Tournament Report – TJM Charity Kayak Fishing Tournament
The 10th annual TJM Charity Kayak Fishing Tournament, which benefits the New Hanover County Humane Society, was held July 28, 2018. Since 2008, kayak anglers have been traveling from near and far to New Hanover County to find the largest trout, flounder, and/or red drum in North Carolina waters. This year marked the tournament’s biggest turnout so far, with 89 anglers all competing to win a variety of prizes.
The rules are simple: each fish must be caught inshore from a kayak with a rod and reel, it must be measured with a “Hawg Trough” measuring device before being photographed and recorded on a score card, and score cards must be turned in to tournament officials by 4:00 pm. The anglers must also all launch from a public boat ramp.
There are four divisions: one for each of the three species, and one “Grand Slam” division that combines the lengths of the largest three individual species.
This year, the Grand Slam Champion was Michael Kachman, whose red drum, flounder, and trout made up a combined 64”. This was Kachman’s third year fishing the TJM, and while he’s come close to victory before, this was his first time making the leaderboard.
“I have to attribute some of it to luck,” he says, but his story proves that fishing skill, preparation, and perseverance all played big parts as well.
A Michigan native, Kachman now lives on Polly’s Island, about 25 miles south of Myrtle Beach. He left home at 2:00 am on the morning of the tournament to launch at Fort Fisher right at 6:00. The first target was trout, so he paddled across Fort Fisher hoping to bust one on topwater. The wind was bad, but he knew that the bank he wanted to fish was protected. Unfortunately, the only hits he was getting were from seagulls, and he eventually had to move, stopping to catch some mullet and a croaker with his cast net.
Using the biggest mullet that he had, which he Carolina-rigged on a 7/0 circle hook with a 1/2 oz. sinker, he made 2 or 3 casts and then felt something big smack the bait. “I wasn’t set up for him, so I figured I’d better let him eat it.” His patience paid off, as after a minute or two, he set the hook and pulled in a 19” flounder. “I thought the biggest obstacle in that tournament was going to be the flounder, so I knew I was set up.”
About a half an hour later, the weather took a turn for the worse. “It was rainy, it was miserable, and it was sketchy,” Kachman remembers, describing the lightning that he saw hitting the ground less than a mile away. He considered paddling back across Fort Fisher but knew that he would be even more exposed in the open water. His decision to stay put and fish resulted in a 17.5” trout falling for the croaker that he was working along the bank.
Around 10:00, he got smacked hard once again. “I knew immediately that was my third fish, the redfish I’d been waiting for… I set the hook and fought the thing back to the kayak.”
The red immediately went for the anchor line, but Kachman had installed a device just before the tournament that allowed him to pop the anchor line off to avoid getting tangled. “It worked perfectly,” he said. The 27.75” red lost the fight shortly after.
For his victory, he won a 14’ Live L4 Expedition paddleboard, which retails at $2,699.
In the individual species’ divisions, Mark Patterson won redfish with an impressive 47.25” drum. Mike Reese came in a close second with his 46.5” red, and Ryan Sadler rounded out the top three with a 43” fish.
The biggest flounder measured 22.25” and was pulled in by Brad Caudle. Dustin Long trailed by half an inch with his 21.75” flattie, and Ken Maus reeled in a 21.50” flounder for third place.
In the speckled trout division, Doug Mabe caught a 21.50” fish, while Neal Ward Jr. and his father Neal Ward Sr. took second (19.75”) and third (18.75”), respectively.