– Top-performing anglers share their experiences –
Anglers from all across Texas were drawn to Corpus Christi on August 3-4 for the 2nd Annual Rey Del Mar Kayak Fishing Tournament.
The two-day event saw anglers compete in both an Offshore and Inshore division, with those competing in both divisions eligible for the title of Rey Del Salt Grand Champion. The Rey Del Mar was put on in collaboration with ACK and Fin Factory Kayak & Tackle CO and benefitted the Heroes on the Waters Coastal Bend, a non-profit which invites armed service veterans on guided fishing trips to help them decompress from the stresses and rigors associated with combat and rehabilitation.
Luckily for us, everyone who competed in the Rey Del Mar walked away with another great fishing tale to tell. Let’s hear some of those stories straight from the anglers who lived them.
What drew you to the 2019 KATS Saltwater – Rey Del Mar?
David Habadier (1st Place Inshore): Any opportunity to get together and compete with some of the best kayak inshore/offshore anglers from across the state, that share the same passion I do, sounds too good to pass up. I love to compete and events like this give you a chance to show just how good of an angler you are. It also brings out some great conversations, catching up with old friends and making many new ones. Plus, who wouldn’t want to be a part of an event to honor and benefit Heroes on the Water- Coastal Bend Chapter, a charitable organization helping veterans and wounded warriors through kayak fishing and the outdoors.
Chris Castro (2nd Place Offshore): Many reasons! I get to enjoy the camaraderie of being around other kayak anglers. It combines my two favorite types of fishing into one event, and it also puts on a show and tell of our fishery. Not many places can you paddle one direction to find redfish and the other to find shallow water kings. And that’s just two of the many species we are blessed to have in paddle range. The other reason is because it’s the only kayak tournament that really tests an angler’s ability as an all-water angler. Down here the sport can take you on so many different adventures, and I think ultimately being a well-rounded angler will really help you respect and appreciate what we have.
Mark Garcia (3rd Place Offshore & 2018 Offshore Champ): I fished Rey Del Mar to reclaim my title and show other anglers that I have what it takes to fish with the best and be taken serious as a competitive angler. I also enjoy the brotherhood, the laughs and great times with like-minded friends who enjoy what I do.
What were you looking to get out of it?
Erik D’Aloise (1st Place Offshore): Honestly… 3 kayaks and a thicker wallet! The real joy of these tournaments is the camaraderie they bring to the sport. It’s friendly competition that builds the sport and brings this community of anglers closer together while helping a good cause like Heroes on the Water.
Chris Castro: I simply wanted to have a good time and do good. My path as a kayak angler and targeting fish has sort of been in reverse. I really enjoy learning about the larger life cycle of a species, so to come back to certain areas and specifically target upper slots has been something I’ve been focusing on this year. It’s good to get back in slot range, and I’m having more fun than ever.
David Habadier: I was definitely looking to get on some solid fish in the inshore division and try to come away with the win. Then to actually get on some great fish and come out on top in the inshore division was such an amazing feeling against this group of anglers. I got so much more out of it than I could have anticipated.
Tell me how your day went?
Chris Castro: It was tough. I expected offshore kayak fishing to be just like it was. Recent bite patterns around the rigs have been nice around 10am and 12pm. I lost a couple of fish very early and connected on two small kings shortly after 10am, then the bite stopped. One thing I noticed was strong bait running south between the last two rigs whereas all the rest of the rigs showed bait dumping more eastern. This was where I set my drifts and would ultimately hookup on my largest king. Spanish that day had been super shy. You always had to have your rod and reel locked and loaded. Toward the end of the day I hear splashing behind me and someone screaming my name. I was the only one in range and catapulted my spoon into a thrashing bait ball. Long story short, I would land a stud 26” Spanish mackerel.
Inshore was a heartbreak but I guess it happens…more than once. I have a bad habit of chasing schools and allowing time to slip. My partner Rueben Pena and I had been upgrading fish towards the end and got caught digging a little too far. We thought an hour and a half was plenty of time to start paddling back not realizing we were over an hour away from our vehicles and 40 minutes away from marker 37. The winds picked up and I get a call from Erik D’Aloise. He asked how I did, and I said I have a limit. He congratulated me on winning the Rey Del Mar, and I told him “dude, I don’t know”. I’m literally pedaling and pushing down on my knees with my hands. “I don’t think I can make it in this, I miss calculated”.
So many stories, and so many what-ifs from all different anglers, and that’s what made this tournament one of the best I’ve fished in a loooooong time. I can’t complain, I did great offshore winning 1st in Spanish mackerel division and 1st in kingfish division. Overall, I placed 2nd offshore. Congrats to all the winners, can’t wait for next year!
Mark Garcia: My day started with no sleep and a drive from SPI after visiting my wife’s family. I got a late start due to late sign-up and hit the water by 7:30 or something like that. Headed out just to realize after the last bar I forgot my rigs and lures back at shore. We’ve all had those days on the water I’m sure. Made a ton of effort to make up for it and paddled in some miles to hit my first King about an hour after going out. My second didn’t come for maybe another hour or more and my last after a long paddle to our final rig for the day. Put in some miles and worked for those fish and it paid off. Wish it had been more but had a chance to compete. All in all, effort made it happen. I never stopped trolling and kept pushing for a bite.
David Habadier: My day started fast by 6:30am. I was stalking backs crawling from a low tide. My first attempt would fail as I watched it spook and disappear. Shortly after, I cast at my next target and watch as its wake explodes towards my lure. Bam, fish on! She was on the money, 28 inches! I chased backs for another hour, without a bite, trying everything I had. They would have no part of it. Frustrated, I decided to make a move to some deeper water. This move would pay off as I came across a large school of tailing reds. First cast, instant hook up 28.5 inches. These reds were hungry and it didn’t matter what I threw. The super spook, bagley spoon or gambler little EZ paddle tail were crushing it. These reds stayed put and in about an hour’s time I landed 10 fish all from 26-30 inches. Then just like that they were gone and the bite was dead. I make it to Marker 37 Marina for weigh-in and my 1st fish goes 27 3/4” 8.02 lbs and my 2nd fish 27 7/8” 8.53 lbs for a total weight of 16.55 lbs. Solid weight that would win me first place and the biggest red side pot. Even though this wasn’t a team event, my partner Matt Murphy and I had been on some solid redfish over the last month in several locations and that gave me a ton of confidence coming into it.
Erik D’Aloise: Offshore kayak fishing is very much luck based in my opinion. It’s about being in the right place at the right time. We all debate in the days before what rigs to fish based on reports and pre-fishing, but the truth is these pelagic fish are nomadic. What is hot one day can be a skunk session the next. We don’t have motors to quickly and effortlessly run around. Once you pick a location or set rigs you’re committed for the day.
We launched from Mustang Island at 6:30 am and hit the first rig, getting some quick hits with undersized Spanish Mackerels. Without any signs of Kings, we headed out for the next rig. Chris Castro predicted the bite would kick on around noon. Around 11:30 am I headed over to the last rig in the mustang group. Right when I passed the rig, just about noon, my Yo-Zuri lure took a massive hit but didn’t get a solid hookset. Before I could get the rod in my hands my second line with a ribbon fish took off screaming. Finally, a solid king on the line! Quickly I gaffed it and had it in the bag. I rushed out to put another ribbon fish out. Within minutes I had another fish on, this one felt promising. Again, I tagged and bagged the fish then threw out another ribbon fish. This time, before I even closed the bail, the line started peeling off. Quickly, I closed the bail but the drag was still tight from the previous fight. I thought for sure I was going to break off. Thankfully my homemade king rig held and I was able to land the winning kingfish. Pinched for time and a long way from shore we headed in and made it to the weigh-in with 7 minutes to spare.
What did you learn during the event (off and on the water)?
Chris Castro: Off the water, I need a watch. On the water, I need a watch. I’m kidding, but I really do need to work on time management when fishing tournaments. This is the second time this year it’s happened. The first time was with Mario Perez, and the second time with Reuben Pena. So, it’s obviously my problem lol.
Mark Garcia: What I learned most in this event that time on water is wasted if it’s not time working, whether trolling out in open ocean or working shorelines constantly throwing a lure at what you may think is a fish. Time management for myself and I know others could be better. I barely made both weigh-ins on time.
David Habadier: One thing is you don’t have to be the winner or even place in both events to be the Rey Del Mar Champion. It was awesome to see the offshore weigh-in and know who was leading the way. Then at the inshore weigh-in you’re waiting to see what they bring in and wow how everything can change from the results of day two. 8th place day one and 7th place day two would prove to be enough to be the Rey Del Mar Champ. Congratulations again to Tracy Deadman.
Erik D’Aloise: Every time out is a new experience and that brings new challenges. Patience and persistence are the keys to success.
Any closing thoughts?
Mark Garcia: I want to thank everyone that put on the event, everyone who came out, the winners and participants because without everyone coming together our love for the sport dies. These events bring us all together and are fun for everyone involved.
David Habadier: What a great event bringing the best of both divisions together for an awesome two-day tournament. Great venue, amazing sponsors and some first-class prizes for the winners. If you missed out this year you better be ready for it next year, you could be the next Rey Del Mar Champion.
Erik D’Aloise: I want to thank the crews from Fin Factory and ACK KATS for hosting the event and giving us a great, safe experience. Not taking the Rey Del Salt title has me eagerly awaiting the next year’s tournament to redeem myself.
Chris Castro: A big thank you to everyone involved. People don’t realize how hard it is to put something like this together until they try it. Thank you ACK, KATZ, & Fin Factory for making this happen. Juan Carlos Andreu and Kevin Kieschnick, you guys did a great job with the safety boat and photography. That really does make it special for many of the anglers involved. Thank you to all the wonderful companies I get to work with who continue to support my habits: ACK, YakGear, Railblaza and Tsunami Tackle! Can’t wait for next year, Cheers!