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BCKFC held their first ever freshwater tourney, Yak-a-Bass, a couple weekends ago.  It was held out of Chicot State Park on beautiful Lake Chicot, near Ville Platte, Louisiana.  This was also BCKFC’s first ever CPR tourney as well, which wasn’t all that different from an IFA event.  Instead of a redfish and a trout combined, an angler’s three biggest bass would be scored as their cumulative digital stringer.  Thirty-eight yak anglers came out to compete in what promised to be tough conditions – rain was forecast at 100% after 10:00am.  Sixteen anglers caught bass and if I’m not mistaken only two filled their three bass stringer.  It was a tough day to say the least, so naturally, I skunked.

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Although the field failed to catch a lot of fish, there were at least a couple of stud fish caught.  Alton Stanford came through with big bass with a fish that was upwards of 21″ and 7 lbs.  Kelly Chacheres had another bass that was near 21″.  Alton’s fish was enough to give him third place, even more impressive I believe it was the first fish he has caught out of his kayak!  The rest of the winners are below:

1. Jason Dixon – 40″

2. Kevin May – 36.75″

3. Alton Stanford – 21″

4. Kelly Chacheres – 20.375″

5. Norman Walker – 15.25″

I hate that I skunked, but it was nice to get out.  I would avenge that skunking this past week on some bass up in North Louisiana, report to follow.

I have not had much time to sit down and write lately as I have been busy – busy with work, busy with family, busy with life in general.  That being said this blog has been nominated again this year in the YakAngler 2014 Kayak Angler Choice Awards.  I’m honored to receive a nomination because it shows that there are kayak anglers out there that appreciate and are entertained by this blog and for that I am very thankful.  I hope I can keep things fresh and promise I will eventually find time to write (and fish) again.  If you’d like to extend a vote my way I would be happy to accept it: YakAngler 2014 Kayak Angler Choice Awards

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If you don’t know whom else to vote for in each category I will offer some suggestions:

Angler of the Year – Hands down Steve Lessard.  I can’t think of a more deserving kayak angler out there than my friend Steve.  The man consistently whoops our behinds in BCKFC and IFA tournaments and he was up to the task on foreign soil in the Hobie Worlds.  He is an exceptional angler and a great guy – he is my AOY.

Kayak of the Year – I’m a Jackson guy so I may be a little biased  but I’m torn here between the Kraken and the Big Rig.  Each of these boats is a game changer in their own way.  I got to paddle a Kraken at the Dealer Summit and can tell you that this is one slick ride.  They don’t mention it much but guys like me can stand and fish from the Kraken and still have the fastest boat on the water.

Paddle of the Year –  The Manta Ray carbon and the Surge carbon from Aqua Bound have been my two favorite paddles I’ve ever owned.  Surprisingly the Surge carbon wasn’t on the nomination list, so the nod here goes to the Manta Ray. Compare it’s weight and blade size with other paddles that have been nominated – you won’t find another high angle paddle under 30oz.

Forum of the YearBayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club is my local club.  It’s a great group, no surprise they were nominated.

Outfitter of the Year – Another local favorite here – Pack & Paddle.  Why do I love Pack & Paddle?  Let me count the ways – huge kayak rigging section, local tackle and flies, a knowledgeable staff that fishes, great seminars and demo days, Beer & Gear, and one of the best kayak displays I’ve ever seen.

Location of the Year – Grand Isle, easy.  The site of the biggest kayak fishing tournament in the World in Ride the Bull.  This place is kayak fishing mecca and I have some converts from freshwater Alabama that may agree.

Video of the Year – Business as Usual by Team HookedonYak.  I love this video because its fun, original, it comes from regular guys like you and me, not some video professionals who want to blow you away with drones and forced fishing drama.  These are some South Louisiana boys going to work on some reds showcasing the incredible fishing we have to offer.  If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and watch below.

In years past the Trout Challenge was a tournament I didn’t attend.  Not because I didn’t want to, but typically by the time it rolled around I was out of contention for the BCKFC tournament series and it didn’t make any sense, being a redfish guy, to drive all the way out to Big Lake to fish for trout.  This year has been a little different – the series is still wide open, I’ve had a couple decent finishes in the first two events and the Trout Challenge became a “go anywhere” event, meaning the entire state was fair game – you just needed to catch five trout and bring them back to Cabela’s in Gonzales for weigh-in.  With the tournament being in June it seemed like a no brainer that my best bet would be fishing in the surf, more specifically the Grand Isle surf.  The added bonus was that Gonzales was on the way home from Grand Isle, so I really wouldn’t have to go out of the way to fish.

With all this in mind I left work on Friday at lunchtime hoping to get a little bit of scouting in.  I was so confident fish were in the surf that I hit a marsh spot that holds trout in the Spring, just to see if they were still around.  I figured they wouldn’t be, but it was worth a shot to eliminate a spot.  I was on the water around 2pm and the first thing I noticed was the water clarity was not very good, which doesn’t normally bode well for trout fishing.  It was a bit high too, but all that aside it was still fishable.  It didn’t take long to paddle to my spot and within minutes there was activity.  It wasn’t trout, but redfish, they were wreaking havoc on the bait in the pond, specifically crashing crabs on the shoreline.  The amount of bait was unbelievable, shrimp popping out the water, fiddler crabs lined the shore of the marsh and blue crab worked the fringes of the oyster beds – it was a veritable redfish smorgasbord and they couldn’t help themselves.

I picked off a couple rat reds with a Matrix shad and was blind casting around some oyster beds when I got hung up.  Of course just at that same time a better redfish crashed a shore line within casting range.  I had two other rods handy, a popping cork and a topwater.  Opting for the topwater I bombed a perfect cast to the fish and before I could even work it the topwater got sucked under.  I’ve got to admit – it felt pretty good when that cast met it’s mark and the fish obliged. It was a slot red of around 21″ and proved to be the biggest on the day.  I caught one more red then decided that I should probably move on and locate trout since it wasn’t a redfish tournament I was scouting for.

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I moved on to the surf at Elmer’s and met up with my friend Jeff.  He had just made it out there and hadn’t caught anything yet.  We tried for awhile in the kayaks, but there wasn’t much doing.  The water off the beach wasn’t the prettiest and the beach itself was covered in sargassum – something that rarely happens down there so I’m told.  The beach was smelly and full of gnats as a result.  I parked the boat and started wade fishing.  The action was inconsistent but I was able to boat a couple keeper trout and threw back a couple more undersized fish.  I wasn’t convinced this was where I needed to fish in the morning so I had to come up with a different plan.

The plan I hatched wasn’t very creative, it just involved moving further down and trying the surf out front of Grand Isle in the morning.  I was sticking to my guns – the surf in June is the place to be.  Jeff decided to tag along and we met before sunrise the next day.  Dragging the kayak a long way from the public access, over a dune, through the sargassum, and into the water I really hoped the work would pay off.  We started working the rocks in front of the beach and as the sun came up every spot you could wade and fish was occupied by a body, most of the them with live bait.  We were reduced to throwing artificials only, but that didn’t matter as no one was catching fish.  The shrimp were thick behind the rocks, the wade fishers had no idea but they were popping all over the place.  If I had a cast net I could have filled my ice chest and gone home happy – I’ve never seen shrimp so thick.  I’m not sure that the fish weren’t there or that they just had enough food already, but we didn’t have any luck. After a few hours work we picked up and went to get a biscuit at Jo-Bob’s.  We had caught a few trout at Elmer’s yesterday so we may as well head over there to try our luck.

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On the way to our spot at Elmer’s we ran into another buddy, Jason, and stopped to see how he was doing.  The news was bleak, but he had at least caught a couple trout.  The water still looked pretty nasty out there, but we decided to give it a shot.  We moved on to our spot where the water was a little cleaner and started catching fish.  Only problem was the fish we were catching were pogies.  Some foul hooked in the back, others near the mouth. They were big pogies too, pompano sized pogies.  Hopeful that big trout would be under the pogies we kept at it, but the only predator that was hooked was a Jack Crevalle that straightened out the hook on Jason’s bait.  After a few hours a white trout and a ladyfish were the only action I saw that weren’t foul hooked pogies.

It was a disappointing two days in the surf around Grand Isle, but I did get to enjoy fishing in the company of a few friends.  Besides Jeff and Jason, Blake was on the island as well to work on Saturday, he joined me in the surf Friday evening.  I made it up to Cabela’s for the weigh-in, although I had nothing to weigh, I at least got to catch up with a few other friends.  This was my worst outing in a tournament in a while, but I still had a good time and that’s what I love about kayak fishing.  The results of the tournament I’ll post below, but you can expect the usual suspects at the top again.

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Trout Challenge 2014 Top 5

  1. Steve Lessard
  2. Casey Brunning
  3. Brendan Bayard
  4. Denis Soignier
  5. Ty Hibbs

Big thanks to Cabela’s for hosting the weigh-in and donating prizes.  Also a big thanks to Jim Smith who let Blake and I crash at his camp on Friday night.  It was also good catching up with Jim and Bud Friday night, it had been a while since I’ve seen them, I know they did better than we did on Saturday.  I’m hopeful that my lack of success this past weekend was just a fluke and not a sign of something more serious as an article in the Advocate suggests: http://theadvocate.com/sports/9482816-32/veteran-anglers-concerned-about-speckled .  Only time will tell.

That is my friend Catch Cormier’s favorite line about the annual Spring kayak fishing tournament organized by BCKFC, now in it’s 11th year. After attending the event this past Saturday, he couldn’t be more right! Everyone involved put on one heck of a show for the 244 folks that signed up.

I missed out on the Friday night festivities and opted to leave super early Saturday morning. I didn’t make any scouting trips prior to the tournament so I decided to limit my tournament day options to places I’ve had success at in the past catching all three slam species; redfish, trout, and flounder. I was running a little late and wouldn’t make it on the water by 5:00am, but that gave me a chance to see just what LA 1 looks like during a tournament day. Every place you could toss a kayak in the water had a vehicle and the more popular options had vehicles lined up on the shoulder. It was pretty amazing to see just what kind of impact we kayak fishermen can have on a community come tournament time.

Lucky for me my spot was empty and I was on the water just before the sun came up. For the next 2-3 hours the winds were calm and the weather was perfect, the only downside to that was it meant the gnats and mosquitoes were out in force. The fishing though in that time was so good that the I wasn’t bothered by the bugs (being covered in clothing from head to toe helped as well). Fishing an oyster lined pond I had an incredible morning catching redfish and trout on topwater. When it was dark I threw a Spook Jr. in black/chartreuse and when the sun came up it was a Spook Jr. in bone. I couldn’t tell what the water clarity was upon launching but as the sun came up I could see that it was very nice. After landing about a dozen trout and maybe half a dozen reds the best of each were a 4 lb red and a nearly 2 lb trout. A good start, but I would definitely need to upgrade each.

I started working the spot for flounder focusing primarily on the places I had caught them in the past. Points and cuts in the marsh and anywhere the water moved were the areas I was targeting. At about lunch time I decided to pack it up and head up the road to try a different spot.

I didn’t realize just how windy it was after leaving the first spot, but I sure felt it upon arrival at the second spot. Conditions had deteriorated but I wasn’t deterred from trying to find a flounder. Water clarity here was very good as well – I guess I could thank that strong Southern wind for that. Bugs weren’t an issue any more either – thanks wind! Again I worked the flounder spots and again I was coming up empty. Knowing that I still needed to upgrade my trout and my red, I continued to throw topwater in likely looking spots. It wasn’ t long before I had a big fish on, only problem was it was a bull red! A fun fight, but not what I needed on tournament day.

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Catching that fish showed me that it was still effective to throw topwater even in terrible conditions, though it is harder to work the bait. Fishing the islands of a big bay I was getting hammered by wind, so I moved on to some marsh to seek shelter. Settling into a cut just to take a break I threw out some Gulp and watched as my cork immediately went under the water. On the other end of the line was a redfish upgrade at 5 lbs! Not a big upgrade, but better than nothing. On the next cast, this time out into the bay and back toward myself in the cut I watched as a red tried to take down the cork! Giving it a pop to take it from his mouth he luckily found the Gulp underneath. Another redfish in the boat, not an upgrade on weight but this one did have 13 spots! I didn’t want to get my hopes up on taking the leopard redfish category (I’ve made that mistake before), but I at least had a shot now.

It was getting close to weigh-in time so I decided to make my way back to the launch, which was of course into the wind across open water. Thank goodness for Jackson’s low seat position and the Aqua Bound Manta Ray blade size. I hardly ever use the low seat position, but this proved to be the perfect situation. I made good time considering I was plowing through building waves heading into the wind.

Back at Bobby Lynn’s standing in line to weigh fish, everyone began to recount the day’s events, which is one of my favorite parts of any tournament. It became increasingly apparent that there were a lack of unicorn, I mean, flounder brought to the scales. By the end of the day I believe only six were weighed. In a slam tournament that pays out to ten places this meant that the back half of the slam placings would be two fish slams (a three fish slam will always beat a two fish slam in a BCKFC tournament, no matter the weight). I knew I didn’t have a shot at a placing with my two fish slam, but it at least took some of those folks with two nice fish out of the individual species categories. The other thing that became apparent was that a lot of leopard reds were brought in. Not just any old leopards either, these were reds with more than a dozen spots – there were two 17 spot reds turned in! My little 13 spot wouldn’t hold up for first and barely hung on for 5th! At least I wouldn’t be going home empty handed though.

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After weighing fish I was able to grab my captain’s bag (including the tee shirt Clayton is wearing in the pic) and shoot the breeze with a lot of the other competitors who have become friends over the years. Although the fishing was pretty tough for most (only 75 weighed fish) I didn’t see any disappointed faces, thus the real reason “there’s never a loser at Paddlepalooza!”. Between the captain’s bags, meals, tournament, raffles, and camaraderie among fellow like-minded individuals, you always come out ahead.

Speaking of raffles, the raffle items this year blew away what has been offered in years past. I should have bought more tickets than I did because there was a lot of good stuff on that table. The officers did a tremendous job with the raffle this year, I was impressed. It made me long for the days when placing in a category meant your pick of prizes from the raffle table.

IMG_2587 In closing, Paddlepalooza XI was a ton of fun, BCKFC knocked it out of the park on this one. I had a great morning catching fish and was lucky enough to take home 5th place leopard red that afternoon. The fried fish dinner was excellent as always – a lot of credit goes to the guys that volunteer to help cook and serve. I think it was a great move to hire fish cleaners this year to help take care of the one job no one really enjoys. Those guys were far more efficient than the average Joe, really cool to watch them work. The raffle went fairly quick considering what it had been in years past and the prizes were off the charts. Things just seem to get better and better with this organization and tournaments. Heck, even the shirt this year was one of the best I’ve seen. Super soft with another great Brendan Bayard design; these things are like collector’s items for kayak fishermen down here in Louisiana. It makes me proud to be a small part of BCKFC and I hope we continue to grow and put on outstanding events. We do a great job getting in state folks to attend, but it would be really cool to see more out of state folks down. The more people we can get registered for events like this, the more money that gets directed to charities like Heroes on the Water and the Palliative Care Foundation of Baton Rouge – the real winners at functions like this. Here’s hoping Paddlepalooza XII is just as successful as this year’s event!

2014 Paddlepalooza XI Results

Cajun Slam – Angler – Weight(lbs) – Prize Won

1st – Jeff Breaux – 10.19 – Hobie Pro Angler 14
2nd – Jason Austin – 8.15 – Hobie Outback
3rd – Wayne Lobb – 6.45 – $1000 Gift Card to The Backpacker
4th – Elliot Stevens – 6.33 – $800 
5th – Bill Crawford – 6.33 – $750 
6th – Steve Lessard – 9.52 (2 fish) – $700 
7th – Chris Holmes – 9.26 (2 fish) – $650 
8th – Brendan Bayard – 8.81(2 fish) – $600 
9th – Tommy Eubanks – 8.45 (2 fish) – $550 
10th – Shane Curole – 8.29 (2 fish) – $500 

Heavy Slot Red – Angler – Weight(lbs)
1st – Justin Pisani – 7.27
2nd – Jonathan Craft – 6.96
3rd – Timothy Caldwell – 6.93
4th – Perry Watts – 6.85
5th – Craig Brown – 6.79 

Mule Trout – Angler – Weight(lbs)
1st – Fred Trahan – 3.72
2nd – Toby Armand – 3.72
3rd – Jeff Suber – 3.56
4th – Sam Speer – 3.19
5th – Scott Harper – 2.94

Saddle Flounder – Angler – Weight(lbs)
1st – Douglas Menefee – 0.87

Leopard Red – Angler – Spots – Prize won
1st – Jason Powers – 17 – KC Kayak
2nd – Dwayne Walley – 17
3rd – Jared Leroy – 15
4th – Matt Lehman – 15
5th – Ben Roussel – 13

Ladies – Angler – Weight(lbs) – Prize won
1st – Barbara Johnson – 5.50 – Custom Bull Bay Rod

Kids – Angler – Weight(lbs)
1st – Rory Craft – 4.60

BCKFCs annual Minimalist Challenge tournament was held this past Saturday down at Coco Marina in Cocodrie, LA. The Minimalist Challenge represents the clubs first tournament of the year and is the first in a five part tournament series to determine the clubs “Angler of the Year”. The tournament boasts an interesting format – all competitors are given the same five baits and must use only what is given to them. You lose those five lures and your fishing is done for the day Bringing additional tackle is also an automatic disqualifier from the tournament. Species eligible to be weighed in are speckled trout, redfish and flounder. Only state slot and bag limits apply so competitors could possibly bring in as many as 45 legal fish as the goal was total bag weight. On top of that all competitors launch from the same place at the same time so everyone has access to the same water. This format makes Minimalist Challenge as fair an event as is possible, perhaps even more so this year as this is the first time BCKFC has had a tournament out of Cocodrie. Baits for the tournament were provided by Texas Tackle Factory and jigheads provided by Superior Tackle.

The baits:

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Photo: Sherman Walker

I was happy to have gotten the chance to do a little scouting last weekend, a little disappointed with the results, but at least I wasn’t completely blind going into Saturday. Opting to drive down Saturday morning, Blake and I left “super early” to make sure we made it in time to receive our lures prior to the 5:30am shotgun launch. “Super early” now is a lot different than “super early” when I was in college and this should be read “extremely crazy early” by all those still in school. In fact most of y’all would probably just be getting home from the bar by the time we left. Why we have a 5:30am launch for a January tournament is beyond me as it was very cold start to the morning. At least though it was still, which is a huge improvement over typical tournament weather which includes rain, wind and less than stellar water conditions. We did have those less than stellar water conditions however as the tide had been blown completely out as the result of a week long cold front prior to Saturday. Although our winds were somewhat out of the south throughout the day, water levels around Cocodrie remained miserably low and visibility was poor in most areas. It was going to be a struggle to say the least.

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According to my GPS track from Saturday Blake and I covered a distance of around 8.2 miles on with a majority of that time spent looking for fish or good looking water. We found activity in one section of shoreline, stretching maybe 1/3 of a mile and that is where I missed one strike and landed my first and only redfish. A 26″ fish that weighed in around 6 lbs. These fish were found because I spooked a school of small reds(not hard to do on a day like Saturday) and decided to sight fish the area while I knew redfish were there. The first fish I hooked spit the hook as slack developed in the line as I went for my stakeout pole. I thought I had a solid enough hookset, but short shank hooks and fat bodied jigs are a bad combination. The fish that I actually landed gave me a bit more of a heads up to his presence and I could see him pushing a wake some distance away, one well placed cast and a short fight later and he was in the boat. I made sure he hit the fish bag and didn’t even stop for a photo op.

As I continued down the shoreline I had no idea that I was leaving the only action I’d find all day and a better strategy would have been to let that school settle and then try to pick them apart. Usually when I fish the marsh more redfish are just around the corner and if I miss one it’s no big deal, but Saturday was different. For some reason that was the only spot we found them at and my catching of one fish was something around 70 other people couldn’t even muster, including Blake. With only 13 people weighing in fish, I came in 11th. And I thought last weekend was tough.

The results

1st Place – Denis Soigner
2nd Place – Charlie Daigle
3rd Place – Doug Menefee
4th Place – Chris Cox
5th Place – Randy Robichaux
Big Fish – Clayton Shilling
Leopard Red – George Hoban Jr.

Congrats to anyone who caught a fish on Saturday, especially if you caught more than one. It was really tough out there and I know that everyone in the top 10 worked their tails off for those fish. I believe only two trout were caught this past Saturday which is a complete 180 from the way this tournament has gone years past – typically the guys who brought in a lot of trout took home top honors whereas this year a limit of reds put you in the mix. I look forward to the rest of the series and hope that this 11th place finish ends up being my worst.