Wrap Up: 2016 Jamaica Bay Kayak Fishing Classic

Every year the tournament season opens with the Jamaica Bay Kayak Fishing Classic. This year the tournament brought together 330+ anglers to fish one of the best locations for the chance of catching large stripers, weakfish, and bluefish. The fluke season had not opened yet so being illegal to even target the species it was omitted from the tournament. The absence in abundance of weakfish over the years has made the tournament more challenging. If you catch a weakfish the chances of completing a slam or grand slam and placing in the competition become very high.

Night StoryboardThis year was to be a kind of special year as a majority of the crew I used to fish with were planning on fishing the tournament. It had been 2 years since Lunchbox last fished it and longer than that for some others. It was set to be a good ole time with practical jokes, camping, and excellent food along with a few brews.

Arriving on the Floyd Bennett Field tarmac around 11:00 PM on Thursday May 12th. The moon in its third quarter onto waxing gibbous was on its way setting in the west against the orange glow of the night urban sky.  The city that never sleeps rustling and bustling. The camp was pretty quiet besides a few loud conversations here and there. Everyone else had gone to sleep early in anticipation of early morning fishing. Captain Jim, Gary and Kevin were still fishing Mill Basin. They informed me that fishing was slow so instead of gearing up I went to take some night photographs. Night settings on a DSLR camera are one of the most enjoyable times of photography for me. Long exposures create the ability to capture low ambient light. After a few photos of around the tarmac i drove down to Mill Basin to get a few photos of the bridge at the basin and my friends as they cane in.

J-BAy BLuefishThe next morning out of the camper by 7 AM we all had decided to sleep in. It was to be the best day weather wise so instead of waiting for the guys to go to the tackle shop and come back I went out fishing. Trolling SP Minnows for hours looking for bait and fish marks. Also learning and modifying settings on the new Lowrance Elite 5 TI. About 2 hours of fishing finally hooked into a fish. It ended up being a big bluefish at 28″ which I took a photo of and released. Before i knew it I was surrounded by Hobbies which is incredibly annoying but they actually didn’t stick around this time. The winds were increasing and the clouds building and building. The front was about to hit within an hour so I was going in.

Many were still going out. I advised some newer guys that were paddling they may want to stay in and wait out the front. It was good advice that one fellow thanked me for.

About 30 min later the front was upon the area. Heavy rain and winds I hung lowrance with birdswith the guys of The Kayak Fishing Store. They were all setup for the rain. Brews and a heater blasting from the trailer door! It felt like camping! Good times hanging out with the crew.

A few hours later the rain had passed. A good fishing buddy of mine Brian was on his way to the camp. Once he arrived we were set to go night fishing. It was a cool calm and clear night.The water was like glass. We launched at the Floyd Bennett field ramp and trolled across to ruffle bar. Along the way trolling 2 rods a fish took my SP minnow and ran with it. The reel screamed. I grabbed the rod from the holder and set the hook. It fought like a bluefish and upon fighting and reeling it in. It was a big bluefish. 30″ + with acrobatics!  While attempting to boga grip the fish it was able to escape the grasp. Again after that another fish hit screaming reel. Spinning my kayak around. The fish jumping and then off.

Fishing became slow but the fish finder revealed fish everywhere. Jiging trolling casting baits. Nothing mattered. IT was now 2 am. The moon had become a yellow hue as it became larger setting in the west. The hill was getting to us. Trolling back into base Brian hooked up. Another blue to close out the early morning. Landing around 3:30 am we rinsed down our gear and passed out.

Morning StoryboardAn hour later however it was time for everyone to get up that was fishing the morning. At this point sleep had ceased for me. As they left I decided to zippp out of my sleeping bag and capture a few photos of the sunrise. It wasn’t the besst sunrise due to low lying clouds of the front from the previous day but was able to take some great photos! It was a spectacular launch from the ramp with over 100 Hobie’s and Noriel with his Big Tuna commanding the launch.

After the sunrise I put the camera into my Dry Case bag and wheeled the Big Rig to the ramp. Fishing was on! I immediately got on the radio once on the water. Looking for my buddies. I should have been fishing the entire time but meeting up with them was important to me. I was trying to find Capt Jim but after texting him for his location he didn’t get back to me. To learn later he dropped his phone and Romano’s camera in the drink. Dropped Something.

Fishing wasn’t good in the area we were fishing. I saw a swirl in the shallow water but was looking for my buddies. Finally finding Charlie ‘LUNCHBOX’ Labar his son and Bob ‘Mullet’ Miller. Fishing was no good unfortunately. Gave it a few more hours and Capt Jim said he was calling it a day and going to grill up some steaks. On the way back in trolling we marked a few fish and decided to give it a shot. Capt Jim ended up with a blue and that was it for the day. I remained skunked for the daytime fishing.

An hour or 2 later the wind kicked up again and made it pretty much un-fishable for the rest of the day. A few showers blew through as most of us took a power nap to later get up and grill up some chicken. The might didn’t last long with the cold wind i was in bed by 11:30.

Sunday morning was very windy and the Tournament Director cancelled fishing for the day. A majority of anglers had already packed up and left the night before as many were leaving in the morning.  I hung out to help with anything needed at the camp then ended up leaving by 11 am.

Looking forward to next year! Jamaiaca Bay is one of those locations every kayak angler should fish one day. I hope to see you and everyone again next year!

 

Every year is different at the Jamaica Bay Classic while other things never change.

The 13th Annual Jamaica Bay Classic now in the books as another great one. With 308 total registered it is one of the largest kayak specific fishing tournaments on the east coast.

driving to jbayThursday:

The drive to J-Bay for me is usually a nice one. Sometimes I catch traffic due to an accident. Leaving in the late morning is the best time for after morning rush hour and before lunch time. Driving to Brooklyn and Queens has its positives though. I get to drive over two large bridges one being a the Outer Bridge which is a truss bridge that connects New Jersey with Staten Island crossing the Arthur Kill. The second being the Verrazano Narrows Bridge which is a suspension bridge that connects Staten Island with Brooklyn crossing the New York Harbor.

unload BIG RIGI arrived Thursday afternoon. The crew had already set up camp the day before and was just finishing up pre-fishing from the morning. Reports were as I had thought they would be with a lot of bluefish and a few bass. I decided due to the 15-20 mph winds to hang out and pre-fish the morning and then get back for the start of the tournament which was to kick off at 12 noon on Friday.  I used the remaining time to hang out with people i haven’t seen in a while unload  and prepare for fishing in the morning and enjoy the time. This year I agreed to the anti tub and worm guys i fish with and did not dip a single tube in the water this year.  Completely strategic fishing.  Jigging worked real well but only on blues I was hoping for a firs j-bay bass on a jig.

Friday:

4:30 AM came fast. Typically the first night is hard to sleep but not this time. Was able to get the longer bunk. Being 6’1″ tall this was awesome this time! The coffee was brewed and we all were ready for a day of fishing! The sun was rising over the horizon it was to be a warm day!. Launching around 6:00 am fishing seemed to be slow early. I saw a few small striped bass picked up and around this time quit trolling to begin jigging. Using a 1-3/4 oz Kalins jig and a translucent pink Zman 6″ curly tail grub. It seemed pink was again the color this year.  bluefish on jbayAbout 30 mins later felt a fish hit. Lifted the rod and set the hook! It was on! Landing a 28-1/2″  20# lb bluefish. Of course it is the Pre-Fish so the fish did not count in the tournament. I snapped a photo anyway for kayak wars and returned the fish back to the water.

It was now 11:00 AM and was time to head back for the captains meeting. A few of us decided to eat lunch and go back out around 1:00 PM.

Fishing seemed to be the same. I managed another bluefish at 27.5″ for the tournament on the same Jig. 5:00PM came around which closed out the first half day of the tournament. I entered my fish in and was in first place of the electric division.

Saturday:

The other guys made the decision to fish cross bay by JFK Airport for the morning. I agreed as I had done well here in the past. Plus its just fun to fish with your friends. A short drive in the AM after the tournament officially opened for the day.  The morning begun warm but stayed cloudy. Showers were in the forecast.

crossbay bridgeLaunching from the beach of the cross bay causeway around 6 am I heard Mike already had landed a 43″ bass. I decided to start trolling. And trolled for a good hour and a half out to the radar pier. Finding schools of bunker and not a hit trolling I rigged up for live lining. Quite a few casts I was able to snag a few bunker. Hooking one up for live lining while drifting and jigging with another rod.  I just couldn’t seem to find the fish. Not marking anything on the fish finder making the decision to troll back to the train bridge where there was fish earlier. On the troll back it begun to rain and did so pouring at time over an hour and a half of time. Now cold wet and no fish and ready to pack it in. I chucked the bunker around the bridge and nothing. This was the first time skunked fishing this area.

It was now 11:45 AM and packing up to head back to the main tournament launch for lunch and to listen to the NY Rangers playoff game. After the game was over Rangers winning! I went back out fishing. It was going to be a short  after noon of fishing. I ran the Torqeedo wide open out to the spot where my friends were still fishing. Other anglers watched me speed by at 5.5 MPH! Finding my friends they were on a pod of bluefish.

standin big rig fishIt was dead calm waters so taking the advantage of the Big Rig I was able to stand and sight fish. First cast of a white 6″ bomber fish on! Another big blue! About 5 minutes of the fish taking drag reeling it back up and taking grad the hook pulled about 10 feet from the yak. Still an epic fight! The birds were now working on some bait nearby that the blues were pushing up. I perused them in the standing paddling position. A few more hookups and losing fish at the kayak. Remember to sharpen the hooks nest time out! At this time hunger has set in and captain Jim’s ribs were on the menu!

Prior to crashing out i set up my fluke rod for buck tail jigging. A thunder storm came through and everyone crashed out. I wasn’t tired yet and saw the glimmer of a camp fire inthe distance. I walked over there and met Dennis Dottie and Gabb hanging out! Good times as the fire and the company was very inviting and meeting new people was great! A few drinks and time to crash to get up early and do it allover again.

Sunday:

Arising after the sun rose stepping outside its really foggy. I took my time figuring id wait for it to burn off. It was dangerous out there with all of the power boats cruising around and 300 kayak anglers drifting in the fog. Safety is always a #1 concern.

foggie jbayI launched around 8:30 still foggy but manageable. About a half hour later the fog has all dissipated and i was in search of fluke. It was the last half day of the tournament. My bluefish had been run off the board by 3 30″ bluefish. I needed a nice fluke to pick up third. Three hours went by and I managed nothing Brian had a 23″ fluke. Time was up. Only thing left to do was pack up have lunch and hopefully win a raffle!

Mike won the Grand Slam with his 43″ bass. I unfortunately did not snap a photo of the leader board winners this year.

Jackson Kayak and Orion Coolers donated a nice 45 quart cooler to the raffle! The winner of it seemed excited to win it! I typically don’t win anything in the raffle but this year as different and won a nice St Croix Inshore Mojo Spinning rod!

It is great to be able to represent Jackson Kayak and get away for a weekend of fishing! Everyone looks forward to the J-Bay Classic every year! As I always say if you haven’t fished this tournament definitely do! Its a great place to fish this time of year! You wont regret it!

Another J-Bay Kayak Classic in the history books! As always a different story to go with the event. Weather good and bad. Broken gear and decent fishing!

As my previous post stated, the weather wasn’t predicted to be fish able Thurs night into early Saturday morning as a slow moving but very strong storm system was predicted to pass through the area. Thought about staying home Thursday night and leaving very early Friday morning to beat the traffic. I was unsure of what the weather would be like so the decision was made as soon as 5:30 came and work was done a day early for the week. Finished my packing and left the house a little after 8:00 PM to arrive at Floyd Bennett Field by 9:00. It was too windy for night fishing so a few brews and a little catch up and sleep for the morning.

Friday:

Around 7am it was still very windy. We hung out for the morning and awaited the captains meeting at 11 AM. After the rules were explained it was decided the tournament is to be postponed until 5AM Saturday morning. The video shows the morning before the captains meeting.

J-BAy collageA group of us went fishing anyway. It was quite windy at least 10-15 with 20-25 mph gusts. Mill Basin was the only place sheltered from the direction of the wind. It seemed like a good spot for fishing. The area was loaded with bunker. Using 1 oz a weighted treble hook snag the bunker. Then reel it in and hook it up on a live line setup.

A live line setup consists of a Heavy rod be it a jigging rod or just good 7 foot 4-8oz rod. I use a custom 7′ heavy rod with a Abu Garcia 7000 C3 reel spooled with 65lb Power Pro spectra Braid  Terminal tackle consists of a 9/0-10/0 Gamakatsu Octopus hook with 50-60 lb mono or fluoro carbon leader a barrel swivel. For weight you can use a nylon slide on the main line with 12-16″ leader extension for a bank sinker or use an inline egg sinker with a bead at the swivel side.

For snagging bunker for bait. I use a Medium Heavy spinning rod with a Quantum Boca 40PT series reel. Also a 60lb fluorocarbon leader is tied on uni to uni. You may use a wire leader after that before the weighted treble hook. Just in case a bluefish inhales the bait you just snagged. Added protection against blues biting through your fluoro leader.

Fishing for me was uneventful after fishing the area being blown around for 3 hours. A few of us made the decision to get off the water. What a great decision it was. Not even 20 mins later the wind was intensified to easily sustained at 30 mph. Back at camp/tournament headquarters portable toilets were being blown over. Tents and shelters were knocked down and tables and chairs from the event tent were thrown over.

The weather ended the day and eventually cleared up around 11:30 PM after down pouring for about 2 hours.

Saturday:

Big Rig BluefishUp at 4:00 am and getting ready for 5 AM tournament start. Trucked the BIg Rig Down to the launch. After Broke my cart I then broke my IMG_1582pliers. Realized i did not have enough rod leashes with tme so i ended up making 2 more. On the water about 3/4 mile from the launch first hook up trolling a Spro BBZ1 Thought it was a Striper at first turned out to be a 32″ bluefish. Thats a nice fish. Measured him for the tournament and released him alive. Caught 4 more around the same size one  20 inches. No bass. Was looking for schools of bunker but dud not see any. The amount of freshwater probably pushed the bait down.

Went back to the launch to get my net for fluke fishing. fluke fished for about 30 min wind against tide. Couldn’t even buy a hit.IMG_1596

After coming back to the launch a second time I noticed 2 police cutters and a helicopter. Looked like they were searching for something. Turned out they were just training. It was pretty cool watching them maneuver and pickup the divers.

After that i went back out for picking up winds against the tide. It got rough out there so i headed in.

A few hours later gave it another shot for Fluke this time paddling the Cuda 14. It was still rough out there and wind against the tide. Gave it about an hour and gave up with no Fluke being caught.

 

 

 

 

Sunday:

Sunday was a hard day to find fish. I was looking for fluke most of the day. Was able to hook up a few decent sized bluefish. Fluke were not easily found again. Off the water around 12 pm and loaded up just in time for the awards and lunch. Jackson Kayak donated a Big Rig for raffle which was really cool!  There were four other boats for the raffle too. The winners received a nice plaque with the chart of j-bay and the 4 targeted fish painted on it.

view

IMG_1629To the right were the results of the tournament. Brian Pickard was in our group and won 3rd place Grand Slam! Grand slam is 3 largest combined fish consisting of a Striped Bass plus Fluke Bluefish or Weakfish.

If you have never fished Jamaica Bay its a great place to fish. It is very kayak friendly and holds many migratory fish. I look forward to seeing everyone there next year!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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