La Jolla Kayak Fishing-Steve Moyer Memorial
From the first moment I heard that our friend Steve Moyer (pictured at right with his son) was diagnosed with a brain tumor, I knew that I wanted to do something to help his family. My family has seen the effects of cancer first hand and I know how it can stress the family emotionally and financially.
As we had already set the date for annual kayak fishing tournament, my first thought was to change our tournament to a benefit. Steve couldn't work and Toni, his wife, had left her job to stay home with him. As Steve was an avid kayak fisherman and very well liked in the kayak fishing community, I knew we could pull everyone together to help them out. Because Steve's illness advanced very rapidly, he passed away before the event took place. We sadly changed the event from a benefit to a memorial.
With all the preparation that goes into putting on an event of this size, I was glad to have the day arrive. Two days before the event one of our main sponsors, A-1 bail bonds, dropped out with no explanation. This left us with no boat to bring the bait, donated by Everingham Bros Bait Company, up to La Jolla. Of course, as often happens in the community of fisherman, we had other people step up to the plate to help us out. Nate Rabasco and Dan Baggard, private boaters, heard of our plight and offered the use of their boats for the day. They spent the day handing out bait to the kayakers, picking up and weighing fish, they also handed out sodas and water, which they purchased with their own funds.
With a launch time set for an early 4:00 am, my wife and I arrived a little past 3:00 to get set up and check in the participants. To our surprise, there were already close to fifty people there. Most had been there since 2:30 setting up camp stoves and enjoying a gourmet pre-tournament breakfast on the beach. Most were joking loudly about different strategies for the day or making guesses as to which of the hot local fisherman would walk away with the top prize, which I'm sure the people staying at the Sea Lodge Hotel enjoyed listening to while trying to sleep.
Although this tournament is filled with some very serious fisherman, the mood was not one of competition but of community, and though the stakes were high with the winner receiving a new Ocean Kayak Prowler, one of two kayaks donated by Ocean Kayak, prize money and bragging rights for the next year. Everyone just seemed happy to be there to help out the Moyer family, swap stories, catch up with old friends, catching the winning fish a distant second place in the priorities for the day.
Mark Olson, from Ocean Kayak, my wife Allene and I went about the task of getting everyone signed in and handing out the entrants' goodie bags which included, an event T-shirt, a pack of Fishtrap lures, a WD-40 gift pack and some self-promoting Kayak4Fish.com stickers. Matt Moyer who had also arrived early to secure us some space on the grass was also with us at the sign-in to personally thank everyone for their help.
Right on cue, our bait boat arrived and set anchor just outside the surf line ready to hand out bait to the mob. At the stroke of 4:00am, we sent our friends off into the dark in search of their prey. Although we had a large group of early risers, we had people continue to arrive up to the 7:00 am deadline, with no rush to get on the water; they just wanted to be part of the event.
I helped one of the late arrivers get her kayak through the surf, as she was new to surf launches, then unloaded my kayak so I could tour the waters taking pictures and enjoying the sight of 110 kayaks all fishing together for a cause. With this many kayaks fishing it can get a bit crowded, and believe me it was quite a sight. Everywhere you looked the horizon was covered with kayaks, but there was no stress, I never heard so much as a grumble. I saw lines get crossed but a joke or good-natured ribbing always followed it.
We had kayak fisherman of all abilities on the water that morning and everyone seemed to be helping out the new guys. As I paddled out the word came across the radio that Jennifer, aka Connie, had the first yellow of the morning, a small one, but a yellow, so I paddled out to find her for a photo op. I then came across one of the newer additions to our fold, that told me he was on a fish for over an hour, I watched him struggle with this "fish" for several minutes until I could take it no longer. I had to tell him I was pretty sure he was fighting the earth. He insisted it was a fish so I let him continue his battle, I'm pretty sure he didn't land it. As I paddled away I heard via my radio that Andy (Iceman) Allen had put a nice Yellowtail on the boat, and as he is the defending champion everyone was worried.
Everything stayed pretty quiet for some time after that. Reports would come in of more fish but most were of the smaller variety. I did have the privilege of seeing Dante land two yellows, I'm pretty sure he was the only one to do that. I was sitting with a large group when we had a little flurry of action and several fish were landed. I got to watch another angler fight the earth insisting it was the catch of the day.
At this point it was about 11am and I needed to head in to get ready for the BBQ and raffle, I then get the word of another larger yellow being landed. As I was close by I paddle over just after Corey landed his fish. This was a nice size yellow with an awful gash out of its back; how that fish was swimming I have no idea. I could tell this fish was a contender, but I had not seen Andy's fish so I wasn't sure how it would play out.
The big question going around on the water was "Where is Todd (C-level), had he caught anything." Before the tournament the thought was that a White Seabass or a big Halibut would win. No White Seabass had been landed, and for Halibut Todd is the man to beat. We tried all morning to call him on the VHF but received no answers; this just made everyone even more nervous. Todd can be a bit secretive about his techniques and spots, so all we could do was wait for the weigh-in. After I hit the beach I got the word that Val had landed another nice Yellow so the weig- in could be close.
I hit the beach and dragged my kayak to the BBQ/weigh-in area, to find a tremendous spread of food. Matt and the rest of the Moyer family were behind the BBQs cooking up, ribs, burgers, and the best hot dogs I have ever had. There was so much great food I'm sure no on walked away hungry.
The fish trickled in until the 2:00 pm deadline and the results and prizes were announced.
The raffle followed the presentation of the winners, with more prizes than I can name here, the top raffle prize being an Ocean Kayak Drifter went to Kevin Cooper and the second prize a three-night stay at Hotel Punta Colorada went to Arne Rovell.
After the formal festivities ended a large group of us all paddled out together for a moment of silence to remember our friend Steve and others we have lost too soon. This was followed by some general goofiness as we lightened the mood by racing for the shore.
I will remember this day always, as a day when our kayak fishing community came together to help one of our own. We raised over $2000 for the Moyer family, which may not seem like much, but it was a lot to them in their time of need. Our yearly tournament will forever be call the Steve Moyer Memorial kayak fishing tournament with proceeds from future events going to help fight cancer, the illness that took Steve from us before his time.
Thanks to all our sponsors for their contributions, thanks to everyone that helped put on the event including my wife who worked so hard the keep things running smoothly. The biggest thanks go to everyone that joined us on this day to help the Moyer family.