Archive

Monthly Archives: June 2014

As I mentioned in the last post, I got my start in a Pelican Castaway, which is not a bad boat to start in:

IMGP2141

The most important thing about the Pelican Castaway is it got me on the water, and for cheap.  It had terrible stability and paddled like a wet noodle, but I didn’t know any better and it floated, so I didn’t care. I had it for a little over a year before I found another good deal to pounce on that gave me a chance to upgrade.  A lot of good fish were caught out of the Pelican that year, which really helped indoctrinate me into the kayak fishing lifestyle.  I went from the Pelican Castaway to a Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120.

IMGP4027

The Tarpon 120 was an excellent upgrade.  You could just look at it and tell it was a better boat than the Pelican.  It was a faster boat, with better tracking.  The quality of the build was so much better than that of the Pelican.  The Tarpon was the quintessential sit-on-top fishing kayak a few years prior to my purchase of the boat.  It was a great boat for me.  It helped that I got a great deal on it too.  Bought it off Craigslist from an old guy with a camp.  The only time he used it was when the camp flooded and he needed a way to get to and from his vehicle.  You can still find essentially the same boat in the Perception Pescador.  The downside to the Tarpon was the stability was not enough that I could stand and fish from it.  It also was not very comfortable to sit in on long trips.  I had the Tarpon for two years and like the Pelican actually made money on it when I sold it.  I got rid of it because I found another great deal on a boat – one that would allow me to stand and sight fish in, but still handle the rivers that we liked to fish.  Capt. Danny Wray put a couple of his Native Ultimate 12’s for sale and the deal was too good to pass up.  I called up my dad to see if he wanted one then made the drive down to Grand Isle and picked up both kayaks from Capt. Danny.

IMGP4398

Owning the Ultimate finally gave me a boat I could stand and fish from.  I had actually gotten pretty good at kneeling and sight fishing from the Tarpon, but that does a number to the knees.  With the Ultimate I also got to experience the comfort of a nice, semi-elevated seat.  Getting my butt off the boat and having my feet lower than my knees while seated helped me to be comfortable longer.  I learned how to stand and sight fish from the Ultimate, it was a great boat for the marsh, and still is.  The Ultimate turned out to be an outstanding boat.  It wasn’t as fast as the Tarpon, but it tracked well.  It was light and easy to transport.  What I didn’t like about the Ultimate was that the standing area was not flat.  With the tunnel hull you had to put your feet in the tunnels and after a while they became cramped.  I also didn’t find it to paddle too well in swift water.  I fell out a few times, which in all likely hood was more my fault than the boat’s.  I actually didn’t own the Ultimate for very long, maybe half a year.  An incredible opportunity came up at that time to join my friend Drew Gregory on the Jackson team and I couldn’t pass it up.  He assured me that the Coosa would be a good fit for me and they wanted to see what it could do in the marsh.  That winter I made a trip up to the Jackson factory, learned about the company and how kayaks are made, met some of the other team guys and of course picked up my new boats.

IMGP5905

The Coosa was a really fun boat.  Like the Ultimate, it was stable enough to stand and fish from and had the elevated seat that was comfortable to be in from the start of the trip to the finish.  The deck was wide open so standing was comfortable and fly fishing was very easy to do – no snags.  The Coosa is the best handling boat I’ve ever been fished out of, making it  the perfect swift water boat.  It’s home is in rivers and that is where it shines.  It performed well enough in the marsh that I didn’t notice a drop off in performance when coming from the Ultimate.  Where it lacked was it’s open water performance.  With it’s low draft and tall bow, it can catch wind like a sailboat and on open, windy ponds you can expect to be blown to the bank in no time.  The only time this was an issue for me was tournament time because tournament weather is always terrible.  It is a better paddling boat in open water when you weigh down the front of the bow a bit to get it in the water.  I figured that out because as I would catch and keep fish in the front hatch the boat was easier to paddle as the day progressed.  I owned a Coosa up until the Cruise came out from Jackson.  Like I said earlier, it is a fantastic river boat and I owned one just for that purpose.  It wasn’t long after the Coosa came out that the Cuda followed.  The Cuda, in both the 12 and the 14 ft versions has been my go-to boat in the marsh ever since.

IMGP7012

IMG_0534

The Cuda has been an incredible boat for me, handling everything pretty well.  The 12 foot version you can take anywhere.  Not as fast as the 14, it is every bit as stable though.  The Cuda is a great platform to stand and fish from.  I have a love/hate relationship with the center hatch.  It catches fly line when fly fishing but that is easily solved by placing something over it, like a towel or a shirt.  I do love the center hatch for storage – whether that be fish or tackle.  No need to turn around and put your center of gravity somewhere other than where it needs to be.  The 14 is a bit faster and provides a bigger front hatch that I find more usable than the small hatch of the 12.  It is heavier though and not as easy to transport as the 12.  The 12 balances really well overhead because the weight is centered on the side carry handles.  You’ve got to compensate for that on the 14 (the Cruise too).  Both the 12 and the 14 have been great boats for the marsh and are better options than the Coosa for inshore fishing.  The Coosa is still the better river boat though.  I owned both until I saw a good compromise between the two was introduced from Jackson – enter the Cruise.

IMG_2513

The Cruise, to me, is a simplified version of the Cuda.  I’ve always been drawn to 12-13 ft boats because they seem to be best size that does river and marsh fishing well.  They are also easier to store when living in a condo, which why I never had a boat over 13 ft until we built our first house and actually had a garage.  Like the Coosa there is no center hatch on the Cruise, which is a good thing for the fly fisher.  It also has the bigger front hatch found on the Cuda 14 – a much better option for dry storage than the small hatch.  The quick day hatch between the legs is convenient and stays dry.  The big plus on the Cruise is the price – right around $900.  In my opinion it is a hell of a boat for $900.

I started carrying two boats once we built our house and I’ve settled in on a Cuda 14 and a Cruise – for now.  The Cruise is great for the river and those small freshwater ponds I like to fish where the Cuda 14 is at home on inshore bays and in the marsh.  As a second boat the Cruise is a good boat in the marsh if I have someone that wants to tag along or if I’m looking to solely fly fish – that’s what I’ll take.  I’m sure another one day soon enough another boat will come along that catches my eye, but for the fishing that I like to do I can’t think of two better options than the Cruise and the Cuda 14.

IMGP0967

littlealabama

My first kayak was a Pelican Castaway I bought on Craigslist from a high school kid in Kenner for $250.  That was back in August of 2007.  I had just moved back to Louisiana from Alabama.  I had yet to find a job.  It wasn’t really an impulse buy as I had been wanting a kayak for quite some time, but that didn’t make it any less irresponsible.  I had to get one though, I had to have a way to get myself on the water.  After all I had lots of time on my hands while looking for employment.  Living in a second floor condo didn’t make it easy to store either.  I can’t even remember where I kept it, I’m sure it stayed down at the bottom of the stairs often.  This was the start of what has become an incredible journey.  Kayak fishing has been a wonderful getaway and has taken me places I never dreamed I’d go.  It all started with an unproductive first trip to Bayou Little Alabama which was followed three days later by a solo trip to Dularge and my first redfish from a kayak.

IMGP0981

IMGP0980

It wasn’t a big red, but I was still under-equipped and landing the fish became a production.  I was throwing Gulp under a popping cork, on a rod that had maybe 8-10 lb test mono on it – I had not yet bought any saltwater equipment.  During the fight my line breaks above the cork and off goes the red swimming down the bayou, cork bobbing along the way.  I chased after the cork for awhile, doing my best Benny Hill impersonation, finally landing the fish.  It was gratifying.  Not only had I caught a redfish, but I had dinner to bring home too.  I was a provider!

Soon enough I landed a job and my time on the water was reduced.  Spending most of my time fishing around Baton Rouge, my next saltwater trip wouldn’t  be until January of 2008.  This was the one that really started the addiction though.  This was the first trip I made with some of the guys from BCKFC.  It was also the first trip I made with the fly rod in the salt.  It was pretty windy that day, but I was determined to use the fly rod and catch fish.  I ended up having a great day.  Blindcasting, I caught three reds on a clouser minnow.  They were all small, but I found out just how effective a fly could be for redfish.  I rounded out a limit using Gulp under a cork and ended with a pretty nice mid slot red.  Not to be outdone I caught my first flounder on this trip as well.

Fishing_08004

Fishing_08013

Fishing_08015

It was a really successful day in the salt and was the catalyst for what has become a passion for me.  The kayak opened up water I had never known about and expanded where I could fish.  A motorboat will do the same thing, but there is little to no maintenance with the kayak.  It gets me outside and gives me exercise, without me thinking it is exercise – which is a big plus for someone with an increasingly sedentary lifestyle.  I’ve become a much better fisherman because of the kayak too.

If you’re looking to get into kayak fishing and you can’t decide on what boat to get, don’t fret.  Get what you can afford and see what kayak fishing is like for yourself.  I later sold that $250 Pelican for $300.  The return on investment for kayaks both new and used is insane, so jump on a good deal and join the party!

In years past the Trout Challenge was a tournament I didn’t attend.  Not because I didn’t want to, but typically by the time it rolled around I was out of contention for the BCKFC tournament series and it didn’t make any sense, being a redfish guy, to drive all the way out to Big Lake to fish for trout.  This year has been a little different – the series is still wide open, I’ve had a couple decent finishes in the first two events and the Trout Challenge became a “go anywhere” event, meaning the entire state was fair game – you just needed to catch five trout and bring them back to Cabela’s in Gonzales for weigh-in.  With the tournament being in June it seemed like a no brainer that my best bet would be fishing in the surf, more specifically the Grand Isle surf.  The added bonus was that Gonzales was on the way home from Grand Isle, so I really wouldn’t have to go out of the way to fish.

With all this in mind I left work on Friday at lunchtime hoping to get a little bit of scouting in.  I was so confident fish were in the surf that I hit a marsh spot that holds trout in the Spring, just to see if they were still around.  I figured they wouldn’t be, but it was worth a shot to eliminate a spot.  I was on the water around 2pm and the first thing I noticed was the water clarity was not very good, which doesn’t normally bode well for trout fishing.  It was a bit high too, but all that aside it was still fishable.  It didn’t take long to paddle to my spot and within minutes there was activity.  It wasn’t trout, but redfish, they were wreaking havoc on the bait in the pond, specifically crashing crabs on the shoreline.  The amount of bait was unbelievable, shrimp popping out the water, fiddler crabs lined the shore of the marsh and blue crab worked the fringes of the oyster beds – it was a veritable redfish smorgasbord and they couldn’t help themselves.

I picked off a couple rat reds with a Matrix shad and was blind casting around some oyster beds when I got hung up.  Of course just at that same time a better redfish crashed a shore line within casting range.  I had two other rods handy, a popping cork and a topwater.  Opting for the topwater I bombed a perfect cast to the fish and before I could even work it the topwater got sucked under.  I’ve got to admit – it felt pretty good when that cast met it’s mark and the fish obliged. It was a slot red of around 21″ and proved to be the biggest on the day.  I caught one more red then decided that I should probably move on and locate trout since it wasn’t a redfish tournament I was scouting for.

IMG_2902 IMG_2903

I moved on to the surf at Elmer’s and met up with my friend Jeff.  He had just made it out there and hadn’t caught anything yet.  We tried for awhile in the kayaks, but there wasn’t much doing.  The water off the beach wasn’t the prettiest and the beach itself was covered in sargassum – something that rarely happens down there so I’m told.  The beach was smelly and full of gnats as a result.  I parked the boat and started wade fishing.  The action was inconsistent but I was able to boat a couple keeper trout and threw back a couple more undersized fish.  I wasn’t convinced this was where I needed to fish in the morning so I had to come up with a different plan.

The plan I hatched wasn’t very creative, it just involved moving further down and trying the surf out front of Grand Isle in the morning.  I was sticking to my guns – the surf in June is the place to be.  Jeff decided to tag along and we met before sunrise the next day.  Dragging the kayak a long way from the public access, over a dune, through the sargassum, and into the water I really hoped the work would pay off.  We started working the rocks in front of the beach and as the sun came up every spot you could wade and fish was occupied by a body, most of the them with live bait.  We were reduced to throwing artificials only, but that didn’t matter as no one was catching fish.  The shrimp were thick behind the rocks, the wade fishers had no idea but they were popping all over the place.  If I had a cast net I could have filled my ice chest and gone home happy – I’ve never seen shrimp so thick.  I’m not sure that the fish weren’t there or that they just had enough food already, but we didn’t have any luck. After a few hours work we picked up and went to get a biscuit at Jo-Bob’s.  We had caught a few trout at Elmer’s yesterday so we may as well head over there to try our luck.

IMG_2904

On the way to our spot at Elmer’s we ran into another buddy, Jason, and stopped to see how he was doing.  The news was bleak, but he had at least caught a couple trout.  The water still looked pretty nasty out there, but we decided to give it a shot.  We moved on to our spot where the water was a little cleaner and started catching fish.  Only problem was the fish we were catching were pogies.  Some foul hooked in the back, others near the mouth. They were big pogies too, pompano sized pogies.  Hopeful that big trout would be under the pogies we kept at it, but the only predator that was hooked was a Jack Crevalle that straightened out the hook on Jason’s bait.  After a few hours a white trout and a ladyfish were the only action I saw that weren’t foul hooked pogies.

It was a disappointing two days in the surf around Grand Isle, but I did get to enjoy fishing in the company of a few friends.  Besides Jeff and Jason, Blake was on the island as well to work on Saturday, he joined me in the surf Friday evening.  I made it up to Cabela’s for the weigh-in, although I had nothing to weigh, I at least got to catch up with a few other friends.  This was my worst outing in a tournament in a while, but I still had a good time and that’s what I love about kayak fishing.  The results of the tournament I’ll post below, but you can expect the usual suspects at the top again.

TC2014_BCKFCgroup

Trout Challenge 2014 Top 5

  1. Steve Lessard
  2. Casey Brunning
  3. Brendan Bayard
  4. Denis Soignier
  5. Ty Hibbs

Big thanks to Cabela’s for hosting the weigh-in and donating prizes.  Also a big thanks to Jim Smith who let Blake and I crash at his camp on Friday night.  It was also good catching up with Jim and Bud Friday night, it had been a while since I’ve seen them, I know they did better than we did on Saturday.  I’m hopeful that my lack of success this past weekend was just a fluke and not a sign of something more serious as an article in the Advocate suggests: http://theadvocate.com/sports/9482816-32/veteran-anglers-concerned-about-speckled .  Only time will tell.

IMG_2863IMG_2864 IMG_2869 IMG_2867 IMG_2866

Found the bream honey hole the other day in one of our ponds in the neighborhood.  It was palm sized panfish on every cast.  The bass fishing was slow so hitting this bream spot saved the day.  Seems like this kind of action normally occurs earlier in the year.  All fish came on the dropper, but they wouldn’t have been able to fit their mouths around the popper anyway.