Great Lakes Kayak Fishing Tournament Series Part 4

Can't beat the speed of the Propel drive.
     Standing on the dock of the marina, I was suddenly face to face with the one event I was honestly nervous about.  It was the last stop on the Great Lakes Kayak Fishing Tournament Series and we were chasing king salmon, on Lake Michigan.  As most people are aware I have very little experience paddling kayaks on big bodies of water.  The waves were bigger and the water was rougher than any water I had paddled in before.  Add to it the fact that I had very little experience trolling for any species of fish and I knew I was in for a couple of hard knocks.
     I slowly paddled out into the harbor trying to remember what I had read online and watched on YouTube the night before.  I told myself to keep my speed down, to let the lines out slowly, to keep the nose turned into the waves, and don't turn to fast or the lines will tangle, the list went on and on.  As I turned the final corner and headed for the open water I was shocked to see how big the rollers were.  "The waters pretty calm today," one of the other anglers shouted over the wind noise.  "Just fish within your limits, it can be a little dangerous."  With that he pedaled away and started to make his way through the gap in the harbor wall.  "I know my limits" I thought to myself, "One quick pass in the open water, just so I can say I did it."
2 inches of water on the floor.
     One pass was all I needed to see that I didn't have the skill level or confidence to stay out on the main lake.  I was gonna be spending the day fishing the harbor.  It's not that I don't think I have the ability.  The issue is I have been battling a rather acute form of vertigo.  It has gotten a lot better, but I've noticed it's always right on the edge of my movements and it seems to show back up at the worst possible times.  Once I was outside of the harbor wall I got a bit of sensory overload and started to have issues keeping the kayak moving in a straight line.  Soon I took a couple of small waves over the side of the Slayer.  Nothing major really, just enough for me to realize that until the vertigo clears up entirely, I had no business being out in the open on a kayak.  I made a slow left turn and headed back for the relative safety of the harbor walls.
A nice view of the harbor and lighthouse from the kayak.
     I was perfectly comfortable inside the walls of the Manitowoc Marina.  I set about deploying my lines and paddling this way and that around the harbor.  Lots of bait was present both in the harbor and in the mouth of the river and I watched my Garmin with excitement as the down imaging constantly lit up with big red balls of little fish.  I lowered my Propel drive into the hull and was soon settled in to a nice (read to fast) pace.  For the next 6 hours I pedaled until my legs cramped up, at which point I would paddle till my shoulders cramped up.  It wasn't pretty, but for a 35 year old out of shape pack a day smoker I thought I was doing pretty good.  Before I knew it though time had run out and I was headed in for the day.  Yup, another tournament that I failed to land a fish.
     I arrived at the docks anxious to ask the other anglers what I had done wrong.  Turns out I had actually done a lot wrong.  The pace I was cruising at was about 2 miles to fast.  Also as it turns out I wasn't getting my baits down far enough in the water column.  It would also seem that my lure spread wasn't wide enough.  Guess I still have a lot learn about trolling for salmon.  Still a lot fish were caught and everybody was in good spirits.  Anglers were swapping stories of the fish that got away.  Many were triumphantly hoisting king salmon into the air comparing sizes and posing for pictures.  All in all 34 kayak anglers caught 25 salmon during this tournament stop.  Not bad considering that the water temps were still in the 60's.
     The days big winner was Mark Rasmussen.  Not only did he win the tournament, but he also won biggest fish, and the whole Great Lakes Kayak Fishing Tournament Series!
The proud series champion!!!
     A big congratulations goes out to Mark for his series win.  He's a phenomenal fisherman and did an outstanding job at every stop on the series.  This years tournament experience has been humbling.  I had no idea it would be so hard to fish in tournaments.  I've learned an amazing amount over the course of the series and would like to take a quick second to thank my family, friends, and sponsors.  I wouldn't have made it this far without all your support and I'm looking forward to an even better 2016 season.
     I really wish that this was the end of this post, unfortunately there is more.  We lost one of our fellow anglers at this event.  I don't want to give out to many specifics out of respect for his family, just know that one of our own didn't return to the dock in his kayak at the end of the day.  He was found by the coast guard unresponsive and couldn't be revived.  He was wearing his PFD and had an emergency radio beacon, but it wasn't enough.  PLEASE be as safe as possible when out on the water.  He left behind a family that loved him very much and a kayak community in which he will be dearly missed, both as a competitor and a friend.  I haven't been out on my kayak since he lost his life.  I still get sick to stomach just thinking about what his final moments on the water may have been like.  My sincerest condolences go out to his family and friends, I'm so sorry for your loss, for our loss.  Please be safe out there, and always remember to fish within your personal limits.
     Tight Lines. 

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