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Henson – Old Town Win KFC National Championship Classic

It was a beautiful, calm morning flooded with anticipation and excitement as the qualifying anglers prepared to launch their kayaks for the Kayak Fishing ClassicS National Championship Classic. Eric Henson, fishing from his Old Town Predator 13 won the series finale hands down but let’s back track a bit.

Eric Henson became an Old Town pro staff member by invitation no less about 10 months ago. This is itself is quite an honor and he worked hard to get there. Old Town pro staff/Adventure Fishing Team isn’t one of those things that you just walk into and raise your hand. When I say he worked hard to achieve this, it’s somewhat understated…

Henson is a kayak fishing guide out of Sarasota, Florida and owner of Casting Kayaks Guide Service. Yes, he worked very hard and made many sacrifices to put that outfit on the water. Winning a national championship of course helps his efforts but it’s the winning part that is really tough.

Early mornings are nothing new for the young angler who is on the water six days a week. When he isn’t with a client he is scouting locations, promoting his sponsors, filming, shooting awesome photos or waxing his fleet of Old Town kayaks to keep them clean and good looking for his clients.

Fishing in Tournaments is another big part of his life and he is just killing it. I’ve fished with Henson several times and as a retired fly fishing guide, I can tell you with authority that he has eyes like an eagle and a 5th sense about where the fish are…even when they shouldn’t be. Henson is dialed in and switched on 24/7 and that’s perhaps what makes him so tough to beat.

Billy’s Stone Crab Restaurant in Terre Verde, Florida hosted the Captains Meeting and Dinner on October 16th and the CPR iAngler Tournament weigh in on Saturday the 17th. I could see the determination in the eyes of some of the best inshore anglers on the planet. There was also a calm determination that you could just feel…it was almost eerie which was appropriate given the time of year.

Launch time came at 6:30 am and the anglers launched in the waters that included all of Tampa Bay, Fort De Soto and Palma Sola Bay, all famous inshore fishing global destinations. Henson was up against some top guns such as Derek Engel who just two weeks ago won the angler of the year divisional award and placed in the nationals in another series. How about Pepi Vidal who just placed 6 overall in a powerboat series? Then there are anglers like former champions Marty Meakin, Adam Calderon and Patrick Nespeca and Otis Coblentz as well as several others.

All of them knew that Henson was the guy to beat, who had won or placed in the top five throughout the series year. Henson is big on social media channels where he keeps busy posting photos of trophies that he and his clients have been catching all year around the state.  Henson has been on a few TV shows, in magazines and interviews and the like this hear. In short…he painted a big target on his back and everyone was out to beat him in the National Championship Classic.  The mindset is if you beat the number 1 seed you are the best, well at least the best for that day?

Henson was all business as he posted on the leader board by catching one of the largest redfish in the tournament as the sun was just starting to show. He nailed a 29” spot tail on a Yo-Zuri lure 3DB top water lure as he slid it into his EGO net…hmm that sounds familiar. He followed that with a 19.4” snook and a 16.8” spotted sea trout by using Monster 3X and MirrOlure lures for a score of 65.2” total. I was at Billy’s Stone Crab setting up for the weigh in and in walks Eric Henson. It was still early which usually spells doom for the rest of the anglers.

The weather stayed very nice. In fact it was a Chamber of Commerce kind of day in most of the area with exception to some breezy areas. Let’s take a look at how the event stacked up.

1st Place won by Eric Henson with a total score of 65.2”… he won a new Old Town Predator 13 which he promptly named the Green Fishing Machine. Congratulations Eric from all of us here at the ClassicS and our fantastic sponsors.

2nd Place was captured by Charles Mason who scored a total of 57.8” who used D.O.A. Lures and LIVETARGET Lures. Mason landed the 30” stud redfish which was the largest red of the day. It was a fat spot tail that had been chewing on finger mullet on the flats. Mason won a new Ocean Kayak Trident kayak. Charles has had a very good year in the ClassicS and we expect him to be a real force in the 2016 series as his skill set continues to broaden. Congratulations Charles, you did great and we’ll see you at the Johnson Outdoors World Fishing Open November 13, 14 & 15. We know you’ll enjoy the new Ocean Kayak Trident…

3rd Place was earned by Derek Engel with a score of 50.4” total. Engel gave his Power-Pole Micro anchor system quite a workout chasing down his catches. Engel used Ohero fluorocarbon leader material to help fool the fish he caught on his MirrOlure lures. Derek captured all of his fish using the new Mystic Vapour spinning rod which he won in a recent Classic. The rod has amazing characteristics featuring a soft touch and a powerful backbone. Derek Engel won a new Ocean Kayak Prowler II. I guess you will be moving that Power-Pole over to your new Prowler. Congratulations Derek and we’ll see you next month in the JOWFO Classic.

4th Place was buttoned down by Russell Jacobs with  45.3” for his total score. Jacobs nailed down 4th place using D.O.A. Lures. He kept his cool with his Engel Cooler and cold water as boat guides moved in on him to target the action. Jacobs owns Active Angler Kayak Guide Service out of Tampa Bay area and he knows how it can be on a weekend. Jacobs’s fishes out of the awesome Ocean Kayak that he plans to put the Power-Pole Micro on that he won for his efforts on this day. Congratulations Russell for all of our sponsors, your friends and all of us. See you at the JOWFO.

5th Place taken by Aaron Tracy who scored a total of 41.5” and was a very happy angler after a bit of confusion. Tracey won a kayak full of sponsor gear like a new TFO TWS rod and the amazing Humminbird Helix5 Chart Plotter-GPS Sonar with Side Imaging…incredible tool for inshore anglers. Tracy scored his Snook, Redfish & Trout slam using D.O.A. paddle tails, Yo-Zuri Lures and MirrOlure lures. Congratulations to you Aaron, you did a great job and Humminbird knows you will love the new Helix 5 ( I’m not jealous..)

The Top Five anglers all scored the required Gulf Coast Slam for the event using a variety of lures as you read and a lot of sponsor gear that they won thru the course of the series year.  Next up is our final event of the 2015 series year; the Johnson Outdoors World Fishing Open which will be held in the famous Mosquito Lagoon, Indian River Lagoon & Banana River Lagoon systems. The anglers will have 3 days to put together their best 2 redfish, 2 trout catch for final weigh in on Sunday November 15th.

The Kayak Fishing ClassicS will be awarding 3 kayaks total by: Old Town and Ocean Kayak. There will also be a raffle for a 4th kayak and lots and lots of sponsor gear. Proceeds will be going to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital thru the ClassicS Live2Fish Foundation. The dates are Nov. 13, 14 & 15 and are open to everyone with a kayak. Register now at www.KayakFishingClassics.com

During the regular series tournaments James Foy landed a stud 36” redfish in the Indian River Classic using LIVETARGET Lure. It was the largest species target fish of the year. James won a sweet sponsor gear package that he needed help caring it all out. Congratulations from LIVETARGET Lures and all of our sponsors James.

Eric Henson scored the most total inches combined in the regular tournament series year with a total of 259.3” Henson also won a very impressive sponsor gear package that we are sure he can use. In particular the EGO S2Slider net…I hear you wore the handle down to a nub on your old one…imagine that.

We wish to thank all of you who participated throughout the year and all of our fantastic sponsors: Aqua-Bound paddles, Backwater Paddle Company, Bending Branches paddles, Blue Ribbon Fish Carvers, Cliff Outdoors, Crown LED Lights, Denali shirts, DOA lures, Ego Grips Ego Nets, Engel Coolers, EP Flies ,FINS Braid, Flying Fisherman, Humminbird, Hunter Skipper, iAngler Tournament, INTOVA, Jim Teeny, JLM Designs, LIVETARGET, Mangrove SunGloves, MirrOlure, Monster 3x, Mystic Outdoors, Ocean Kayak, Ohero Fishing, Old Town Canoes & Kayaks, Power-Pole, Princeton Tec, Pro-Cure