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Another tournament in the books but an incredible experience for myself as this was my first tournament that i had run mostly alone besides help from Gary Ward with Facebook posting promotions and making phone calls during the day. The Jersey Paddler and Pat Wooley was a big help sponsoring with prizes!! A big thanks to Yak Gear for their generous donations. All proceeds from this tournament benefit Heroes on the Water and the Elks Lodge Veterans charities.  After promoting, generating flyers, and setting up online registrations, the tournament was all coming together now. Every year I remember how much time it consumes and how much work actually goes into an event of this type. I always mutter to myself that I’m not doing all of this next year, but do it anyway for the love of the sport and helping the charities it benefits.

The actual tournament started for me on Thursday July 24th for me as a half day of work followed the initial setup at the Venue. I had to pick up the pop up camper and drop it at the Point Pleasant Elks Lodge. The lodge is over an hour from my home. Doing this early meant more time to Pre-fish the following day. It also was the only way to avoid the Jersey Shore Friday traffic which is typically stop and go for 2-3 hours of driving. Once the set up was complete I ended up driving home to complete loading my truck for a weekend away and also to update the tournament registration spreadsheet to my tablet.

The next morning I awoke at 4:30 AM went through my morning fishing routine loaded my water and ice and set off for an hours drive to Sandy Hook at the rendezvous to meet 4 other kayak anglers. By the time of my arrival they had been fishing for about an hour and Gary Ward already had a doormat fluke at 29″. Fishing and the weather was phenomenal with a light breeze and partly cloudy keeping us comfortable. The fluke were feeding in about six to 20 feet of water with the smaller fish being in the shallower areas. The area we were fishing the bottom drops down from 0 to 8 feet within 15 feet of the beach. Bait such as spearing and squid seemed to work better than artificial all day. Fish typically were on the top teaser rather than on the bucktails all day.  Fishing was pretty much drop and reel until the last hour. It was decided we would call it a day around 1:30 PM as I had to get back to the Elks lodge and see how setup was going.

Gary Ward with a 29″ Fluke at the Prefish

Arrived around 3:30 to find no tent set up nothing was done everything was as left the day before. Pat from Jersey Paddler came by and we set up a small canopy with a few tables. We laid out the prizes and filled the captains bags with some goodies. By the time all of this was complete it was about 30 min prior to the captains meeting. The check in and captains meeting went well! Everyone seemed pumped and ready for the next day. Tournament morning awoke at 4:00 AM and begun the ride to Sandy Hook. It is about the same distance from home as from the Elks lodge but has a different feel to it that I cannot explain. About 10 miles from the drop in part of the travel is driving through Sea Bright. It is a coastal town with a 30 foot tall barrier wall that protects the town from the ocean. The flags were straight out pointing towards the North East which seemed to mean it was going to blow hard SW all day 10-15 kts. This tends to make it un-fishable at the cove towards the tip of Sandy Hook where a few of us had planned on fishing. Upon arrival at the drop in location there was already 10 other kayakers gearing up to fish that area. In no way was I ready to paddle against the wind all day and bailed on that particular drop in for one about 5 miles south. The mountainous terrain of the Atlantic Highlands blocks a majority of any SW or Westerly winds. Finally dropping in around 6:00 AM the sun is now burning through the clouds at the horizon. After about an hour having lost one fish and missing several others my fish finder became unusable as it would shut off after a few minutes of operation. Fishing within this area you tend to rely on the fish finder to locate all the drop offs holes and structure which the fluke tend to like. Fishing blind is close to impossible in this area. You will tend to drift into the sea weed beds and never find an end to them. After about an hour the wind had seemed to lay down. Taking advantage of this I decided to retreat and join up with the plastic fleet at the first planned drop in as i could then fish were we fished the day prior which i was much more familiar with. I made my way back to my truck took my gear off my yak loaded it onto my truck rack and drove back. On the way I brought my radio into the cab of my truck. I hailed Captain Jim. He advised me the wind had diminished there too and that Larry Newman had a huge fluke. Back at the prior drop in re rigged and ready I paddled out between a weathered bulkhead and over a rock break wall which is usually overtaken by the bay at high tide. Upon arrival at the fishing spot the bite seemed to slow down as clouds rolled in. I caught a few small fluke only up to 15 inches on spearing and squid. A storm was brewing to the east. Its getting darker and darker as the power boat fleet starts to break up. Unfortunately it was now 10:30 am and I needed to be back at the tournament HQ at 2:00 PM. As i begin to paddle back to the take out the boat wakes catch up and it becomes rather rough. The storm seemed to dissipate as it hit the bay. Actually not a drop of rain fell.

Getting back to the HQ it seems like a lot of time but when you factor in Jersey Shore traffic and the amount of back roads needed to travel. This is a Major part of this tournament. The cutoff for entering photo submissions is at 5PM so if you don’t give yourself time to get back you may be disqualified from entering your catch. Arriving back at the HQ at 2 PM as planned I was able to set up my tablet and the Catch Photo Submissions started coming in right after 3 PM. Everything went smoothly. Everyone seemed excited. A few of the guys brought me over some food and by 5PM submissions were done. Before I knew it the announcements of the winners was complete with Larry Newman taking home a brand new Jackson Kayak and a $200 Dollar Jersey Paddler Gift Card! The Ocean Kayak Tetra raffle went well as all tickets sold. Its new owner seemed really happy to win the kayak and was ready to rig it out! All of the donated prizes were raffled off to tournament participants. There were a bunch of really nice prizes to mention some there was a C-tug Kayak Cart, Thule Rack system, a bunch of different rod holders and kayak fishing accessory’s!

Its always great to see new faces in the sport coming out to compete. Every tournament we tend to have a decent amount of registrations from anglers out of state. This year we had registrations from PA, DE, MD and NJ. If you live in the New Jersey area or like to travel please do come out next year. Limited camping is available at the tournament HQ. Its all for a good cause there are great prizes and the food is all you can eat! How could you not want to come out!!


Matthew Trucks

Jackson Kayak Fishing Team Pro Staff