bitb2Contributed by Mike Morales

How did a couple of South Texas boys pull off a kayak fishing trip in the Bahamas? How in the world did you get your kayak across the US then across the Atlantic Ocean? These are just a few of the many questions I’ve been asked. Here is the good, the bad, and the ugly about my experience at the Battle in the Bahamas.

Being an avid kayak fisherman I had always aspired to do something bold and adventurous that would take me out of my comfort zone and challenge me to create memories that would last a lifetime. I had several goals in mind when considering what I wanted to do and after learning about the Bahamas tournament, it seemed that this was it, this is what I was looking for!

I learned about the EKFT (Extreme Kayak Fishing Tournament) through my good friend and outfitter Barrett Fine from Austin Canoe and Kayak Company out of San Antonio. Barrett had spent a lot of time kayak fishing blue water down in Florida and seemed to be well connected with the scene and had great feedback from some of the contestants from last years event. After doing a lot of research it seemed that EKFT was a reputable organization and they definitely knew what they are doing when hosting major tournaments. It was also great to learn that Joe and Maria Hector who run EKFT are experienced, hard core Kayak anglers which made it even more enticing. To learn more about the EKFT go to

Planning started in early December 2014 as we worked on assembling the gear we needed and planned out travel logistics. For the most part, all travel from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale to the Bahamas was already figured out through EKFT. Being that this was the second tournament they had assembled in the Bahamas they pretty much had the organization of it all nailed, all we had to do was get to Fort Lauderdale, with our Yaks and gear. EKFT provided two different travel packages which was a selection of a either a 3 day or 5 day package. The 5 day package ,which is what we opted for, provided a ferry from the port to the Bahamas plus 5 nights of hotel accommodations. This allowed for 2 solid days of pre-fishing and site seeing (Wed/Thu) before the tournament began at 6:30 a.m. Friday morning.

Driving up from Corpus Christi, Texas I met Barrett in San Antonio at about 9 a.m. Sunday morning where the journey began. We loaded up the two place kayak trailer and all our gear in the bed of Barrett’s pick-up and headed east. After 4 tank full’s of gas and 14 hours later we finally pulled into Tallahassee, FL where we decided to camp out for the night at a local hotel to get 4 hours of sleep since we needed to be at the port by 3 p.m. Monday to drop our kayaks of for our loading instructions for the ferry/cruise ship. Monday morning came around and all I can say is that 4 hours of sleep was not enough, we got up an hour late and the clock was ticking to get to Tampa Bay to pickup some rods for Barrett from his rod sponsor. We finally made it out to Fort Lauderdale at 1 P.M. where we immediately went to the US Customs office to complete our certificate of registration and to have our Kayaks inspected and recorded. The process took about 30 minutes where we then went to the port which was only about a mile down the street. This is where the work started!

When we got to the dock where our Ferry was waiting we had to load all of our fishing gear, drinks, etc.. on our kayaks, then shrink wrap them completely to avoid loosing anything along the way and to avoid damages. What a pain in the “you know what”! This was definitely a two man job and after all that loading and wrapping we then had to hand cary our 300 lb. kayaks that resembled tiny mountains of crap on a plastic boat onto a pallet to be forklifted in the cruise ship. The journey had now officially begun.

Tuesday morning at 6 a.m. the first wave of angler (who selected the 5 day package) which was about half of the 70 tournament participants met at the dock, went through security (which was a lot like an Airport security) where many bags were scrutinized for having various types of fishing gear and tools that could be harmful if in the wrong hands, then finally through customs, and onto the short 4 hour boat trip across the Atlantic.

Day 1 – Accommodations / Learn the lay of the land

The hotel resort was quaint, no where near 5 star but it was certainly everything an angler needed to live a life of luxury that included a super cold air conditioner, a nice shower, cable television, a sink and small refrigerator. There was one restaurant that you could get to by foot and a snack bar in the hotel lobby. Port Lucaya was pretty much were the party was that had a wide array of restaurants, bars, and a big hotel casino that was a quick 5 minute boat ferry ride that was available every hour on the hour. WiFi/Internet access was absolutely horrible that worked on occasion and your best chance of picking up a signal was in the hotel lobby which frequently had many people loitering around there to get connected. There was local 4g Cell service through BTS but I quickly found out it cost 2.50 per minute if you didn’t pre arrange an international service plan through your provider. Needless to say, communication sucked.

After getting settled into our lodging we now began to wait around for our kayaks and gear, after seeing all of the kayaks lined up in the ships freight area I began to quickly notice that many of the experience anglers who attended last years tournament in the Bahamas had fortified the packing and wrapping of there yaks, I also learned that some payed an extra $400.00 to load their entire kayak trailer and it was all for good reason. The pickups and antiquated box trucks rolled into the resort about 2 hour later and I was absolutely horrified with what I saw as they opened the truck rolling doors. 300-500 lbs kayaks were stacked on top of each other, in many cases 3 to 4 high. Imagine the game Jenga with 400 lb blocks and that pretty much was the image.


The only thing going through my mind at the time was A)I hope my Hobie Pro Angler 14 was not the unlucky one to be sitting at the bottom of the heap of plastic, and B) how bad is the damage going to be to my kayak and all of my gear and will it still be usable for competition. Talk about lucky! My kayak was near the top of the stack and the only damage I had was some minor tears to the fresh wrap I had installed showcasing my sponsors. I can only say that others were not so lucky.

They dropped off our kayaks about 100 yards from the shores of where we would launch each morning which was also about 1/8th of a mile to the front door of my hotel room. This equaled about 6 miles of walking too and from the kayak and launch over a span of the 5 days and often times carry loads and loads of gear and equipment, this too was a major pain in my arse. This made me learn quickly that I should have brought some sort of dolly and definitely a balloon tire style kayak dolly to get through the sand. I consider myself as being fairly in-shape and was a little bummed that there were no Gyms anywhere within range but after all the work I feel as thou I didn’t skip a beat with my workout regiment.

Day 2 and 3 – Pre Fishing / Where do I fish and what do they like to eat

Wednesday morning it was on! The weather was fantastic, the water was flat and all the fish in the sea had my name on it! There were no breakers to compete with and I felt as though I was launching from the shore of the Laguna Madre except for a few notable differences ….the water was crystal clear, blue, and quickly dropped off to over 1000 feet in less then a mile out! 25 foot of water looked as though it was only 3 feet deep and at 50 feet you could clearly see the bottom which was amazing and nearly magical. All I could think about was, damn, I’m kayak fishing in the Bahamas!

The first fishing tactic I tried was too troll with a Cuda Tube and an 8″ mid diving plug. At about a depth of 100′, my reel began to scream like one of those chainsaws they use for competition and the battle was on! 10 minutes later I was able to catch my first ever Barracuda that measured out to nearly 40 inches. Man I was stoked. As the day went on I caught a few other fish that included, trigger fish, strawberry grouper, and others that were not suitable for tournament weighing.


As the day ended we quickly learned that these fish were very smart and it was going to take some live bait that we had pre ordered weeks before the tournament that would be provided on tournament day. The bait of choice that were “can’t miss” were Goggle Eyes. Then there was there was “The bait situation” that I’ll get into a little later. The first day of pre-fishing, a lot of anglers were able to bring in some great fish thank included, big Wahoo, Kings, Snapper, grouper, Barracuda, Black Fin Tuna that were all tournament worthy species.

Later that night after getting some chow in Port Lucaya with some buddies I met from Florida we decided to head back to the port and hit the docks with Sabikis for some live bait. Luckily Barrett brought along a small live bait pen that we could hang off on the deck in the event we got into some live bait. I was able to catch 9 small 4 inch “I don’t know whats” that resembled some sort of snapper that I thought I’d give a try for the next day of prefishing.

The next day we started paddling out at about 7 a.m. and I went ahead and strung up two of those tiny 4″ live fish to a wired King rig. In about 150 foot of water, there went that distinct sound of that screaming reel again as I trolled at about 3 miles per hour “BZZZZZZZZZZZ” fish on!!!!!! Bang, my first King fish probably weighed in at about 12 lbs, too bad it wasn’t tournament day! Between that and a couple of Barracuda that was about all I was able to manage for a 5 hour outing. Nevertheless, I felt like I was ready and knowledgeable of where and what it was going to take get on the tournament boards. At the same time on day two, anglers were bringing in some great fish, some were caught on live bait but a lot were caught on things called Vertical Speed Jigs, that looked like a knife blade about 7 inches long that I knew absolutely nothing about, and after watching a few of them being used out on the water, I was impressed with how aggressively and quickly these guys were using them, talk about a workout.


Imagine letting an 8 oz weight sink down about 300-400 feet then the trick is to reel and jerk that thing all the way up as fast and as hard as you possibly can for about 3-5 minute while in the seated position of your kayak, certainly an ass whoop-n’ but highly productive. Later that day after getting cleaned up we thought it would be wise to follow up on the live bait situation as we had heard earlier on day one that our single bait guy, who’s name I will not mention, who had made the journey down from Fort Lauderdale in his own boat had lost most of his live bait due to the pump on his live well going out. Needless to say we were still optimistic things would be ok on the 50 live Goggle eyes that we had ordered.

The Bait Situation

So many would ask at this point, is all the planning, travel and arrangements and what sounds like back breaking work really worth it all? The short answer is Hell Yes! With around 70 participants competing for a cash payout of $10,000 plus the grand winner also being given an all expense paid trip to China to compete in a Kayak fishing tournament plus an opportunity to visit the Bahamas….no brainer for me.

So what was the bait situation? Our bait guy failed to provide the bait, plain and simple. On Friday, Day 1 of the tournament each participant was given just one live Goggle Eye. On Day 2, each participant was provided 1 Goggle Eye and a locally hired bait guy was able to sell an assortment of live bait ranging from Grunts to Yellow fin Snapper. Barrett and I were able to get our hands on 9 live bait for day two. The smart, hard working, dedicated anglers began their morning at 2 or 3 a.m. to have a go at catching live bait on Sabiki’s which resulted in great success for them.

The Tournament

Friday and Saturday were nothing short of spectacular days. All of the planning, plotting, travel, expenses, and hard work had finally met the end result. The wind picked up on both days, which made for some physical challenges, the bait shortage was disappointing, but the excitement of being amongst some of the best kayak anglers in the country, seeing some record fish hit the shores that include some gigantic bull and cow Mahi, huge Wahoo and Kings, and an assortment of Grouper and Snapper and of course the constant battle with the dreaded Barracuda made it all worth the while. I know I had my chances at some true blue water beasts but I will spare you all the fishing stories as I would much prefer to not think about the one that got away or the Fishing rod and reel that I lost as I witness my Ram mount rod holder being ripped off of my kayak as I slowly trolled the abyss of the Atlantic Ocean.


The production and presentation that Joe and Maria Hector of EKFT is hand down the best Ive ever seen. When it came down to the organization from getting to the ferry at Port Everglades, to the captains meeting, to the awards ceremony, it was all top notch and no matter what was happening, Joe, Maria, or one of the tournament directors was right there to supervise and ensure everything went to plan. In short, they really cared. What I was most impressed with were the details of it all, boats were being inspected to ensure integrity, the sponsorship and door prizes were amazing, the photography crew was fantastic, and the organizers took to the time to say “Thank You” and “I hope you enjoyed it”.


No, I didn’t reach my goal of placing in the tournament, No, I didn’t catch a Marlin or Billfish, and I didn’t even have the chance of weighing in a fish, but the experience of learning from some of the best, the chance to fish some pristine waters, and the opportunity to meet some amazing and passionate people will forever be memories I will keep forever and made it all a true adventure. As long as I am healthy and alive I hope to compete in this tournament every year.
End note, 47 lbs won $10,000.

Special Thanks to my Wife and partner in life Sandra Morales, Barrett Fine for being a great friend and fishing partner, Joe and Nori DeBellas, Laura Carroll and Christy Hallgarth for being there for me (You know what you did), and of course my sponsors who made a lot of this possible.


2 thoughts on “My Battle in the Bahamas

  1. Great article Mike, nicely written. It was a pleasure to meet you, hope we can do the same next year. Nice Wahoo!

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