IFA Kayak Fishing Tour – Empire
The IFA Kayak Fishing Tour held it’s first Louisiana division tournament of 2014 this past Sunday down in Empire at Delta Marina. 52 kayak anglers signed up to compete in the event and were treated with excellent weather conditions which ultimately meant a lot of nice fish had their pictures taken this past weekend.
With the event being Sunday I had a chance to pre-fish Saturday at an area I thought I could have some success at not too far from the weigh-in. I launched just after sunrise and paddled a short way over to what I hoped would be a trout spot and began plugging away with a Rapala Skitter Walk. It didn’t take long to get into fish and the first fish of the day ended up being the biggest. I was casting my topwater to a point and walking the dog back when a nice baby bull red decided to explode on it right next to the boat. At 28.75″ it would be a fine candidate for tomorrow’s tournament so she (or he – I don’t really know) was tagged in set back in the water. A few casts later around the same point resulted in another explosive take on the topwater, but this time it was a trout. It was a short and stout 17″ speck who didn’t look like she missed many meals. The day was off to a good start.
Fishing slowed at the point and I made my way through the marsh en route to another hopeful trout spot. As I paddled I noticed that water clarity here was not the greatest, even in the marsh, you could see a paddle blade deep at most. A bummer, but it was certainly still fishable. The tide was up as well, so most of the shallow flats were flooded which meant any sightfishing that would be done on the day was going to be pretty tough.
I found an area where a lot of water was being funneled through a narrow cut in some marsh. I staked out there and begin working the area. In short time I picked up a couple 14.5″ trout clones and an 11″ dink. Satisfied with the find I moved on – this was a scouting trip after all and I now had two spots I could possibly catch trout at tomorrow.
After I caught those trout I decided to do some exploring. I put the Aqua Bound Manta Ray carbon to work and started learning more of the area, fishing here and there. I picked up a couple rat reds in the marsh and then ran into one of my favorite situations – the moving cork. I love finding a moving cork on the water because you never know what is going to be under it – usually it is a solid fish! After a few errant casts I finally made a good one and hooked the line under the cork with my jig. Reeling in the cork I was really surprised to find a 16″ redfish on the end of the line. Who loses an entire cork setup to a 16″ redfish? At least the little guy had a pretty blue tail. The spot he was in had some good oyster bottom so I worked the area a little more and came up with a bit better red at 24″.
I picked up a couple more slot reds in the marsh on the way back to the truck. Despite the high, stained water I caught them sightfishing. They were floaters so they gave themselves away fairly easily. I ended up having a pretty good day on the water catching around a dozen different redfish and trout. My aggregate for the day was 45.75″ which would have been good enough for sixth in last year’s IFA tournament. I could live with that so I tentatively planning to head back to the same spot on Sunday. I didn’t even make it to the big fish spot that had been recommended to me by a friend.
That evening was the captain’s meeting and one of the main reasons I enjoy fishing these events – I get to hang out with my kayak fishing friends and try to decipher the lies from the truths. One thing that was pretty consistent for everyone was that the water clarity was crap all over Louisiana and there weren’t a lot of big fish being caught. These two things helped cement my decision to head back to the same spot on Sunday. I was on decent fish so why not?
Sunday morning we were greeted with a beautiful sunrise. I launched and made my way over to the point I had success at the day before. Water clarity today was better than the day before, so I was very optimistic. Doing everything I did the day prior though failed to yield the same results. I didn’t leave the spot empty handed however as a 16.5″ topwater red was all I could muster. Not a good sign but not time to panic. I made my way through the marsh toward the backup trout spot. On the way I ran across a flat that had a lot of activity. A pair of redfish cruised by my line of sight and soon I had an upgrade in the boat. At 23″ it still wasn’t what I was looking for in an upgrade but it would do for now. Unfortunately much like spot number one, the backup trout spot with the moving water failed to produce any fish.
At this point it was decision time, keep at it where I was at and hopefully pick up a trout and an upgrade at redfish or make the long paddle out to a spot that I was told would produce big trout and potential bull reds. With the weather as nice as it was it really didn’t take much time to pick the home run shot and put my Manta Ray carbon to work again. I was already almost two miles from the launch, this paddle would put me almost four miles away but it would all be worth it if I was able to get on some fish. One thing was for sure at least I didn’t have to worry about the wind.
The paddle out to the spot went by faster than I thought it would be, I should have timed it but I didn’t. I guess I underestimated the speed of the Cuda 14. The IFA weekend was actually the first time I put my new Cuda 14 to work. I love this year’s urban camo – it is a really sharp looking pattern. The water clarity out here was beautiful. I worked the area hard, with every bait I had tied on. I got on a trout bite just slow rolling a jig through the area, unfortunately the size of the trout was nothing to brag about with 13.25″ being my biggest. I continued to work the area, but couldn’t come up with anything bigger. I decided to head back toward the marsh to try and upgrade my redfish. I was disappointed that all I had to show after the long paddle was a dink trout, but had I not made the paddle I probably wouldn’t have even had a trout, so it wasn’t a complete bust. Plus I got to check out a really cool spot that has lots of potential.
I fished hard the rest of the day and came up empty. 36.25″ was what I had to turn in. I knew that wasn’t good enough for anything, but I decided to make my way to the weigh-in anyway because it is a good rule of thumb to always turn in your fish. You just never know. After an excellent club sandwich and a lot of BSing with the guys we finally got to hear the results. No surprise here, but Steve Lessard came out on top with 61″. Steve is a friend and an excellent fisherman, he is no stranger to the leaderboard of our local kayak tournaments, when he talks you listen. Richard Webb took second with 59.50″ and big red at 41.75″. Richard was out of Jackson, MS fishing in his first IFA tournament. He got a tip to fish Venice and it paid off for him. I hope we see Richard at the Lafitte event later this summer. Benton Parrott took third with 55″ and big trout at 23″. Benton has a knack for catching big trout and he did it again this past weekend. The rest of the top 20 are below:
As you can tell I finished out of the top 20 – I ended up 24th. What is crazy is that last year 36.25″ would have been 12th and actually been in the money (67 competitors). What a difference a year makes. I remember last year’s weather being much worse, that could explain the low numbers. Or it could be that the competition is getting better, experience is catching up with folks and we are seeing better fish all around. Perhaps it is a little of both.
Congrats to everyone who finished in the top 10 and made money fishing this past weekend. The aggregate lengths were very impressive this past weekend, can’t wait to see what happens at Lafitte on August 3rd.
Looks like you had some good catches there. Great fishing guys!