By Paul Lebowitz
Can the kayak fishing tournament scene get any better than this? It's flying high, setting one new mark after another.
The same weekend Louisiana's Ride the Bull tournament smashed the all-time attendance record with an astounding 732 registered anglers, Extreme Kayak Fishing was partying it up in Pompano Beach as only they can, with giant trophies and oversized checks, championship ring bling, and one impressive pelagic after another.
The celebration started early at the Extreme Summer Slam finale. "We were blasting AC/DC in the morning," EKF's Joe Hector told me. As they should have; before any of the event's more than 100 offshore anglers paddled or pedaled out, EKF had already made history. In spring, Hector's bold crew and two Oklahomans in particular scored big at Extreme's inaugural Sailfish Smackdown, the first billfish-only kayak fishing content.
Extreme followed it up with more legendary action at the Battle of the Bahamas, the first international venue for a major kayak fishing competition, and another giant leap that came up aces. Matt Eckert's 11-hour blue marlin sleigh ride is a modern epic. Yet Extreme wasn't finished. The Summer Slam finale was another home run.
“Everything with the tournament was unbelievable. I would say almost every single angler got a king. Crazy," said Hector.
With action so hot, it took two of a kind to emerge on top. Jack Daughtry's pair 'o kings tallied 51.7 pounds. Joe Kraatz wasn't far behind with 47.8 pounds for his twin kings. Given his strong Summer Slam I performance, they also earned him the Summer Slam series championship ring. Then came an exotic, John Simms' 46.3-pound cobia.
"Such a wild card. We don't get them here. That's the other coast," Hector said of Simms' unexpected catch. It didn't stand alone. Justin Moody roped a unicorn, a 36.7-pound wahoo. Insane.
"We had three sails caught in this tournament. In the middle of summer. It is ridiculous. I'll put it to you this way, the quality of our big fish was better than 80 percent of boat tournaments," Hector said.
What a way to end the season! Hector says his Extreme team is busy planning next year's slate of offshore kayak fishing competition. Both the Sailfish Smackdown and Battle in the Bahamas are making a return.
"Who knows what the future holds? We're excited. We're proud of these anglers, I can see how much better they are," said Hector.
I know what's coming. The trends are impossible to miss. The kayak fishing tournament scene is going to keep on getting bigger and better.