It has been a short while since I’ve fished in the kayak and was able to remedy that this past weekend. I didn’t make the decision to fish until mid-week as I was weighing my options between the Zapp’s International Beerfest and BCKFC‘s Redfish Rumble. I finally decided to fish since the weather forecast looked decent enough and after all the rain we’ve had I was really itching to get out.
That initial weather forecast called for 15 mph winds and as any veteran saltwater angler can attest, you can add 10 mph to that when fishing the marsh, so by that logic the forecast was spot on.
I woke up at 3:00 am, hit the road by 3:45 am and was on the water no later than 6:00 am. The tournament started at 5:00 am, but the sun didn’t rise until after I launched, so I wasn’t bothered by my late start.
The tournament objective, which is one that I really like, was the heaviest combined weight of three redfish and one bass. Having this style of tournament in St. Bernard Parish makes this format achievable as there is seemingly endless amount of water where you can catch both redfish and largemouth bass.
As is typical for any tournament my original plan was scraped at the last minute as the steady N to NW winds really put a damper on where I wanted to head. So I hit up plan B, an area I’d never fished and only looked at on Google Earth, but looked like somewhere I could do well and maybe even get some protection from the wind.
I started my day paddling into the wind, stopping to blind cast at points, islands, and cuts. I picked up a mid slot red doing this on a weedless Zoom swimming super fluke jr. (that’s a mouthful). There is so much submerged vegetation in St. Bernard Parish that fishing weedless baits is a requirement and this is one I like to throw in the grass.
Eventually though I was getting tired of pulling grass from my “weedless” jig head and tied on the smallest gold spoon I had, which I believe was a 1/16th oz Johnson Silver Minnow, though it may have been an 1/8th oz. The idea for going with the small spoon was that I wanted to swim it over the grass, I really didn’t want it to sink too far and redfish love gold spoons. The area I was in didn’t have the big grass mats that went all the way to the water surface, but the bottom was still covered, leaving varying depths of clean water on top.
Soon enough I picked up a 13.25″ bass blind casting with the spoon, which was a welcome addition to the fish bag. I spent the next two hours or so trying to emulate my early success, but having no luck. I decided that conditions were good enough for me to to stand up and try my luck sight fishing. The cloudy skies that we had in the morning had parted. The water clarity was very excellent where I was at. The only negative was the steady wind, which was something I thought I could work around.
After another two hours of not seeing or even spooking redfish I was getting pretty frustrated. I knew that I had to start heading back toward the launch soon as I was miles away and two fish just wasn’t going to cut it, so I sat down and began to come up with another strategy as I let the wind blow me back where I came from. By the way, I should mention that at this point, I was under the impression this is a five fish stringer tournament of four reds and one bass, so my bag seemed that much worse than what it actually was.
As I’m seated, speed drifting through a pond thanks to the wind, blind casting my gold spoon wherever looked good, I see a flash of red just below the surface some distance off. I knew exactly what it was and headed that way. As I stood up I could see it was two reds cruising through the pond, making their way toward me. I made a cast past the fish and pulled it at back at an angle toward them, in a flash one of the reds saw and attacked the spoon. With no time to react I never got a hook-set in him and the spoon was spit. I was lucky because he didn’t spook either, just kept moving along, and I put another cast in front of them and this time got a solid eat.
I could tell during the fight that it was a solid fish. It was too solid of a fish, at 28.5″, he was 1.5″ over the slot and no good for our tourney. I tagged him and sent him back into the water to give someone else a thrill, a little disappointed he was too big.
As I’m releasing him though I glance up into the area you see above in the picture and catch another flash of red. What are the odds? I move up a little bit and tuck myself along the right bank once I realize it’s not just one fish but a few reds moving through the cut.
I make a cast in front of that group and pull out a 24-25″ fish that went somewhere around 5-6 lbs. I’m feeling a bit more optimistic at this point – I went from seeing no activity to seeing two different groups of redfish in a matter of minutes. I was a little nervous about time as my alarm to start heading back to the truck had already gone off, though it was set pretty conservatively in the first place. So I set another alarm for when I absolutely had to start heading back and kept fishing.
I drifted my way through that cut and into another pond, at this point I was in full blown sightfishing mode as that’s how I spotted the last two fish I caught – I just happened to be seated at the time. It didn’t take long to see another fish, who was just chilling on top of some thick grass, I actually thought he was over the slot when I saw him but decided to try and catch him anyway as I’m always down to fight a big fish.
After an accurate cast with the spoon and an awesome eat (so cool to see the whole process in crystal clear water) I got him in the boat and put him on the board – a hair over 27″. I was stoked, but knew he had to shrink a little for me to be able to use him. I didn’t have a whole lot of ice in my fish bag so I was going to have make sure to get a fresh bag when I got off the water. I threw him in there and hoped for the best. (For anyone not familiar, fish put on ice will shrink as much as 1/4″.)
At this point I’ve got three reds and a bass, exactly what I need to weigh in, but for some reason I still think I need four redfish so I keep press on. At some point during the next thirty minutes I reach a point of clarity and remember I only needed three reds which is precisely what I had and suddenly relief sets in. Still though, the first redfish I caught was not a stud by any stretch of the imagination so I kept fishing.
I farmed it on the next pair of reds I saw and was kicking myself big time since time was winding down. I soon made it out of my nice crystal clear water and into the dirtier water that was found closer to the launch (I was still drifting back to the launch). Luckily for me soon after hitting that dirty water, I spot the faint colors of a red in a shallow pond and made another good cast and fooled him to eat. It was a near clone of my earlier 24-25″ fish and I was happy to put him in the bag as an upgrade from the early redfish.
I was feeling good at this point, not because I thought I would win, but because I accomplished what I had set out to do – put four mid to upper slot reds and one bass in the bag. It took all day to do it and was a lot of work in the wind, but I was glad I stuck it out. I headed back to the launch and heard my alarm go off just as I began pulling the Kraken out of the water.
About the Kraken – I was really pleased with how well the boat did in the conditions I fished in on Saturday. I went further than I thought I would be able to and was able to fish some really incredible water because of it. I did it without complaint too – I spent far less time bitching about the wind and more time fishing and there is something to be said for that. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again the combination of speed and stability in the 13.5 is impressive, I’ve never seen another boat quite like it.
The weigh-in was held just up the road in Meraux at the Meraux Tackle Box, where the owner went out of the way to make us feel at home with a great big tent set up out back. He runs a good shop too with a great selection of baits for fishing down in St. Bernard. I’ll be back for sure next time I fish down that way.
Out of the 91 folks registered, 30 showed up to weigh fish and no one had more weight than the first person in line. Rick Dembrun, a fellow Jackson teamer for Massey’s Outfitters, fellow Kraken 13.5 paddler, and a local to the area, set the gold standard at 24.65 lbs.
My big red that I was slightly nervous about on the water wasn’t even that close to being 27″ when measured by Todd on the official board. I must have been overzealous when I measured it on the water, so I was happy to retain his 8+ lb weight and come in 2nd at 21.07 lbs, the pic above is my four fish at the weigh-in table.
I really didn’t expect to come in 2nd when I was on the water, I always assume everyone else did better than me when I’m out there, but it was pretty evident at the weigh in as folks trickled in that it was a tough day for most and 20 lbs was holding steady.
To round out the top 5, my friend Steve came in 3rd with 18.04 lbs, Michael Ethridge was 4th with 17.98 lbs and Kalon Johnson was 5th with 14.41 lbs. There were two side pots for the tournament that you could sign up for $5 each – big fish and leopard red. Big fish went to Wayne Lobb with a monster 8.41 lb slot red. Leopard red went to Kevin May with 10 spots. I declined entry into both and almost made a mistake as my big fish was not too far off from Wayne’s. No sleep was lost over the decision.
I’m happy that things played out the way they did and that I decided to not go to the Beerfest. Any day that I go fishing and get paid to do is a great day. Here’s to more great days!