Tuesday, September 29, 2015

2015 CCA Maryland Red Trout Tournament

One of the most anticipated Tournaments of the year for us is CCA MD's Red Trout Tournament out of Crisfield, MD. From September 18th to 20th this tournament brings business to the town as well as showcases the fishing on Maryland and Virginia's Eastern Shore.
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!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

MSSA Kayak Division Sweep May 1-3

Photo Credit: MSSA

Trophy Striped Bass season comes every Spring to the Chesapeake Bay. Every time you hit the water there's the chance to catch a trophy Striper. Needless to say, I was excited to fish three straight days in the MSSA Championship in the Chesapeake Kayak Division, and have a shot at catching some nice fish.

The MSSA Kayak Division is a CPR (Catch Photo Release) Tournament and the only division in which releasing the fish is mandatory.  To document their catches, each fisherman took a picture of each fish on an official MSSA ruler. The aggregate of the two longest fish per fisherman determined the winners. I like how the MSSA and other tournaments are progressing toward catch and release to support conservation of species.

Matt's dad, Dave, and I launched at daybreak on Friday to cool weather and rain for the first few hours. Winds averaged 15mph and it gusted easily to 30+. The bite was on from lines in at 6am and I caught about 15 fish on Friday and gave myself an early lead in the tournament. My two biggest went 31" and 26".

31.5" Striped Bass

Saturday brought nicer weather and Matt, Dave and I all launched with high hopes. On our first pass Matt and I simultaneously hooked in to solid fish. After giving each of us the run around we both boated quality fish that ended up being our two biggest fish of the tournament. Mine went 33.25" and Matt's at 31.5". 

The hottest bait for me was a ZMan 4" soft plastic on a jig head slow trolled. Saturday seemed to be the day for bigger fish and I caught 4 over 30 but none bigger than the 33. Matt, Dave and I all caught a fish at 31.5" so they were all running around the same size in the school. After the flurry of action in the morning the bite slowed down.  

I was cruising, ready to make a change to find the fish again. I took one hard peddle and my mirage drive popped. I could instantly tell it was not peddling properly and the propulsion was gone. I pulled it up and saw the problem: the post that held my front fin in had snapped and the top piece was still in the drive. After trying to remedy the issue for about 30 minutes and paddling for another 30 hoping for 1 more bite, I decided I needed to get it repaired. The closest Hobie Dealer was Delaware Paddlesports, about an hour and a half away. Although the tournament allowed fishing until 5 pm, I got off the water around 12:30 so I could get the mirage drive repaired, give me a shot to upgrade my fish on Sunday morning.

The guys at Delaware Paddlesports were great and they immediately busted out a work table and got me all the tools needed. Chris Erby jumped in and helped me adjust everything and a second set of hands was super helpful. After replacing the sprocket and hurdling a learning curve while reassembling the chain on the Mirage Drive, I was back in business. 

Saturday evening brought the good news after the 6 p.m. email check in that each of our fish that day had put me in first, and had Matt and Dave tied for 2nd!

Sunday morning came. Matt, Dave and I had lines in right a 6 a.m. While we each caught fish, my biggest was 27" which wasn't enough to upgrade my lead. We were fishing hard as we knew a 39" fish had been caught by Rob Griffith the day before, and it wouldn't take much for a second one to be caught to take one of us out of the running.

At the end of the day we got off the water with high hopes. Finally that evening we got word that we had swept the top 3 spots in the tournament, each earning a nice cash prize.

Kayak Division

Aggregate of 2 Longest Fish

Shane Clift

Dave Baden

Matt Baden

Kayak Division $25 TWT – Single Longest

Length (in)

Rob Griffith

Dave Smith and MSSA did a great job of organizing a fun tournament and I'll certainly look forward to fishing it again next year!!!

If you want more information on the MSSA Tournament series or to learn more about the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishing Association check out their website: http://mssa.net

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Lake Anna Bassin

The first stop of the MAKBF Series was at Lake Anna, VA this past Saturday. The game plan was to fish the warm side of the lake since the cold side was frozen solid. The 'warm side' is used to cool the power plant and is also the private side which means we had to rent a few houses on the lake to gain access. The house was right on the lake which made it so nice to just wake up and fish on Saturday.

It was smooth sailing for Matt running the tournament until one angry neighbor called the cops on some guys launching kayaks at the community launch since they were leaving their cars there. Dave and I were already fishing by that point so our main goal was to stay warm and catch some fish. The bites were slow and came on soft plastics presented very slowly near the bottom. Overall I hooked into 4 and landed 3 giving me a total  of 42.5". My last fish decided to smile for the camera:

Lake Anna VA from Shane Clift on Vimeo.

42.5" was good enough to give me 4th place out of 44 guys fishing and I just edged out Dave who had the same total length with my 16 incher being the biggest out of the bunch. To see the complete results and for more information about the tournament check out: http://makbf.blogspot.com/p/aoty-standings.html

It was a great start to the series and nice to finally get back on the Hobie!!

Photo: Matt Baden

Friday, January 30, 2015

Tournament Success Tips

Shane and I have both had a great amount of success in many of the fishing tournaments we have participated in over the last couple of years on our kayaks. We both feel that "Luck" can win a tournament, but consistency equals true "Success". Also, Shane and I were both collegiate athletes, we definitely take a lot of the competitive nature and lessons we learned from playing lacrosse and baseball, respectively, and apply them to fishing.

Left to Right: My Dad, Shane, and I 
After we won the Fish for a Cure tournament as the only kayak team in a 75+ boat tournament.

Consistency noun
  1. 1.
    conformity in the application of something, typically that which is necessary for the sake of logic, accuracy, or fairness.

Success noun
  1. 1.  the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.

Preparation is the word that comes to mind when we think about what helps achieve the two words above. Preparation can equate to spending as much time on the water as possible, reading reports and books, watching videos, practicing new techniques, and listening to just about anyone willing to talk fishing. 

When we go into a tournament we like to feel ultimately prepared and confident in our specific game plan for that event. We fish a lot of tidal water here in the Mid-Atlantic for both freshwater and saltwater tournaments. So the tide plays a big factor in determining our game plan and schedule for the events. A lot more goes into each event than just going out and fishing as many spots as you can. We create timelines for where we want to be at certain times of the day, based on where we have found fish feeding previously during certain tides. This type of scheduling also involves knowing how long it will take to paddle from place to place. As you can see a lot goes in to preparation.

Here are our Top 10 tips to improve your results in your next tournament or tournament series.

10. Pre-Fish as much as possible. Be willing to go out of your comfort zone during these practice days as you mind find something that will add more success for tournament day. This includes fishing some new styles and new locations.

9. Be comfortable in your kayak. Know your limitations of what you can and can't do in it. Be organized, take the rods, lures, etc that you know you need! Have a system for landing your fish, this may be the difference in 1 fish or no fish.

8. Be attentive to your surroundings. Watch for bait, birds, currents, eddies, etc. Also, you can watch other anglers. Some tournaments don't allow talking between anglers, but for those that do ask around. Most guys won't tell exactly what they're doing but they'll give you clues.

7. Have a tight group of friends that you trust to share information with before the event. Don't always be the guy asking for information, be willing to put in some time so you can be an integral part of the group as well.

6. Keep a fishing log and then use it to compare reports, time of year, temperature and all that good stuff. Once you build a solid source of information, you will will know if the wind blows from a certain direction then certain locations and launches will be more productive than other.

5. What's your goal? Do you plan to try to catch the limit first then upgrade or do you plan to target big fish all day.

4. Because most kayak tournaments are CPR you have to consider being very efficient at this process. Too many times I've heard guys say how they lost a big one while trying to get a picture and it would have put them in the top 5 have it not flopped off. Don't let this be your excuse, every fish is important on tournament day.

3. Create your game plan and write it down. I keep notes on important information on my phone: tide times, where I want to be at certain times and what has worked for me at the location previously. 

2. Google Earth is a fisherman's best friend, even when you can't make it out on the water before an event you can do a lot of your homework from the comfort of your own home. You can scout the locations, measure distances from point to point, and in some cases even look for grass beds and other structure in the water.

1. Be confident, fish confident... and generally fish in the style you have the most confidence in. For me that means fishing crankbaits or other action baits for bass. I believe in the motto More Casts = More Chances at catching fish.

We feel these ideas will not only improve your "Success" in tournaments, but also every time your out on the water. Like most kayak anglers, we all have regular jobs, so what we all really want is to just be more productive each time we are able to get out on the water.... Isn't that what its really all about.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


Hope everyone is having a stellar start to their new year!! Shane and I are stoked for what is to come this year. I just purchased a new to me Canon DSLR, so look forward to some way better pictures this year!!

Also, our big goal for The Hobie Life in 2015 is to produce a documentary on our local Speckled Trout fishery here in Maryland. We hope to enter it into one of the fishing film festivals if it turns out to our liking.

We also hope to have some more time for fishing, since I'm finished with school and should have a little more free time.

Here are a few shots from the first photo shoot with today's snow here in Annapolis, MD.