The Yamaha Marine Group has been sponsoring the annual Kenai River Classic for 18 years. It is the largest and most important tournament on the Kenai River in Alaska, and it draws participants from all over the United States.
The hefty entrance fee and proceeds from a fund raising auction associated with the tournament go toward river restoration projects and enhancing shoreline access. The event is put on by the Kenai River Sport Fishing Association, a leading organization for sport fishing advocacy in Alaska. Hundreds of local community volunteers and even folks from as far away as Anchorage join together to make this a great experience for all who participate.
Participation in the Kenai Classic is limited to around 150 anglers, and they fish four per boat with a licensed guide to provide local knowledge and expertise.
Engine size on the lower Kenai is limited to 50 HP, and as you might expect, the Yamaha F50 is far and away the dominant outboard in use. In fact, some have estimated that 9 out of every 10 outboards on the river are a Yamaha.
Action during the tournament is totally dependent on the timing of the Salmon runs that enter the river in June, July and August. The target of this tournament is the monster King Salmon, a fish that frequently top 50 pounds or more. The world record King Salmon, which weighed over 98 pounds, came from the Kenai River, and there is no other place in the world that can boast as many large Kings.
This year, the timing of a King Salmon run and the dates of the tournament coincided perfectly. Over 150 Salmon were caught during the two-day event, and all but a few injured fish were released back into the river to continue their upstream journey. On the first day, long time tournament participant Bart Wilson took an early lead in the over-all category bringing in two fish, each over 45 inches long. However, the surprise of the day was a huge 51-inch King caught by Yamaha Communications Manager Martin Peters. Using the established length/girth formula, this fish was estimated to weigh between 68 and 70 pounds.
This was Martin’s first trip to Alaska, and it was his first time fishing for giant King Salmon. One can only imagine the excitement and chaos on that boat as Martin fought this monster to the net to be measured and released. Because many other large Kings were also caught during the tournament, the tension was high to see if Martin’s King Salmon lead would hold up over two full days of fishing.
The second day of fishing proved to be just about as strong as day one. Many anglers were still in the hunt for both the coveted over-all Classic Champion Angler award for the most total inches caught, and for the highly prestigious King of the Kenai award given to the tournament angler with the largest King Salmon in the event. The lead for most total inches changed hands several times on day two, and Martin’s huge King appeared to have several strong challengers.
When the final tally was completed, Devon Tuck won the Classic Champion Angler trophy with a total of 137 inches. The competition for the largest King went right down to the final minutes of the tournament. Finally, Martin Peters’ large King prevailed over his closest competitor by just one half of one inch, and Martin won the huge King of the Kenai award in his first attempt at Salmon fishing. A truly remarkable accomplishment. Congratulations Martin! Well done!
Written by Phil Dyskow, Immediate Past President of the Yamaha Marine Group.