The tournament is a fundraiser for two charities. The original charity was Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville. This year, the organizers decided to add the North Florida Heroes on the Water Chapter and split the funds raised between the two organizations. In my opinion, this was a great decision to help support a great cause related to our veterans.
My two fishing buddies, Greg and Lewis, accompanied me on this trip. We shared the ride, which meant we will had to minimize the amount of fishing gear that we can take as we will be loading three kayaks into the bed of Lewis’ truck. This was a difficult task for me. I planned on using the Jackson Kayak “Big Rig” with the JKrate, Power Pole “Micro-Anchor” and the Raymarine “Dragonfly”. I managed to cut down the number of rods by not bringing the rod I use for early morning topwater action. Instead, I had two rods configured with a jig head and the Slayer “Sinister Swim Tail” (S.S.T.)in two different colors, two rods configured with a Trout Eye jigheads and the ZMan “Trout Trick” also in two different colors, and a bait rod. While most tournaments I’m in don’t allow bait, the Jacksonville Kayak Fishing Classic does. So, when I decide to anchor in one spot for a while I can have the ability to chuck out a part of a blue crab or a mud minnow to increase my chances of catching one of the three species for this tournament.
We departed Charleston about 4am Friday, and arrived in Jacksonville at Brown's Creek Fish Camp for some blue crab and mud minnows about 8:30am. We then drove to the next launch site on Clapboard Creek to test out this area. Lewis managed to locate some small speckled trout off of a point into a deep hole. I don’t recall how Greg did; maybe he got skunked. I managed to have the bait reel screaming using half of a blue crab. I was sure hoping to locate an area with some bull reds. The tide was going out and the fish was following the tide. Unfortunately, the wind was blowing stronger against the tide so when I pulled the Micro-Anchor the fish could not pull me with the tide. I finally was blown into the grass, and managed to get this fish tired and near the surface. I saw that it was not a bull redfish, but a huge sheepshead just less than 25”. After a couple of photos, I decided to let the monster go to get even larger and to let another angler enjoy a good battle.
It was getting close to the time for the captains meeting, so we met at the ramp to load up and head to the hotel to check in and freshen up. At the captains meeting, I learned that Jackson Kayaks was sponsoring the ‘Biggest Flounder’ division by awarding the winner with a 2015 “Cuda LT”. What a great prize! I visited with Drew Gregory and Charles Ganoe, who were there representing Jackson Kayaks.
That evening, Greg and Lewis convinced me that we needed to fish Clapboard Creek for the tournament. I thought that maybe tournament day might be different, and the redfish, trout, and flounder might be biting better. We got to the ramp at 5am, and there must have been fifteen other kayak anglers with the same idea. At the Clapboard Creek ramp, there is basically only a single ramp, so at the 6am launch time power boats and kayaks alternated on launches. Everyone who was in the tournament and the leisurely boat anglers cooperated very well on using the launch.
I started the morning out by checking out some docks along the St. John’s River in the hopes for a speckled trout and flounder. I thought the redfish might give me a better opportunity in the creek along the grass line. There was plenty of bait but no surface action, and I sure did not get any hits on the mud minnows or plastics. I must have fished more than twenty dock systems along the river with no success.
I decided to paddle back into Clapboard Creek and hit some of the smaller creek mouths and a few oyster bars in hopes of catching a Jacksonville slam. As the day got shorter, I was feeling a skunk coming on. I crossed the main creek and hit a few other spots heading toward Cedar Point Creek. I managed to get a good hit, but only managed to land a small crevalle jack.
Back at the ramp, I visited with some of the other anglers and listened to their fishing stories. Lewis managed again to find a mother lode of dink trout. Greg managed a few small trout as well, a legal 12” flounder to get on the board, and even managed to chase some slot-size redfish around without any luck.
Congratulations to all who placed!