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Kayak Fishing

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I finally got the chance to take my first trip in the new Cruise FD from Jackson Kayak.  The fishing was not that great, but it was a good chance to put in a full day in the new boat.

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I fished BCKFC’s Minimalist Challenge, the first tournament of their annual tournament series.  My drive to compete in tournaments has all but disappeared, however, they do provide great opportunities to see old friends and force me to get out on the water.  It’s not that I don’t like to fish any more, it’s just that my priorities have shifted now.  Thus, the lack of posts you see here.  I’m still documenting my trips, but I take far fewer trips than I use to.

Back to the tournament – it has been a bitterly cold winter for our part of the country.  Leading up to the tournament we had a few consecutive days below freezing with snow/ice on the ground, which is unheard of down here.  While the air temps rebounded by tourney time, the water temps did not, so finding fish was going to be a chore, especially for someone as stubborn as myself who refuses to run a depth finder.

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It was a chilly, but beautiful start to the day.  I’ve mentioned it in previous years, but the Minimalist Challenge is a pretty unique tournament in that it is a shotgun launch where every competitor receives the same bag of baits to use and launches at the same time.  The tournament this year, as in years past, was based out of the public launch in Leeville, a launch I’ve had mixed results fishing from.

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With patchy skies and cold water, sight fishing was going to be spotty at best, but that’s how I like to fish so I stubbornly continued my ill-fated pursuit.  The north winds of the strong cold front the week leading up to the tournament combined with the low tide had the tide way out, like 1.5 feet below normal, which meant lots of shallow areas that normally weren’t shallow.  If water temps had been normal this would have been awesome for me and put lots of fish on the flats, but it was the opposite, fish were huddled together in the deepest, warmest water they could find.  I tried to fish some deep spots, but without luck.  My only hope was for the sun to pop out and hopefully some fish would return to the flats during the warmest part of the day.

I enjoyed the new Cruise FD that morning, pedaling provided a whole new dimension to kayak angling.  I covered ground a lot quicker than I had previously, which expanded my range.  The boat was fast and nimble and I put the flex drive to the test running up on a lot of shallow flats.  Somewhere along the way I snapped off a fin on my propeller.  I really don’t know when it happened, I just noticed a different pitch while pedaling so I pulled it up to take a look and there were only two fins.

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Thankfully, it really didn’t seem to slow the boat down any, I was surprised at how well the boat moved on 2/3 prop power.  I need to be a little more cognizant of the drive, the thing is not bomb-proof.  It wasn’t kicking up as readily in the soft mud so I was often pedaling until I realized I wasn’t moving, which may have been a contributing factor to the break.  I’m not used to having a moving prop in the water below me, I’m still very much a newb with a pedal drive so I’m sure the prop break was more user error than anything.

After speaking with a few folks at Jackson the propeller fins were designed to be the first things to break when the drive is stressed, thus protecting the internal gears and allowing for a cheap and easy fix to the unit rather than a super expensive one.  This is the first time I’ve had to go through the warranty process on Jackson’s website, but it was a quick and easy online form.  I had a new fin at my door later that week and it took all of five minutes to pop out the old one and put the new one on.

Back to fishing – activity was very minimal that day.  I didn’t see a ton of bait or fish movement at all.  I tried deep holes in bayous, drifted flats in big bays and everything in between.  I pedaled over and spooked a small school of reds staged in front of a cut and was never able to get a bite out of them.

Later I was drifting a flat in front of a cut that another angler, Nick, was fishing in.  He actually hooked up with a red as I was passing.  He told me he saw another and told me to come try to catch it.  I was a little hesitant with it being a tournament, then he told me that was his third red on the day (we could weigh a max of three reds for the tourney) and I felt a little better about crowding his spot.  Sure enough eventually we spotted the big red who seemed to be holding in the deepest part of a tiny marsh cut, he would spook, but then circle back around.  He was probably stuck in there because of the shallowness at the mouth of the cut.  I made a few casts to him to no avail, then put one right under his chin, saw a little movement, felt a little weight and set the hook.  A short while into the fight it was evident I wouldn’t be weighing him in the tournament because he was too big.

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The bait wasn’t even in his mouth when I brought him in the boat, I hooked him right under the chin.  Fair hooked or not he went 30.5″, which is par for the course for me during Minimalist Challenge – I never do well in this tournament.  I was happy to at least boat a fish on a day when it seemed like I was destined for a skunk.  I thanked Nick for letting me catch that red then moved on, letting him have that little cut to himself.

I tried to find a similar cut holding fish, but didn’t run into any the rest of the day that were holding fish.  I did hook one other fish while drifting a flat when I threw my bait on top of a black drum foul hooking him.  Thankfully he pulled free before I was able to land him.

Fishing had been tough and I had covered a ton water, so I headed back to the launch with nothing to weigh, but at least feeling accomplished for having explored some new water thanks to the new Cruise FD.

 

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I was not planning on fishing this past weekend, there was way too much going on for me to even consider it, but it’s funny how plans change.

We took a family trip to Disney last week and I assumed that the long road trip back would have eliminated the desire to pack for a fishing trip and drive down to the coast.  I underestimated the power of social media though.

The Bama group was down in Grand Isle this past weekend and it seemed whenever I had a little down time to glance at my phone all I saw were fish pics and good times.  It was during the drive back on Friday that I happened to check the weather.  Near-perfect conditions meant that I had to try to make it happen, even if it was for just a day.

We made it back to Baton Rouge around noon on Saturday after having spent the night in Mobile.  What should be a 10-11 hour drive turns into a 14 hour one when you have two small kids.  I unloaded our vehicle then packed my stuff and took off hoping to squeeze in a little time to fish that evening.

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I made it down to Leeville, pulled off the side of the road and squeezed in about an hour and a half of missed topwater strikes, wind knots, and otherwise dumb mishaps that hurried anglers make.  I did catch the smallest rat red in the world to eliminate the skunk, but I really probably would have been better off just holding off until Sunday.

Shortly after the last light of day dwindled on me I met up with the group at the camp and had a great time catching up with everyone.  This year brought a fresh batch of new faces mixed in with the old and all the talk was about how nice it was to not have to fight Mother Nature.

Since the weather looked fortuitous on Sunday I pitched the idea to some of the guys to try and hit some water that really required good weather like in the forecast to access it and found a few brave souls interested in the adventure.

Armed with our fly rods, James, Bjorn, Drew, and myself, headed out on Sunday hoping to find some big reds in shallow water.  It didn’t take long to find the shallow water and run into the reds, but they all seemed to be the same 18-22″ size.

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The reds were roaming the marsh in small packs of 3-5 fish and were terrorizing the massive amount of bait that was holding tight to the banks.  After landing 5 mid-slot clones I began sightcasting the outside waters hoping to run into a bull red.  I saw a few bulls, but was never in any position to make a cast at them, usually seeing them too late.

I posted up on a shell island to get out and stretch my legs.  It had a good bit of current running around it from an incoming tide and I ended up catching a few decent trout tight lining a Matrix shad across a hard sand/shell flat.

The tide was very low at the start of the day and it rose throughout the day, allowing access into areas that were previously inaccessible.  With that incoming water though the clarity decreased and spotting the fish before they spotted you was becoming more of a challenge.  We headed back to the launch shortly after satisfied with a pretty successful day on the water.

 

 

 

We spent Labor Day weekend up at Lake Rosemound where I had a couple opportunities to get back out on the water in the Kilroy DT and chase some bass.

Saturday I got out just after sunrise, armed with my favorite buzzbait, I headed toward a big flat where I saw some fish holding the last time I was out here paddling Marin around.

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It didn’t take long to connect with a little male, who despite being blind in one eye, knew exactly how to slam a buzzbait.

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The dink bass topwater action continued all over this flat and another and around the grass edges of the lake.

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It was nice to spend a couple of hours catching bass before the sun really began to heat things up.

I made it out again the next evening, but didn’t have the same luck I had the day before.  I only connected with one bass and missed three more fish on the same buzzbait I was using the day before.  I guess I fell into the “one bait wonder” mold again this weekend, but that’s how I wanted to catch them.

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I may not have caught many fish Sunday evening, but I did catch an awesome sunset, which is a fine substitute for a nice fish.

My parents are in the process of selling their home in Alpharetta and when they do finally hand over the keys to the new owners there will definitely be a mix of emotions for the family.  Alpharetta was home to me for nearly half my life and home for them for nearly 30 years, so for them not to have a residence there will be a pretty strange thing.  The bright side of their departure from suburban Atlanta is that they have a new home on Lake Rosemound, here in Louisiana, just an hour north of Baton Rouge, so we’ll have the chance to see and be with them a lot more often as they split time between St. Francisville and the cabin in Suches and we are excited about that.

They’ve had the house at Lake Rosemound for almost a year now and we’ve made a few trips up that way, but never for more than a day or two.  It’s rare to find an entire weekend free it seems, but we were able to do just that this past weekend.  We loaded the car up Friday morning and headed north on Hwy 61 after work only to be greeted by a nice thunderstorm upon arrival.

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Amanda took advantage of us being stuck inside to whip up a fantastic shrimp creole for dinner, which I can attest paired really nicely with a Ghost.

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The next morning I was able to take out the new Kilroy DT we bought for Rosemound and see how she performs as a solo boat.  With dreams of big bass in my head I tied on a black buzzbait and began working it around the docks and other structure.  It seemed like a good morning for topwater as it was a little cloudy and not even the faintest ripple on the water from the wind.  I found out early on that the bluegill were going to be fairly aggressive today.

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After a while I wasn’t feeling the love on the black buzzbait so I switched colors and downsized and went with an oldie but a goodie, still a buzzbait, the Wolka double buzzer.  Terry Wolka, who use to frequent the Riverbassin forum, made custom lures and sent them out for guys to try.  I’ve managed to hold on to mine after all these years and have caught a number of fish on it.  It’s still in pretty good shape and is a testament to the quality craftsmanship that went into this lure.

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I’m not going to say that it was like a light switched on, but things certainly were better after the lure change.  I think it also helped that I moved into a shallower, grassier part of the lake, especially given my lure choice.

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The clouds gave way to a bluebird sky and I probably shouldn’t have still been throwing topwater, but I’m pretty stubborn when it comes to lures and I just wanted to catch them on top so I stuck with it and am happy I did.  I really didn’t leave myself much of an option though as my gear was pretty minimalist on the day.  If I wasn’t going to catch them on top, I wasn’t catching them at all.

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For about an hour the fishing was great, which was what I needed, because this was just short pre-lunch fishing trip anyway.

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That last one was the biggest on the day.  I’ve got no clue on the size as I didn’t pack a scale or a board.  It was great to finally dedicate some time to bass fishing the lake and I was pretty happy to have some relative success.  I know there are much bigger bass in the lake and I look forward to the challenge of trying to fool one.

We spent the rest of the day with a lakeside lunch at Satterfield’s in New Roads and then a Lake Rosemound beach trip with the kiddos.  The eggplant nelson appetizer at Satterfield’s is pretty damn good and this is coming from someone who’s not that big into eggplant.  I would recommend stopping there to eat if you’re ever in the area.

The next morning I took Marin for a paddle in the DT.  It was super easy to shift the seat trays from a solo position to a configuration where I could have her facing me, which was perfect for a toddler, but probably not something I’d do with someone who could actually help paddle.

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The DT paddled very well, even with a kid leaning out of the boat putting her hand in the water the whole time.  As with the 12′ Kilroy the DT holds the distinction of being one of the few kayaks out there that is both fast and stable.  I’m thrilled to have this boat at Rosemound and can see it getting a lot of use as my kids grow up.

At Marin’s request we hit the beach again before we headed on back down to Baton Rouge.  We really enjoyed our weekend up at Rosemound.  I look forward to spending more time up that way, learning the lake, and of course spending time with the family.