TexasKayakFisherman.com est. 2000

Kayak fishing the Lone Star State...

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By Prof. Salt
For those of you who missed it, the second installment of the 2017 Texas Bluewater Kayak Classic was a tough one. Tides had been all the way into the dunes, which made launching anywhere near the rigs almost impossible. Surf was challenging and grew more than expected during the day, and the swells offshore ...oh the swells! And lastly, the current was RIPPING to the South deceptively fast. Sitting in the kayak you were not aware of any movement, but the whole gulf was moving down the beach at two miles an hour. Several of us found a sheltered place to launch, in the sheltered cove beside the Port Aransas south jetty. Close to the rocks the surf wasn't even rolling, and getting out was a pretty simple matter at daybreak. As the morning went on, it became sporty even at this spot for those launching late.

I paddled to the ship parking lot in search of water that didn't look like chocolate milk, and when water at the first big barge only had a foot of visibility, I went to the next ...and the next ...and the next. Every ship I came to resulted in fewer and fewer paddlers following me but I soldiered on, determined to find clean water and the fish I needed to win. At the second ship, another angler and I paused as we let our baits drift deep. We were observing the marks on the ship that indicated depth. One large swell went up to the 20 foot mark, and the trough that followed went at least four feet below the "zero" mark. We looked at each other with wide eyes, knowing this was pretty crazy conditions but shore was a long ways back. I finally approached the fifth ship, but to my disappointment the visibility was still 1-1.5 feet. Fish were nowhere to be seen. I was supposed to meet my son at the truck by 1:00 (he was fishing the jetty while I was offshore), so at 10:30 I began the hard paddle back to shore. Winds had kicked up and were varying 15-20, and the clean swells that I enjoyed earlier were now chopped up with wind swells and breakers from the Northwest. Crud, this was gonna be a rough paddle home.

I kept the hammer down and took hard pulls, using my core to dig myself forward so my arms could avoid some of the work. My right elbow was beginning to ache, and it reminded me to keep proper form as I slogged toward shore. I hoped I would have plenty of time left so I could fish around the end of the jetty and at least pick up a few Spanish Macks, but by the time I got within a mile of shore I knew there would be no time to spare. I know very well to pack more water and Gatorade than I anticipate needing, and it came in handy. What seemed like current pouring out of the jetty was actually the shore rip sweeping around the jetties and shoving me away from shore. I finally realized what the water was doing and turned south to work my way out of the worst of it. At Horace Caldwell pier I finally escaped the strong current and enjoyed the slower 1-1.5 mph battle and headwind to get back to the jetty for the protection it offered from the surf. Thirty minutes later I was able to slip to shore, and only had to deal with two breakers that were average size. At the shore I was wiped out, but gathered by gear and loaded up. My buddy who needed a ride back to the weigh-in was nowhere to be seen. I began making calls and he turned up a mile or so down the beach. Surf down there was running 6 foot or larger - he turtled but managed to get ashore missing only his borrowed VHF radio ...but Davey Jones was not paying attention and the radio washed up on the beach a few minutes later.

There were lots of struggles, lots of yard sales, and turtles were a dime a dozen. Everyone was sore and tired, and only one small fish made it to the weigh-in. A 3.5 lb Spanish took the win (the first event required over 70 lbs to take first). That's why we call it fishing.

These were the largest swells I have ever paddled through, but they wouldn't have been bad if that unrelenting current hadn't been so fast. The surf was big, but not big enough to discourage a few hardy souls from getting through. Most of us discovered the jetty and its protection, but many were unable to get back to that pocket on the return trip, so they were forced to run the unforgiving surf. Thank goodness everyone was wearing a quality pfd, as I believe they made the difference for a few anglers.

Paddling a kayak offshore is not something that every person should consider, especially in conditions like we had Saturday. I was glad to hear that many had the presence of mind to consider the surf carefully, then to change game plans and hit the bay instead. Tournament officials were gracious enough to create a slot redfish division, so those folks had a shot at competing without the challenges waiting offshore. I was happy to see that.

Today my soreness is better, and the blisters are beginning to harden and add a new layer to the callouses that were already well established across my palms. I made some great memories and will remember this tournament for a long time. Y'all know I enjoy a challenge. I even enjoy big swells as long as the surf is workable. Still, I'm not sure I'd do that again given the same conditions. It was tough!
By r12338
thanks for the report professor, I will probably get chastised for saying this.. but wonder if back when the tournament was just the locals (vs corporate sponsorship) if cooler heads wouldn't have prevailed & just cancelled the tournament till the following year. Sounds like conditions all the way around (surf, high tides, rip currents) were not even close to be conducive to a safe & fun tournament. I've been stuck in those kind of rip currents before, & will not chance it again (I know my limitations). Thanks again for posting up the report, & glad no one was hurt.
I’d like to chime in a sec...
Having been a part of the tourney every year since it’s inception, I’d like to voice my concern as well. In years past (even with the hurricane threat in ‘12), I’ve never felt unsafe or concerned for my well being until this tourney. I consider myself a fairly strong paddler (I have to be, since I pull around an O.K. barge), & this years tourney made me reconsider if I want to continue doing this. I know due to the multiple reschedules they felt compelled to just go for it, but I really think they got lucky and that no one got seriously hurt or worse.
Glenn, next year I may just plan a week of vaca, & and come fish with you. I like competition as much as the next guy, but I mostly just wanna hear the drag scream...
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By Prof. Salt
I hear you both. I think if they had known just how tough it would be they would have made the call to cancel the event. I don't get the impression that sponsorships were an issue, but knowing how far some of the contestants had travelled may have played a part.

Ben I'm always happy to hit the water with you, brother so let me know.
By Ryanh1801
It was rough for sure. Getting out was easy but the current and surf coming back was bad. I turttled worse that I ever had, lost my two fish that I did catch (Have to buy a new fish bag that has a zipper), Busted my mirage drive and managed to break a rib (had what I can only assume be a 8 foot roller flip me end over end in my PA14). With all that only thing I managed to lose was my fish and my hat.

Yup I kind of wish I would have stuck to the bays.
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By Prof. Salt
Ryan, so you're the one who actually caught fish. Did you launch at Port A?

...and sorry to hear about the injury and loss. The surf was as bad as I've ever seen it (except for that one little pocket of protected water by the jetty).
By Ryanh1801
No I launched at BA 2. It was only about 3-4 foot surf heading out. Surge at the rigs was not bad early on, got a double hook up at about 10:30 got both in the yak but unfortunately was unable to keep them in the fish bag. :oops: . 11 ish the current got really bad out there, was lucky to keep a 1- 1.5 mph pace. Then all I could catch was bull sharks and decided to head in. Took about twice the time to get in. Then like I said surf got way out of control and way out of my comfort zone. Tried to take it slow coming in by going in backwards which went well for a while then that huge wave got me and flipped me end over end. Didn't even think that was possible in a big PA 14. Got the kayak flipped back over only to get hit with another huge wave that caused the yak to go right into my ribs after that it took on so much water I just swam next to it back to the beach.

I walked what I could of the beach trying to find my fish but never found them and with the way the undercurrent was I am sure they got sucked out to sea. Really glad I am a very good swimmer and comfortable in the water as it could have been way worse.

Lesson learned should have probably stuck to the bays. :lol:

I will say it was a great event first time I have signed up for one of these and I will be back next year for sure. Was very impressed with the bag and the raffle. I now know why people buy so many of those tickets. I walked away with some very nice new glasses with just my ticket I got at check in.
Prof. Salt wrote:I hear you both. I think if they had known just how tough it would be they would have made the call to cancel the event. I don't get the impression that sponsorships were an issue, but knowing how far some of the contestants had travelled may have played a part.

Ben I'm always happy to hit the water with you, brother so let me know.

I agree to all the above, I think the biggest IMOP which may not be worth much, is that the attempt to keep this on a Saturday. I think if the conditions look good throughout the week, schedule it for those days. Most that travel take vacation or "cough, cough" call in sick to attend the Captains meeting on the Friday prior and be prepared early the next morning. I scheduled vacation after questioning the conditions early in the week and was told its a go. took the WASTED vacation spent the cost of fuel, bait, and food to make the trip. Only to return home after attempting to locate a good safe spot to launch. Once I found that you could not even walk on the beach and the surf was like Hawaii, ( the surfers were very happy), I cancelled the hotel room, paid the late fee for cancelling late in the afternoon and headed back to Houston. I did get the email that there would be an additional class added so people could fish and maybe have something to be competitive, but I brought off shore equipment, nothing smaller to throw plastics and fish inshore.
I just feel that if the first scheduled day is a Saturday and the conditions are not safe, if a good safe couple of days happens to be in the middle of the week hold the event at that time. This cost some to not even participate.
All of this was and will be taken into consideration for future events. It had more to do with the fact people had driven in from as far as Florida and wanted fish than the Sponsors.

Reports were good Wednesday and slowly degraded to borderline, but doable. The directors and rules comittee believed the calm winds would slack things out as they generally do. The reality is that the predicted surf was nothing close to the actual surf with the exception of the small pocket between Horace Caldwell and Port Aransas jetty. Some anglers chose not to use this recommended pocket.

The owners of the tournament also pulled out of their own pockets to open an inshore redfish division to give anglers another option and chance to win so they would not waste their trip.

Hindsight is 20/20, and we accept the criticism openly. We were lucky, and we may not always be in the future. Weather restrictions will be going into the rules from now on as well as a possible permanent Inshore event to parallel the Offshore in the event of bad surf.

In conclusion, we are first timers at this and are open to suggestions. Please let us know how you feel the 3 of us can run the event to your satisfaction in the future.

Sent from my SM-N910P using Tapatalk
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By Prof. Salt

Here's my experience on the water. It wasn't easy, and as it turned out the fish were not home.
Still, I love paddling the open water and will remember this one for a long time (but man did my blisters have blisters!)
By christian
The event was a blast. The tourney directors did the best they could and went way above the call of duty in my opinion. We all knew the risks. I am thankfull to everyone involved. It was an amazing experience and we will absolutely be back next year. The opportunity to share the water with the people we look up to is really a great gift. It was hard, we didnt catch a single fish but our group learned a lot where the metal meets the meat.

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