It Sounded Like a Good Idea E-mail
Written by Bob Bramblet   
Wednesday, 29 June 2011 16:10

Are You Man Enough pictureJimmy VanPelt is crazy. He just doesn’t think like the rest of us do. That’s why I wasn’t surprised when he called me about an “exciting opportunity” for the Blue Line Fishing Team that he and I are a part of. He went on to explain that he had talked to Capt. Jack Donlon, the Tournament Director of the ‘Are You Man Enough Shark Challenge’, who was interested in having a kayak team compete for the first time in the tournament’s five year existence. Now don’t get me wrong, a lot of people have fished for sharks from kayaks, and we are always up for new challenges. I knew, however, that tournament day is always different. There is a lot more pressure and some of us get so caught up in the action that we do dumb things. I have jumped out of my kayak in seven feet of water to grab a snook that wrapped itself around a mangrove, turning over the kayak and losing half of my gear (I landed the fish). There were other problematic issues like measuring the shark when you get him close or what happens if a shark gets a hold of someone and we have to paddle back to get help. These are things I think about. Not Jimmy VanPelt. He wants to catch a bunch of sharks out of his kayak, and that’s it! I grudgingly agreed because if I didn’t, he would do it himself anyway, and he always has a knack of talking me into doing stupid things.

I had a phone conversation with Capt. Jack. It was more like a negotiation. We each had to make a couple of concessions to make something like this work. We both knew that it would be good publicity for both his tournament and my kayak club, the Southwest Florida Kayak Angler’s Association. That’s if everything went right and didn’t backfire on us. It very much occurred to me that we could get bad press as being stupid and foolhardy. In the end, both Capt. Jack and I agreed that safety was the first concern and we would follow certain guidelines. We also agreed that we would enter as an exhibition team and not compete for prizes. He allowed us to have a support boat nearby for emergencies only. We had three available team anglers to fish, Jimmy VanPelt, Will Mallett and myself. Darrin Roth agreed to captain the support boat and we had our team of four. The days leading up to the tournament were spent discussing strategies and areas where we would likely get the most impact with the least amount of paddling. We finally decided we would fish relatively close to Cape Harbor, where the tournament was based.

We decided on a simple strategy. Since we were going to be out in the hot sun all day long in basically the same spot, we were going to go with less tackle and more hydration. I was using my usual kayak, a Wilderness Systems Tarpon 160. I brought one good stout offshore rod with lots of terminal tackle mainly consisting of 6/0 hooks with pre-rigged short steel leaders. If I had to cut the leader away, it was small enough not to hinder the shark before it fell out on its own. I also had about 500 yds of 100lb Power Pro on the spool which seemed like more than enough. I carried a decent sized cooler full of water and Gatorade. I used some 30 SPF sunscreen to keep the sun at bay and polarized sunglasses so I could see the sharks as they came close to the boat. Jimmy and Will spent the days just before the tournament catching bait and we soon had mullet, ladyfish and jacks to choose from.

There seemed to be a lot of interest in a kayak team participating in a shark tournament. We were interviewed twice by the News Press and the local Fox news station wanted to do and interview which was cancelled due to weather. At the Captain’s meeting the night before, everyone seemed to know who we were and all wished us well. The event was part of a larger shark festival and was really well done. There was live music and a lot of stuff going on. It was based at Cape Harbor, a boating community in Cape Coral. During the Captain’s meeting, there were interviews with the teams, pictures taken and lots of stuff going on. It was really a professional event.

Saturday morning, tournament day, the team met for a quick briefing. We loaded the kayaks on Darrin’s boat. There was a shotgun start a couple of miles out and there was no way we could paddle out and time it correctly. We motored out with all of the other boat teams. We launched from the boat close to the tournament pace boat and paddled across the start line. We had already researched the best places for us to fish away from boat traffic and where we would have the best shot at hooking up, and it was very close to where the start line was. We were anchored up and had bait in the water within minutes. It was a perfect day to fish. There was a slight breeze and we were in a decent current. We had high hopes we would be catching sharks soon. The minutes turned into hours as we continued to fish the area. We were in a deep trough that was known to hold shark. Every now and then, we would get a short pull and the bait, but nothing that we could work with. We moved around in the general vicinity, a couple hundred yards north, then south, trying different baits, and nothing. Jimmy finally had a good run on a ladyfish he had out. We thought this would be our first hookup. The fish dropped the bait and did not come back for it. The biggest disadvantage about using a kayak in a boat tournament is the lack of mobility. We could see the Sanibel causeway. We knew there would be sharks there, but the wind, tide and heavy boat traffic really hampered our ability to move too far from our chosen area. Somewhere around fiveish we came to terms with the fact that we were skunked. It was hard for us to admit it because of all of the people who were genuinely hoping we would hang with the boats. We were disappointed as we started our long paddle back.

When we arrived back at the launch area, several exited people came to me and asked how many sharks we landed. I explained how it was a hard day and windy with a lot of current, etc. They all looked so disappointed. I wondered if any of them knew how disappointed I was! It was fun though, competing against the big boys in a pro tournament. It would have been sweeter to have had some sharks to compete with. The event was very well done. It was indeed a professional tournament and Capt. Jack Donlon does a very good job to make it that way. All of the teams were friendly most of them really did want to see us do well. I am really disappointed that we didn’t do any better, but I am proud of my team for being “man enough” to try!

Bob’s Sponsors - Estero River Outfitters, Florida Paddlesports, SeaSpecs Extreme Fishing Glasses, Eco Water Bottles, and KINeSYS Sunscreen.

 

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