On April 14th, I participated in the Mission Bay Classic Kayak Tournament, benefiting the Heroes on the Water’s Southern California Chapter. There were 147 participants fishing the bay this year in one of two divisions: the Bass division, involving the combined total weight of anglers’ three biggest legal Barred Sand Bass, Calico Bass or Spotted Sand Bass, and the Halibut division that focused on simply catching the biggest Halibut.
With a shotgun start at 7 a.m., all contestants left Camino Real Public Beach in Mission Beach, heading in all directions.
I decided to make a run for the north and south jetties about a mile away. It took me about 30 minutes to paddle. Once I reached the jetties, I watched about a dozen kayakers continue out into open ocean. I wasn’t that comfortable with the area, as I am not from the area and didn’t feel I rigged my kayak appropriately for open water fishing. According to multiple fishermen I talked to, those kayakers were heading towards honey holes or artificial reefs which contain many different quality fish species.
I had been fishing the bay for the last couple days to learn the techniques and prepare myself for this type of fishing. (see what I found out here!) By the time the tournament began, I knew what worked to catch fish, however, during this event I did not catch any legal Bass. I did catch well over a dozen undersized Spotted Sand Bass that all put up great fights.
There were many legal fish caught in the Bass division, with the awards for 1st, 2nd and 3rd going to the kayak fisherman who left the harbor to fish open water. The winning pot of fish included three Calicos, weighing a total of 9 pounds, 2 ounces. I believe one of them weighed a whopping 4.7 pounds! Second place weighed in at three Calicos, totaling 8 pounds, 12 ounces. Third place fished inside the bay and caught three legal Spotties, weighing 4 pounds, 10 ounces!
For the Halibut division, there were no legal Halibuts taken. A legal Halibut was caught by a member in the Bass division but was not included in the Halibut division, as the fisherman was not registered in the Halibut division. Many competitors caught short Halibut by bounce balling live and dead bait, with some using artificial lures.
This event wasn’t just for the competition – all proceeds benefitted the Southern California Chapter of the national nonprofit, Heroes on the Water (HOW). HOW’s mission is to offer veterans and first responders the ability to leave the stress of life behind for a day and take part in a no-questions-asked day of free fishing.
In addition to the competition, this wonderful organization also hosted a great post fishing BBQ! Everybody is a volunteer and the gear is loaned. Placement in this event didn’t matter as much to me as supporting a great cause. Between the $25 entry fees, raffle tickets sold, and from what I read on Big Water’s Edge, a $5,000 donation by Geo Group, HOW raised over $13,000 for their mission.
This was a great event and I will absolutely attend it again. Sending a big thank you to HOW for not just the event, but their mission, Big Waters Edge for organizing this event and supporting this great cause, and the employee at Dana Landing bait and tackle shop for giving me some great advice on both fishing gear choice and technique!