Kayak anglers count our advantages over motorboats as easy maintenance, low cost, silent operation, indestructible materials and instant access. But the advantage usually ends on the water.
Put a boat and a kayak in a tournament, and the smart money is on the boat. Or is it? Texas vlogger, Chris Castro and his team, ignored the limits of logic and entered a big-money offshore tournament. The results surprised everyone, except Castro.
Chris Castro is host of Next Level Fishing (NLF) YouTube channel where he documents his Texas fishing adventures. “The show takes me through the lows and highs of kayak fishing,” he says. In addition to celebrating trophy catches, NLF chronicles trials and tragedies along the way. He says, “My fans appreciate my honesty.” Fishing mimics life, he says, “It’s not all fun and games.”
Castro is most at home targeting king mackerel off Corpus Christi, Texas. When he found a slug of big fish holding around one of his favorite near-shore oil rigs, he set his sites on the upcoming Saltwater Angler Classic tournament. “I knew we had a shot,” he insists. To fill out his team, Castro recruited NLF pros Chris Marek and James Shurko. “I didn’t even have to talk them into it.”
Saltwater Angler Classic fishing tournament attracts over 100 teams to target inshore and offshore species. Castro laughs, “In Texas, kayakers and boaters are usually a civilized bunch, until you put them under one roof.” He estimates a quarter of the teams were competing in the offshore division.
At the captains’ meeting the night before the tournament, Castro’s team was the butt of a joke. “I heard people laughing,” he winces. Undeterred, Castro put up $800 to enter the tournament, “We were looking for a chunk.”
Padre Island National Seashore is the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world. “It’s like Jurassic Park,” Castro explains. The park offers many natural and cultural gems, but the beach’s proximity to nearshore oil rigs attracts big fish and big-water anglers.
“We decided to fish one of the closer rigs to save paddling time.“ The team had pre-fished the area before the tournament, so they were confident of their chances. On the big day, the paddlers found perfect conditions. “Light wind and current with sunny skies and clean water,” Castro remembers.
After a slow morning trolling live baits, Castro says all hell broke loose at noon. “Marek hooked a big cobia at the same time Shurko and I hooked smoker king mackerel.” The three were tied into big fish while nearby boaters watched and wondered how the kayakers were beating them. Castro listened to the competition complain over the VHF radio. “I could feel their frustration building.”
Marek lost the cobia but Castro and Shurko landed huge kings. Then, the team put a couple of trophy red snapper into their fish bags. Later on, at the weigh-in, Castro says jaws dropped when they threw their catch on the scales. “I heard other teams complain about slow fishing and bad luck,” he giggles. As the awards were meted out, Castro says the room went silent when the kayak anglers were announced winners. He guffaws, “We crashed the party!”
Despite the obvious limitations of offshore kayak fishing, Castro says he actually has several advantages over boaters. “Stealth can’t be underplayed,” he starts. On a calm day with crystal clear water, fish become suspicious. Castro points out, “I can get on them like nobody’s business.”
Another advantage is proximity to the fish. Powerboaters have to make a long run to fish the prime waters off Padre Island National Seashore. Castro and his team simply drive their trucks to the most productive oil rigs and launch through the surf. This allows them to spend more time fishing and less time running. Despite the disadvantages, Next Level Fishing’s big win against the boaters removes another misconception about kayak fishing. When it comes to competing against boaters for trophy inshore species, Castro says, “I’ll accept the challenge any day.”
It’s good to Be king.| Photo: Chris Castro