By Jose Chavez
Its 1:45 a.m. and I still have not had a minute of sleep. I sat at my desk wide awake recollecting the countless stories of gargantuan trout, monster snook and elusive redfish shared by my friends while fishing the DOA tournament. Considering that I was supposed to wake up at 2a.m. I decided to forgo a succinct nap and started moving my bags and equipment to the driveway to wait for Peter to pick me up. I was excited that in 4 hours I would try my luck in the great fishery I have heard about ever since I started kayak fishing in 2008.
Peter arrived right on time; we loaded the gear and were on our way. Peter claims that I was asleep before we left my neighborhood. After what felt like an hour nap, I was awakened by the halt of the car. Mud creek was the location we were fishing on the first day.
As soon as the doors opened we were greeted by a cloud of the resident mosquitoes which thought deet was a condiment. Fortunately they were not immune to a thermacell. John Lee and Mark Couch pulled into the parking lot. Mark opted to stay and guard the car (for Mark this means take a nap)
We put our kayaks in the water and started working our way out of a cove and along the mangrove line. There was a lot of action in the water. I could hear baits being crashed under the mangroves. After a couple of casts I found out that the commotion was being caused by a school of small jacks. We kept paddling on and ran into a couple rolling tarpon. A few casts were made but they were not interested. We paddled a couple miles without success other than a few small trout. The water quality was very poor and despite there being bait and mullet everywhere, after a few hours we decided to start working our way back.
As we drifted back to the car we came across a patch of clear water with deep potholes. A couple casts in the potholes resulted a trout a hair under 28 inches. That was the only decent fish I caught all day; a couple hours later we decided to leave and swing by the beach to check out a launch we had heard about. Peter and I were both interested in doing some fishing off the beach if the weather cooperated.
After a brief inspection we decided to give it a go ahead in the morning. We drove to the Palm River Lodge in Jensen Beach. We decided to stay at the lodge because it would be the venue for the captains meeting and weigh-in for the tournament. I have to say I was very impressed with the facility. The pool was definitely the highlight of the evening. It was nice to relax in the pool and sip on a beer and hang out with the crew. After the pool we went to grab some pizza at a local shop which ended up being a regular stop on the way back from fishing for the next couple of days.
Headed to the beach
On the way back we stopped at this tackle shop to get some info on fishing the beach. They were very helpful.
I don’t know if it was because I was really hungry but this place made some great pizza.
We woke up early Friday morning; Mark and John decided to fish locally inshore while Peter and I headed to the beach. We were greeted by a beautiful sunrise. The surf was rougher than the previous afternoon but we still decided to stick with the plan. Unfortunately it was a slow day of fishing. There were half a dozen boats on the water and we only saw one of them catch a small permit. As we moved back to the launch we noticed that the surf was rougher then what we are used to seeing on the west coast of Florida. Peter went in first and decided to walk his kayak in. I stored all my gear in the hatch of my Emotion Grand Slam and headed in. Peter radioed that the surf wasn’t as bad as it seemed so I decided to ride the waves in. I waited for a couple minutes for a lull in the surf. I saw an opening and I made my way in.
Enjoying the sunrise at the beach
After loading all our gear up on the trailer, we made our way back the lodge in Jensen Beach for the Captains Meeting. After a quick stop at the pizza joint and a dip in the pool we walked to the pavilion where Mark Nichols went over the rules. After the captains meeting, I definitely got a clear feel for the tournament. This is an event that’s sole purpose is for the participants to have fun. Mark did something that I have never heard before at a tournament, he asked the participants what they thought and was open to suggestions. I thought this was very cool.
Norm apparently forgot his rods in Tampa so his good friends were nice enough to present him with some tackle during the captain’s meeting so he would have a rod to fish the tournament with.
People came from all over the place to fish the tournament. This guy drove down from Illinois by himself; I think it was worth the drive because he caught a 40″ snook that morning.
After the brief meeting and inspection of the lures provided everyone headed back to their rooms to start rigging the rods.
John Lee showed had a great idea of cutting the pinch weight in half, attaching it to the front of the hook to create a weighted weedless hook.
Can you spot Mark? He blended in perfectly with the wall.
We woke up early the next morning and were on our way to try our luck at a different location then what we prefished. I went over the pointers that John, Mark, and Peter shared with me the night before as I paddled along to the mangrove line I planned to fish. After a couple casts I was hooked up to a monster snook. I never got a really good look at her other than a football sized head swooshing back and forth before she made a long run. After 30 seconds it was over, the line went limp. I reeled in my line only to find that she had worn through my 30 lb leader. I retied and kept moving on. The rest of the day proved to be extremely slow. I couldn’t even catch a trout. I saw some docks in the distance and decided to make the long paddle over to see if I could find any fish willing to cooperate.
Mark is well known for his naps on the water and the fact that he was fishing a tournament was not a big enough reason to stop a tradition of many years.
Here is John trying to sneak up on Mark to scare him, but unfortunately Mark heard him approaching and was awake before John got close enough to make his move.
I started working the docks without avail. As I kept moving on I spotted a push of water that appeared to be redfish. It only took one cast to confirm my suspicions resulting in a little redfish. I decided to make a few more casts to see if I could upgrade. A few casts later I had boated 3 more redfish all 18-19 inches. It was apparent that they were all the same size so I moved on.
I fished the rest of the day without any luck. Time had run out and it was time to go back to the weigh in. After stopping at the pizza joint and a dip in the pool, back to the pavilion we went to find that the raffle had already started.
We even saw a wedding proposal at the captains meeting! Fortunately she said yes! My wife would have killed me if I had proposed to her at a fishing tournament.
Mark then announced the winners, and it was obvious that it was a slow day of fishing with only one slam turned in.
After the winners were announced and pictures had been taken, Mark Nichols made an announcement.
With an embarrassed young man by his side, he proceeded to tell Ken Taylor that 3rd place was being revoked from him because the young man at his side had been misinformed of the rules by one of the DOA staff and he had not turned in his over-slot fish because he was told that it was slot fish only.
More pictures were taken and everyone moved on.
After a brief nap I met up with a few of the guys. Jeff Harrell of FinaticDesigns.com and I made plans to hit the dock of the lodge. He managed to pull a nice trout from the lights.
It was a great event that I definitely plan in participating in next year