This past weekend Paddlepalooza XII was held out of Top Water Marina in Leeville, Louisiana. 289 kayak anglers signed up to fish the event, the most ever in the tournament’s history. Quite an accomplishment to set the attendance record given the weather leading up to and forecast for the day of the event – I feel like it rained every day last week and the weekend wasn’t looking any better. Friday was lining up to be the best weather day to fish all weekend, so I headed down a bit early and gave myself enough time to fish before dark.
I made it down to Leeville around lunch and got out on the water shortly after. Early on it was overcast with slight wind, that gave way to blue skies and little to no wind. It was hard to believe that Saturday’s forecast was rain all day.
I’ve pre-fished for past tournaments in spots that I wanted to fish on tournament day thinking I needed to make sure fish were there. This year I changed that up. I actually had a strategy that I thought may work so I wanted to stick to it, no matter what happened on Friday. I’ve caught too many flounder and big(ger) trout on Fridays in the past, so I intentionally fished a back-up spot that I didn’t plan to hit on Saturday. I picked up a few trout, with the biggest going 17″ and got a baby bull red that went 32″. Fish came on topwater, Vudu shrimp under a cork and tightlined soft plastics.
That night was the captain’s meeting where I got to see the badass bling given out to 6th thru 10th place at the AFWC.
I stayed on the water until dark and unfortunately missed out on the annual pastalaya dinner, a real bummer. On the flip side I was able to maximize my time on the water when it wasn’t raining and got to see a large school of black drum feeding on a shallow flat, their big white tails out of the water waving at me. Without a fly rod in the boat and fading light all I could really do was watch.
I was woken early the next morning to a light show through the blinds and some heavy sandblasting on the side of the cabin.
The bottom had fallen out, monsoon conditions were upon us, the seas were angry. I just hoped it would be done by 5:00am, which is when we could put lines in the water. Of course I couldn’t go back to sleep, so I got ready in the dark and headed out to sit in my truck at the put-in. I got ready in the rain and waited for most of the lightning to move on before I took off. While it was dark I threw topwater at every fishy looking spot, hoping to get a trout. This was the plan – start with a topwater trout, then move to some productive flounder water, hopefully getting a redfish as bycatch, then head to some redfish ponds that I liked for an upgrade. You know plans never go how they are supposed to.
No trout came on the topwater, so I switched to the Gulp under the cork, I figured this would be a good search bait, even if it had to be fished slow. With all the south wind the water in the marsh was high, spots where I’ve always seen the tops of oyster beds were under water. Water clarity was pretty good though considering the downpour though so I wasn’t too bothered by the high water. I caught a couple 17-18″ reds on the Gulp. I thought the first red was a flounder he came out of such shallow water. Still no trout in my trout spot, so I moved on.
I began fishing some cuts that drained some marsh and led to a bigger canal. I’ve picked up flounder here in the past (though that was a long time ago). I was alternating between the Gulp and a tightlined Matrix shad (green hornet). I made a bad cast into the mouth of a cut that got hung up on a bit of grass and left the bait dangling in the water. As I worked to free the line the bait got hit and I set the hook. It was a flounder! I worked him toward the boat, leading him the whole, never lifting his head out of the water, as he got close I could see my jig hooked solid so I flipped him in the Kilroy. Another great reason to love the Kilroy – tournament fish aren’t jumping out of this boat. I was stoked to land the 14″ flounder on tourney day and knew that I had the makings for a small slam at this point, but a slam nonetheless, now I just needed to find a trout. I stayed and worked the likely trout spots where I was at and decided it was time to move when the weather worsened.
Picture note – I didn’t want to risk taking a picture of the flounder on the water, so I took one in the back of the truck. These things are notorious for slipping the hands of even the most skilled anglers.
Not catching a trout at the spot where I expected to was a bit of a bummer, but at least I caught some the day before, so I headed back that way to hunt one down. I only needed one for the slam. That was motivation in the lousy weather – any other day I probably would have been off the water. Also motivating was the fact that less than 10 slams were turned in last year, so I figured if I could just get it, maybe I’d be in the money.
I worked wind blown points and cuts in the marsh and anywhere that had moving water hoping for a trout and I began catching fish, but they were all rat reds.
Then I hooked into a good fish. It was putting up a good fight, I knew it was my redfish upgrade, but he just kept fighting. The longer it took for me to get him in the boat the more I feared he would be too big.
My worst fears came true, that joker was a solid 27.5″, with the longest tail I’ve ever seen. Half an inch over the slot. What a heartbreaker, a nice fish, but no good on tourney day. All I could do was keep fishing.
So I kept fishing and soon the rain stopped. But when the rain stopped, the wind picked up, soon enough ponds had white caps in them. I had to anchor at every point I wanted to fish now. At a particular point that looked good I was able to pick up the trout I was after. I didn’t measure him, I knew he would keep so I put him in the fish bag as fast as I could, the last thing I needed was for that fish to jump out the boat.
Now all I had to do was upgrade my fish. The easiest fish to upgrade is typically a redfish, it is also the fish that will get you the most weight. It is a key component in a cajun slam to have a heavy slot red. The one I currently had was no good. The Gulp under the cork was the most effective bait I was using on the day so I stuck with it.
I picked up catfish here and there and more rat reds and moved a ton, searching. Finally I got to a spot where some terns (liar birds) were hitting the water in a small pond that led to a cut off a canal. Conventional wisdom says you can ignore liar birds, but I figured bait is bait and on a day like today I’ve got to at least give it a shot. Sure enough I picked up a rat red, then an upgrade on my next cast. It wasn’t as big as I would have hoped but it was 20+”. Again, I didn’t measure it, just knew it was bigger and got it in the fish bag.
I fished a bit longer, but by this point it was approaching 2:00pm and I had about all of the wind I could take. I had a slam, got my redfish upgrade, I was pretty happy with how I had done in the conditions. It wasn’t as heavy as I would have liked, but I thought I had a good shot at top 10.
After a burger at Tyd’s and a shower I got in line to weigh my fish. I don’t remember exactly what my total weight came out to be, but knew it was somewhere in the 6.75-7.00 pound range. Some folks assured me it was good enough, others didn’t seem so confident, I really didn’t know what to think. I told myself I didn’t really care because I was happy how I was able to execute on tourney day and get a slam, and I was, but I’m not gonna lie, I wanted to be rewarded for that long day on the water. I busted my ass, I wanted that top 10. I saw it as something that would validate my planning and for following through with a slam on a tough day.
With 88 anglers turning in fish and 7 different categories to fill out, it takes a while to sort the details and get to the results. Bayou Rum helped that go by, thanks to them for sending down some bottles to sample from. Everyone was really impressed, personally I enjoyed their new Select series. Bayou Rum is distilled right here in Lacassine, Louisiana using Louisiana sugarcane. It was good stuff and you can’t argue with the design of the graphics and bottle, really well done. Good job Brendan.
It finally came to results time and a few things stood out. It was awesome to see a couple ladies do really well, Darla Flanagan and Jennifer Brunning hauled in a couple of stud redfish and finished 2nd and 3rd in that category. Darla also had a nice trout to take home the Ladies Slam division – a heck of a day given the conditions. Charlie Jones took 3rd in the trout division, he looked to be high school age, very cool to see a youngin’ making it to the leaderboard. When they went through the flounder results and my name wasn’t called, I was hopeful I made it to the slam category, but I also knew that my flounder weight was less than 1.65 lbs, so that wasn’t a good sign. Sure enough, after the eighth place slam was 7.11 lbs I knew that I just missed the cut. I haven’t seen the final results yet but figure I’m somewhere in that 11-15th place range. It was very disappointing. Update: The final results are out, my slam weight was 6.8 lbs. I came in 11th place.
For a day when the weather was a factor all day, there were a lot of nice fish turned in. Flounder numbers were up big time this year from last year. The winning slam size wasn’t any bigger, but we definitely had more slams than last year. I had a good day and it was disappointing to walk away without anything, but I can hang my hat on the fact that I had a plan, stuck to it, was able to tweak it when things didn’t go as planned, and finally ended up with a slam – which was the goal when I started at 5:00am. Hopefully next year I can do it again, get some bigger fish and I’ll see my name on that leaderboard.
Paddlepalooza XII Leaderboard:
1 Toby Armand 10.33 lbs
2 Doug Menefee 9.84 lbs
3 Michael Ethridge 9.76 lbs
4 Devon Beltz 9.23 lbs
5 Mark Brasset 8.18 lbs
6 Cody Draggo 7.68 lbs
7 Benton Parrot 7.33 lbs
8 Tommy Eubanks 7.11 lbs
9 Bill Crawford 6.98 lbs
10 Jeff Robinson 6.82 lbs
1 Ryan Page 7.71 lbs
2 Darla Flannigan 7.61 lbs
3 Jennifer Brunnings 7.41 lbs
4 Chuck Baham 6.84 lbs
5 Norman walker 6.14 lbs
1 Darren Kimble 3.86 lbs
2 Steve Lessard 3.23 lbs
3 Charlie Jones 3 lbs
4 Justin Jennings 2.99 lbs
5 Harry Flannigan 2.49 lbs
1 Tammy Hartley 1.92 lbs
2 Zack Lemon 1.73 lbs
3 Fred Trahan 1.70 lbs
4 Sam Spear 1.69 lbs
5 Mark Eubanks 1.65 lbs
1 Bryan Hurst 13 spots
2 Jeremy Jenkins 11 spots
3 Herb Leedy 9 spots
4 Brandon Dozer 8 spots
5 John Thompson 8 spots
Seth Raspberry Redfish 1.65 lbs
Darla Flannigan Redfish 7.61 lbs & Trout 1.63 lbs