The Kayak Fishing ClassicS saltwater tournament series crowned a new champion on November 3 in Tampa Bay, Florida. The ClassicS held the invitational National Championship Classic which was hosted by Whiskey Joe’s. The National Championship Classic (NCC) followed the Series Championship which is the culmination of ten open tournaments held along the Gulf Coast throughout the series year which begins in January each year.
The top anglers of the series are invited to the NCC and all must fish in a designated zone for the same species of fish. The NCC was a Redfish, Snook & Trout Slam in which the contestants must catch, photograph & release one fish of each species. Harder than it sounds, particularly on tournament day when the pressure is on. What is at stake? Well bragging rights for a year to begin with. Then there is over $10,000.00 in Sponsor Gear Prizes plus a Diablo Paddlesports Adios kayak. There is national exposure and possible sponsorships also involved.
Come tournament day, it is anyone’s game. The playing field is leveled and all of the series points have been cleaned off of the leader board. Everyone is at zero, the sun is coming up and it is time to go catch fish and catch fish they did. In particular, the new champion had a field day and his best tournament day ever.
Joe Lineberry launched his kayak and paddled out to his early fishing location as per his plan. The 25 year US Army veteran always has a plan. He made a couple of casts and connected with a fat 23 inch snook. He boated her, said cheese for the photo and released the beauty to fight another day. A few more casts connected Lineberry with a nice 23.9 inch trout which was also photographed and released. With two of the three species recorded, Lineberry did not feel he go catch larger fish so it was time for a two mile paddle to his redfish flats.
Using D.O.A. and MirrOlure lures Joe began the hunt for reds. He caught a few and had his slam by 7:30 AM. He kept on searching, looking for an upgrade in size to help assure his victory. He had put a lot of pressure on himself. He really wanted to win this tournament as it would be his last… Lineberry is retiring from the Army and joining his wife in Canada where they will run their family marina.
Lineberry kept searching, a hunt if you will. Then he spotted a large bull red tailing on the flats. He picked up his Deep South Rod with the D.O.A. Shad Tail soft plastic lure on it. He made the cast, landing the lure just in front of hungry redfish. “Come on, take it” said Joe under his breath as all of us do. Then the flats erupted with an explosive strike that sent water and sand sparkling into the morning sky. The commotion of the battle could be heard across the flats. Lineberry had to be careful. This was the tournament winning redfish he had been searching for, hoping for, and perhaps praying for. Joe had picked up his lightweight rod with only 6 pound test line on the spool and a mere 15 pound test fluorocarbon leader on it. That was the only thing that connected him to a day in the sun or a bitter defeat. The battle raged for several minutes. The bull fought like an experienced champion and was determined to retain his freedom of the flats. Finally outwitted, the powerful redfish was landed, photographed and released after a proper revival. The mighty red had tested the tackle to the limit and lost to the skill of a master angler. The redfish measured 27.4 inches and was fat. I’m talking three hamburgers a day fat. You could not get your hands around him and was one beautiful redfish.
As Joe watched the red swim away it saddened him. He knew that was it, he was through. No longer would he compete with his friends. No longer would he share in their happiness and laughter as he had done for so long. Soon it would be time to move on as it was all too familiar in army life.
Joe Lineberry made the paddle back to his launch and drove to the photo weigh in at Whiskey Joe’s where his friends were waiting for him. He sat down at the scoring table and tried to conceal his excitement with his best poker face. He scored a total of 84.3 inches with the slam bonus and that was more than good enough to claim his new thrown.
Joe Lineberry became the Kayak Fishing ClassicS 2013 National Champion on that day. He saved the best for last in true champion fashion and earned the respect and admiration of anglers everywhere. All of us at the ClassicS, Diablo Paddlesports, all of our Sponsors and all of your friends congratulate you Joe in your stunning victory. A fitting end to this chapter of your life and a wonderful new beginning to the next. We will all miss you…
Derick Burgos of Team Diablo came in second place with a total of 74.1 inch slam and Otis Coblentz scored a total of 67 inches with his slam to capture third place. Jose Vidal, also of Team Diablo scored a total of 43.7 inches with a redfish and a trout. Jose also took the Bending Branches ‘Big Fish’ award with his 30.3 inch redfish and earned himself fourth place in the national. Michael Davidson also entered a redfish and a trout for a total of 43.6 inches and hooked fifth place. Series Champion Marty Meakin was in the game but just could not connect with a redfish. He entered a nice snook and a trout measuring a total of 43.3 inches which landed the Series Champ in sixth place in the national championship and that is not too shabby.
All of us here at the Kayak Fishing ClassicS and all of our wonderful Sponsors wish to thank and congratulate all of the anglers and fans that followed the series in 2012. All of us tip our hats to all of you for helping us make this such a great series.