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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.

 

For the last few years the Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club and Massey’s Outfitters have gotten together and offered one of my favorite kayak fishing events, the Massey’s BCKFC Fish Pics Tournament.  It’s an 11 month long CPR style (catch-photo-release) tournament that starts on Jan 1st of each year and is free to members of the BCKFC.  It has two divisions, one for conventional tackle and one for fly fishermen, and each division winner is awarded a kayak at the end of the year.  You heard that right, a tournament with essentially free entry awards two kayaks!  Other awards are also given out for the biggest fish in each category – redfish, trout, bass, and flounder.  I love this style of tournament because now every trip becomes a potential winning trip.

Last year I started off hot, catching some big redfish in January.  This 42.25″ red was good enough to land me the award for biggest redfish in the conventional tackle division.

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In the fly division, I took home 2nd place overall with the help of a 35.5″ redfish also caught that same day in January.

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My bass and my trout weren’t the biggest, but they were enough to eek out a 2nd place finish.  They were both caught during my week long stay in St. Bernard in October.

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This past year was the most participation that the tournament has ever seen, which was around  40 people total, so as you can tell, it didn’t take much for me to place.  It’s a shock to me that more BCKFC members aren’t taking advantage of this opportunity and submitting fish from their trips.  Maybe this year the tournament will see even more growth.

For more information on the Massey’s BCKFC Fish Pics tournament or to start competing, sign up to become a member at www.BCKFC.org.

Fished my first tournament abroad last weekend and headed over to Dauphin Island to compete in MBKFA’s Bagwell tournament.  The Bagwell isn’t all that different from BCKFC’s Paddlepalooza or Fall N Tide, except that instead of a traditional slam category, they have a super aggregate category in which you can turn in one slot red(16-26″ in Alabama) and any combination of four trout or flounder for a five fish stringer.  It places more emphasis on trout, which in Alabama is not a bad thing, as it is an inshore area that has been known to produce big trout, and more consistently than southeastern Louisiana.

In preparation I spent some time scouting Google Earth, but really relied on a fellow Jackson teammate from the area, Justin Seiffert, to impart whatever local knowledge he could to a Bama rookie like myself.  The plan was to maximize my time on the water (always my strategy with any “go anywhere” tournament) and fish the west of Mobile Bay, hoping to catch my redfish, trout, and flounder all out of one launch spot.

I launched in the dark early Saturday and was greeted with a nice sunrise as I made my way across a bay.

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As I got to my destination I started out by throwing topwater while the sun continued to rise.  I missed a decent trout early on, but managed to connect on the next one, and at 16.5″ it was a fair start to the day.  I continued to throw the topwater, but the action was very inconsistent, I switched it up with a swimbait and caught a 14.5″ trout targeting a small area of slick water.  I alternated between the topwater and the swimbait and missed one really nice fish on top that was truly a heartbreak, it was a brief fight but in that short time I could tell it was a good fish.  A few good, slow head shakes later and my line went limp.  It was a bummer to miss those few fish as I could have had my four trout that I needed, but I only had two.

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I fished my way down the shore and finally made it into a small cut that headed into the marsh interior.  One cast into the cut and I was connected with my first redfish.  He was a keeper at 20″, I knew I’d need an upgrade, but Alabama lets you keep three slot reds, so he went in the fish bag.

Unfortunately after that fish everything went quiet for me.  The action slowed down big time, despite how nice the water looked.  I finally hooked up with another fish as I saw a nice red heading my way, cruising down a shoreline.  I made a good cast with the swimbait and he pounced on it.  Immediately I knew it was too big to keep, but he made for a fun fight anyway.

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He ended up topping the 30″ mark and after a few pics I lowered him into the water and sent him on his way.

That would be my last fish on the day, but I continued to cover some really pretty water.  From healthy interior marsh to grass covered flats with good water clarity, the spot I chose to fish seemed like a good one, I just didn’t produce the results.  I think it is fair to say that the redfishing comes a bit easier in Louisiana.

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I headed back to the launch and got packed up.  I was pretty hungry at this point and was really looking forward to the crawfish boil that the MBKFA guys were planning on doing at the weigh-in.  Although I knew my fish wouldn’t sniff the leaderboard it was nice to know there would food and drink waiting for me when I got there.

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The MBKFA crew put on a first class event and although I didn’t take home any hardware I had a great time on the water and at the weigh-in.  It was good to see Justin rewarded for his efforts with a third place flounder.  I wasn’t the only Louisiana angler along for the ride.  Tyler Drude took home first place redfish and his buddy placed in the redfish category as well.  Brendan Bayard took home first place trout with 5+ lb stud caught on the East side.  That’s where all the better trout came from as the overall winner, Nick Creamer, had five solid trout pulled from that way too.

Big thanks to Justin on the solid advice and to MBKFA for hosting the tournament, really enjoyed fishing and hanging with you guys.  There is some really pretty water south of Mobile that I’d like to explore a little further.  I’ll have to make a conscience effort to start bringing the kayak on our Alabama beach trips, now that I have some clue as to where to go.