Kayak Fishing Classic’s 3 Day Inshore Slam Challenge

First off I realize that tournament fishing is not for every angler. I personally enjoy the camaraderie between fellow anglers and the competition to push me to fish at my highest level.  The Kayak Fishing Classics puts this charity tournament on every year to raise money for St. Judes. The 3-day inshore slam challenge is your largest snook, redfish, and trout of the three days caught on artificial lures or flies only. It really is a great way to push yourself to your fullest capacity. You have to come up with a solid game plan when you are dealing with tides, moon phases, and cold fronts and fishing for different species…  Some people even fish over 24 hours straight to maximize their time on the water.

Eric Henson

Eric Henson

The first day (Friday) of this tournament’s weather was a beautiful 78 degrees with a 5-10 mph wind. I decided to fish for trout and snook my first day and hoped to see a redfish somewhere in between.  It paid off because the tout and snook bite was on FIRE!!! I literally caught over 50 trout average being 17-19 inches up to 20.8 inches. And I caught over 25 snook averaging 19-23 inches up to 25.1 inches. At one point I had caught so many fish that I was tired of taking them off the hook. If I saw the fish were not the right size, I would actually try and let them shake off the hook! Lol! I did get broken off by two snook… one that would have been an absolute game changer. : (  I was shaking from adrenaline for 15 minutes after losing that fish. It was so big that I probably wouldn’t have had to fish the next two days, but that’s why they call it fishing and not catching! Hahaha. As the day started to wrap up and the tied rolled in, I decided that I would go look for a redfish to finish up my slam for the day. The sun was shining bright so picked up the 12ft. Optimus and polled around the flats looking for redfish. I only saw a few until I came around the corner and bombed a cast right down the mangrove shoreline. A couple of twitches and BOOM 24.9 inch redfish on! I checked the I Angler app to see where I was in the rankings and saw that I was in first place so I decided to call it a day.

Eric Henson

The second day (Saturday) was another beautiful morning but, I knew the cold front would start to roll in in the afternoon making the winds pretty crazy. I decided to go straight to my redfish spot to try and upgrade it. As I paddled up to my spot I saw 2 boats already near my spot and another one creeping in. I decide to anchor up on my spot and hopefully the school of redfish would come to me. While I was waiting, three guys jumped out of their boat and walked within casting distance so I had to shoot a couple of warning casts their way. Lol! Then a few more boats pulled up but no one was really catching any fish. Finally, I see a small redfish school of about 15-20 fish come by me so I made a cast at them. Boom! Fish on! But, the fish was just under the size of my current redfish. I release the fish and look up to being literally surround by boats and kayaks! I felt so crowded that I abandoned my game plan and took off. L

While paddling about a 2 ½ miles to get to my monster snook spot, I ended up catching a few small reds, snook, and trout with no upgrades. When I arrive to my snook spot I see a boat way out on the flat fishing for trout. I then ended up sticking three decent snook right in a row but still no upgrades yet. As I release my third snook I see that boat making a BELINE towards me.  I threw my hands in the air and was shaking my head nooooo… They just kept heading my way so I finally yelled TURN YOUR ENGINE OFF! Soon as they killed the engine a guy on the front of the boat says “a 40 plus inch snook just took off!!!”  I wanted to throw up at that point so I took off again.  The wind was really picking up so I decided to head in. On my way back I stuck two gator trout, upgrading my trout to 22.8 inches. I get off the water to eat some lunch around 4 pm. I then checked the leader board and saw that I was in 3rd place so I inhaled my lunch and went straight back out to fish. I ended up catching a few snook and trout but no upgrades.

Eric Henson

The third day (Sunday) was craaaaazy windy and cold, with the coldest front of this season tearing through SW Florida. I decided to push out later this morning to let the sun heat up the water a bit. Right before putting in I checked the leader board and I was now in 4th place putting me over 5 inches away from first place. As cold fronts roll in the fish usually get fired up until it is here and then the high pressure shuts the fish off giving them complete lock-jaw. I knew I had my work cut out for me and a short time to do it in. It was a low tide and the NE wind had blown a lot of the water out of bay making it an extreme low tide.  This made it tough to stick against the shore line to stay out of the wind. I saw a ton of birds plunging into the water after bait so I made my way over to them. After a few casts I stuck a 23.8 inch trout that gave me my first upgrade. I then pushed on to a nearby pot hole, but the wind blew me so hard that I started to blow right past it. As I was trying to shove my anchor stick in the ground I saw two snook spook out and then swim paralleled to my yak. I made a cast 10 feet from my boat at them, thinking to myself “yeah right there is no way they are gonna hit this lure” and then BOOM!!! The larger one came over and blasted my soft plastic! The drag on my reel started screaming and I was praying they wouldn’t cut through my leader again.  Low and behold I landed her and at 29.8 it was another upgrade.

Between those two fish I might have taken the lead but I was not sure so I pressed on looking for redfish. After polling around in 20-30 mph winds I see an over-slot redfish tailed up in the grass just on the outside of a sand pothole. I anchored up, made a cast and when it hit the water the redfish spooked and ran. My heart was pounding uncontrollably.  All of the sudden I see it slowly swimming back in my direction and shove its head in the grass with its tail barely breaking the water surface. I pick up a different rod with a Monster 3X soft plastic shrimp and made the perfect cast out in front of it.  As I creeped it by its face it ran over and jumped on it. I set the hook and I pulled it out of its mouth but, it wanted it so bad that it literally came out of the water to grab it again! FISH ON! When I landed the 28.5 inch redfish, I let out a huge sigh of relief. I had now upgraded my inshore slam by over 10 inches within 45 minutes and within a hundred yards of each other. Probably one of the most epic tournament experiences I’ve ever had in my life.

I decided to pack it up and make the 45 minute paddle into the 30 mph winds back to the launch. Thank goodness I had my Bending Branches Angler Ace Pro to rely on during one of the most horrific paddles I’ve ever done! Once I finally made it back to launch I checked the leader board but they had turned it off to keep the suspense… I had a gut feeling that I had made the top 3 so I called my wife to head to the weigh-in with me. When I arrived to the weigh-in I had a warm fuzzy anxious feeling on how I had done. I then looked back on my three days of fishing. I told myself that there were a lot of highs and lows but, I never gave up and I did my best. When it was all said and done I ended up taking 1st place and it felt like one of my greatest accomplishments. The hard work had paid off.   

I would like to thank Bending Branches for generously sponsoring such a great tournament for a great cause.  I am proud to be a part of such an amazing company.