IFA Kayak Tour – Empire Recap

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This past weekend was the first IFA kayak tour fishing event this year for the Louisiana division. It was held in Empire at Delta Marina. There were 67 people registered for the tournament, which is the most they’ve had for an IFA event ever in Louisiana and I believe the most the IFA has had at a kayak event so far this year. I believe the weather helped create that great turnout because for the first weekend in a long time there wasn’t a big, sweeping cold front coming through the area. It really felt like summer this past weekend.

SATURDAY

Since the event is Sunday, I was able to pre-fish on Saturday. Working off a tip from a friend, I hit a spot I’ve never been to before hoping to find trout and bull reds. The IFA is a CPR (catch-photo-release) tournament that scores an aggregate length of your biggest trout and redfish combined, so I wanted to find a spot that had the possibility of providing trophy sized fish for both species.

I didn’t exactly make it out at the crack of dawn Saturday, but I wasn’t too far behind either. After a long paddle against the wind I got to the area I was told would be holding trout. It was basically an island, surrounded by oyster reef, with a steady current of semi-clear saltwater sweeping around. I parked on the island and began to wade fish. First cast into the water was a 19″ trout. He was tagged and released, fingers crossed he’d be around Sunday. I then proceeded to catch, tag, and release numerous trout, some under size, others decent keeper size, but most under that 19″ mark. Of course mixed in with the trout were hardheads and gafftops, just to prove that there is still a downside to using Gulp. The important thing gained here was that I found a trout spot for the tourney.

Then I ventured into the marsh looking for reds. With the high tides and steady winds I didn’t expect to have much success finding reds by sight fishing, but I tried anyway. It may not have been the most successful scouting method, but it did work. It worked thanks in part to the good water clarity we had. I had no problems seeing silhouettes in a few feet of water because the water was so nice – by Louisiana standards. I even managed to catch a few with the fly rod. Tagged and released all of the reds as well, the biggest I had went 27.5″. Just over the slot, so not quite the bull I was looking for. If you’re keeping score, that would have been a 46.5″ aggregate. I figured I would need at least 45″ to break into the top 10, so that was my goal for Sunday.

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After finishing up fishing on Saturday, my mind was pretty made up that I would be headed back there Sunday. I knew I wouldn’t catch the exact same fish, but I imagined I could find similar fish and have a similar agg. score. Chatting with other guys at the captain’s meeting only strengthened my decision on fishing the same spot Sunday. There was a lot of talk about dirty water and small fish, or even no fish at all, so I was feeling pretty good.

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SUNDAY

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I had hopes that Sunday would be similar to Saturday, but shortly after leaving the launch I realized it wouldn’t, the weater wouldn’t allow it. The wind was relentless on Sunday and of course where I wanted to fish was about a mile or two across open water, into the wind. After paddling at a snail’s pace for what seemed like an hour I got to my island and began fishing. Took me awhile to land a trout, but when I did it went 17.5″. Fishing was obviously going to be much slower than the day before.

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Kept at it a little bit longer for trout, picking up one under size trout and a few catfish and after one too many hardhead, I headed into the marsh. My plan was to go into the marsh, pick up a slot red, then head back to the bay to fish for bull reds. That didn’t exactly go as planned. I thought, because of the success I had Saturday, that I’d be able to do it again, but I was struggling. I was on fire Saturday, I had osprey eyes and could cast like KVD, but Sunday I was Mr. Magoo and all my casts were crap. Well, all except one. In the last little marsh pond that I was willing to sightfish I finally put it all together, spotted a red hugging the bank and made a nice leading cast in range. It went 25.5″ and I couldn’t be more relieved. As someone who prides himself in his ability to catch redfish, not having one at a tournament weigh-in would weigh heavily on my conscience, as it did after Redfish Rumble.

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I still had time to go out and fish for an upgrade to either the trout or the red, and I did, but it was pretty unsuccessful. On a day like Sunday, I was really just happy to have caught one of each. My aggregate was 43″ and as it turns out, that was good enough for 7th, so I took home a check as well. Seems it was tough for pretty much everyone else as well, except for the winner, John Kay, who turned in an aggregate of 59.25″. His score was bolstered by catching the only bull red weighed in, at 39.75″. The winners are below:

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From left to right: Steve Neece(2nd), John Kay(1st and big red), Casey Brunning(3rd), and Marty Mood(big trout)

Congrats to the winners, having fished the same tournament I can tell you they earned it. Only 29/67 folks weighed fish, so a big credit to those who even caught fish. I’m thrilled with my 7th place finish, it’s not every day you get paid to fish. I look forward to the next Louisiana IFA event, which will be held out of Bridge Side Marina in Grand Isle August 25th.

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5 comments
  1. Barrett said:

    Great seeing you again Ben and congrats on a good finish

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  2. Brendan said:

    Good Job Ben, you are becoming quite a consistent tournament angler.

    Like

  3. Chris said:

    Great write up, thanks. So is Catch-Photo-Release pretty much an honor system?

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    • I think all kayak tournaments operate on the honor system to some extent, whether they be CPR or not. I’m sure there were folks out there that kept their fish this past weekend after they took the pictures they needed – this is Louisiana after all.

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