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I had to work in Monroe last week and I brought a kayak just in case there was down time.  Unfortunately there wasn’t much down time and I was only able to get out for a few hours one day.  I elected to spend that time on Caney Lake, launching from Jimmie Davis SP.  It was chilly post-front conditions that day which resulted in some quality time paddling and no time reeling in fish.

IMG_5045 Although I didn’t catch any fish, I did see a few deer, a beaver, and several nutria.  I had no idea they were on freshwater lakes too, but Caney was ate up with ’em.

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I fished a lot of good looking water, maybe it was a case of right place, wrong time, or maybe I have no idea what I’m doing, it was my first time fishing Caney so I wasn’t too bothered to not catch anything.  This is a lake known for big bass and I could see why, even if I only explored one branch of the lake.

The rest of my time in Monroe was spent working, but I did make it a point to stop by Flying Tiger Brewery one night to see how the local beer scene fared.  I went in with low expectations just based on where I was and maybe a breweries location shouldn’t matter, but I don’t typically expect to get great beer from anywhere in the bible belt.  I came away pleasantly surprised as they had several quality beers.  The saison, IPA, DIPA, and milk stout were all very well done, enjoyable beers.  On top of that the building was fantastic with a great big outdoor seating area too.  I’d recommend a stop in there to anyone heading to Monroe.

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On my way home from Monroe I did manage to fit in another short fishing outing, this time on Lake Rosemound.  I had to make sure I could still catch fish and I’m happy to report back that I can.

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I’ll just need to work on catching bigger fish now.

As I mentioned in the last post, I got my start in a Pelican Castaway, which is not a bad boat to start in:

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The most important thing about the Pelican Castaway is it got me on the water, and for cheap.  It had terrible stability and paddled like a wet noodle, but I didn’t know any better and it floated, so I didn’t care. I had it for a little over a year before I found another good deal to pounce on that gave me a chance to upgrade.  A lot of good fish were caught out of the Pelican that year, which really helped indoctrinate me into the kayak fishing lifestyle.  I went from the Pelican Castaway to a Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120.

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The Tarpon 120 was an excellent upgrade.  You could just look at it and tell it was a better boat than the Pelican.  It was a faster boat, with better tracking.  The quality of the build was so much better than that of the Pelican.  The Tarpon was the quintessential sit-on-top fishing kayak a few years prior to my purchase of the boat.  It was a great boat for me.  It helped that I got a great deal on it too.  Bought it off Craigslist from an old guy with a camp.  The only time he used it was when the camp flooded and he needed a way to get to and from his vehicle.  You can still find essentially the same boat in the Perception Pescador.  The downside to the Tarpon was the stability was not enough that I could stand and fish from it.  It also was not very comfortable to sit in on long trips.  I had the Tarpon for two years and like the Pelican actually made money on it when I sold it.  I got rid of it because I found another great deal on a boat – one that would allow me to stand and sight fish in, but still handle the rivers that we liked to fish.  Capt. Danny Wray put a couple of his Native Ultimate 12’s for sale and the deal was too good to pass up.  I called up my dad to see if he wanted one then made the drive down to Grand Isle and picked up both kayaks from Capt. Danny.

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Owning the Ultimate finally gave me a boat I could stand and fish from.  I had actually gotten pretty good at kneeling and sight fishing from the Tarpon, but that does a number to the knees.  With the Ultimate I also got to experience the comfort of a nice, semi-elevated seat.  Getting my butt off the boat and having my feet lower than my knees while seated helped me to be comfortable longer.  I learned how to stand and sight fish from the Ultimate, it was a great boat for the marsh, and still is.  The Ultimate turned out to be an outstanding boat.  It wasn’t as fast as the Tarpon, but it tracked well.  It was light and easy to transport.  What I didn’t like about the Ultimate was that the standing area was not flat.  With the tunnel hull you had to put your feet in the tunnels and after a while they became cramped.  I also didn’t find it to paddle too well in swift water.  I fell out a few times, which in all likely hood was more my fault than the boat’s.  I actually didn’t own the Ultimate for very long, maybe half a year.  An incredible opportunity came up at that time to join my friend Drew Gregory on the Jackson team and I couldn’t pass it up.  He assured me that the Coosa would be a good fit for me and they wanted to see what it could do in the marsh.  That winter I made a trip up to the Jackson factory, learned about the company and how kayaks are made, met some of the other team guys and of course picked up my new boats.

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The Coosa was a really fun boat.  Like the Ultimate, it was stable enough to stand and fish from and had the elevated seat that was comfortable to be in from the start of the trip to the finish.  The deck was wide open so standing was comfortable and fly fishing was very easy to do – no snags.  The Coosa is the best handling boat I’ve ever been fished out of, making it  the perfect swift water boat.  It’s home is in rivers and that is where it shines.  It performed well enough in the marsh that I didn’t notice a drop off in performance when coming from the Ultimate.  Where it lacked was it’s open water performance.  With it’s low draft and tall bow, it can catch wind like a sailboat and on open, windy ponds you can expect to be blown to the bank in no time.  The only time this was an issue for me was tournament time because tournament weather is always terrible.  It is a better paddling boat in open water when you weigh down the front of the bow a bit to get it in the water.  I figured that out because as I would catch and keep fish in the front hatch the boat was easier to paddle as the day progressed.  I owned a Coosa up until the Cruise came out from Jackson.  Like I said earlier, it is a fantastic river boat and I owned one just for that purpose.  It wasn’t long after the Coosa came out that the Cuda followed.  The Cuda, in both the 12 and the 14 ft versions has been my go-to boat in the marsh ever since.

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The Cuda has been an incredible boat for me, handling everything pretty well.  The 12 foot version you can take anywhere.  Not as fast as the 14, it is every bit as stable though.  The Cuda is a great platform to stand and fish from.  I have a love/hate relationship with the center hatch.  It catches fly line when fly fishing but that is easily solved by placing something over it, like a towel or a shirt.  I do love the center hatch for storage – whether that be fish or tackle.  No need to turn around and put your center of gravity somewhere other than where it needs to be.  The 14 is a bit faster and provides a bigger front hatch that I find more usable than the small hatch of the 12.  It is heavier though and not as easy to transport as the 12.  The 12 balances really well overhead because the weight is centered on the side carry handles.  You’ve got to compensate for that on the 14 (the Cruise too).  Both the 12 and the 14 have been great boats for the marsh and are better options than the Coosa for inshore fishing.  The Coosa is still the better river boat though.  I owned both until I saw a good compromise between the two was introduced from Jackson – enter the Cruise.

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The Cruise, to me, is a simplified version of the Cuda.  I’ve always been drawn to 12-13 ft boats because they seem to be best size that does river and marsh fishing well.  They are also easier to store when living in a condo, which why I never had a boat over 13 ft until we built our first house and actually had a garage.  Like the Coosa there is no center hatch on the Cruise, which is a good thing for the fly fisher.  It also has the bigger front hatch found on the Cuda 14 – a much better option for dry storage than the small hatch.  The quick day hatch between the legs is convenient and stays dry.  The big plus on the Cruise is the price – right around $900.  In my opinion it is a hell of a boat for $900.

I started carrying two boats once we built our house and I’ve settled in on a Cuda 14 and a Cruise – for now.  The Cruise is great for the river and those small freshwater ponds I like to fish where the Cuda 14 is at home on inshore bays and in the marsh.  As a second boat the Cruise is a good boat in the marsh if I have someone that wants to tag along or if I’m looking to solely fly fish – that’s what I’ll take.  I’m sure another one day soon enough another boat will come along that catches my eye, but for the fishing that I like to do I can’t think of two better options than the Cruise and the Cuda 14.

After a month of waiting, Fall N Tide VIII finally took place this past Saturday down in Venice, Louisiana. My wife never ceases to amaze me and this time it was by graciously allowing me to make the trip down so that I could try and defend my slam title from last year. I’m not sure of many other women whom would have felt the same way with a two week old in the house. That’s why she’s the best!

I made the drive down Friday afternoon, which didn’t leave me any time to fish that day, but it did give me time to enjoy rush hour traffic through New Orleans! At least I had plenty of time to make the captain’s meeting and bounce a few strategies off my kayak fishing cohorts.

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After all was said and done I decided to see if I could make lightning strike twice and cover the same area I did last year, hoping the fish would be in a similar pattern. It was a safe spot to try with the forecast high winds, but I was a little unsure with the tournament being postponed a full month. Cold fronts have begun to move through South Louisiana and water temps have dropped quite a bit. It is an area however that I’m most familiar with in Plaquemines Parish, so with familiarity comes comfort and that strategy paid off last year so what the heck.

As it turned out the weathermen were wrong and things ended up being much nicer than the forecast (that never happens). I stayed with my strategy and went to work much like last year, looking for flounder and trout. As the morning progressed it was becoming evident that neither the trout or the flounder were there, so it was time to move on.

I paddled out and hit spot after spot after spot looking for trout and not finding a single one. It was downright pathetic. By lunch time I don’t think I even had a fish to the boat and had only missed one strike. I decided to head to an area that might be better for redfish and fish it back to the launch.

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Of course as I decide to finally dedicate time to redfish the winds decide to pick up and make sightfishing difficult. Shortly after lunch I caught my first red in a little marsh cut, 22″. Keep prying that area for flounder as it was a series of cuts and drains, habitat that flounder typically frequent, but caught nothing. I moved on to a flat I know I’d have luck on, but I also knew it rarely held upper slot reds – the kind you need for a tournament, but at this point I just wanted to salvage the day and catch some fish.

As soon as I got there I was into fish – go figure. I probably could have spent all day here picking up reds until I had a leopard or one of those coveted 26.99″ fish, but I didn’t leave myself enough time. I finished out my limit and headed back to the launch. The best redfish I had went 24.5″ and had 5 spots.

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Fishing was tough for me early on and for awhile there it was smelling skunky, but I was glad the redfish were there in the afternoon to bail me out. I went to the weigh in knowing that I probably didn’t have a shot, but you never know, so you always weigh your fish. Sure enough my red came up short in both categories and it wasn’t even close. The redfish category had some of the heaviest slot reds I’ve ever seen weighed in.  The winner, Jason Austin, brought in a slot red that went 8.73lbs! The rest of the results are below:

Cajun Slam

1. Rick Dembrun – 11.38 lbs

2. Brendan Bayard – 11.06 lbs

3. Tommy Eubanks – 11.05 lbs

4. David Torregrossa – 9.92 lbs

5. Donnie Elliot – 9.7 lbs

6. Mark Delatte – 9.37 lbs

7. Sherman Walker – 9.24 lbs

Redfish

1. Jason Austin – 8.73 lbs
2. Joseph Chevalier – 8.12 lbs
3. Sean Rasanis – 7.92 lbs
4. Adam Rockweiler – 7.89 lbs
5. Brian Sherman – 7.83 lbs

Trout

1. Smokey Cook – 3.32 lbs
2. Devon Beltz – 3.18 lbs
3. Joe Cantino – 2.87 lbs
4. Eric Muhoberac – 2.65 lbs
5. Chris Holmes – 2.43 lbs

Flounder

1. Toby Armond – 3.6 lbs
2. Steve Neece – 2.79 lbs
3. Gary Williamson – 1.64 lbs
4. Danny Ziegler – 1.21 lbs
5. Todd Lewis – 1.14 lbs

Leopard Red

1. Clayton Shilling – 11 spots
2. Eric Stacey – 10 spots
3. Jonathan Craft – 10 spots
4. Kenneth Owings – 10 spots
5. Nathan Grammes – 10 spots

Ladies Slam

Barbara Johnston – Red 6.76 lbs, Trout 1.11 lbs

Kids

Rory Craft – Trout 0.73 lbs

A big congrats to all the winners and a big thanks to all those that helped make the tournament possible. It takes a lot of volunteer work on the part of BCKFC officers and members to make events like this happen and often times it’s a thank-less job. It’s cool to see a lot of names on the leaderboard that I don’t recognize. The sport continues to grow and as it does it brings in a lot of great fishermen which will make each tournament down the road that much more competitive. These things should be a lot of fun for years to come.

One last thing I have to point out is that Rick also paddles a Cuda 12, so for two years in a row the slam division at Fall N Tide was taken by someone piloting a Jackson Kayak!

While the stinkpot (motorboat to the non-kayak fisher) crowd was having their fun in Grand Isle at the annual Tarpon Rodeo, I participated in the LA 1 Slamboree tournament up the road in Leeville. Named in honor of the highway we love to kayak fish, the event is put on by the Lafayette Kayak Fishing Club and sponsored by Lafayette JK dealer Pack & Paddle. The event featured slam, leopard red, and heavy red categories, with the leopard red winner receiving a brand new Cuda 12. Also available to kayak anglers was a speckled trout calcutta for a small additional cost.

The weather for the event was pretty typical kayak fishing tournament weather, steady winds and rain showers. I launched at an area I knew would be protected from the West wind. It was actually an area that I had never fished, but the marsh down here is pretty much all the same. I began the day throwing topwater looking for any resident trout, the only action I saw was from this guy:

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Switched it up to Gulp! under a cork and ended up catching some throwback trout. Soon enough I was hearing redfish crashing bait in the marsh and that proved to be the end of my trout fishing. I spent the rest of the day chasing reds, figuring the law of averages would catch up with me and one would either have lots of spots, or be extreme upper slot.

It was a strategy that never paid off, but I had a lot of fun catching slot reds and black drum. I did catch one big red that went over slot, not quite the tournament fish I was looking for, but it proved to be a great fight.

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The biggest red I had to weigh only went 24.5″ and was a little over 5 lbs. None of my reds had more than 2 spots. No tournament winnings this go round, but it was nice to see a lot of my friends on the leaderboard:

Speckled trout calcutta – Brendan Bayard

Heavy red winner  – Tommy Eubanks

Leopard Red winner – Gairi Williamson

Slam winners

1. Steve Neece – 11.7 lbs

2. Wayne Lobb – 9.13 lbs

3. Steve Lessard – 8.55 lbs

4. Ryan Alleman – 8.3 lbs

5. Toby Armand – 8.21 lbs

Congrats guys! Big thanks to Pack & Paddle and LKFC for putting on a great event. I look forward to fishing more events thrown by these guys.