One of my goals for the 2006 season was to win a kayak fishing tournament.I set my sights on the 2006 NEKF Shootout at winter Island in Salem.I figured my experience at fly fishing for Stripers would give me the edge I needed to get my first kayak fishing tournament win. I entered the Shootout fly only division with confidence that I had a good shot at winning this event.I figured a 30" fish would be tough to beat on the fly so I set my plan in motion and targeted the Boston Harbor rip and Deer Island area as the best spot to get a fish of 30" or better on the fly. I had found some nice fish in that area prior to the tourney date and knew that decent fish would be present at night so I planned to fish all night during first night of the event.

Prefishing the area I found fish willing to take 9" Black Slug go's, so my fly of choice was a 9" eel punt pattern in black.I had 3 fly rods rigged with a 400grain sink tip,a 650grain sinking shooting head and a floating line. My plan was to fish the rip until I got 1 legal fish then go to Faun Bar and hit selected spots with large bunker patterns for a big fish. My biggest concern was sticking with my plan.

I was teamed up with Slappy who was fishing the open division and is a fish catching machine. I had to stay with what I wanted to do regardless of what Eric was doing. If you have ever fished with Slappy you know what I mean. It's very easy to get discouraged when you see him catching fish after fish with Slug go's. I had to stay focused on what I was doing and not on what he was catching.

Heading to Winthrop after the Captains meeting I felt like I had a solid plan and the right equipment to at least have a shot at a good fish. We put in well after dark and paddled our way to the rip. The first bit of doubt in my plan started to rear it's ugly head. I had not really taken into account just how fast the water moved in the rip. How was I going to get my fly deep enough and down long enough to make an effective presentation? Was 650grain enough to get it down? Was 400grain enough to keep it down? We paddle into position and Eric starts his drift. I kind of start feeling my way about the rip. I paddle a little bit and stop, pull the 10wt loaded with the 400grain Teeny tip and start my cast. With two back casts I knew I wasn't going to get any depth in that current if I did a normal drift. Finishing my cast I stripped in my line and put the rod in the holder and pulled the 10wt with the 650 shooting head. Paddling back into the rip I didn't think I would get this down either. Now I had some serious doubt about my plan! I was considering giving up on the rip when I hear Fish On! Turning to the sound I see the Slappster under tow with a nice fish and a deep bend in his rod.I devised a new strategy with the drift and gave it a shot. Paddling as hard and as fast as I could I put the paddle down and grabbed the fly rod while still going forward, back cast and shoot the line.As soon as the line hit the water I put down the rod and grabbed the paddle and paddled into the current giving the line and fly the opportunity to sink without the current pulling on the line. This worked and after a few drifts I felt a little better about my chances in the rip.

I didn't so much as get a Schoolie in the first 2 hours in that rip. Slappy on the other hand would paddle by me with, "Just got a 37"er." "Lefty I can't get away from these 33" fish." "How's it going Bob? Still nothing! I knew this was going to happen having fished with him on several occasions.I had to keep to the plan and ignore the Fish on, that I was hearing every 5 freakin minutes! Something had to happen pretty soon as I was getting tired paddling into that rip, time and time again. Finally at the end of what seemed like days my eel punt fly stopped mid strip and I was on! After a lengthy battle I slid a good fish onto the yak.Quick paddle measure, 28"....Nice!

Okay, now what was the deal with the red hook? Does the tape have to be in the picture?Where did I put the pencil?After finally fulfilling all the tournament requirements for recording a fish (I figured I drifted half way to Georges Bank) I started to paddle back to the rip confident that the fish I had would give me a good shot at a top spot. Paddling up to Slappy with a slight smile that I was finally on the board. I made a couple more drifts at the rip and headed for Faun Bar. In Prefishing-fishing, I marked a bunch of spots on my G.P.S. that I either caught fish or marked fish on and headed to fish these spots with large profile bait fish patterns. Slappy had switched to trolling eels for large and we went in separate ways for the rest of the night.

I spent my time paddling from spot to spot trying various flies and presentations.It was a beautiful night to fly fish in the yak. Flat calm with no wind and no bugs.Casting to structure along the seawall my Herring imitation stopped on the drop and I was instantly on the reel with a heavy fish slowly towing me to deeper water. After several strong runs the fish surfaced 20' from the yak. I could tell it was as good if not better than my first fish so I took my time bringing it to hand.Nice! 30" and fat! Now I felt like I had a shot at winning.I continued to work along the seawall casting to every nook and cranny. After a while I heard a fish break the surface to my left. Slowly paddling to where I heard the fish, I stopped and waited. After a few seconds a fish broke right in front of me at about 30". I cast 6' to the left and 15' past the fish .A count of 5 and I started my strip. I could see my line in the moonlight and had a good idea where my fly was. I saw a bulge in the water heading toward the end on my fly line. I gave the fly a quick long strip to get the fly closer to the surface. At the end of the strip I saw the tail of the fish swoosh towards my fly. One- Two- Bam! Fish on! After a nice battle I slid another nice fish aboard. 31"Awesome! Right now I wish I had the Dancing Banana! That's it I'm done.

I paddle off to find Eric patiently drifting his eel.I tell him I'm done and head to the beach confident that my 31" fish will be tough for any other fly guy to beat. Loading the yak on the truck with a grin from ear to ear, I go over in my head that last fish. Dead of night, alone, hearing the fish break the surface, paddling to position-seeing the fish break right in front of me, casting just far enough away as to not spook it,stripping the fly to the fish, seeing the tail surge as the fish goes for the fly-waiting the horrible second it took till I felt the hit, seeing the water erupt after setting the hook, and water from the reel hitting me in the face as the fish peels line off it .It doesn't get any better then that! Not for me anyway!
Arriving back at Winter Island I spend the rest of the morning meeting and talking to fellow yakkers. Seeing guys I haven't seen since the last get together. Joking around with GRH, Divebus, Hobie Joe, Haden and Fogtola..Seeing Phil and his wife Heather again and hearing the good news. Setting up with Jeff, Mark ,Buddy and Tim. Hearing that Rustyhook got a 40" fish .This is what it's really all about. This means more to me than the tournament. Getting together with people that love this crazy sport as much as I do.

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