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Chris DeBeers caught the biggest striped bass at the 2017 Jamaica Bay Kayak Fishing Classic. Thanks to his top six Slam Division finish and a lucky raffle drawing, he also punched his ticket to Hobie Fishing World Championship 7.

The Kayak Fishing Classic was held at Jamaica Bay, New York this past weekend and the 320 competitors were treated to good fishing and pleasant weather.

Held at Floyd Bennett Field in Queens, the Classic is the largest kayak fishing tournament in the Northeast. Pre-fishing started on Thursday and the tournament officially started at noon on Friday. Competitors arrived throughout the weekend and turned the tarmac at Floyd Bennett field into a mini city with tents, campers, and plenty of barbecues.

Often referred to as the Woodstock of kayak fishing, the tournament is as much about hanging out and meeting other anglers as it is about the fishing. Competitors came from just about every northeastern state and from as far away as Georgia. Evenings were spent comparing fishing strategies and sharing food and beverages. I was fortunate enough to sample fluke sushi and homemade smoked sausage all in the same meal!

The tournament raised money for three important charities: Heroes on the Water, The Sport Fishing Alliance, and Send a Kid Fishing. Extra funds were raised for the charities through raffles and the tournament ended with many competitors walking away with great raffle prizes from the many tournament sponsors.

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The final Jamaica Bay Kayak Classic leaderboard.

The tournament was a qualifying event for the Hobie Fishing Worlds Championship 7. The top six in the slam division would each get a raffle ticket and a chance to be selected as the tournament’s representative to the Hobie Worlds. This year’s winner was Cris DeBeers. Not only did he finish in the top six in the slam, he caught the largest striped bass as well.

There was also a Clean Our Waters contest to help clean up the bay. A group of kayak fishing kids got together to promote a competition to see who could bring back the most trash from the bay. They passed out trashbags and asked all the competitors to pick up any refuse they found. Their effort resulted in the collection of hundreds of pounds of trash!

Overall the fishing for all days of the tournament was very good; competitors targeted striped bass, bluefish, fluke, and weakfish. Bluefish of all sizes had invaded the bay and sometimes made catching the other species difficult. Striped bass were more difficult to catch than in years past. There were plenty of bass around, but getting them to eat proved to be a difficult task! There were some large weakfish caught as well, the fish were spread out and most came on the tube and worm, sometimes on the surface over deep water.

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Competitor Mike Lowe with a nice weakfish.

There were five divisions in the tournament: Open Division – longest fish caught of targeted species; Fly Division – longest fish caught by fly rod of targeted species; Junior Division – longest fish caught by a person under 18 years of age of targeted species; Electric Division – longest fish caught in an electric powered kayak of targeted species; and Grand Slam – longest aggregate measurement of the 3 largest of the targeted species: striped bass, bluefish, fluke, weakfish.

The tournament has been run by Jerry Collins of Captain Kayak in Sayville, NY. Jerry and his crew have run the tournament for the last 9 years and this was their last year doing it. They’re hoping to get another organization to carry on the tradition of the Kayak Fishing Classic and keep it going. Creating a great tournament that consistently hosts over 300 entrants isn’t an easy task and Jerry and his team have done a great job over the years. Their leadership will be missed.