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Tomorrow is the annual Beer & Gear event over at Pack & Paddle.  This is always a great event to see the latest in outdoor recreation gear.  The craft beer from across the US is a plus too.  It brings two of my favorite things together so I’m hoping I can slip away and head across the Atchafalaya Spillway.  It’s from 5-8pm so if you’re anywhere near Lafayette tomorrow evening, be sure to head over because you don’t want to miss it.  I hear the big raffle this year is Steve Lessard’s kayak from the 2016 Hobie Fishing Worlds event!

With Beer & Gear tomorrow, that also means it is the start of demo season.  On Saturday Pack & Paddle will be doing a kayak demo from 10am – 2pm over at Vermilionville.  Acadiana residents – head over there if you’re interested in trying out the latest kayaks.  Also on Saturday, if you’re around New Orleans, Massey’s will be holding their first demo day of the year at Bayou St. John, which will be from 10am – 3pm.  The location is across from Cabrini High School, 1405 Moss St.

It’s that time of year, there’s no excuse if you’re in the market for a new kayak or have been wanting to try out the new models not to head out to a demo.  They are free and are the best way to try out as many different makes and models as possible to see what will fit you best.  Whenever someone asks for some good advice in picking a new kayak, the best thing anyone can tell them is “demo, demo, demo”.  I’ve found it really important to try as many different boats as you can before making a purchase because sometimes which one is your favorite will surprise you.

The next two days were spent fishing and filming in Grand Isle.  Along with Brooks and Jameson from JK Media House I also had the pleasure of getting back on the water with Josh Tidwell, who runs a kayak outfitter near Gadsden called Big Wills Outfitters.  Josh is a good dude, I’ve known him for a long time; well since that one year I lived in Alabama post-college.  He’s the man to see if you want a Jackson Kayak in Northeast Alabama.  After seeing bull reds caught the last two days, my hopes were high that we’d be able to net a few more, only this time on camera.

We were fishing out of the new Cuda HDs, which is the reason Brooks and Jameson were down in Louisiana, to get some good footage of the new boats.  We started the day off throwing topwater at points and around rock piles getting blow ups from small trout.  Hook ups were infrequent though and we moved on toward the marsh.  I knew these guys came down to catch redfish, not load up on small trout, but it’s hard to pass up likely trout spots, you never where that 24″+ gator trout is laid up.  After coming around a big point and through a big bay I got to a bayou that runs through some marsh and saw a familiar site of shrimp popping along the grass where a red was attacking bait.  After a decent cast it was fish on!

 

It was a nice mid-slot red, Jameson was there to film a little of it, I was happy to get on the board and even more excited that they were feeding.  I started making my way further up the bayou and then Jameson gets a call that Brooks has a fish on and it’s a big one – right off that big point I just passed.  I worked the area before moving through, but just like James the day before, I passed the area a little too early and missed a shot at a big fish.  Got to be in the right place at the right time.

img_0302(Jameson Redding – JK Media House)

It was awesome to hear that a bull red was caught and Jameson was able to paddle back and take some pics. While they were busy over there, I had stumbled into a pile of little trout in the bayou and was picking through the throwbacks.  Mixed in were a few rat reds as well.  It was a nice little flurry of activity, but eventually the action tapered off.  Soon the rest of the gang caught back up to me and we fished the interior marsh off that bayou until it was getting late.   We headed back as the sun was setting, stopping to fish those trout spots, ya know, just in case.

img_0303(Brooks Beatty – JK Media House)

After a late night, with some uncoordinated Onewheel action, we bid farewell the next day to Josh and the rest of the Alabama crew, but welcomed Bart Swab from St. Augustine, Florida.  Bart operates a kayak charter business over there called Action Kayak Adventures, they do fishing trips and eco-tours.  Bart was pretty stoked to be down in redfish country and was looking forward to catching a few on the fly.  This would be the best weather day of the trip so I thought he’d have a great opportunity of doing just that.  I was able to stick around for the morning and fish, but I’d be leaving early in the day to head back to Baton Rouge.  This was my last opportunity at bull red glory.

We headed back to the same spot and the weather today let us fish a new pond that was getting hammered by wind the day before.  As soon as we hit that pond I saw a big, bright, orange pumpkin float to the surface, but after reaching for a rod he submarined and I was left fan casting the area just hoping he’d see my bait.  I came up empty there, but it didn’t take long for Bart to find a little school of reds and as he hooked up he hollered over to me to come catch another one and this time my cast was true and we were doubled up!

 

img_0299(Brooks Beatty – JK Media House)

It was very cool to get that double, which was the start to a pretty good week for Bart, as he’d move with the guys the next day from Grand Isle to Point-aux-Chenes where the weather and fish continued to cooperate from what I understand.  I pushed on sight fishing the big pond and eventually did see another good bull red.  This time I was able to make a good cast, then another good cast, and finally a third good cast, the fish just didn’t eat.  I couldn’t believe that I finally had a great opportunity to catch a bull and the damn fish didn’t want to eat!  Jameson on the other hand had hung around that area I saw that first bull red and saw the fish again, this time he was able to get it to eat and for the fifth time in four days someone I was fishing with had landed a bull red.

img_0304(Brooks Beatty – JK Media House)

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Five bull reds, four different fishing partners – I was turning into quite the guide.  It was getting to be that time when I was needing to head out, so I bid everyone adieu and before I hit the big open water, I made one last stop to a flat to see if anyone was home.  Lucky for me a few fish were home and a junior bull was my consolation prize.  Of course it came when the professional cameras weren’t around, but I was happy to at least catch one over-slot fish in Grand Isle.

The Cuda HD is another winner from Jackson Kayak.  The hull is fantastic, it’s a very stable boat that tracks well and is fairly quick.  It’s not Kraken fast, but that’s not what the Cuda HD is designed to do.  This is an inshore boat and it’s going to be a great one.  The redesigned front hatch is very nice and simple to use and there is no shortage of built-in rod storage options.  It’s a tad on the heavy side for a 13′ boat at 85 lbs, so cartopping just means you’ll have to lift one end at a time.

The past four days were a blast!  Fishing was very productive for the Alabama crew and it was just starting to heat up for the Jackson guys.  I had a great time fishing with so many different people, but maybe had more fun just hanging out with everyone at night, just shooting the shit under the camp.  It’s trips and tournaments like this that make kayak fishing so special.

 

After fishing with Blake and James, I got to fish with Brooks and Jameson from JK Media House the next two days in Grand Isle.  Before I get to that report though I wanted to share a couple of their most recent videos.  They put out some great stuff, I’ve shared their Florida videos here before, I can’t wait to see what they come up with from their visit to Louisiana.  I know that after fishing with them in Grand Isle they then moved on to Pointe-aux-Chenes, got some great weather, and had a few good days with the folks from Pack & Paddle and some of the other JK team guys.

So this will be the third time I will have written this report, hopefully this one sticks.  Prepare yourself for a picture dump.

I got an opportunity to spend a week working in lower St. Bernard parish back in October.  Normally work trips to rural parts of the state are not met with such enthusiasm, but I was downright excited for this one.  Mainly because the marshes of lower St. Bernard are full of life and excellent fisheries.  Redfish, speckled trout, largemouth bass, and even flounder all share the same water down that way.  I’d have some downtime during the days, so I brought my Kraken 13.5 along for the ride.  I was able to grab some much needed seat time each day exploring just what this part of Louisiana had to offer.

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What makes lower St. Bernard such a great fishery is it’s proximity to both the Mississippi River and Lake Borgne, well, really just saltwater in general.  It is right in between the two, basically where they mix together.  This mixing of salt and freshwater creates a myriad of intermediate and brackish marsh that is some of the finest inshore fishing you’ll find anywhere.  It’s hard to beat catching reds, specks, and bass out of the same ponds.

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In the above pic you can see the amount of submerged vegetation that’s found in lower St. Bernard, most of the time I had to fish weedless baits.  One of the baits I liked to throw in the really matted up areas was a Stanley Top Toad topwater frog bait.  Seeing the red below blow up on the lure was amazing, one of the best strikes I’ve ever witnessed, such fun, I’ll be throwing that lure in the weeds more often.

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I fished a lot of different places around the parish – Shell Beach, Yscloskey, Delacroix, and Hopedale.  Each spot was similar, but they also had their own unique qualities.  I found clear water and lots of submerged vegetation in Shell Beach and Yscloskey.  Submerged vegetation, but dirty water in Delacroix and Hopedale.  As you’d expect fishing was much better where the water quality was better.  Fish were still caught at each stop though.

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Baits like topwater poppers and weedless rigged flukes and other soft plastics worked well throughout the week.  Flies worked pretty well too, especially on trout.  I used an EP-style shrimp that my buddy Hays had given me way back in January to do most of my damage.  Finding clean, moving water was the ticket.  Whether it was in a deep cut or bayou or on a flat where a cut or bayou was draining into a pond or bay – finding those conditions meant finding fish.

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It was an awesome week of fishing and yes, I did manage to get what work I had to do done.  It’s too bad these kind of projects don’t come around more often.  It was SO nice to fish during the week and have every spot I fished essentially to myself.

Hmm, let’s see, only 25-30 years before I can retire…. sigh.

My next trip out in the kayak would be on a spring fed creek that holds the newest member of the black bass family, the Choctaw bass.

The put-in I chose to use for access had a spring right next to the launch, amazing how clear the water was in the pool where it was bubbling in.  The creek was a beauty too.  From afar it really didn’t look all that different from a slow bayou in Louisiana, with all the cypress and gum trees.  The water clarity though, was much better than anything you’ll find in Louisiana, thanks to the numerous springs that fed the creek.  There was also a large amount of submerged vegetation too, this was a very healthy environment, full of life, and it looked bassy as hell.

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I paddled up about a mile and floated and fished back from there.  It didn’t take long to land a few fish on the fly rod.  The stumpknocker were plentiful as were the redbreasted sunfish.

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I put the fly rod down and started tossing a soft plastic around the stumps and lilies, that’s when I landed my first chain pickeral on the day.

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He wasn’t too big, but he was fun.  I’d soon find out that this creek was loaded with them and that soft plastics were a bad choice for what the locals called jackfish.  I was broken off shortly after catching my first one, then broken off again moments later.  I decided that was enough of that and tied on a buzzbait.  A wise man once said “any fat kid can catch a fish on a buzzbait” or something like that, so I decided it was time to exercise my inner fat kid.

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I was having a blast catching pickeral on the buzzbait.  They would absolutely hammer it, sometimes launching themselves out of the water like rockets!  Most were small, but a couple went over 20″.  I missed one choupique that I would have liked to have back. He nailed the buzzbait, not sure how I didn’t get a hook in him, he was every bit of 30″ though.

The fishing was going great, everything was visual, so I was enjoying myself, but the bass were eluding me to this point.  I was finally able to change that around a group of submerged cypress, catching a healthy 14.5″ Choctaw.  After the release of the Choctaw I noticed that the mother of all spiders was on my bow.  I guess he hopped on from one of the nearby cypress trees.  We’ve got fishing spiders in Louisiana, but I’m not sure we’ve got them that big.

 

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I continued throwing the buzzbait and picked up a few more pickeral, mostly in the slack water, either around cypress trees or lilies.  Just before takeout I was able to pick up a couple chunky little largemouth too.

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The mission was accomplished, I was able to land a Choctaw bass, on a beautiful stretch of river.  The real story though was catching a dozen or so chain pickeral, or southern pike as I’ve decided to start calling them.  What they lack in size they make up for in fight – what a fun fish.  I might have to check out some other spring creeks next time I’m on the panhandle, such amazing fisheries.