a one-hour nap. We sleep from six to seven a.m., get up, brush our teeth and continue driving. Finally, 10+ hours later we make it to the hotel and jump in the shower to clean up and look halfway presentable. When arriving to the party, we were greeted by a bunch of friends that we had made in the Bahamas. This was honestly one of the best feelings ever. To be welcomed by everyone, and to pick up on conversations as if we had never left Florida or the Bahamas, was amazing. The friends we made through EKFT are amazing, for that Diane and I are ever so grateful.
Fast forward to tournament day when we arrived and parked directly across from the beach. It’s drizzling, nerves are amped up, and the excitement is unreal. Music can be heard over the loud speakers as I piece together my equipment and try not to fumble too much. A few minutes pass and I am ready to make my way to check in and get inspected. Inspection passed, and the EKFT sticker is slapped on my hull. It’s becoming very real that I am about to partake in an event that I have only dreamed of. I dragged my Radar 135 and Helix PD through the course Pompano Beach sand and stand before the water’s edge. The view is absolutely breathtaking and I am overwhelmed with the entire experience. I take a moment to reflect and give thanks. As cliché as it sounds, I am living the dream.
Interrupting the sound of the surf, Extreme Kayak Fishing Tournament director Joe Hector announced over the speakers that tournament was about to start. I get a good luck kiss from my girlfriend and push off to get in line for bait. The bait line moved fast as Joe Bait’s set up spot on. My Gogg’s were fresh, kicking, and ready for deployment. Shortly after I hear the countdown…off we go to try our luck, and out fish all of the other anglers. My goal was to represent Texas, Wilderness Systems Kayaks, and myself to the fullest. Pedaling out, I request a radio check and verify that my bait tank is circulating fresh water, both are good. I continue for deeper water and drop a live bait as soon as I hit 150 feet of water, as Im continuing my way out to 300 plus feet. I had the Goggle eye on a stinger rig that consisted of a 4/0 Owner SSW and an Owner Stinger size 4. The hardware was connected with 40lb Malin wire and a Spro size 6 swivel that tied to 30lb P-Line Fluroclear. A slow troll and a sharp eye on the Lowrance 7ti reveals some bait balls, but a quick drop of the jig yielded no results. I make my way back over to 168 feet and I see some good marks on the graph. Shortly after my Seigler SG sounds off and the fight is on. 25 minutes of back and forth with some unbelievable runs ended abruptly when the line went slack; the fish was gone as soon as it had appeared. I am understandably upset, but I also knew that I had to get back in the game.
I immediately rig up another Goggle eye on a drop that is about 60ish feet down still sitting in 165 to 170 feet of water. Not even fifteen minutes later the rod bows over. Another long battle, and I’m ready the gaff, as a fellow angler calls the help boat to record the catch. Still 40 or so feet down I lean over and take a look at what I hoped is a Wahoo and sure enough it is. I yell out, Wahoo, it's a Wahoo! Three failed gaff attempts later I finally get the gaff in the cheek of this beautiful fish. It’s a true trophy Wahoo, and it looks incredible. This fish was lit up like I have never seen before. Sitting in my Radar with this giant fish in my lap I look up and see the Extreme wrapped boat pulling around. In it I see Doug, Robert, and Micah with cameras in hand. Let me tell you, that was an unbelievable feeling. To tag this bucket list fish, get it photographed, and to do it all on my Wilderness Systems Radar 135 kayak was the absolute best feeling in the world. The guys on the boat were excited as was I was, but I knew that I had to refocus and get back on the bite. I ungaffed the fish and put it in the bag.
I rigged another Gogg and set him out again at about 60-70 feet. A slow troll ensues and a constant reminder to slow down was running through my head. The combination of adrenalin and 6:1 gear ratio in the Helix Peddle Drive made me have to really slow down as to not drown my live bait. Hours passed as I jigged and fished any sign of bait or structure that was seen on the graph. The effort put forth was there, but the fish were gone as fast as they showed up. Time was winding down and the decision to make my way back to the beach was made. All lines were cut and rods secured as I made my approach back to shore. A clean beaching and short drag up the sand meant that I was a short walk from weigh-in.
It was the coolest feeling to throw that Wahoo on my shoulder and make my way to the stage. All of the people on the walk up were in awe of the catch. Their reactions and comments all added up to make this experience that much more special. The fish gets verified and as I turn around to make my way out of the check-in station I see John McKroids behemoth Wahoo. This thing was a submarine, and quite honestly, I was elated. This meant that the Extreme Kayak Fishing Tournament event smashed their previous record and that all of the work that the team had done was going to pay off. I grab a quick rinse at the shower and change into some clean clothes so that I could hang out and watch the rest of the weigh-in.
The weigh-in and festivities begin and the weights and prizes are being announced on the big stage. I know I’m in the top ten for sure. With that I’m happy. Shoot, just being there I was happy. When 5th place was called, and my weight wasn’t read, I knew it was at least a top 5 and my excitement skyrocketed. My catch weighed in at 48.7lbs and I had finished the Summer Slam 2 in 4th place. Taking home a beautiful trophy and $1,000 from Pompano Ford. To say that I was on cloud 9 was an understatement. Many pictures and poses later, the experience was worth far more that the check in the mail. It was truly a huge accomplishment and memory that will last a lifetime. Seriously, how many people get to do this; cross the country to fish an offshore tournament on a kayak? How awesome is that? There aren’t enough words to express the gratitude that I have for all who are in my corner, my family, girlfriend, Wilderness Systems Kayaks, and friends, to name a few.
I encourage all who are interested in the Extreme Kayak Fishing Tournaments to look them up and do their homework. It is a first-class operation that elevates the offshore kayak fishing experience to another level. The friends, experience, and memories that come with it, but are not listed on the entry form, are priceless.
Thank you, Joe, Maria, and EKFT for the friendships and opportunities.