Hunt for the GC3
The Kayak Fishing ClassicS held the Kayak Fly Classic on April 18 & 19 in a Hunt for the GC3. What is the GC3, you may ask? The Gulf Coast 3; snook, redfish and trout in particular. Some of the very best kayak fly anglers from the area spent 2 days trying to catch one of each of the species to complete a Gulf Coast Slam in the fly classic. The trouble with that is the GC3 don’t really care that you’re working your tail off in pursuit of such a task on fly.
Many anglers talk about it, few succeed and how many of you have tried it using a fly rod? Well it is in fact not only possible, it’s quite awesome indeed. There is no fight like a 36” snook trying to show you whose boss while you try to manage her temper tantrum with a modern willow stick and a little hook with some feathers tied onto it.
Or how about a nice 28” redfish or a 27” spotted sea trout who are both equally irritated in having been fooled by your shenanigans? Many anglers are battle hardened vets of the Flats Wars yet have no idea what fighting a dandy fish on fly is like let alone stalking, sighting, fooling and fighting a scaled beast is like on an 8 weight fly rig. In a word it’s…Wow…just wow.
Well it comes to find that’s just what some crazies did in the first ever Kayak Fly Classic & Dinner held in Tampa Bay and hosted by Whiskey Joe’s located on the Courtney Campbell Causeway. And of course just to test ones resolve; Mother Nature uncorked some of her tricks.
The anglers launched into the beautiful Tampa Bay waters on Saturday at 6:30 AM and had 33 hours to put together their best GC slam. The Kayak Fishing ClassicS utilizes the iAngler Tournament app which accommodates our scoring system perfectly and makes data collection easier and more effective for anglers. The iAngler Tournament app culls the fish automatically so as anglers catch 3 or 4 of the same species, the app shows the largest on the KFC Leader which all can see online. Pretty slick setup!
Day one and it could not have been any more beautiful or perfect outside for throwing feathers. The contestants launched their kayaks from various locations around Tampa Bay and it was not long until the leader board began to light up with catches. First a trout and then another and another. The morning fishing looked like it was going to be hot and then it shut off. The temperature went up and the wind started and continued to build. By late morning the wind was difficult to manage and almost impossible by afternoon. Anglers continued to catch and release fish; snook and trout but where were the redfish? Finally later in the day Fred McClendon managed boat a redfish for his day 1 slam which proved to be the only one scored on Saturday.
The wind calmed as daytime relented to nightfall and the anglers took a much needed rest as they revised their game plans for day 2. Sunday morning was another perfect start as the sun greeted the hardy souls with fly rods in hand. The day started just like Saturday did and the leader board once again range up the scoring. Fred McClendon had the lead due to his day 1 slam and Eric Henson was right on his wake but still in search of a nice redfish. Henson got into a snook fight that was more like a brawl. The 35.6” snook did not appreciate having her breakfast turn out to be less than digestible and clearly showed Henson her distain and general lack of respect. Henson fairly new to fly fishing, has quickly become very effective in throwing feathers and fooling big fish, so he managed to land, photograph and release the angered snook. It was an epic battle which included all of the tricks that large snook pull and we will be sure to share the video with you as soon as we get our hands on it.
Mother Nature once again opened the window and let the wind blow free which made doing any kind of fishing nearly impossible but the hardy lads continued the fight as time was closing in. Weigh in at Whisky Joe’s was at 3:30 PM and none too soon as the waves in Tampa Bay began to crash over the seawalls and spread sea grass and such onto the streets. The anglers came in and welcomed the rest and calm of safe haven…and a cold beer of course. We began the awards, as everyone was anxious to see who won and would get the Old Town Predator MX & TFO Mangrove fly rod and reel grand prize. Please keep in mind in a slam tournament, only the best fish of each species per angler counts for his final score and that a slam beats a larger 2 fish total inch catch.
Here’s how it tallied up:
1st Place: Fred McClendon with a total 2 day catch of 64.8” for a total 3 fish slam of 49.4”. Fed scored a 14.2” redfish, a 21.2” snook and a 14” trout for his slam total. McClendon caught his fish on home tied flies using EP Fibers to put him in the chase for the Mystic Fly Rod Big Fish Award for largest fish caught on either Enrico Puglisi Flies or EP Fibers. McClendon received that Predator MX kayak with SeaDek custom fit flooring and the TFO Mangrove fly rod and reel for Grand Prize and a host of awesome sponsor gear including an Engel Coolers cooler, Flying Fisherman Sunglasses, Bending Branches Angler Ace paddle, Denali Performance Apparel shirt, Jim Teeny Kayak Fly Line, Air O Gator, Hunter Skipper Apparel, Enrico Puglisi Flies, the Blue Ribbon Fish Carvers Gulf Coast Slam Trophy and more. Congratulations Fred from all of our sponsors and everyone here at the ClassicS.
2nd Place: Eric Henson had some epic fish on, including a nice redfish that managed to slip away that may had made a difference at the podium. Henson scored a 2 day total of 63.8” just 1” behind McClendon. His 3 best fish did not include a redfish for the GC3 so no slam there unfortunately . Henson’s 35.6” snook and 14.7” trout totaled 50.3” and were caught on Enrico Puglisi Flies. Eric won an Engel Coolers cooler, a Mystic Reaper fly rod, EP Flies, Flying Fisherman Sunglasses, EGO Grip, INTOVA EDGE camera, Cliff Outdoors Bugger Beast fly box, Back Water Paddles hand paddle, an awesome Steve Whitlock Game Fish Art depicting Tampa Bay and elusive redfish, Hunter Skipper shirt, Enrico Puglisi Fies and more. Henson scored his fish on Enrico Puglisi Flies and won a Mystic Outdoors Fly Rod, the Inception for his 35.6” snook…wow! Congratulations Eric from all of our sponsors and friends.
3rd Place: Walt Ruda managed to boat only 1 on the 3 species as the wind played havoc on him as well. Ruda scored a 17.5” trout that was good for 3rd place and some awesome gear including an INTOVA HD wifi camera, an Inception fly rod by Mystic Outdoors, Engel Coolers cooler, the Slide from EGO NETS, the incredible CROWN head light, a Princeton TEC Meridian Strobe light, Scotty safety kit, Skwoosh Cushion, Backwater Paddles hand paddles, YAKGEAR Railblaza gear, Enrico Puglisi Flies and more…nice! Congratulations Walt from all of us and all of our generous sponsors.
4th Place: Marty Meakin scored a 14.5” trout to take 4th place. Meakin like all of the anglers had redfish all around him that just would not bight. Many of the reds would go so far as to chase the fly right up to the boat but then turn away to add insult to frustration, as if the wind and the approaching cold front were not enough to contend with. Meakin won a pair of Flying Fisherman Sunglasses, Denali Shirt, Skwoosh kayak seat, Mangrove Sungloves and more. Congratulations Marty from all of our sponsors and all of us here.
5th Place was won by Otis Coblentz with a 11.9” trout. He too experienced the redfish charge and turn away dance…someone should write a song about that, a blues song of course. Otis won some dandy prizes from our sponsors including a pair of Flying Fisherman Sunglasses, a Denali shirt and more. Congratulations Otis for all of our sponsors and your friends everywhere.
We wish to thank Whiskey Joe’s for another great job in hosting a KFCTS event for us and thank all of our fantastic sponsors who make all of this possible. Lastly we want to thank all of the anglers for being a part of the first Kayak Fly Classic and we’ll have a little conversation with Mother Nature about taking it easy on us next time…Good Fishing.