Victory at Sea
By Richie Bekolay
If it's not rain, it's wind. If it's not wind, it's rain.
Unlike some past years, the forecast for the ninth annual Tidewater Kayak Anglers Association (TKAA) Kayak Fish for Charity Tournament looked good a week out. That's when tournament director Wayne Bradby jokingly quipped that a Nor’easter would roil the waters.
Sure enough, the conditions deteriorated from flat calm to a flat-out Nor'easter, with gusts over 25 knots. Chesapeake Bay was a sea of whitecaps. Even normally protected nooks and crannies felt the brunt.
Kayak anglers don't show up just to throw in the towel. Anglers who convened on Virginia Beach, Virginia came from as far away as Maine and Florida for the September 28 tournament. Over 250 braved the conditions and put it all on the line for a shot at victory in the third largest kayak fishing tournament in the country. Unique among the other big events, TKAA's contest includes freshwater and saltwater catch, photo, and release categories.
"Hey, how did you do? Was it windy where you were at?" a weather-beaten but smiling Joe Underwood joked at the weigh-in.
The wind was a major factor. Only two anglers managed slams. Somehow, Jarred Koons ground out the winning slam with a length of 53.75 inches despite the brutal conditions. "The fishing for me was slow all day. I only caught five fish, and didn’t get the first one until 10:00 a.m. Thanks again TKAA and all the volunteers and sponsors that make this charity event possible," said Koons.
For his efforts, Koons walked away with a 2014 Hobie Pro Angler. Daniel Smith also fought tooth and nail to muster up a 52.75-inch slam, good for second place. "It felt really nice to bring in a slam, and it felt even better to hear that I was one of only 2 people to bring in a slam," Smith said.
Even with the Nor'easter winds, many anglers still landed quality fish in almost unfishable weather. Brandon Ward managed to haul in a 22.25-inch Virginia trophy largemouth bass, earning first place in the Largemouth Bass division. Brandon will get to choose the model and color of his new 2014 Wilderness Systems Ride kayak.
Putting in a full day of tough fishing while braving the elements was a victory in itself. By far the biggest winners on the day were TKAA Kayak Fish for Charity beneficiaries Project Healing Waters and the Heroes on the Water Tidewater Chapter. HOW Tidewater coordinator Tom VanderHeiden said the organization puts on dozens of events every year, but this one is by far the essential fundraising pinnacle.
Full tournament results are available at the TKAA website: www.tkaa.org.