On Saturday, September 13th 2014, Pacific Outfitters hosted their annual multi-species saltwater kayak fishing tournament; Trinidad Rockfish Wars in beautiful Trinidad, California. As much as I wanted to fish the tournament, my duties as an organizer took priority. I ran safety and shot photos before heading down to Eureka at 11am to teach kayak classes at Paddlefest. It was a busy weekend, and I get to fish here all the time! This was about showcasing Trinidad, CA; Humboldt County's kayak fishing paradise, to our out of town guests, and to thank our local kayak anglers for their support.
This was the fourth year of the annual tournament, and the biggest turn out in tournament history. With such incredible fishing in such a beautiful location, it's easy to see why kayak anglers came from as far away as Los Angeles, Portland, Sacramento, and all over the West Coast to spend a fun filled weekend fishing with friends.
This tournament is a little different than the rest; All human powered craft were welcome to compete, including sit inside and sit on top kayaks, canoes, and stand up paddleboards. We also added a few special categories such as the Barbie Pole and Handline Challenges.
Our goal was to take kayak fishing back to it's roots. Back to the days before the kayak fishing industry exploded, when it didn't matter how you got to the fishing grounds, only that you did. Back to the days before corporate sponsorship when anglers used what ever they had available and just went out and had fun.
The event began with a pre-tournament safety meeting at Pacific Outfitters Eureka, on Friday evening where we welcomed 91 registered competitors from all over the west coast.
Early the next morning, anglers rallied at Trinidad Harbor. 45 two man teams went through a safety inspection on the beach before the official first launch time set for 5:45am. At 5:45, the competition began, and most contestants hit the water as quick as they could to get to their targeted areas before any one else.
Others elected to take it easy, waiting until first light before launching off the beach and onto the ocean.
Rockfish Wars competitors were greeted with mild conditions; NW swell 3-5ft at 8 seconds, N wind to 5kts, and mild temperatures of 50-65F. However at first light a heavy but patchy fog crept in, testing even the most seasoned kayak angler's navigational skills.
The patchy fog didn't dampen spirits or catching. The bite was red hot. Within 15 minutes of first launch, fish were being boated. Including the big fish winner of the tournament, a 39" lingcod.
As the fog lifted, we were greeted with one of the most picturesque views on the California Coast:
Anglers were required to return to the launch by 2pm for weigh in. As the results came in, one thing was clear; the level of talent and skill held by competitors was impressive. One of the biggest cabezon we've seen this year was wrangled by Kiet Pham, who missed the deadline for registration due to other obligations but was able to drive 400 miles through the night to make launch and fish with us. This pig measured 28 3/4 inches and over 19 pounds.
The "Biggest Fish" Award went to Chris Coleman of Team Redneck Yacht Club, who boated a solid 39" lingcod.
Other Biggest Fish Winners included:
Mark Bayles with a 17" greenling
Kenny Baker with a 23" black rockfish
Matt Baron with a 14.5" blue rockfish
Matthew Mayes with a 25" cabezon
Ron Saufferer with a 21.5" vermillion rockfish.
The "Handline Challenge" was met by Pacific Outfitters own Michael Owens, who in his canoe landed a 27" lingcod with no rod or reel to take the category win. (Michael was the only handline entry. Next year I won't be double booked and plan on taking that from you!)
The "Barbie Pole Challenge" was met head on by Mike Bailey, who landed a 30 3/4" lingcod on his stock Spider Man kid's fishing rod to take the category. Several competitors switched to the kids pole after landing several species with conventional gear, but Mike stayed true to the Spider Man pole for the entire tournament.
Team Lost Coast Anglers made a great video of the kiddie pole action:
For the overall tournament competition, 8 eligible species of fish may be turned in for points, with a maximum of the 6 best fish scored on a points per inch scoring system.
*LINGCOD – 6 PTS PER INCH
*CABAZON – 7 PTS PER INCH
*BLUE ROCKFISH – 8 PTS PER INCH
*HALIBUT – 8 PTS PER INCH
*BLACK ROCKFISH – 8 PTS PER INCH
*VERMILLION – 9 PTS PER INCH
*GREENLING – 11 PTS PER INCH
*CHINA – 13 PTS PER INCH
As anglers returned to the launch, it was clear that the competition was steep.
Team "Bald Eagles with a strong showing:
Team "Humboldt Hookers" shows their stoke:
Team "Redneck Yacht Club" and Chris Coleman's Biggest Fish winning 39" Lingcod.
Team "Slayers" struggling to lift their load:
Team "Straight Hook" with a strong showing
Team "Tsunami" styling it.
That evening after weigh in, competitors gathered at Emerald Forest of Trinidad for a family friendly fish fry & pot luck before the awards ceremony,
Winners were awarded in all categories including the grand prize of a pair of Old Town Predator Kayaks. Cher-ae Heights Casino, NRS, Sea to Summit, Lowrance, GoPro, Midland, Big Hammer, B2Squid, Blue Lake Casino, Johns Cigars, Ice Breaker, and Mad River Brewing contributed prizes for winners and participants as well. In all, over $6000 in prizes were awarded. The overall results are:
10th Place: Team Cast N' Blast (905.50 pts)
9th Place: Team Cod Pieces (909 pts)
8th Place: Team Straight Hook (913.25 pts)
7th Place: Team Owens & Bayles (940 pts)
6th Place: Team Knot Again (980.25 pts)
5th Place: Team Bald Eagles (1006.25 pts)
4th Place: Team Scooter (1036 pts)
Our top three teams finished neck and neck, with only two points separating second and third place wins.
3rd Place: Team aMayesing Brothers - Mathew & Chris Mayes (1056 pts)
2nd Place: Team Bloody Decks - Boyce Meredith & Cameron Pascual (1058 pts)
And the overall winners and Trinidad Rockfish Wars IV Tournament Champions are...
1st Place: Team Rodfathers - Rob Knoles & Adam Koons
Congratulations to all winners and participants! Thank you all from far and near, and thank you to all of our sponsors, supporters, friends, and family for making this year's Trinidad Rockfish Wars the biggest and best yet. We're already looking forward to next years tournament.