It started with a new starter in my Jeep, hours of fish porn, and a renewed enthusiasm for fishing a new place. I checked the weather report, looked at Google Maps, and picked my fishing destination accordingly.
When I arrived at the boat launch, I was surprised to see the number of people at the launched but noticed none of the cars could carry boats. These were people part of the kayak tour and would be no problem for me, as they usually stay out of my way. The new area I was fishing was just past an older, more familiar area that I quickly paddled through. I was on a mission and sometimes that means taking a gamble. The wind was calm, the water was flat, and the bait was stacked. It was like I had my own mullet run. Every once in a while a trout or ladyfish would bust on the bait pods, catching my attention. As I made my way along the mangrove trees I came to a corner. The water was very cloudy, about two feet deep, and had sediment floating on top. Just then, a wake popped up out of nowhere. I had to do a double take to make sure it wasn’t just a mullet push, and quickly figured out it was no mullet. I grabbed my rod and stood up but just as I was in position, the wake faded. Cast after cast was returned only to come back with nothing. A few docks were up ahead loaded with bait so I pressed on. I had gotten snagged a few times on submerged tree branches and pilings, then there were a couple of people at the docks fishing. Things weren’t going very well, so I turned back around and slowly made for the boat launch, fishing along the way.
As I made my way back, I came across the area where the wake had been. Nothing going on. It wasn’t until about 50 feet past it I spotted mullet jumping with a similar wake from earlier chasing them. It was a good ways away going a straight path in my direction. Just then, Hail to the King by Avenged Sevenfold came on my bluetooth speaker, and I knew it was about to go down. I stood up in my little kayak, gave a 20 foot lead on the fish with an intercepting course, and casted. I have messed up this part before, either casting off of the fish’s course or over the back of it spooking it, but not this time. The lure hit the mark without a splash. I let it slowly sink and when the fish was in range, I gave it one gently twitch. It was on.
All at once my drag was screaming, my fight song was blaring, the kayak made an abrupt 90˚ turn, and adrenaline began pumping. Once the initial shock washed over me, I went into business mode. I quickly adjusted my drag based off the last run the fish gave and adjusted the position of the butt of my rod from the armpit to the center of my body for leverage. Drag is, in my opinion, the most important aspect when fighting a large fish. If it is too tight, the line may snap on a strong run. If the drag is too loose, the fight could last too long possibly tiring the fish to death. It could also spool all of your line, or you may lose tension and the hook could pop out mid-fight.
After doing a couple 360’s and getting dragged out to the middle of the river, I tried suggesting to the fish we move closer to the shore by angling its head, but it didn’t want to. Every time the fish would get in arm’s length it would make another run. Finally, I came to terms all of this happening in deeper water and jumped out of the kayak. It started for the anchor line and I shouted “Stop Stop Stop!”, but it didn’t listen. I couldn’t get the fish to go back under the rope so I went under it. A couple of pictures later and I was looking for the hook in its mouth, but could not find it. I realized at some point the hook had effortlessly popped out at some point. That means if at any point during the fight I gave the fish slack, the hook would have come out and the fight would be over. Drag is important. The drumming coming the fish is unexplainable, like someone knocking on my chest from the inside, and this was while I had it by the tail.
A few seconds in the water and she was gone.