The stakes were huge for the Sarasota, Florida IFA Kayak Fishing Tour stop September 11. The winner would punch his ticket to the 2016 Hobie Fishing World Championship, which will be contested this December 4-11 in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana.
The chance to qualify in Sarasota brought out the talent. Three past Hobie Fishing Worlds competitors came out to take their shots: Dave Jaskiewicz, Justin Ritche and Bob Neuweiler. The field was stacked.
Five-year IFA kayak angler Joe Komyati drove 15 hours from Raleigh, North Carolina, to take his chances. Yet he wasn't sure where to fish until he called his son. "He convinced me to fish Weedon Island. He reminded me that the fish are there; just go and catch them," Komyati said.
He did, but not before getting lost in the mangrove maze. Finally emerging on the main grass flat, he worked through a couple of 19-inch trout before connecting with a good one at 20.75 inches.
Now he had to find a redfish. Komyati rounded a point, where he found about 15 boats all circled up with a school of reds in the middle. Playing the long game, he set up outside to the south hoping the school would push out. After about an hour a small school moved his way.
"I took my first cast and got a strike; it was a solid snook. I got him to the 'yak and quickly released him. The snook did a number on my line so I grabbed the next closest pole and tossed it back into the wake. I let it sit for about 40 seconds and then I saw my line moving off to the left. I knew I had a solid fish on so I set the hook and he pulled a ton of line. The fish pulled me for about 200 yards till I could turn him. Once I got him in the kayak I was so relieved! It was a hard day on the water but it worked out perfect," Komyati said.
Komyati's red measured 32 inches, like his trout the largest on the day. His two-fish slam measured 52.75 inches. His masterful performance when it counted most propelled him to a convincing 2.75-inch winning margin and a spot on Team USA for this year's Hobie Fishing Worlds. He also took home $2,350 for his victory and the two big fish.
"I have won a fair amount of kayak tournaments over the years, but never one this big. This is a once in a lifetime win. I faced up against some of the best kayak anglers this country had to offer this weekend," he said.
Derek Engle's 50-inch two-fish total was good for second place and $1,443. Mike McDonald finished third with 45.63 inches, earning $401. Justin Ritchey was in the money at sixth place.
Komyati was ecstatic with his win. "I can't begin to explain what it means to me to win this tournament and a chance to represent the USA," he said. He joins a talented team:
Eric Harrison, Jamaica Bay Kayak Classic
Ron Champion, Hobie Bass Open Champion
Mathew Scotch, Hobie Bass Open Runner Up
Tom Mullins, Border City Classic Qualifier
Benton Parrott, IFA Kayak Tour 2015 Champion
Steve Lessard, Hobie Fishing Worlds 4 Champion
The next stop for the IFA Kayak Tour is Sept. 25 at Georgetown, South Carolina. IFA Kayak Tour anglers who enter at least a minimum of two events and compete in at least one event will be qualified for the 2016 IFA Kayak Tour championship.
IFA Kayak Fishing Tour Presented by Hobie Fishing events are catch-photograph-release tournaments, offering inshore kayak anglers from a multitude of states the opportunity to participate in competitive fishing tournaments with low entry fees and minimal travel requirements.