Mossback yellowtail, fat flatfish, huge croaker: come tournament day, legendary La Jolla always gives up the goods. And as time has proven, it’s never a fluke. Experience and angling talent come to the fore whether the event has been the La Jolla Kayak Fishing Tournament or its spiritual successors the Steve Moyer Memorial and the present-day James Lebowitz Memorial held Sept. 3 out of La Jolla Shores.
At this year’s event, the second annual ‘JAL’ , Greg Barnicoat of Chino proved his mettle. He took a chance and paddled several miles north of La Jolla Shores to Torrey Pines, an area that has proven decisive in past years. He was rewarded with a 25-pound, 8-ounce California yellowtail.
Barnicoat must have known the white seabass weren’t biting. A king croaker has often taken top honors as heaviest fish at the event traditionally held the weekend after Labor Day since 2001. While at least one angler claimed to have a 50- to 60-pound on the line, no big seabass were boated this year, so Barnicoat’s forkie was good enough to capture Biggest Fish honors. He doubled his pleasure by claiming the Yellowtail Division as well.
With his win, Barnicoat joined Andy ‘Iceman’ Allen as a repeat La Jolla champion. Barnicoat’s last win was in 2014, on the strength of a seabass. He took his 2016 victory in stride, shrugging and smiling, and cracked a joke about completing his trophy collection.
John Ruiz won the Halibut Division with a 24-pound flattie caught on a greenback mackerel “near the edge of the canyon,” holding the lead for biggest fish much of the morning by 8 ounces over Steve Orr’s 23-8 yellow before Barnicoat came to the scale with the biggest fish.
The 75 kayak anglers who registered braved breezy seas and a fierce southward current, but enjoyed excellent yellowtail fishing. Dozens of yellows hit the beach, most caught on Spanish mackerel outside La Jolla.
The 2016 edition of the James Lebowitz Memorial Kayak Fishing Tournament benefitted Circle of Friends, the National Foundation of Autism Research, and the James Lebowitz Memorial Cal Poly Pomona University Scholarship Endowment.
“From my family to all the attendees of the second Annual James Lebowitz Memorial, thank you! The kayak fishing community raised over $4,376 for autism related causes and the Cal Poly Pomona scholarship named for James. I can’t thank you enough for this precious gift. You’re helping us keep our James’ memory alive. James was an organ and tissue donor. He saved five lives. That he’s remembered is priceless to us,” said Paul Lebowitz.
Raymundo Ayus, Jr. of Descanso took home the raffle grand prize, a Trident 15 fishing kayak generously donated by Ocean Kayak. Hobie Kayaks also provided major prize support via a lavish set of accessories, while rods and reels were donated by various manufacturers, including Penn, Abu-Garcia, Daiwa and Jim Sammons. Lunch was provided by Chef Yanni Hasircoglu of Fisherman’s Belly and Catalina Offshore Products. Beverages by Coca-Cola Company. Tournament support boat by the one and only Jim Sammons of The Kayak Fishing Show. Tournament logistics by OEX Mission Bay and Sunset Beach.
The organizers gratefully acknowledge the generosity of the participants and the following additional sponsors: Kayak Fish Magazine, Kayak Angler Magazine, Mr. Patrick, Team Sewer, and Truth Reels.