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Threats of rain and lake effect gale force winds from our volatile northern Great Lakes system had my attention the week leading up to our inaugural event for the 2014 season. As if I didn’t have enough on my mind already. This winter, there was a focus on taking Kayak Anglers to the next level. We did it, we’re a legitimate non-profit but here I was in mid-April with an event approaching even faster than I thought possible. The job of a tournament director is an interesting one to say the least, there’s a lot more that goes into it than most realize and it doesn’t pay very well- alright, it doesn’t pay, period. I definitely have a love/hate relationship with it but I’m giving the edge to love.

I’m a weekend warrior by definition like many of you and many of the other 23 who made the trip last Saturday. While it makes those mornings that much more stressful I love to fish and by my calculation I don’t get to do it near enough so I never pass up an opportunity. And standing on shore watching everybody else out there? Nah, that’s not for me.

My wife and I loaded up the night before and hit the road a little before 4 AM, watching the hour-by-hour weather for two straight hours on the way to Pymatuning State Park in Linesville, PA. It looked dicey and when we got there, as happy as I was to see water and a couple early bird fellow yakers, I still wasn’t sure how this one was going to pan out. We’re insured, people sign waivers but the last thing we want is for someone to have a bad time. Had it not been for the water temperatures over 50, I am not sure what I would have done. I remember texting a good friend and event sponsor who was pre-fishing and asking nervously, “what’s the water temp?” from my cubicle in Pittsburgh, PA. He was catching fish but that was definitely secondary to me.

Two anglers dropped out, one the day before and the other made the call the morning of. For many, it was their first kayak fishing tournament. For me, it was a huge deal and I wanted everything to be perfect even though that was nearly impossible with all of the moving pieces. All that said, we had our captain’s meeting and at 8:05 anglers left the launch and met some nasty chop and 10-15 mph winds, which was supposed to nearly double as the day went on.

This year we are using an online leaderboard which is a game-changer for these types of events. Under its breath, kayak fishing has been asking for something exciting like this to come along. C-P-R is a method I see remaining the standard in kayak fishing and personally I’m proud that more often than not I measure my fish with a plastic measuring board, identifier and cell phone rather than in a bag and on a scale. We had great support from our friends and family at home. A few of those who couldn’t make it watched from home which actually sounds like a lot of fun if you know the folks out there fishing.

Despite taking off a few minutes late and coming back a little early I had a great event. I fought some rough chop in my Cuda 12 into a west wind on my early morning paddle which was about 3 miles. This kayak performed exceptionally well, at one point I was taking every wave over the bow for at least a mile paddling into 35-40 mph gusts. It was brutal but I managed to find a good pattern and caught 11 keepers, just couldn’t find any big ones but still finished near the top. I’ll admit, I had my eye on the leaderboard the whole time not only as a tournament director but as a competitor as well, and it was a blast.

I’d like to thank all of those who support Kayak Anglers- from the event organizational, participation and sponsorship standpoint. These events would not take place without each of you and we wouldn’t be able to raise the money we do for our local chapters of Heroes on the Water.

Big thanks to Jackson Kayak for supporting us and making the best kayaks in the business right here in the USA.