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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.

Really happy to make it out for the first time in a long time, though the trip ended up being somewhat bittersweet. I fished Cocodrie today so that I wouldn’t be totally blind when Minimalist Challenge rolls around next weekend. This was a pure scouting trip as I’ve never fished the area. It was a nice change of pace from the typical Hwy 1 trip, but it’s obvious that I need to spend more time in the area to really learn the ins and outs.

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I met Steve at the launch and we were greeted with slick calm water and low tides to start the day. Reds spooked off the banks of the canals we traveled as we made our way to our destination. After a while the amount of reds that were pushing was just too much for me to pass up and I began to sightfish. Reds seemed to be everywhere, but they were super spooky. The water was pretty clear, so that didn’t come as such a surprise, but even when a cast was perfectly placed they were not very aggressive to eat. It was a bit frustrating, I felt like I was doing everything right, but I wasn’t getting any results. Eventually I got off the schneid with a nice baby bull at 31.5″. Unfortunately I didn’t take him on the fly as I had a jig in my hand at the time. I didn’t want to switch rods and blow my shot.

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I stuck to the fly rod after that, unfortunately the number of redfish I was sighting began to decrease. I did manage to get one to the boat. At 25″ he puts me on the board for the Massey’s CPR tourney.

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Shortly after this fish, the tide turned, winds picked up and most of the water I came across became turbid. Reds were difficult to see after that and paddling became quite a chore. I headed back to the launch with my tail tucked between my legs as Mother Nature had defeated me. It’s been too long since my last paddle and my body was letting me know that.

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Not the stellar trip I hoped I’d have, but a trip nonetheless. Hopefully next weekend goes a little differently and more fish make it to the boat. Cocodrie has a lot of potential for the sight fisher, I look forward to spending more time here.