Elias Vaisberg is no stranger to the local angling community. At age 27, the train operator from Brooklyn who paddles and casts from one end of Long Island to the other already owns a solid reputation as one of the best kayak fishermen in the Northeast.
It was Vaisberg this spring who made headlines in this column by claiming the crown at the Kayak Fishing Classic at Jamaica Bay for the second year in a row. That win qualified him for the Hobie Fishing World Championship last week on the waters of Vinkeveen Plassen, about 20 miles outside of Amsterdam, Netherlands.
"Let me tell you," said Vaisberg, "Hobie picked a tough location. It was a challenge for everyone. We fished a lake three times the size of Lake Ronkonkoma with pike, yellow perch and walleye the targets."
Vaisberg is known for his prowess in catching stripers, fluke, blues and weakfish -- all saltwater pursuits. Although he does occasionally try for local sweetwater favorites, he was slightly out of his element in this event. He made no excuses.
"The water was crystal clear so I figured fishing would be tough," he allowed. "From what I know about pike and perch, they hit better in weedy, murky water."
Difficult conditions or not, the lake did hold some real trophies. Before the tournament began Vaisberg spotted a pike he guessed to be about 42 inches long cruising near a pier, and the top perch measured during the contest stretched the tape to a whopping 21 inches.
While the fishing proved tough, as expected, the Brooklynite managed to take 17th out of 47 anglers with a pair of pike plus a pile of yellow perch. Steve Lessard, from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, managed six pike plus perch to take top honors.
"Just about everyone did well with the yellow perch," noted Vaisberg, "but there were only 15 pike caught altogether, so I was happy with my performance. Surprisingly, there were no walleye taken at all."
Vaisberg favors Hobie kayaks because their patented MirageDrive allows him to pedal with his legs so he can easily and quickly cover lots of water while keeping his hands free to cast or fight fish. He noted that there are some important differences between freshwater and saltwater pursuit that were clearly obvious during the tournament.
"It's completely different, the freshwater game," said Vaisberg, who thoroughly enjoyed the challenge. "You have to be totally quiet to catch pike in the shallows and backwater creeks. Saltwater anglers tend to be aggressive in their search for fish. In freshwater, you have to tone it down, slow it down and really search out underwater structure like weed beds. There aren't any rips or diving terns to help you find the hot spots."
With a little luck, Vaisberg hopes to return to the Hobie World Championships next year. First, he'll need to win the Kayak Fishing Classic at Jamaica Bay again this spring.
"I qualified for the worlds in 2013, too, but couldn't go due to previous obligations, so this year was sweet," Vaisberg said. "I'd like to make it again next year. The competition here is pretty stiff, though -- and I'm probably a marked man after winning twice in a row -- so you just never know."