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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Following my trip with Blake I met up with the Bama boys, who were in Grand Isle that weekend.  That gave me another opportunity to fish with my buddy James, the idiot lawyer as he’s affectionately known in our circle.  The weather forecast had me scratching my head on where I thought we could do best that morning, Fourchon was what I came up with, a spot we’ve fished together in the past.  When winds are stiff I tend to lean on fishing in Fourchon due to the greater presence of mangroves, which seem to provide more of a wind block than your standard marsh grass.

We made our way to the ponds we’d fish and at my first stop I ended up catching a nice upper slot red on topwater.

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A great start to the day, however, things were pretty slow going immediately after that.  We fished a few tried and true areas and had little luck, but finally there were signs of life.  I heard some crashing on a far bank and instead of being one redfish raising hell, it was a school!  Nothing gets your adrenaline pumping more than running down a school of reds.  I hollered at James that we needed to head that way and followed them as they went through a small cut onto a flat on the other side of some islands.  As I’m sitting in the cut I see them swim right in front of me – 4, 5, 6, 8, 12, damn, they just keep coming!  Not sure how many reds were in that school, but it was an awesome sight.  I threw a fly in the mix and immediately got a hookup.  While waiting on James to make his way over I decided it was a good idea to throw my Matrix shad in there too and soon I doubled up, bent rods in each hand!  Utter gluttony I know, but I couldn’t help myself.  Meanwhile those two fish kicked up enough sediment that James had a hard time spotting anything and was never able to pull another fish out.  He was left with a rod in hand as I was giggling like a schoolgirl, he got a pretty good screenshot of it from his GoPro.

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We lost the school after that and split up again.  I set up on a point for trout, and caught a few that were undersize, but kept getting distracted by reds that were crashing the shoreline at a nearby cut.  Of course I had to pull anchor and chase them down.

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After the reds things slowed down through the mid-afternoon, they weren’t crashing bait like they had been earlier and everything went quiet for a while.  James and I eventually met back up and instead of heading out we decided to fish some marsh at the far end of a big pond. That marsh led to a cut that went from the big pond to a canal.  I worked each point in that cut and finally caught a decent fish, a nearly 19″ trout.

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While I was hauling in that trout I hear James hooked up back in the cut, his reel peeling drag.  It was a big bull red and the fight was on!

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Earlier in the day James had landed his personal best redfish at 29″, this beast was about to eclipse that, if he could get it in the boat.  The red had hit a topwater that James was throwing and it came from a bank in a cut that I had just worked – right place, right time.  After some good forearm pumping runs the red had given up and James was able to slide him over the bow for a brief photo op.

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What a great way to end the day!  It always feels good when you’re not sure where to head in the morning and by the evening you know that you ended up making a pretty good decision because of the results. We paddled out as the sun was setting and made our way back to camp to meet up with the rest of the crew.  Jameson and Brooks from JK Media House would be getting in later that night, giving me an opportunity to paddle the new Cuda HD the next two days.   After the first two successful days of fishing I was hoping the action would stay hot as they were prepared to do a good bit of filming over the course of an entire week.

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Trout wasn’t what Blake and I were originally targeting, but sightfishing conditions just never presented themselves so we adjusted  our gameplan and proceeded to wax the trout.  Trout fishing in the marsh is insane right now.  Just find moving water with bait and they will be there.  It’s been like this for a few weeks now.

The view of the sunrise on 308 was pretty spectacular until the sun got high enough to be hidden by the clouds, where it stayed hidden the rest of the day.

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We started the day on a flat that I knew has held bull reds in the past.  It didn’t take long to get a follow from a good red and then an eat on my She-Dog, unfortunately for me none of the six hooks that bait carried penetrated flesh and Blake was there with a quick follow up cast and subsequent hookset.  After a strong fight with a fish in tidal current we boated the first bull red of the day.

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It was a very distinct fish, one I’d seen before.  I even remarked to Blake during the fight that if we catch a bull red with a big dent in his head at this spot, there is a good possibility he’s been caught before.  This is the same fish Hays caught on one of our trips back in January.  He’s still sitting on the same flat, some ten months later.

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I kept throwing the topwater after that and began getting hits from keeper trout fairly regularly.  Knowing I’d be fishing with the boys from Alabama the next few days I decided to start keeping fish, just in case the rest of the weekend was unproductive for us.  Since we couldn’t really effectively sightfish, catching trout was not a bad consolation.

We drifted a shoreline picking up trout here and there, then had an unsuccessful effort in a shallow pond for reds,  at the outlet of that pond we stumbled onto a trout gold mine.  It wasn’t all keeper speckled trout, there were plenty of white trout too, but it was a fish every cast and that’s hard to beat.

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Blake was catching them on a double rig and I was wearing them out on a Matrix shad, I think you could have thrown anything though and had the same results.  That bite did eventually slow down and we drifted on down the shoreline.  Things were kind of quiet for a little bit then Blake had another big red inhale his bait.

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Almost the same size as the first red, this one, however, was much prettier, it was another fantastic fish.  We continued our drift and eventually moved into another bay.  This bay had a little island in the middle of it and water was being blown around it.  The water was pretty shallow throughout, but that didn’t matter much to the trout.  We were on them again and decided it was time to stop and count our fish.

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We needed less than 20 to finish off a two man limit and we weren’t leaving until we did that – this sightfishing trip had turned into a meat haul.  The good news was that it really didn’t take long to accomplish that.

It was a great day on the water with Blake and the start to what would be a great weekend.

 

 

 

Fished my first tournament abroad last weekend and headed over to Dauphin Island to compete in MBKFA’s Bagwell tournament.  The Bagwell isn’t all that different from BCKFC’s Paddlepalooza or Fall N Tide, except that instead of a traditional slam category, they have a super aggregate category in which you can turn in one slot red(16-26″ in Alabama) and any combination of four trout or flounder for a five fish stringer.  It places more emphasis on trout, which in Alabama is not a bad thing, as it is an inshore area that has been known to produce big trout, and more consistently than southeastern Louisiana.

In preparation I spent some time scouting Google Earth, but really relied on a fellow Jackson teammate from the area, Justin Seiffert, to impart whatever local knowledge he could to a Bama rookie like myself.  The plan was to maximize my time on the water (always my strategy with any “go anywhere” tournament) and fish the west of Mobile Bay, hoping to catch my redfish, trout, and flounder all out of one launch spot.

I launched in the dark early Saturday and was greeted with a nice sunrise as I made my way across a bay.

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As I got to my destination I started out by throwing topwater while the sun continued to rise.  I missed a decent trout early on, but managed to connect on the next one, and at 16.5″ it was a fair start to the day.  I continued to throw the topwater, but the action was very inconsistent, I switched it up with a swimbait and caught a 14.5″ trout targeting a small area of slick water.  I alternated between the topwater and the swimbait and missed one really nice fish on top that was truly a heartbreak, it was a brief fight but in that short time I could tell it was a good fish.  A few good, slow head shakes later and my line went limp.  It was a bummer to miss those few fish as I could have had my four trout that I needed, but I only had two.

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I fished my way down the shore and finally made it into a small cut that headed into the marsh interior.  One cast into the cut and I was connected with my first redfish.  He was a keeper at 20″, I knew I’d need an upgrade, but Alabama lets you keep three slot reds, so he went in the fish bag.

Unfortunately after that fish everything went quiet for me.  The action slowed down big time, despite how nice the water looked.  I finally hooked up with another fish as I saw a nice red heading my way, cruising down a shoreline.  I made a good cast with the swimbait and he pounced on it.  Immediately I knew it was too big to keep, but he made for a fun fight anyway.

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He ended up topping the 30″ mark and after a few pics I lowered him into the water and sent him on his way.

That would be my last fish on the day, but I continued to cover some really pretty water.  From healthy interior marsh to grass covered flats with good water clarity, the spot I chose to fish seemed like a good one, I just didn’t produce the results.  I think it is fair to say that the redfishing comes a bit easier in Louisiana.

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I headed back to the launch and got packed up.  I was pretty hungry at this point and was really looking forward to the crawfish boil that the MBKFA guys were planning on doing at the weigh-in.  Although I knew my fish wouldn’t sniff the leaderboard it was nice to know there would food and drink waiting for me when I got there.

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The MBKFA crew put on a first class event and although I didn’t take home any hardware I had a great time on the water and at the weigh-in.  It was good to see Justin rewarded for his efforts with a third place flounder.  I wasn’t the only Louisiana angler along for the ride.  Tyler Drude took home first place redfish and his buddy placed in the redfish category as well.  Brendan Bayard took home first place trout with 5+ lb stud caught on the East side.  That’s where all the better trout came from as the overall winner, Nick Creamer, had five solid trout pulled from that way too.

Big thanks to Justin on the solid advice and to MBKFA for hosting the tournament, really enjoyed fishing and hanging with you guys.  There is some really pretty water south of Mobile that I’d like to explore a little further.  I’ll have to make a conscience effort to start bringing the kayak on our Alabama beach trips, now that I have some clue as to where to go.

I had an incredible day on the water last weekend.  I touched seven reds and only two made the slot – the rest were over.  It was really one of the better days I’ve ever had for quality redfish.  The problem is, it could have been even better.  It became an unforgettable day when I let the big one get away.

It started off with a nice, long paddle down a boring canal, then into some big water, and finally taking a cut into some classic southern Louisiana marsh.  Conditions were pretty good for sight fishing with calm winds and low tide, but spotting fish was a little tough early on due to the cloud cover and poor water clarity.  Patience paid off though, and soon enough the redfish were giving themselves away.

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The day was progressing nicely, I had caught a handful of redfish ranging from 26-33″ and was starting to lazily make my way back to the launch, not quite ready to call it a day and fishing along the way.  As I was paddling a large, featureless canal heading back to the truck I see the distinctive wave of a giant redfish tail from a distance away.  Low tide in the canal had turned the bank into a nice sand flat and I just so happened to be in the right place at the right time as this beast of a fish was slowly cruising my way.

I was in a great spot to catch this fish.  My momentum was carrying me toward the bank as he was swimming toward me, still a distance away.  I was able to get set up and quickly strip off some free line.  I had time to make a few false casts to assure that I was on target with my cast and sure enough my aim was true.  I led him by a good amount and when he saw the fly he inhaled it.  A few solid strip sets later and the fight was on.  This was a huge fish, definitely bigger than anything else I had caught today and maybe bigger than anything I had caught this year (42″ being the largest).  I fought him the same way I fought every other bull redfish I’ve caught this year and I think that is what ultimately led me to lose this fish.  I don’t baby these fish, I don’t let them run, I typically crank down my drag and win the fight in 10-15 minutes.  I can usually do this because I fish a short, stout leader that can take the abuse.  But I underestimated the power of this redfish in particular and 15 minutes into the fight, when I thought I may have had him whipped, he made one strong head shake and my line went limp.

He broke me off and left me speechless.  It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it is always heartbreaking.  What could have potentially been the biggest redfish I’ve ever caught on the fly and I farmed him.

The only thing I could do was re-tie and keep fishing.  Fortunately I was able to seek a little bit of redemption in another 32″ fish, who did his best to give me the slip.

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Overall it was a crazy good day, but it’s going to be really tough to forget about what could have been when I let that big one get away.