Catching a sailfish from a kayak on the Atlantic Ocean is like taking a sleigh ride.
“He pulled me pretty good,” said Ryan Jones of Yukon, the assistant manager of OKC Kayak who last month caught a 6-foot long sailfish on the Atlantic Ocean while fishing from a kayak during a tournament in Pompano Beach, Fla.
Jones and Chris Thomas of Coweta — who also is on the pro staff for the kayak stores in Oklahoma City and Tulsa — were the top two anglers in the tournament, defeating a more experienced field of saltwater fishermen.
The angler catching the most sailfish in the two-day tournament would win the event. Jones and Thomas each caught one sailfish (only one other angler landed a sailfish), but Thomas was declared the winner for catching the first sailfish.
Jones finished second, even though he caught the biggest sailfish during the weekend in the first tournament of its kind for kayak fishing.
Jones, 32, said he discovered the tournament on Facebook and decided to enter, even though he had little experience with saltwater fishing from a kayak.
To prepare for the tournament, Jones said he watched videos on how to battle the ocean swells in the kayak.
“For sailfish, you actually want rough water, which is quite tricky,” Jones said. “They look for 3 to 5 feet swells to catch a sailfish.”
The Oklahoma anglers called the local bait shops on Pompano Beach to see what gear to use and what the sailfish were biting.
The anglers in the tournament would fish for sailfish by trolling, drift fishing or downrigging. Jones landed his sailfish in a Hobie Outback kayak while slow trolling a goggle eye bait fish.
He was fishing with a 20-pound braided test line with a 15-foot leader of 40-pound monofilament fishing line. He fished with a Penn 209 reel that is commonly used for striper and spoonbill fishing in Oklahoma.
Jones said he paddled about a mile and a half from shore to reach his fishing location, a place where he had seen two sailfish jumping while scouting the water before the tournament.
He hooked the sailfish in water about 175 feet deep, but when he finally reeled him to the boat, he was in water that was 250 feet deep. He estimates the sailfish had pulled him a quarter of a mile.
“He had taken me a nice little distance in a short 15 minutes, Jones said.
Jones had a GoPro camera attached to the back of his kayak and filmed his battle with the sailfish, which can be viewed on NewsOk.com/sports/outdoors.
It took Jones 14 minutes and 32 seconds to catch the sailfish, but it normally takes twice as long in other boats, he said.
The advantage of hooking a sailfish while in a kayak is that the fish tires more quickly because not only is it pulling drag, it also is pulling the weight of the kayak and the angler, Jones said.
“My kayak has rudder on it for steering,” Jones said. “He would go sideways on me and I actually used my rudder to steer into him. I had the momentum where he could pull me and wear himself out. He ran on me quite a few times.”
Tournament judges were also on the ocean and witnessed the catch. Jones reeled the sailfish to the kayak, but the fish broke free from tournament officials while they were trying to pull it out of the water.
Since it was Jones' first sailfish, tournament officials requested that they handle the fish for safety reasons. Even though the sailfish escaped at the boat, it still counted as a catch in the tournament.
“There are horror stories about kayakers getting stabbed in the back and neck by sailfish,” Jones said. “I didn't get a trophy shot with my fish, but they were saying it was over 6 foot long and over 40 pounds, the largest that day.”
On the second day of the tourney, Jones hooked what he thinks was a large yellowfin tuna, wahoo or shark that pulled him even farther out into the ocean before snapping the leader line.
“By the time the help boat got out there, I was in water 410 feet deep,” Jones said. “I was a little too far out.”
Thomas won $3,000 in the tournament, and Jones received $1,000 for placing second. But the money was just a bonus.
“It was the adventure of a lifetime for me,” Jones said.