Gliding Into The Winner’s Circle… The 2022 Coastal Kayak Clash - The Fisherman

Gliding Into The Winner’s Circle… The 2022 Coastal Kayak Clash

And the winner is…

For those who don’t know, the Coastal Kayak Clash (CKC) is a year-long, multi-species fishing tournament geared to the saltwater kayak angler. From May through November, fishermen hailing from all over The Fisherman’s coverage area duke it out in a clash of epic proportions.

CKC entrants compete in eight categories – weakfish, bluefish, fluke (summer flounder), black sea bass, porgy, striped bass, hardtails (false albacore & bonito) and blackfish.  There are three ‘point positions’ in each species category, first place earns three points and third earns one. The ultimate goal of the six-month marathon is to accumulate as many point positions as possible to rack up the winning cumulative score.

The thing that makes the CKC unique is that the fish are recorded in inches not pounds, making it possible to compete while releasing as many of your fish as you’d like. The only caveat to this is that you can only hold one position in each category, which means our anglers have to be proficient in many species to net the win. In addition to the ultimate goal of finishing the season with the biggest cumulative score, we also hand out prizes, in the form of $100 gift cards to YakAttack.Com and a pair of Hobie sunglasses, for eight ‘Fish of the Month’ awards.

It’s easy to see that there is a lot going all season long and the competition really mounts as the season progresses.

A Piscatorial Podium

So what are all these anglers vying for? Check this out… the third place overall winner takes home a WideTrak SB Large Canoe/Kayak Cart with Balloon Beach Wheels, a set of Striper-4 Fishing Rod Carries and a Yak Lights lighting kit and the second prize winner is awarded a Humminbird Helix 9 CHIRP MEGA SI+ GPS G4N fishfinder. The big kahuna is a Hobie Mirage Outback kayak with WideTrak ATB Large Kayak/Canoe Cart with ‘no flat’ tires!

There are also the eight ‘largest of species’ awards; these lucky anglers will take home rod and reel combos that consist of PENN Clash II 4000 spinning reels and Fenwick HMG inshore spinning rods. With so many ways to win, there’s no reason why any Fisherman subscriber that loves to fish out of a kayak would choose not to enter. In the 2022 event we saw 10 anglers taking home prizes and many of them took home multiples!

A Game Of Inches

For those of you that have followed the tournament over these last three seasons, the name Justin Oser should be etched into your memory. This guy has been a force through all three events, taking third place in 2020 and the grand prize in 2021 and 2022! And if you’re wondering how he does it, Justin even gave us a road map in his article entitled, Tournament Tactics: How I Won The CKC in our April 2022 edition. In that article he details his game plan, a simple arsenal of proven lures and techniques and even talks about some of the mistakes he’s made during his rise to CKC supremacy.

In the 2022 Clash, Oser struck early and often, taking a two point lead in June and then going on a tear, increasing his lead to 9 points by July 1. Bob Wagner and Tom Houde put the pressure on whittling his lead down to four points by September and then to 1 point by October first! But Justin made it happen, yet again, with a pair of October entries, a 26.25-inch albie and a category leading 27-inch tog, that put the top spot out of reach for good. Justin Oser would take home the Grand Prize for the second year in a row!

Twice Is Nice

After the dust settled on his big win, I took a few minutes to talk to the twice-anointed CKC champion. I started by asking him how it felt to win the CKC twice in two years? “To put it short,” he said, “It feels amazing! I felt like last year could have been a fluke, where everything fell perfectly into place, but winning it again has done a lot to make me realize that I have really grown as an angler. You described the CKC as a ‘kayak fishing marathon’ and I really think that’s the perfect way to describe it; 214 days of planning and trying to fish as much as possible.”

Next I asked him if he made any strategic changes to his 2021 run? “To be honest, last year’s win for me was a squeaker with me barely edging over Bob Wagner in the final weeks of the tournament. Bob also won the inaugural CKC in 2020 with a last minute tautog entry, which let me know he was prepared to make a couple hundred mile drive from New Jersey to make that happen. I knew this year I had to really focus on one species per trip in order to maximize my effort to get a fish on the leaderboard.” He went on to say, “The addition of striped bass to the CKC forced me to go outside my comfort zone and try something new, I haven’t fished for stripers in a long time and never from the kayak.”

Next we talked a little more deeply about the competition itself and the other top anglers in the CKC. “In September, I thought that the CKC had gotten away from me. As of September 15 I was in first place with 12 points, Bob Wagner was in second with 5 points and Paul Sandford was in third with 3 points.” Oser told me, “I was feeling pretty good about my chnaces at that point. The very next week brought a drastic and unexpected change. Bob Wagner and Tom Houde stepped up in the most dramatic comeback I could have imagined, in what felt like a millisecond I dropped 3 points to 9, Bob Wagner jumped 3 points to 8 and Tom Houde, who hadn’t cracked the top 3 yet at that time, came out strong with 6 points! Oh boy, that was a tough week for me. I actually lost sleep over it!”

“This shift came during the height of my albie season and I knew that a big albie could make or break the CKC for me. I just couldn’t make it happen! I made eight trips for albies that month and could never get that big one to make a jump up in the Hardtail category. I actually became frustrated and was glad to make an early jump over to tautog which turned out to be the key to victory. This year I managed to have a banner season on tog, which culminated in my new personal best and first double-digit blackfish. Oh yeah, and that albie I managed to sneak onto the board in October came from a school I found on the way in after a tautog trip…sometimes luck is your best player.

We finished out the short conversation with some advice to anyone that wants to make a run at the CKC in 2023. “Seasonal planning the truly the secret to the CKC! While there is always an outlier or two (as exhibited by Alfred Green’s third place black sea bass or Greg Vergaray’s first place porgy), most placing fish in the CKC are caught in certain timeframes within the year. I always start my saltwater season fishing porgies and spring tog. From here, I switch over to sea bass. This year, I had to add stripers to the mix which I added to my June fishing which is typically the best time of year locally to target large stripers. June is also my best month to target fluke so I had to share the month with the bass. Now August is a month I always struggle with, and I don’t think I have ever entered a placing fish in this month.  Come September I am all about the albies and then October and November is back to what is my favorite fish at the moment, the tautog. I have to say, this speaks volumes to the layout of CKC as a season long marathon.”

For those who haven’t met Justin Oser, he’s a true standup guy with a passion for fishing that feels infectious when you speak to him. We are looking forward to the 2023 season and readers should be on the lookout for more stories from out two-time winner. And for all you kayakers that haven’t dipped a toe into the CKC, let 2023 be your year, it’s a fun tournament, with great prizes and it will make you fish harder all season long.