|Photo: CCA MD|
Matt, Dave, and I headed out late Thursday to pre-fish on Friday for the Tournament. Our plan was to explore some of Virginia's Eastern Shore and see if we could find the fish. We set up camp and all set-up our hammocks on an island south of Crisfield.
Friday morning we hit the water early and immediately started catching small Speckled Trout, Striped Bass and a few weakfish. Dave came across a large school of Bull Reds and immediately called us on the radio. We sight casted to 50"+ redfish for close to an hour but they all had lock jaw and we couldn't catch any. We all knew if any of us caught a bull we would have a great chance at placing in the tournament and competing for largest redfish. For lunch Friday we caught good sized male blue crabs in the shallows and steamed them over the camp fire. Couldn't have asked for a better lunch!
Photos: Matt Baden
We headed to the Captains Meeting Friday night and got our tournament rulers and identifiers. The Red Trout tournament is a Catch, Photo, Release tournament which promotes conservation of the targeted fish species. This years' tournament included catered meals Friday, Saturday and Sunday which was nice to look forward to after a long day of fishing. It was well organized and the CCA staff did a great job this year getting some like minded fishing companies involved. There were some awesome prizes on display all weekend at the podium, including the Crisfield Slam Cup which is a beautiful, hand carved trophy by Dave Sikorski.
Photo: Matt Baden
After the captains meeting we headed back to the launch, loaded up the kayaks again, and headed to our original camp site arriving at about 10PM. We were back at it early with lines in the water at 6:30AM. We fished hard but all we could come up with was small Speckled Trout, Stripers, and Small Weakfish. The bull reds we saw the day before never showed. Dave caught one of only two legal Weakfish in the whole tournament and was entered into a drawing for a Costa Yeti Cooler which he ended up winning.
Photo: Dave Adlington ; Weakfish
Tired and frustrated that none of us had any placing fish on the first day, we broke camp and headed back to the Captains Meeting on Saturday night in Crisfield. Two fellow Hobie anglers Doug and Gary had ventured down to the mouth of the Chesapeake and were each rewarded with Doug catching multiple Bull Redfish and Gary catching his first from the kayak. They were epic catches to say the least and they had set themselves up nicely in the first two spots of the kayak division. Doug's largest bull was the biggest of the tournament to date. With the weather looking to turn worse later on Sunday we all decided to chase Speckled Trout closer to Crisfield. Dave unfortunately couldn't fish Sunday but Matt and I strung up our hammocks in the parking lot ready to try a new spot with Doug and Gary leading the way the next morning.
Sunday came with light winds early, and as we peddled out each of us fanned out in different directions. I was going a little deeper than Doug when I got a good hit. Just like last year on the same lure, first thing Sunday morning I had a good trout on. The tell tale trout slow pull of the drag followed by the fish coming to the surface to shake the hook had me excited. Doug yelled it sounded like a good one just by the splash and the line leaving the reel, and I could tell it wasn't a Striper. I played the fish to the kayak carefully, letting it run when it wanted to. As I netted it I knew it was a contender for the largest Speckled Trout of the tournament. Doug came over and we were both super pumped one of us got a nice Trout. I took my time and went to the beach for the pictures as I didn't want to chance having this one flop off the yak. All said and done, it measured 23.25" and was my biggest Speckled Trout of the year.
We all steadily caught fish throughout the morning and Matt and Mike both caught Specks around 18". Matt and I both caught Stripers and Blues that also put us in the running for the Kayak Division, which is judged on the largest aggregate of 3 fish.
Matt with a solid summertime Striper.
We wrapped up fishing around noon and headed back to Crisfield with anticipation that each of our fish had put us in the running. After check in it was clear that the Hobie guys had once again defended catching the biggest fish of the tournament. 3 years in a row the largest speckled trout has been caught on a kayak and Doug set the new standard for Redfish in the tournament.
Final Standings Leaderboard
There were some exciting prizes awarded for first through third in the Kayak Division.
Photos: Matt Baden
Since the Tournament's primary target species are Redfish and Speckled Trout, there were awards for the largest of each fish caught. Doug with the biggest Redfish and my Speckled trout earned us both an Eric Estrada print of each respective species as well as a YETI 45 Cooler. Needless to say I was very excited with the awards!
The Crisfield Slam went to the boat team or kayak angler with the largest aggregate of 5 different target species of fish. Walleye Pete and Crew took home the cup this year after a lot of miles covered on the lower bay. He's an excellent fisherman and can no doubt put his anglers on the fish!
Overall, it was a great tournament and the kayak guys had another great showing, walking away with a ton of quality prizes from the sponsors.
Photo: Morgan Kupfer
I want to extend a huge thank you to everyone involved at CCA MD for making this tournament the best yet. We look forward to this weekend every year and the new venue made it even better. Already can't wait to fish this again next year!