Jacksonville Kayak Fishing Classic

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For the past 6 years, the Jacksonville Classic has held the title of world’s largest kayak fishing event. Every year 400 anglers battle for $80,000 worth of prizes. Along the way, they have helped numerous children’s and environment-friendly charities to the tune of over $30,000 a year. Mike Kogan channels his inner tournament to tell us more.

What first drew you to this style of angling? When was that?

In 2004, JaxKayakFishing.com was a new website in the nascent world of kayak fishing. It was specifically for anglers in Northeast Florida.

When did the tournament begin?

I was “born” in 2005 and expected 20-30 anglers — in the face of an April Nor’easter with 30 knot winds, over 100 anglers showed up to fish.

What food and/or music fuels your drive to the put-in?

I fuel our anglers with chicken wings, a solid dose of Classic Rock, monster raffles for great charitable causes, and BBQ at the check-in.

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Who, specifically, is shaping the future of kayak angling?

I (the Classic) am. I have led the way for years as not only the world’s largest kayak fishing event, but I pioneered rules and rewards that have shaped many other events, as well. With their interactions with anglers and support of great events, the great manufacturers of kayaks and accessories that sponsor our event are also shaping the future of kayak angling

With regard to kayak angling, what issues are important to you? What, if anything, can be done about them?

Keeping it real – focusing on kayak fishing as a recreational family-friendly sport that puts people in touch with the best parts of the outdoors.

Barring money or logistics, what is your dream kayak angling trip?

I would love to take all our friends and airlift them to Alaska!

What’s in your milkcrate?

My milkcrate is filled with great people that put on and attend a world class event that puts most boat angling events and tours to shame. Over $250,000 has been gathered for charities, and countless memories have been made for those that have participated. Our crate is also stocked with incredible sponsors like Columbia Sportswear and the 80+ others that support our event every year.

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Tell us about your best day on the water.

Several years ago in 2008 when we had “just” 340 anglers, a 12 year old placed 4th overall in the slam division; the smile on his face and the rounds of applause as he approached the stage to claim his place is one of my most cherished memories.

What is the kayak fishing lifestyle?

I think the kayak fishing lifestyle is an orientation towards experiencing the outdoors close-up and personal at a slower more focused pace, and recognition of the camaraderie enjoyed between people that share this common interest and platform.

Tell us a story, any story.

It has been interesting to track the demographics of what kayaks are used by the anglers at our events. In 2005, Wilderness was king and everyone else was an also-ran. Over the years Wilderness has declined significantly and I have seen the rise of Hobie and Ocean Kayaks, and together, those are what I call “the big three.” Most recently I have seen significant growth in anglers moving to the innovative designs from Native Watersports and Jackson Kayaks.

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How have you seen kayak fishing tournaments grow over the years?

I recall my own growth starting with a surprising 100 anglers at the first Classic, followed by 170, 230, 282, 340, 430, 430, 406, 420. Even in challenging economic times kayak fishing has continued to grow.

I think two of the funnest things we started are HoosierPaddler’s BestDang Tackle Box and the Family Cup. The BDTB was a member of our sites idea to raffle off a lure only tackle box that is a kayak anglers dream bag of lures – you get a ticket by donating a new lure and if you win probably never need to buy another lure. We added the Fishing Nosara Family Cup in 2011 – we send the family that aggregates the best slam during the Classic to Nosara, Costa Rica, for a week expenses paid!

What is it about the Jacksonville Kayak Fishing Classic that draws so many competitors?

I like to think it is due to many factors. While Northeast Florida is an awesome fishery, with many places to catch inshore saltwater species, we strive to put on an event that is recreational, family-oriented, and fun, without the egos that typically come along with competitive tournament fishing. Although we have great fishing prizes, our participants can actually win more in the sensational raffles that drive our charity fund-raising. Thanks to great sponsors I am able to offer up captains bags that are filled with excellent lures, accessories, and apparel that are worth more than the price of entry. Add that to a great venue where we serve catered food at both the captain’s meeting and check-in, and you have won just by entering. Top it off with world-class organization, great camaraderie, and the memories you will make and now you know the secret sauce that keeps people coming back.

What does the future hold for you?

Another year with 400-500 anglers coming to Jacksonville this May having a blast!

*All images courtesy of JaxKayakfishing.com, and are not to be reused without prior written c0nsent.


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