This past Saturday I participated in BCKFC‘s Fall N Tide VII kayak fishing tournament. Fall N Tide is held in Plaquemines Parish and has lately been headquartered out of Delta Marina. FNT has seen a steady increase in participation since it’s inception and this year had over 150 participants. I wasn’t originally planning on fishing the tournament though. Amanda and I had plans to head over to College Station to see LSU take on Texas A&M, kind of historic with it being their first year in the SEC, but we bailed out to save money and vacation time. This freed me up to fish the tournament, but didn’t really leave me enough time to pre-fish or make sleeping arrangements, especially with the Grand Isle trip the weekend before. So I woke up incredibly early Saturday and drove down in the dark to launch at twilight. I really didn’t know where I was going to fish, so I put together a loose plan in the car. Launch somewhere I’ve been before, try the area for trout and flounder and most likely catch a red in the process.
This would be the first time I would get to try out my new Earth colored Cuda 12, I picked it up Thursday from Pack & Paddle. Probably not the best idea to fish a tournament out of a boat you’ve never been in, but I figured it couldn’t be that different from the Cuda 14, especially layout wise, which it wasn’t. The Ram Tubes were new to me, but I like the change from the flush mounts. With the Ram tubes you can position your rod at any angle you like.
I didn’t set up the GoPro or take a whole lot of pictures, it was a tournament so I didn’t want to waste too much time fooling with anything I didn’t have to. I had four rods rigged up; one with a popping cork, one with a topwater, one with a redfish spinner, and one with a just a soft plastic on a 1/16th oz jig head. I started early on with the popping cork and caught a 13″ white trout on my first cast. Not bad for a whitey. I alternated baits for awhile and focused on fishing islands, points, cuts, and coves. I started catching rat reds and white trout with some consistency. It was starting to look like it would be a pretty good day catch-wise. Leopard reds were coming to hand as well, except they were too small.
The tide was highest early in the morning and was falling throughout the day. The clarity was excellent, I was surprised at how clear the water was. I found a pretty good pattern slowly swimming a soft plastic parallel to the bank, catching undersize and slot reds. As I got to some roseau cane I got a big thump and knew it was neither a trout nor a red. It was a flounder and a doormat at that. I was pretty excited trying to keep the line tight as I reached for my net behind me and swam the fish around my boat. As I netted the fish and brought him into the boat I went Iaconelli for a moment and was pretty audible in my excitement. I don’t normally do that, but I’ve never caught a flounder this large and for it to happen on tournament day was incredible. I didn’t measure or weigh it, it went straight into the ice chest. At this point I had a couple slot reds and a nice flounder so I needed a trout. I continued working the shore, but made a few casts out into the open as well. It wasn’t long before I picked up a 13″ trout. It was 8am and I already had a slam, which was a first for me on a tournament day.
As I continued along the shore I was picking up reds here and there, but none had any size. I also picked up another big flounder. Are you kidding me? Two big flounder in one day? My productive shoreline was coming to an end so I decided to make a run across a large body of water to get to some marsh that I’ve had success at in the past with upper slot reds. As I paddled I couldn’t help but think about just how lucky we were to have such a beautiful tournament day. You can usually count on the wind to blow 20 knots when we schedule a tournament but Saturday was different, it was gorgeous out.
I made it to a nice marsh flat that I ended up sharing with a raccoon. I stood up and started sightfishing. I was seeing reds with consistency. Some were alone, others in pairs, I even saw groups of 5-6. They were aggressively feeding as well. I was able to upgrade to a 24″ then a 26.5″ fish – pretty much the perfect tournament red because we can only keep slot reds 16-27″. I kept at it for awhile because the fishing was just too insane to pass up. At one point I had a red in the boat freshly landed and another was swimming by, so I pitched him the same jig and ended up with two. I managed to land a few more reds sightfishing and even picked up a little black drum, then I decided that it was time to make one last try to upgrade my trout. It was around noon, with weigh-in starting at 3pm, I had time to devote to trout.
I headed back to the same spot I was catching white trout and my lone speckled trout in figuring he had siblings around. I worked the area over with Gulp under a popping cork. The area was a big shallow bay with pockets of oyster and debris. I soon picked up a couple white trout and another flounder, but he was much smaller than my first two. I kept at it and soon the cork went down hard, I set the hook and felt that familiar head shake. I was mumbling out loud, “please be a speck, please be a speck…” because I knew he had a little size. Sure enough he was and an upgrade from my previous trout and as I netted him I thought “this may be the winning fish”. My friend Todd was working the same bay with me and we were talking about or days, his not so good, mine pretty awesome. He witnesses me catch this trout and hears me saying this and says, “you better upgrade your trout, I hear Brendan has a BIG slam”. Todd put things back in perspective for me. As good a day as I had meant that everyone would be having a good day, especially guys like Brendan. Brendan, a friend of mine, is always near the top at these tournaments and I had no doubt that he put together an impressive slam.
I stayed at it, working that same bay, hoping for another trout to come by. That was really the only species that needed upgrading for me. At about 2:30pm I packed it in. The tiebreaker in BCKFC tournaments is time, the earlier you weigh, the better. So I loaded up and headed to the marina to pick up some ice. There I found the LSU game on. I totally forgot all about it. We had just picked off Johnny Football in the 4th and shortly after scored on a nice run by Jeremy Hill. Things were looking good for the Tigers. I listened to the rest of the game in my car as I drove to the weigh-in. It sounded like a made a wise decision to stay and fish the tournament rather than going to College Station. The Tigers played poorly, but still won the game.
Except for the length of my redfish, I had no clue just how big anything was. The Cajun Slam category at Fall N Tide consisted of the heaviest combined weight of a slot redfish, trout, and flounder. I knew my flounder was big, I just didn’t know how big, the redfish was at that upper slot, but a little on the skinny side, and my trout was fairly small, but at least bigger than a school trout.
As I weighed the fish I got to see just how big my flounder were. The first measured 20″ and weighed in at 4lbs, the second was just under 20″ and weighed in at 3lb 10oz. Without a doubt the biggest flounder I’ve ever caught. I was shocked when I saw the weight on those bad boys. I threw two redfish up there, one was 24″ and came in just over 5lbs, the 26.5″ one was just over 6lbs. Not bad for a slot red, I knew it wouldn’t be the biggest brought in though. Next was my trout, which was around 17.5″ and came in just under 2 lbs. I was pretty happy with the weight, I didn’t think for a second that it would win, but I knew I would place, so I would be going home with something and pretty much paying for my entry.
As the weigh-in went on I was able to catch up with a lot of the guys and talk about everyone’s days on the water. As I thought, a lot of nice fish were caught, some folks had some incredible days. It started to look like my flounder was the biggest that was caught, which was pretty cool, and Brendan was telling me I was top 3 for sure. He had an impressive slam, but had to submit a smaller redfish because his big one was just over 27″ (state law allows one over 27″ to be kept), so it wasn’t as nice a slam as Todd thought, hence why Brendan was telling me I was top 3. I had no clue what the prizes were, except that I knew the top 2 won kayaks, from there on it was cash. That’s fine by me.
The cajun slam category is always announced last and the sun was down by the time we got there. As I started hearing the weights that were brought in I was getting a little nervous. The guys I was standing were telling me that I had it in the bag, but I didn’t believe them. Brendan ended up getting fifth, a great day for sure, I’ll admit it, I felt a small sense of pride beating him. It doesn’t happen often, but it sure felt good. As second place was announced I knew I had won the tournament. Benton Parrott, another friend of mine, came in second with 12lbs even. I had come in first by a margin of 10oz. and secured my first kayak tourney win!
I had won a brand new Hobie Pro Angler 12 donated by the Backpacker, long time sponsor of BCKFC. I was pretty much speechless, Clayton was MC-ing the awards portion and asked me about my day and I’m not sure what I even told him. I think I broke the ice with, “it was a tough, tough day out there”. As I walked away they called me back up and there was Chad Hoover standing with Clayton. He grabs the mic and proceeds to tell that I had won the privilege to join him and one of his Kayak Bass Fishing shows. Then he started the naming off all the destinations that had planned and I could pick whichever I wanted – the Everglades, Canada, El Salto in Mexico…….I was floored. Someone got a good picture of the dumb look I had on my face when he was telling me this.
This was the icing on the cake. I wasn’t expecting this at all. Apparently it was announced at the captain’s meeting. I didn’t make the captain’s meeting so this was news to me. The PA 12 became bycatch in the prize game, I just won a kayak trip of a lifetime! The details still need to be ironed out with Chad, but I’m pretty stoked about this.
I still drove back to Baton Rouge that night, I had after all promised the wife I would. I was wide awake, fueled by the adrenaline rush of winning a tournament. The next day I took a few more pics of my catch and cleaned them, we would be having flounder for dinner that night. What an incredible day, one I’ll not soon forget or replicate. It was amazing to finally have a quality day while at a tournament. I’m still shocked that I made all the right decisions; picking a great place to launch, paddling out to catch a big red, coming back to upgrade my trout, working the bank early in the morning for flounder. I am very thankful that my wife is as cool and understanding as she is. I’m also thankful for the club and the sponsors for giving us the opportunity to compete in a well organized, professional style tournament at the local level. I’m not even thinking about the next event and maybe that was the secret to my success at Fall N Tide. Hopefully I’ll be able put it all together again on another tourney day, but if not, oh well, I’m just happy it happened once.