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BCKFC held a tournament this past weekend and that can only mean one thing, well two things really, conditions were brutal and good times were had by all.  These things still hold true in the seven or eight years I’ve been fishing their events.  If you are a kayak fisher and you’ve yet to make a Paddlepalooza or a Fall N Tide, you are truly doing yourself a disservice.  Yeah the weather is bound to be crappy, but the food, the friends, the fishing, and the overall atmosphere is rivaled by no other kayak tournament, at least that I’ve been to.

Fall N Tide was Saturday down at Cypress Cove Marina and I fished the lower Plaquemines area on both Friday and Saturday.  I did my best in the constant 20+ mph winds and sketchy low water conditions and managed a 4th place finish in the leopard red division.  Not my best, but no complaints here after a tough Saturday on the water.  Although conditions on both days were very similar, I could not replicate the success I had on Friday, and I heard that same story from many kayak anglers at the weigh-in on Saturday.

Friday was a scouting day for me, but when I say scouting I mean fishing, as scouting isn’t that much different than a regular day on the water for me.  What made it a scouting trip was I got to fish a new area I hadn’t before and despite the poor conditions I really hammered the redfish in the morning, with pretty much all of them caught sightfishing.

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I arrived at my roadside launch shortly after sunrise on Friday and was greeted with a stiff wind, bright blue skies, and low water.  Water clarity, as I’d come to find out, was good near the launch, but not so much as I began to venture further away.  I picked a spot to explore where I could be protected from the relentless Northeast wind that was predicted for both Friday and Saturday – which ended up being a good call as I was able to do a lot of fishing without being blown all over the place.  I started fishing as soon as I launched and was into redfish in a matter of minutes.

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The marsh was full of small shrimp and minnows and redfish and gar were blowing up schools of bait along the thick stands of cane.  It was a beautiful sight to see and I was happy to toss a Matrix shad into the mix and wait my turn.  Unfortunately due to the forecast I left the fly rods at home, figuring the wind would have me frustrated, and brought only tournament tackle.  The shore grass at this spot however was tall enough to provide plenty of wind protection and I was kicking my self for not at least having one fly rod to have fun with.  I’m only kicking myself in retrospect, it was still a blast, no matter the tackle.

In an attempt to avoid any pre-fishing juju I didn’t keep a single fish and used whatever available tags I had on me at the time.  Afterwards I thought about it and wondered what would be said if I did end up weighing in a fish on Saturday that I had tagged on Friday, it would probably raise some eyebrows but also amuse at the same time.  This scenario didn’t play out, but I certainly would have loved to have the 9 spot red I tagged on Friday pay me another visit on Saturday.

Besides the 9 spot red I managed to catch a red on the other end of the spotted-spectrum.  It was spotless.  It’s rare, but it does happen, and I’ve caught them before.  Redfish look naked without their spots.

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As the morning progressed the reds quit blowing up the bait, but that didn’t stop them from giving themselves away in other ways.  I started to see backs and tails as they crawled along the shallow flats, no doubt looking for crabs, which were also in abundance (bait was everywhere!).

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Although the redfishing was outstanding, they weren’t necessarily great tourney reds, they were low to mid slot fish, great to eat, but not much to weigh-in.  The biggest I caught on Friday went 25.5″, which is not necessarily a keeper red at Fall N Tide.  It would be a good red to have though in the slam division, but probably wouldn’t sniff the big red division so I had to make decision whether or not to fish the same spot on Saturday.  Not catching a single trout or flounder wasn’t making that spot promising either.  I picked up after lunch and headed up the road to hit an old standby and see what was happening up there.  As it turned out, not much was happening up there.  Water clarity was better, but fishing was not.  I caught a few more reds, none bigger than what I had already caught.

With no trout and no flounder at the two spots I hit on Friday I decided to head to a different spot on Saturday a little further up the road.  I’d love to tell you I had an outstanding day and things couldn’t have been better, but it downright sucked.  I launched just before sunrise and made my way to a marsh drain as the sun was peeking above the horizon.  There I hooked a fish under a popping cork and promptly broke him off cork and all.  Typically when this happens the cork comes up and you just chase after the bobbing cork to try and land the fish – a hilarious and entertaining situation when viewed from an outsider’s perspective.  It is a bit maddening when it happens to you on a tournament day, especially when the cork never surfaces.  IT NEVER SURFACED!  What did I catch, the Lochness Monster?

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The rest of the day at this spot was ho-hum, not a single bite.  I take that back, I caught the smallest rat red ever in the middle of a bay looking for trout.  I picked up at lunch time with nothing to show for my troubles and was left with another decision to make, pick up and head somewhere else where I may have a chance to catch a slam or hit the tried-and-true redfish spot I found on Friday.  I conceded the slam and headed to catch some reds.

I got to the spot and talked to a couple guys who were picking up, one had a small slot red and a trout(!) and had caught a couple bull reds as well.  He did say the water had dropped significantly though and things were getting worse.  I launched anyway and headed to the ponds that produced for me the day before – I really just wanted to catch some fish.

The water had dropped and places that I had no problems navigating the day before were big mud flats on Saturday.  There also weren’t redfish blowing up schools of bait like there was on Friday.  The gar were still there, some even doing their best redfish impersonations, teasing me, but eventually I did luck into a 21″ red.

I hit the rest of the spots that worked for me on Friday without success.  I then decided to go check out some interesting looking water (on an aerial) that was across a shallow bay.  I almost couldn’t get there and probably wouldn’t have in a pedal drive yak, but I made it and sure enough as soon as I arrived I saw a crawler.  I somehow kept my cool, waited for my chance to make a good cast to him (he was in a bunch of cane) and connected with him once I got my shot.  He went 23.5″ and had a more spots than two, I didn’t make an effort to count them at the time, I just wanted to get him in the bag.  Anything was better than what I had at this point.  Not long after I connected again on a 22″ red and suddenly I was on some redfish, only problem was that this spot had run out of fishable water and I had to head back across the bay.

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I slowed everything down and began trying my luck for flounder, but it just wasn’t in the cards.  I was tired, hungry, and ready to get off the water.  So I packed it in, called it a day, and headed back to the cabin to take a shower.

The first thing I noticed at the weigh-in was that the line to weigh fish was not very long.  Out of a total of 138 paid anglers, I believe less than half turned in fish.  In fact only three folks turned in complete slams and in our rules three fish slams of any weight will always trump a two fish slam.  My redfish went 5.51 lbs and had a total of six spots – good enough to net me a 4th place finish in the leopard red category.  After a long day of fishing and only bringing four fish to hand, it was nice to take home a plaque and a gift card.

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One cool story from Fall N Tide was that the overall winner was Vlad’s brother from Romania.  He was in town visiting family and Vlad told him “fish the bank for reds, the bay for trout, and the bottom for flounder” and wouldn’t you know it worked.  It just goes to show that everyone has a shot to win a tournament, you just got to get out there and give it your all.

I posted the final results below.  The one category that was really impressive to me was the Big Redfish category.  An 8.93 and an 8.77 lb slot redfish is no joke – those things are hammers that would compete in redfish series tournaments.  Congrats to Rick and Eric for finding those stud reds.  Really, congrats to everyone that made it to the leaderboard, it was a tough day on the water and every placing was well earned and deserved.  Looking forward to Paddlepalooza in April of 2016!

Final Results:

Cajun Slam 
1 Fernando Mihalieseu 10.23 – 3 fish slam
2 Chris Weaver 8.51 – 3 fish slam
3 Rick Jarreau 5.23 – 3 fish slam
4 Steve Neece 9.94
5 Eugene Cortez 8.33
6 Kirk Hess 8.05
7 Lee Wolfe 7.9
8 Brendan Bayard 7.68

Big Redfish
1 Rick Dembrun 8.93
2 Eric Stacey 8.77
3 Craig Brown 7.81
4 Elliot Stevens 7.23
5 Vlad Moldovemu 6.89

Mule Trout
1 Eric Muhoberac 2.49
2 Marty Mood 1.51
3 Jason Powers 1.44
4 Cristine Phillips 1.44
5 Tommy Eubanks 1.43

Saddle Flounder
1 Brian Carson 2.32
2 Chris Cox 1.99
3 Luke Beslin 1.86
4 Stacey Martin 1.18
5 Jared Leroy 1.04

Leopard Red
1 Donny Elliot (9)
2 Tyler Drude (7)
3 Mark Eubanks (7)
4 Ben Roussel (6)
5 Michael Ethridge (5)

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BCKFC‘s Fall N Tide X is right around the corner, be sure to get signed up.  Rules, registration and details can all be found here:  http://www.bckfc.org/FNT/.  This is one of my favorite tournaments to fish because inshore fishing down in Plaquemines Parish this time of year is usually on fire.  I’ll be looking for a repeat of my 1st place finish from 2012.  It’s unlikely as this tournament usually draws every solid kayak fisher from here to Alabama, but anything can happen!  Look forward to catching up with everyone down in Venice.

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!

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Fall n Tide is coming up this weekend(the date in the image above should read Oct. 5th) and I couldn’t be more excited. It’s one of my favorite tournaments because Fall is an excellent time for inshore fishing in Louisiana and kayak anglers at FnT tend to have pretty good trips. I was lucky enough to win last year’s tournament which drew over 150 kayak anglers to Plaquemines Parish. I look forward defending the title this year. This year’s tournament is being held out of Cypress Cove Marina down in Venice and while early registration is closed, BCKFC will still accept registration to compete in the tournament. So get signed up and I’ll see you down in Venice this weekend!

UPDATE: The tournament this weekend has been postponed due to Tropical Storm Karen. It has been rescheduled to November 16th, registration is still open for those interested in participating.

This past Saturday I participated in BCKFC‘s Fall N Tide VII kayak fishing tournament. Fall N Tide is held in Plaquemines Parish and has lately been headquartered out of Delta Marina. FNT has seen a steady increase in participation since it’s inception and this year had over 150 participants. I wasn’t originally planning on fishing the tournament though. Amanda and I had plans to head over to College Station to see LSU take on Texas A&M, kind of historic with it being their first year in the SEC, but we bailed out to save money and vacation time. This freed me up to fish the tournament, but didn’t really leave me enough time to pre-fish or make sleeping arrangements, especially with the Grand Isle trip the weekend before. So I woke up incredibly early Saturday and drove down in the dark to launch at twilight. I really didn’t know where I was going to fish, so I put together a loose plan in the car. Launch somewhere I’ve been before, try the area for trout and flounder and most likely catch a red in the process.

This would be the first time I would get to try out my new Earth colored Cuda 12, I picked it up Thursday from Pack & Paddle. Probably not the best idea to fish a tournament out of a boat you’ve never been in, but I figured it couldn’t be that different from the Cuda 14, especially layout wise, which it wasn’t. The Ram Tubes were new to me, but I like the change from the flush mounts. With the Ram tubes you can position your rod at any angle you like.

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I didn’t set up the GoPro or take a whole lot of pictures, it was a tournament so I didn’t want to waste too much time fooling with anything I didn’t have to. I had four rods rigged up; one with a popping cork, one with a topwater, one with a redfish spinner, and one with a just a soft plastic on a 1/16th oz jig head. I started early on with the popping cork and caught a 13″ white trout on my first cast. Not bad for a whitey. I alternated baits for awhile and focused on fishing islands, points, cuts, and coves. I started catching rat reds and white trout with some consistency. It was starting to look like it would be a pretty good day catch-wise. Leopard reds were coming to hand as well, except they were too small.

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The tide was highest early in the morning and was falling throughout the day. The clarity was excellent, I was surprised at how clear the water was. I found a pretty good pattern slowly swimming a soft plastic parallel to the bank, catching undersize and slot reds. As I got to some roseau cane I got a big thump and knew it was neither a trout nor a red. It was a flounder and a doormat at that. I was pretty excited trying to keep the line tight as I reached for my net behind me and swam the fish around my boat. As I netted the fish and brought him into the boat I went Iaconelli for a moment and was pretty audible in my excitement. I don’t normally do that, but I’ve never caught a flounder this large and for it to happen on tournament day was incredible. I didn’t measure or weigh it, it went straight into the ice chest. At this point I had a couple slot reds and a nice flounder so I needed a trout. I continued working the shore, but made a few casts out into the open as well. It wasn’t long before I picked up a 13″ trout. It was 8am and I already had a slam, which was a first for me on a tournament day.

As I continued along the shore I was picking up reds here and there, but none had any size. I also picked up another big flounder. Are you kidding me? Two big flounder in one day? My productive shoreline was coming to an end so I decided to make a run across a large body of water to get to some marsh that I’ve had success at in the past with upper slot reds. As I paddled I couldn’t help but think about just how lucky we were to have such a beautiful tournament day. You can usually count on the wind to blow 20 knots when we schedule a tournament but Saturday was different, it was gorgeous out.

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I made it to a nice marsh flat that I ended up sharing with a raccoon. I stood up and started sightfishing. I was seeing reds with consistency. Some were alone, others in pairs, I even saw groups of 5-6. They were aggressively feeding as well. I was able to upgrade to a 24″ then a 26.5″ fish – pretty much the perfect tournament red because we can only keep slot reds 16-27″. I kept at it for awhile because the fishing was just too insane to pass up. At one point I had a red in the boat freshly landed and another was swimming by, so I pitched him the same jig and ended up with two. I managed to land a few more reds sightfishing and even picked up a little black drum, then I decided that it was time to make one last try to upgrade my trout. It was around noon, with weigh-in starting at 3pm, I had time to devote to trout.

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I headed back to the same spot I was catching white trout and my lone speckled trout in figuring he had siblings around. I worked the area over with Gulp under a popping cork. The area was a big shallow bay with pockets of oyster and debris. I soon picked up a couple white trout and another flounder, but he was much smaller than my first two. I kept at it and soon the cork went down hard, I set the hook and felt that familiar head shake. I was mumbling out loud, “please be a speck, please be a speck…” because I knew he had a little size. Sure enough he was and an upgrade from my previous trout and as I netted him I thought aloud “this may be the winning fish”. My friend Todd was working the same bay with me and we were talking about our days, his not so good, mine pretty awesome. He witnesses me catch this trout and hears me saying this and says, “you better upgrade your trout, I hear Brendan has a BIG slam”. Todd put things back in perspective for me. As good a day as I had meant that everyone would be having a good day, especially guys like Brendan. Brendan, a friend of mine, is always near the top at these tournaments and I had no doubt that he put together an impressive slam.

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I stayed at it, working that same bay, hoping for another trout to come by. That was really the only species that needed upgrading for me. At about 2:30pm I packed it in. The tiebreaker in BCKFC tournaments is time, the earlier you weigh, the better. So I loaded up and headed to the marina to pick up some ice. There I found the LSU game on. I totally forgot all about it. We had just picked off Johnny Football in the 4th and shortly after scored on a nice run by Jeremy Hill. Things were looking good for the Tigers. I listened to the rest of the game in my car as I drove to the weigh-in. It sounded like a made a wise decision to stay and fish the tournament rather than going to College Station. The Tigers played poorly, but still won the game.

Except for the length of my redfish, I had no clue just how big anything was. The Cajun Slam category at Fall N Tide consisted of the heaviest combined weight of a slot redfish, trout, and flounder. I knew my flounder was big, I just didn’t know how big, the redfish was at that upper slot, but a little on the skinny side, and my trout was fairly small, but at least bigger than a school trout.

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As I weighed the fish I got to see just how big my flounder were. The first measured 20″ and weighed in at 4lbs, the second was just under 20″ and weighed in at 3lb 10oz. Without a doubt the biggest flounder I’ve ever caught. I was shocked when I saw the weight on those bad boys. I threw two redfish up there, one was 24″ and came in just over 5lbs, the 26.5″ one was just over 6lbs. Not bad for a slot red, I knew it wouldn’t be the biggest brought in though. Next was my trout, which was around 17.5″ and came in just under 2 lbs. I was pretty happy with the weight, I didn’t think for a second that it would win, but I knew I would place, so I would be going home with something and pretty much paying for my entry.

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As the weigh-in went on I was able to catch up with a lot of the guys and talk about everyone’s days on the water. As I thought, a lot of nice fish were caught, some folks had some incredible days. It started to look like my flounder was the biggest that was caught, which was pretty cool, and Brendan was telling me I was top 3 for sure. He had an impressive slam, but had to submit a smaller redfish because his big one was just over 27″ (state law allows one over 27″ to be kept), so it wasn’t as nice a slam as Todd thought, hence why Brendan was telling me I was top 3. I had no clue what the prizes were, except that I knew the top 2 won kayaks, from there on it was cash. That’s fine by me.

The cajun slam category is always announced last and the sun was down by the time we got there. As I started hearing the weights that were brought in I was getting a little nervous. The guys I was standing with were telling me that I had it in the bag, but I didn’t believe them. Brendan ended up getting fifth, a great day for sure, I’ll admit it, I felt a small sense of pride beating him. It doesn’t happen often, but it sure felt good. As second place was announced I knew I had won the tournament. Benton Parrott, another friend of mine, came in second with 12lbs even. I had come in first by a margin of 10oz. and secured my first kayak tourney win!

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I had won a brand new Hobie Pro Angler 12 donated by the Backpacker, long time sponsor of BCKFC. I was pretty much speechless, Clayton was MC-ing the awards portion and asked me about my day and I’m not sure what I even told him. I think I broke the ice with, “it was a tough, tough day out there”. As I walked away they called me back up and there was Chad Hoover standing with Clayton. He grabs the mic and proceeds to tell that I had won the privilege to join him and one of his Kayak Bass Fishing shows. Then he started the naming off all the destinations that had planned and I could pick whichever I wanted – the Everglades, Canada, El Salto in Mexico…….I was floored. Someone got a good picture of the dumb look I had on my face when he was telling me this.

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This was the icing on the cake. I wasn’t expecting this at all. Apparently it was announced at the captain’s meeting. I didn’t make the captain’s meeting so this was news to me. The PA 12 became bycatch in the prize game, I just won a kayak trip of a lifetime! The details still need to be ironed out with Chad, but I’m pretty stoked about this.

I still drove back to Baton Rouge that night, I had after all promised the wife I would. I was wide awake, fueled by the adrenaline rush of winning a tournament. The next day I took a few more pics of  my catch and cleaned them, we would be having flounder for dinner that night. What an incredible day, one I’ll not soon forget or replicate. It was amazing to finally have a quality day while at a tournament. I’m still shocked that I made all the right decisions; picking a great place to launch, paddling out to catch a big red, coming back to upgrade my trout, working the bank early in the morning for flounder. I am very thankful that my wife is as cool and understanding as she is. I’m also thankful for the club and the sponsors for giving us the opportunity to compete in a well organized, professional style tournament at the local level. I’m not even thinking about the next event and maybe that was the secret to my success at Fall N Tide. Hopefully I’ll be able put it all together again on another tourney day, but if not, oh well, I’m just happy it happened once.

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