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.
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.
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.
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.
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.