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BCKFC held a tournament this past weekend and that can only mean one thing, well two things really, conditions were brutal and good times were had by all.  These things still hold true in the seven or eight years I’ve been fishing their events.  If you are a kayak fisher and you’ve yet to make a Paddlepalooza or a Fall N Tide, you are truly doing yourself a disservice.  Yeah the weather is bound to be crappy, but the food, the friends, the fishing, and the overall atmosphere is rivaled by no other kayak tournament, at least that I’ve been to.

Fall N Tide was Saturday down at Cypress Cove Marina and I fished the lower Plaquemines area on both Friday and Saturday.  I did my best in the constant 20+ mph winds and sketchy low water conditions and managed a 4th place finish in the leopard red division.  Not my best, but no complaints here after a tough Saturday on the water.  Although conditions on both days were very similar, I could not replicate the success I had on Friday, and I heard that same story from many kayak anglers at the weigh-in on Saturday.

Friday was a scouting day for me, but when I say scouting I mean fishing, as scouting isn’t that much different than a regular day on the water for me.  What made it a scouting trip was I got to fish a new area I hadn’t before and despite the poor conditions I really hammered the redfish in the morning, with pretty much all of them caught sightfishing.

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I arrived at my roadside launch shortly after sunrise on Friday and was greeted with a stiff wind, bright blue skies, and low water.  Water clarity, as I’d come to find out, was good near the launch, but not so much as I began to venture further away.  I picked a spot to explore where I could be protected from the relentless Northeast wind that was predicted for both Friday and Saturday – which ended up being a good call as I was able to do a lot of fishing without being blown all over the place.  I started fishing as soon as I launched and was into redfish in a matter of minutes.

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The marsh was full of small shrimp and minnows and redfish and gar were blowing up schools of bait along the thick stands of cane.  It was a beautiful sight to see and I was happy to toss a Matrix shad into the mix and wait my turn.  Unfortunately due to the forecast I left the fly rods at home, figuring the wind would have me frustrated, and brought only tournament tackle.  The shore grass at this spot however was tall enough to provide plenty of wind protection and I was kicking my self for not at least having one fly rod to have fun with.  I’m only kicking myself in retrospect, it was still a blast, no matter the tackle.

In an attempt to avoid any pre-fishing juju I didn’t keep a single fish and used whatever available tags I had on me at the time.  Afterwards I thought about it and wondered what would be said if I did end up weighing in a fish on Saturday that I had tagged on Friday, it would probably raise some eyebrows but also amuse at the same time.  This scenario didn’t play out, but I certainly would have loved to have the 9 spot red I tagged on Friday pay me another visit on Saturday.

Besides the 9 spot red I managed to catch a red on the other end of the spotted-spectrum.  It was spotless.  It’s rare, but it does happen, and I’ve caught them before.  Redfish look naked without their spots.

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As the morning progressed the reds quit blowing up the bait, but that didn’t stop them from giving themselves away in other ways.  I started to see backs and tails as they crawled along the shallow flats, no doubt looking for crabs, which were also in abundance (bait was everywhere!).

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Although the redfishing was outstanding, they weren’t necessarily great tourney reds, they were low to mid slot fish, great to eat, but not much to weigh-in.  The biggest I caught on Friday went 25.5″, which is not necessarily a keeper red at Fall N Tide.  It would be a good red to have though in the slam division, but probably wouldn’t sniff the big red division so I had to make decision whether or not to fish the same spot on Saturday.  Not catching a single trout or flounder wasn’t making that spot promising either.  I picked up after lunch and headed up the road to hit an old standby and see what was happening up there.  As it turned out, not much was happening up there.  Water clarity was better, but fishing was not.  I caught a few more reds, none bigger than what I had already caught.

With no trout and no flounder at the two spots I hit on Friday I decided to head to a different spot on Saturday a little further up the road.  I’d love to tell you I had an outstanding day and things couldn’t have been better, but it downright sucked.  I launched just before sunrise and made my way to a marsh drain as the sun was peeking above the horizon.  There I hooked a fish under a popping cork and promptly broke him off cork and all.  Typically when this happens the cork comes up and you just chase after the bobbing cork to try and land the fish – a hilarious and entertaining situation when viewed from an outsider’s perspective.  It is a bit maddening when it happens to you on a tournament day, especially when the cork never surfaces.  IT NEVER SURFACED!  What did I catch, the Lochness Monster?

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The rest of the day at this spot was ho-hum, not a single bite.  I take that back, I caught the smallest rat red ever in the middle of a bay looking for trout.  I picked up at lunch time with nothing to show for my troubles and was left with another decision to make, pick up and head somewhere else where I may have a chance to catch a slam or hit the tried-and-true redfish spot I found on Friday.  I conceded the slam and headed to catch some reds.

I got to the spot and talked to a couple guys who were picking up, one had a small slot red and a trout(!) and had caught a couple bull reds as well.  He did say the water had dropped significantly though and things were getting worse.  I launched anyway and headed to the ponds that produced for me the day before – I really just wanted to catch some fish.

The water had dropped and places that I had no problems navigating the day before were big mud flats on Saturday.  There also weren’t redfish blowing up schools of bait like there was on Friday.  The gar were still there, some even doing their best redfish impersonations, teasing me, but eventually I did luck into a 21″ red.

I hit the rest of the spots that worked for me on Friday without success.  I then decided to go check out some interesting looking water (on an aerial) that was across a shallow bay.  I almost couldn’t get there and probably wouldn’t have in a pedal drive yak, but I made it and sure enough as soon as I arrived I saw a crawler.  I somehow kept my cool, waited for my chance to make a good cast to him (he was in a bunch of cane) and connected with him once I got my shot.  He went 23.5″ and had a more spots than two, I didn’t make an effort to count them at the time, I just wanted to get him in the bag.  Anything was better than what I had at this point.  Not long after I connected again on a 22″ red and suddenly I was on some redfish, only problem was that this spot had run out of fishable water and I had to head back across the bay.

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I slowed everything down and began trying my luck for flounder, but it just wasn’t in the cards.  I was tired, hungry, and ready to get off the water.  So I packed it in, called it a day, and headed back to the cabin to take a shower.

The first thing I noticed at the weigh-in was that the line to weigh fish was not very long.  Out of a total of 138 paid anglers, I believe less than half turned in fish.  In fact only three folks turned in complete slams and in our rules three fish slams of any weight will always trump a two fish slam.  My redfish went 5.51 lbs and had a total of six spots – good enough to net me a 4th place finish in the leopard red category.  After a long day of fishing and only bringing four fish to hand, it was nice to take home a plaque and a gift card.

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One cool story from Fall N Tide was that the overall winner was Vlad’s brother from Romania.  He was in town visiting family and Vlad told him “fish the bank for reds, the bay for trout, and the bottom for flounder” and wouldn’t you know it worked.  It just goes to show that everyone has a shot to win a tournament, you just got to get out there and give it your all.

I posted the final results below.  The one category that was really impressive to me was the Big Redfish category.  An 8.93 and an 8.77 lb slot redfish is no joke – those things are hammers that would compete in redfish series tournaments.  Congrats to Rick and Eric for finding those stud reds.  Really, congrats to everyone that made it to the leaderboard, it was a tough day on the water and every placing was well earned and deserved.  Looking forward to Paddlepalooza in April of 2016!

Final Results:

Cajun Slam 
1 Fernando Mihalieseu 10.23 – 3 fish slam
2 Chris Weaver 8.51 – 3 fish slam
3 Rick Jarreau 5.23 – 3 fish slam
4 Steve Neece 9.94
5 Eugene Cortez 8.33
6 Kirk Hess 8.05
7 Lee Wolfe 7.9
8 Brendan Bayard 7.68

Big Redfish
1 Rick Dembrun 8.93
2 Eric Stacey 8.77
3 Craig Brown 7.81
4 Elliot Stevens 7.23
5 Vlad Moldovemu 6.89

Mule Trout
1 Eric Muhoberac 2.49
2 Marty Mood 1.51
3 Jason Powers 1.44
4 Cristine Phillips 1.44
5 Tommy Eubanks 1.43

Saddle Flounder
1 Brian Carson 2.32
2 Chris Cox 1.99
3 Luke Beslin 1.86
4 Stacey Martin 1.18
5 Jared Leroy 1.04

Leopard Red
1 Donny Elliot (9)
2 Tyler Drude (7)
3 Mark Eubanks (7)
4 Ben Roussel (6)
5 Michael Ethridge (5)

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BCKFC‘s Fall N Tide X is right around the corner, be sure to get signed up.  Rules, registration and details can all be found here:  http://www.bckfc.org/FNT/.  This is one of my favorite tournaments to fish because inshore fishing down in Plaquemines Parish this time of year is usually on fire.  I’ll be looking for a repeat of my 1st place finish from 2012.  It’s unlikely as this tournament usually draws every solid kayak fisher from here to Alabama, but anything can happen!  Look forward to catching up with everyone down in Venice.

Had a chance to get out and fish on Monday thanks to the Labor Day holiday.  The weather ended up being very nice; light winds in the morning, picking up throughout the day, partly cloudy skies.  It was hot, but it’s always hot down here in summer so you get used to it.  Conditions would have been ideal for sight fishing had water clarity been a bit improved.  The closer I got to the Gulf though, the better the water looked.  The tide fell throughout the day and by the time I picked up it was too low to paddle in some spots.

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It couldn’t have been better timing to finally get back on the water as I had just received the new Power-Pole Micro battery pack in the mail this past week.  I have been stubbornly waiting on this battery pack to come out for probably around two years now.  That’s about how long the Power-Pole Micro has been sitting on a shelf in my garage.  I’m not big on electronics in kayaks as I’ve never needed to run them or wanted to fool with batteries or wires, so I initially passed on the Micro.  It looked like it would be a great tool for my style of fishing though and was something that could make things a bit easier for me on the water so when I was told that a battery pack was in development for the Micro, I jumped on the opportunity to get one.  Little did I know that the folks at Power-Pole still had a lot of hurdles to jump before they could distribute their battery pack.

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I got to a familiar spot just before sun up and started to rig up.  The plan was to hit some familiar bull red and big trout water and hope for the best.  Every trip out is an opportunity to upgrade my fish in the year-long Massey’s Fish Pics tournament run through Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club so I wanted to hit some potential big fish water that would give me a good shot at an upgrade.  I caught a red fairly early on, in the first big pond I went in.  He was cruising a shoreline and I was able to intercept his path with a Matrix shad.  It is always a good feeling to get that first fish on the board.  I tagged him, took a pic, and then we parted ways.

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While in that same pond I posted up by the outlet and began to fish a spot where the tide was pulling water out into a canal.  I noticed something yellow up under the mangroves not too far from where I anchored and after watching it for awhile I noticed it was alive and moving.  It was a small tripletail floating on his side!  They aren’t unheard of to be in the marsh, but it is pretty rare.  So I re-rigged my fly rod with a smaller shrimp imitation and tried my best to convince him to eat, only he wasn’t having it.  I finally got hung on the mangrove and he spooked as I tried to retrieve my fly.  A pretty neat experience though I was a little bummed to not catch him, but I pressed on.

As I said earlier the closer I got toward the Gulf the better the water looked and when I got out to some rocks I started working the Matrix shad and suspending baits looking for trout.  A few ladyfish and a catfish later I changed it up and started throwing the topwater.  Don’t let anyone tell you a topwater is only for first light.  I ended catching a handful of keeper trout and had a blast doing it.  Shoot, it was a hoot to watch the ladyfish blast the topwater out of the water.

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I was really hoping to luck into a bull red on topwater, but unfortunately they weren’t anywhere to be found.  I headed back into the marsh after things slowed down and shifted my focus to sight fishing.  The falling tide was a pretty big one and it had the water clarity even worse than in the morning, so things were tough.  Plus the wind picked up and made things that much tougher.  Luckily for me there were still a fair amount of active reds patrolling the shoreline and I caught a few reds by sound more than sight.  They were crashing crabs around exposed oyster beds with reckless abandon and as long as you got your lure right in front of their face they would eat it.

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I had made my way back to that first big pond I went in and decided to go see if that tripletail was still around.  Sure enough, I could spot that yellow fish from across the pond.  I tossed that same shrimp fly in his direction and he wasn’t interested.  Eventually I had floated close enough to where I just assume net him, so I grabbed my landing net, calmly slid it under him, then scooped up and just like that I had caught a tripletail.  He didn’t move much while in the water which had me thinking he wasn’t 100%, but once that net hit him he definitely livened up.

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A bizarre way to land a fish, but it’s actually not the first time I’ve done it.  I caught a black drum like that once in the kayak.  Only when I went to net the drum he launched himself out of the water and onto the shore.  That’s what I love about kayaks, we can get right on top of these fish at times and they have no idea.

All in all it was a good trip, caught a few trout and a few reds and had an interesting tripletail experience to boot.  I wasn’t able to upgrade any fish for the Massey’s tournament, but that’s what is great about year-long tournaments, there is still plenty of time for that.

A quick word on the Micro after the first trip out.  It worked well, loved having the ability to press a button to drop anchor or pick up when I needed to.  It does take a little bit of time to get use to it while standing.  I found the extra weight on the back end of the kayak and the 8′ pole sticking in the air increased the wobble you feel when standing up  That wobble increased camera shake on the GoPro – which I actually used for the first time in a long time – but it also threw the boat’s stability off.  I was in the Cuda 14 – I’m interested to get it mounted on the Kilroy and see how it reacts.  With the Cuda 14 mount from YakAttack, it is actually the Micro is actually off to the side of the back end of the boat and not over center – that may have something to do with that increased wobble.  The Micro does come with a quick release mount, which is nice because it came in handy while sightfishing, but I really did not need it while I was fishing for trout.  With a boat like the Cuda the 8′ pole stores in the hull without a problem – so if I needed to I could have set it up while out on the water, parked on the shore.  I look forward to using it more and being able to give a better review of it down the road.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:  

Cajun Slam
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

Redfish
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

Trout
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

Flounder
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

Leopard Red
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

Kids Slam
Seth Raspberry Redfish 1.65 lbs

Ladies Slam
Darla Flannigan Redfish 7.61 lbs & Trout 1.63 lbs