It started as an idea. Joey felt it was important to start a tournament somewhere in the New York metro area to help promote kayak fishing. I knew it was a good idea but in May, when Joey was proposing to have the event, was our busiest time of year in the shop. I told Joey he’d have to take on most of the leg work and I’d pick up his end in the shop. Joey started looking at places to hold it and I said Jamaica Bay was my choice because it was the best fishery in the region. Joey agreed and Gateway Park’s Floyd Bennett Field became headquarters. The first year we had 52 participants and it has grown steadily each year as the word’s gotten out. The second year ESPN Outdoors Bassmasters showed up and filmed the event. They were amazed that we had such good fishing in the middle of one of the world’s great cities.
The event attracts participants from all over the country and early on I pushed for it to be a multiday happening. The tournament is really a small part of the experience. It’s all about the camaraderie, placing faces with names, making new ones and great fishing. Participants start arriving Thursday night to camp out. As I write this I hear there are over 150 expected. The camping is primitive but it’s terrific. I love being there at the bay with lots of good people enjoying great fishing. The most difficult thing about J-Bay is getting to and from. That’s because it’s in New York City in the shadow of JFK airport. People are shocked that there’s such great fishing in the middle of such an urban environment. It’s pretty special to be experiencing what the bay has to offer with jets landing and taking off for all corners of the globe and to the north is the Manhattan skyline. One of the first times I fished there I had just released a nice bass when I heard a very loud roar. As I looked to the sound there was the Concorde taking to the sky. The Concorde is no more and I missed an amazing photo op, but everything else is still there.As we enter year seven and the tournament is a mainstay in the kayak fishing world and one of the largest in the world. This year a cutoff of 350 was set and with one week to go it’s just shy of this total. Proceeds go to Casting for Recovery, a wonderful charity. Besides the actual tournament there’s a demo day on Friday, raffles, and days of great fishing. The highlight being this body of water has some of the best fishing for weakfish anywhere. Weaks up to 16 pounds have been caught at the event. Last year dozens of these beauties were caught, measured and released. Besides weaks there are striped bass, fluke and bluefish. So far the largest tournament striper has been a 43”. Bluefish run up to 15 pounds and fluke to over 5 pounds are available too.
My favorite part of J-Bay is how kayak friendly it is. The bay has had a lot of engineering done to it which made it the great fishery it is. The construction of the airport resulted in the channels being dug and part of the runways were built on fill dredged from the bay. All this resulted in substantially deeper water that attracts fish and is a perfect complement to the extensive shallows. There’s a shipping channel that runs along both the north and south shores. In the middle is a myriad of islands and sedges. This area is called the pumpkin patch and it has a lot of shallow water that’s not very boat friendly, but is perfect for kayaks. We’ve had some truly amazing fishing in the patch. I recall a day where I got over 40 fish, a mix of blues and bass between 2-3 feet.
The first couple years the tournament was on Sunday but when it became a multi day event we changed this to Saturday. In this way Sunday became a rain date. Thursday and Friday is pre-fishing, with a Captain’s meeting on Friday night with dinner, and there’s also food Saturday night too. Awards are beautiful charts of the bay with each of the fish species on them. All prizes are raffle items so everyone has a chance to win kayaks, paddles, and assorted gear. The Wolf Pak, a loose association of forum members from the area does a lure raffle. To participate you donate a lure and $5. If you win you get the lures and Casting for Recovery gets the cash. It’s a win win for everyone. Terrific fishing in a unique and wonderful fishery and money raised for a great charity.