This year’s Extreme Kayak Sailfish Smackdown saw 17 Sailfish landed. The Pompano Florida based tournament is held annually over two days in June. Hosted and ran by Joe Hector, it is quickly becoming The offshore kayak fishing event.
The winner of this year’s event was Florida native Benny Scoca (BS) who set a tournament record with four sails to take first place. Benny is a waterman, guide, commercial fisherman and really affable guy. He knows the area, and obviously he knows how to fish.
Questions by Jeff Herman (JH).
JH -Benny, how long have you been kayak fishing?
BS -This year’s tournament was just my one-year anniversary for kayak fishing. I entered last year’s event and won the mahi division and ever since then I have been hooked.
JH – Pompano is unique due to the Gulf Stream coming so close to shore. Tell us about fishing the Gulf Stream in a kayak.
BS -In most places you have to go 30 to 60 milks to hit the Gulf Stream. In pompano you paddle a couple miles off the beach and you are in it. You can be in a 100 feet of water and find a riff or an edge and the difference in current can change your drift from 1mph to 4mph. My strategy for this tournament was to stay on the slower side of the edge, but to stay right on the line. It worked for me this year.
JH -What was the bait and rig of choice for your 4 sails?
BS – Goggle Eye rigged stealthy. The less terminal tackle you have dragging around the water the better. I took my mainline and tied a uni-knot to a fluorocarbon leader, to a small circle hook. No swivels, no double loops, and no big hooks because the smaller your leader and lighter your hooks, the better bait presentation you’re gonna get.
JH- The Sailfish Smackdown is a 2-day event. Tell us about how your four sails came in over those two days?
BS – Day one started tough. The current was ripping, which is normally good for sails, but it can make it tough on the kayaks. Finally, later in the day the bite started going off and I hooked up a good sail. It dragged me out to 400 feet of water and all the way from Pompano Pier to Deerfield Pier, which is…maybe…3 and half miles? (Author’s note – it’s closer to 5.5 miles!) So, after I landed the sail I was worried about making it back to the tournament launch before the cut-off time. My fish was the last sail caught on day one.
Day two came and my strategy was to make my way south to some wrecks I knew about. I hooked up and was the first tournament angler to catch a second sail, I (thought I) might be in first place with two sails, but I wasn’t sure, so I had to keep grinding it out. I ended up catching my third sail off the same wreck as the second sail. Finally, I caught my fourth fish in about 90 feet of water and that sealed the deal for me.
JH –Any comments on the event and the crew that run it for folks that might want to fish the EKFT next year?
BS – Joe and Maria really have something going. It’s not just a tournament it’s an event. Their hospitality is great and part of the package. From the captains meeting to the goodie bags; seriously, the hospitality for this event is better than most of the power boat tournaments I have fished.