Fishing Stories: Bass Paddlers 4th Annual Toy Drive

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By Kimberly Thomas

I decided to participate with Jean McElroy in the Florida Bass Paddlers 4th Annual Toy Drive tournament hosted by Bill Sikora on December 10, 2016. This was my first opportunity to kayak fish in a freshwater lake, which was challenging, considering we were battling up to 30 mph wind gusts and almost constant rain.

Upon arrival, Bill Sikora advised me the fish would be in the grass near the shore and in the deeper water and he then kindly handed me a rattling lure to try, which turned out to be a “lucky” lure.

Jean and I fished the banks and canals trying to escape the wind, only catching a few small bass. We were joined by Rob Valderrey who started fishing the middle of the lake and caught some nice peacocks. I was determined to put a fish on the board, so and I headed out to the middle of the lake too. Shortly thereafter, I caught my first peacock at about 16.5 inches.

We continued to travel in search of fish. At one point, I casted toward the bank, when out of the corner of my eye I saw the back fin of a fish breaking the water. I quickly started reeling in as fast as I could, so I could take a shot at the fish I saw, when my lure got hit hard. The fish was fighting and taking line and I had to tell myself not to rush to get the fish to the kayak. It finally surfaced, so I grabbed my net and shouted for Jean to come help me. Honestly, I had no idea what kind of fish I had landed, so thank goodness Rob came over to help me and ID the fish as a Clown Knifefish. The measurement on the board was about 26 inches, although kept bending and sliding off the board. So I’m still going to say it was 28 inches or so.

Bill Sikora awarding Kimberly the “Big Fish” prize.

I later found out Rob had come to the lake with the intention of catching that very fish species, which is still on his bucket list.

We went on to catch more peacock bass and largemouth bass and then headed in for the two o’clock awards where I won the Big Fish award. The real winners of this tournament were the kids who will be receiving two carloads of toys which were donated.

There were a lot of firsts for me this day, kayak fishing in a lake, using a rattling lure, catching a peacock bass, and catching a clown knifefish. Jean and I, of course, headed back out to fish after the tournament in the wind and the rain while there was still daylight. We were the last ones headed home that day, as usual.

Jean says this day will forever ruin me and that I will never be happy with an 8-inch bass. I say game on, not every day is as exciting, but the possibility remains that there are always more fish to catch.

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