fishing report: 4th annual estero kayak challenge fishing tournament

For the second year in a row, I participated in the Estero Kayak Challenge Fishing Tournament. All money raised from the tournament supported the Heroes on the Water – Central Coast Chapter. There were 82+ anglers participating in four divisions, plus the Guppy Award for the smallest fish caught and the Outcast Award for the biggest non-division fish.

The divisions consisted of:

  • Longest Rockfish
  • Longest Cabezon
  • Longest Lingcod
  • The Slam – the angler who caught each of the 3 fish listed above. For the slam, each of the three fish lengths were added together for a total combined score. The longest total combined score took first place.

The weather conditions this year were much better that last year’s 10’+ swell with fog. This year’s conditions were predicted 5-7’ swell and sunny, with winds increasing throughout the day. At 6 am, kayak anglers were offered clear skies, zero wind, and a safe and easy ocean entry at either Leffingwell Landing or San Simeon State Beach areas in Cambria to start the tournament.

I launched out of Leffingwell with my mind made up to fish the underwater pinnacle at about 100’ of water. I found it and the nearly 80’ structure. It was an awesome drop-off! It supplied me with many Blue Rockfish ranging from 8-16” and an approximately 24” Lingcod, which, unfortunately, I lost at the kayak. I don’t particularly want to talk about that anymore than I have to…

After about 3 hours of fishing the pinnacle, I headed about ¾ of a mile north to a wash rock in 20-35 feet of water. Here I caught an 18” Brown Rockfish that put up a fight like I’ve never had from rockfish. I also caught a Treefish, Gopher Rockfish, and more Brown and Blue Rockfish.

Before heading in, I stopped outside Leffingwell landing and was amazed to find that even at about 100 yards, I was still in 8-20’ of water with varying structure. Seeing what I was seeing on the fish finder, I decided to test my luck for a Cabezon or Lingcod. I put a whole squid on a 6-ounce torpedo lead head with a 6” white Big Hammer, and dropped it down. I instantly got a hit and was dragged into the rocks. Once I got him to the kayak, I was excited to see a red Cabezon had engulfed the entire Big Hammer set up, but I was bummed to find out he was only 14.5” inches.  He was ½ inch shy of being legal! I caught one more Cabezon on the same set up, but it was also too short.

Overall, I caught a lot of fish and had a great time. During this tournament, the anglers caught many Rockfish between 18-21”, Cabezon between 17-21”, and Lingcod ranging from 22-32” inches. The winning Rockfish was 21” long, the Cabezon 21”, and the Lingcod 32”, so not a bad tournament at all. The Slam winner included a 20.75” Rockfish, 19.5” Cabezon, and a 29” Lingcod, all caught by the same angler!

The “Outcast” award went to a monster 21” Sheepshead – that thing was a beast! The “Guppy” award, well, went to a very, very small Rockfish… something most of us would have used as bait on a lead head jig for Lingcod.

Similar to the Mission Bay Classic, this event wasn’t just for the competition. Heroes on the Water’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. And to enjoy a great post-fishing BBQ! Placement in this event didn’t matter as much to me as supporting a great cause. Between the entry fees, raffle tickets sold, and donations, Heroes on the Water raised nearly $4,000 dollars for their cause this weekend and I was proud to be a small part of it.

This was a great event that marked my second appearance at the Estero Kayak Challenge Fishing Tournament. I look forward to the 5th annual tournament next year and need to give a shout out to the groups that supported this great event and Heroes On The Water: Pro Kayak Fishing and Central Coast Kayak Fishing, for not only hosting this event and making it happen, but for also supporting the anglers with equipment, gear and resources throughout the entire tournament.

I also want to thank California Department of Fish and Wildlife – although nobody wants them getting in the way of the fishing, they showed up and kept us honest. They were polite, professional and did need to remind a few kayak anglers of the regulations.

Thank you again to everybody that made this a great event and I’ll see you next year!

Don’t forget to check out our video from the tournament here!

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