When Dave McDaid set out to create a season-ending kayak fishing tournament in his hometown of Jacksonville, Fla., he decided to do things differently. McDaid, the founder of paddlesports apparel label Irish Water Dogs, spoke with area outfitters and all levels of anglers to come up with a concept that’s far different from the typical tournament framework. Instead of setting up another tournament in which a short list of “usual suspects” battle for top prize and a long list of “everyday Joe” anglers has little chance of winning, the Irish Water Dogs Invitational, scheduled for the weekend of October 22, makes top-notch prizes available to all competitors.

“We looked at 40 events, went through all the things that are lacking in kayak fishing tournaments and asked how it could be improved,” says McDaid, who’s been planning the 2010 invitational for the past nine months.

What’s unique about the event is that it places competitors into three divisions: Champions, an elite, invitation-only category comprised of winners other 2010 fishing tournaments in the southeastern U.S.; the recreational angler-friendly General category; and Team. Cash prizes are awarded for top catches of redfish, trout and flounder and an overall “Slam” title in each division. And instead of competing for “just another kayak,” McDaid has arranged for an all-inclusive south Florida fishing trip for the winner of the Championship division. Meanwhile, raffle items include fully outfitted fishing kayaks donated by Emotion, Hobie and Wilderness Systems and a weeklong vacation to Costa Rica, among other prizes.

McDaid is expecting a total of about 100 anglers to compete in the two-day event, which takes advantage of the rich kayak fishing opportunities along the Intracoastal Waterway of north Florida. Better yet, McDaid is donating proceeds of the event to Jacksonville’s non-profit Wolfson Children’s Hospital. He hopes to raise around $10,000.
Conor Mihell