Kayakers are a giving crowd

 Dave Mull photoChris LeMessurier (right), organizer of the No Mo Charity Kayak Festival, asks tournament winner Mike Fairchild how he caught his fish.  

Seems like my kayak tournament career has become totally benevolent. With few exceptions over the past three years, I’ve donated my entry fees, which average about $75, to much better anglers at nearly every event. By donating, I mean I’ve paid my entry fee and not done well enough to win any money back.

And frankly, this string of not catching enough big bass to finish in the money is making me downright despondent. Like a few weeks ago, my 15-year-old buddy Mitch Sanders of Zeeland beat more than 100 other anglers (including me) at White Lake at Whitehall.

Last year, I mentored Mitch and served as his adult chaperone in Michigan Kayak Trail events. At White Lake, he earned a check for $2,000 and a new NuCanoe kayak. Mitch tossed a little 2 3/4-inch Green Pumpkin Ned Rig that I probably gave him, catching five giant bass, while I managed just one fish.

After the tournament, I announced my retirement from the sport, although I came out of retirement about a week later when signup for the next event began.

But a week ago, I really realized what keeps me involved with kayak tournaments and kayak fising. Last Sunday, I truly donated my $75 entry fee to fish the 10th Annual No Mo Charity Kayak Festival, based at Kent Lake near Milford, Michigan.

All of the entry fees from the 84 anglers along with considerable proceeds from a raffle afterwards went to the Michigan Make-A-Wish chapter, which grants wishes to kids with life-threatening illnesses.

The No Mo is short for ”no motors” and as far as I know, it is the longest running kayak tournament in Michigan. Chris LeMessurier, who started the Kayak Fish the Great Lakes Group also started the No Mo 10 years ago.

“Back then there weren’t any kayak tournaments to fish so we started our own,” he said.

The first one was a standard tournament with entry fees turning into prize money for the top anglers. But the second year, LeMessurier and the KFGL family decided to make it a charitable tournament, with Make-A-Wish the beneficiary. While this year’s contribution total wasn’t available, in 2018, the No Mo raised more than $10,000 to grant kids’ wishes. Not counting this year, the tournament and raffle has raised more than $29,000.

I think it’s the people involved in tournaments that keep me coming back. The kayak crowd in Michigan is, overall, a bunch of nice folks, as evidenced by the No Mo.

Many of the companies in the kayak industry are just as generous. The top raffle prize (which I was less than 10 tickets away from winning) was a Jackson Big Rig kayak with the foot-powered Flex Drive, a boat that retails for about $3,300. Jackson Kayaks donated it.

And the winner of the event, Mike Fairchild, not only got his name on the traveling trophy, but also won a Wilderness Systems Kayak model of his choice, to be delivered to his home. Again, donated by the manufacturer, Wilderness Systems.

So, after my brief retirement, I shall continue to compete in these kayak bass tournaments even without a charity benefiting from any of the entry fees. I just like the people who fish in them.

Outdoors columnist Dave Mull lives in Paw Paw. Write to him at dave.sportfish.mull@gmail.com.