Battle on Mission Bay Raises $6k for Heroes
Kayak fishing crowd 110 strong the biggest in Southern California in years
Words and photos by Paul Lebowitz
The fishing kayaks kept coming, 110 in all until they lined the sandy strand at Santa Clara Point, Mission Bay. Anglers shared excited smiles and greeted old friends not seen for years. The Mission Bay Heroes on the Water Benefit Tournament was pulling in kayak anglers from far and wide across Southern California.
“It’s great to see you.” “Look at all the people!” “Seems like old times, like the heyday of Plastic Navy.” “Don’t even tie on a bait, I’ve got this.”
Southern California was the first stronghold of the modern kayak fishing movement, but for years the community has been quiet. A tournament scene that had set all-time kayak fishing attendance records had faded. In 2007, 220 fished a Plastic Navy Tournament Trail event, still likely the largest shotgun start in kayak fishing history.
View a photo gallery on the Kayak Fish Magazine Facebook page.
It took a cause – raising money for the Southern California chapter of Heroes on the Water – to bring the people back, and the energy and efforts of Andrew Allen and CJ Siebler of OEX / KayakFishingSupplies.com to set the stage and run the event. The format was a familiar one for the region, a saltwater bass catch and release tournament with fish weighed in live in true pro style.
Allen and Siebler set a low bar for entry, just $25, and kept things simple. There’d be no raffle, just placement prizes headlined by a new Ride 115x donated by Wilderness Systems. And a free lunch – you have to have that – a fish taco feast thanks to the generosity of Tommy Gomes of Catalina Offshore Products.
A few minutes before 7:00 am, anglers hopped aboard their plastic steeds and jockeyed for position. They wanted to be the first to make it to their special spots. Siebler’s go call crackled over the radio. Anglers raced off to every corner of Mission Bay to probe the water with swimbaits, Alabama rigs, spinnerbaits and plugs.
The fishing was tough. Tournament veteran Gilbert Hernandez came closest to cracking the code, weighing three spotted bay bass for a tournament-winning 5 pounds, 2 ounces. He said his game plan called for hitting docks with Berkley Gulp Jerk Shads on Bass Pro Shops football heads. His second fish ate an old-school Berkley Frenzy, a legendary Mission Bay hardbait unavailable since the long-gone days of the Plastic Navy.
Kayak tournament first-timer Roland Wilson claimed the jackpot with a fat spotty that scaled out at 3 pounds, 14 ounces – the scales ran ‘hot’ on both weigh boats.
The tournament raised $3000 in direct funds for the Mission Bay Heroes on the Water chapter; HOW HQ will match it for a total of $6,000. Chapter coordinator Siebler was thrilled.
“The turnout was awesome, the best we’ve seen. The money raised will be huge for us” he said. HOW provides therapeutic kayak fishing trips at no charge to military veterans. Siebler hopes the momentum holds up for the September 6, 2014 HOW benefit scheduled for La Jolla, another revival of Southern California’s once-storied kayak fishing tournament scene.
1. Gilbert Hernandez, 5 pounds, 2 ounces
2. Bob Koba, 4 pounds, 7 ounces
3. Gabrial Anuat, 4 pounds, 5 ounces
4. Roland Wilson, 3 pounds, 14 ounces
5. Ken Rosburg, 3 pounds 5 ounces
6. Wade Harness, 3 pounds, 3 ounces
Jackpot: Richard Wilson, 3-pound, 14-ounce spotted bay bass.