Contributed by Thomas Philippi, Wilderness Systems Pro Staff
A few years ago our club, the South Jersey Kayak Bass Fishing Club, sent 13 of our members to fish the first ever Kayak Bass Fishing Open held by Chad Hoover on Santee-Cooper in South Carolina. It was held in early March and being from New Jersey, this would be a chance to get some early season fishing in on a world-class bass fishery.
There was a lot of chatter and banter going back and forth on Chad’s website as well as on Facebook. When I announced that the Jersey Boys were coming, the responses from most referred to the characters found on the TV series “Jersey Shore”. Everyone was asking if we were going to bring Snookie and the Situation with us. Some said they would recognize us by our tans and greased back hair. I’ve lived in New Jersey my whole life but us southern New Jerseyans aren’t anything like you see on THAT show. My hats have bent brims, not flat. I wear my hair cut very short, at least what hair I have left as a 57 year old! My shirts are buttoned up close to my neck…no chicks want to see my chest anyway! I know for sure that none of our club members would pass off as a Jersey Shore cast member, not in a million years!
One night I was kidding around with my youngest son Shane. I was saying I didn’t appreciate being lumped into a Jersey Shore stereotype just because of the state I live in. I do have a sarcastic streak and asked my boy to help me make a little video to answer those who were stereotyping me and my buddies. I got a flat-brim hat and wore it a bit crooked. I tried to give it my best Joisey voice and told everyone that we Jersey boys were gonna kick all of their butts. I may have mentioned that I could smell Chad’s fear. I went ahead and posted it on the KBF Open Facebook site and went to bed.
I did notice it got some attention by the next day. I think some thought I was dead serious and most saw that it was a joke. The next club meeting I attended was fun too. One of my buddies asked me if I had been drinking that night and that I must be out of my mind to talk trash like that.
I ended up posting 5 videos all together. I even had my club buddies do a group video saying one of us was gonna win. My ending on each video was a loud and obnoxious BOOM!
On the ride down Santee-Cooper, my buddy Tom Michael called to let me know that he met two Georgia fishermen, Andy Thompson Sr and Jr, while pre-fishing and they were looking for the Yankee that was talking all that crap. He warned me that they were big guys too.
When we finally got a chance to pre-fish we were launching at a spot in the Hatchery. It was early afternoon and I was at water’s edge readying my kayak. My friends were at our truck when two Alabama fishermen pulled up. They saw our NJ plates and asked where the SOB that’s been talking all that crap was. My buddies, Dennis and Mark, who always have my back, just pointed at me! This is how I first met the father and son team of Alabama Kayaking, Bryan and Justin Tadlock. They came right up to me and gave me a big old hug, laughing the whole time. I really felt welcomed to the Palmetto state!
When we gathered for the pre-tournament meeting, all of our guys wore our new SJKBFC shirts. We walked in like a gang of bad asses. We were all welcomed warmly with laughs and hugs. I even got introduced to the group by Chad. That was the highlight of my weekend!
Overall the Jersey boys did great. Our very own Captain Camo, Tom Michael caught the biggest bass the first day, but had this fish DQ’d because he forgot to get his identifier in the photo. He still regrouped and managed a top 20 finish. Mark Sowers caught a 23” bass that went 8.22#’s!!! It just missed out on being the lunker for the whole Open! I got to see this monster and boy was he on cloud 9! Another member, Sean Sullivan, overcame distractions like a broken down truck to take 5th place overall. This finish earned him a Wilderness Systems Commander 140! Our club really represented itself well in this huge tourney! We were all so proud.
As for me…after talking smack like a champ…I fished like a Chump! I didn’t catch a single bass. I don’t even think I got a single bite the whole time in South Carolina. I skunked big time. It was so bad that Chad’s son, Austin Hoover, was busting my stones! He was teasing me about “talking the talk but not walking the walk”. He was funny as heck!
In hindsight, I honestly think I would do the same thing all over again. I had so much fun making and posting those videos and I loved seeing how people reacted. I would have loved to catch a few or even one of those big Lake Moultrie largemouths but I’ll be back to try again. I was lucky enough to meet so many great people down there and now I’m able to keep up with my new friends on Facebook. I can say I am truly blessed!