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This past weekend was the first IFA kayak tour fishing event this year for the Louisiana division. It was held in Empire at Delta Marina. There were 67 people registered for the tournament, which is the most they’ve had for an IFA event ever in Louisiana and I believe the most the IFA has had at a kayak event so far this year. I believe the weather helped create that great turnout because for the first weekend in a long time there wasn’t a big, sweeping cold front coming through the area. It really felt like summer this past weekend.

SATURDAY

Since the event is Sunday, I was able to pre-fish on Saturday. Working off a tip from a friend, I hit a spot I’ve never been to before hoping to find trout and bull reds. The IFA is a CPR (catch-photo-release) tournament that scores an aggregate length of your biggest trout and redfish combined, so I wanted to find a spot that had the possibility of providing trophy sized fish for both species.

I didn’t exactly make it out at the crack of dawn Saturday, but I wasn’t too far behind either. After a long paddle against the wind I got to the area I was told would be holding trout. It was basically an island, surrounded by oyster reef, with a steady current of semi-clear saltwater sweeping around. I parked on the island and began to wade fish. First cast into the water was a 19″ trout. He was tagged and released, fingers crossed he’d be around Sunday. I then proceeded to catch, tag, and release numerous trout, some under size, others decent keeper size, but most under that 19″ mark. Of course mixed in with the trout were hardheads and gafftops, just to prove that there is still a downside to using Gulp. The important thing gained here was that I found a trout spot for the tourney.

Then I ventured into the marsh looking for reds. With the high tides and steady winds I didn’t expect to have much success finding reds by sight fishing, but I tried anyway. It may not have been the most successful scouting method, but it did work. It worked thanks in part to the good water clarity we had. I had no problems seeing silhouettes in a few feet of water because the water was so nice – by Louisiana standards. I even managed to catch a few with the fly rod. Tagged and released all of the reds as well, the biggest I had went 27.5″. Just over the slot, so not quite the bull I was looking for. If you’re keeping score, that would have been a 46.5″ aggregate. I figured I would need at least 45″ to break into the top 10, so that was my goal for Sunday.

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After finishing up fishing on Saturday, my mind was pretty made up that I would be headed back there Sunday. I knew I wouldn’t catch the exact same fish, but I imagined I could find similar fish and have a similar agg. score. Chatting with other guys at the captain’s meeting only strengthened my decision on fishing the same spot Sunday. There was a lot of talk about dirty water and small fish, or even no fish at all, so I was feeling pretty good.

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SUNDAY

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I had hopes that Sunday would be similar to Saturday, but shortly after leaving the launch I realized it wouldn’t, the weater wouldn’t allow it. The wind was relentless on Sunday and of course where I wanted to fish was about a mile or two across open water, into the wind. After paddling at a snail’s pace for what seemed like an hour I got to my island and began fishing. Took me awhile to land a trout, but when I did it went 17.5″. Fishing was obviously going to be much slower than the day before.

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Kept at it a little bit longer for trout, picking up one under size trout and a few catfish and after one too many hardhead, I headed into the marsh. My plan was to go into the marsh, pick up a slot red, then head back to the bay to fish for bull reds. That didn’t exactly go as planned. I thought, because of the success I had Saturday, that I’d be able to do it again, but I was struggling. I was on fire Saturday, I had osprey eyes and could cast like KVD, but Sunday I was Mr. Magoo and all my casts were crap. Well, all except one. In the last little marsh pond that I was willing to sightfish I finally put it all together, spotted a red hugging the bank and made a nice leading cast in range. It went 25.5″ and I couldn’t be more relieved. As someone who prides himself in his ability to catch redfish, not having one at a tournament weigh-in would weigh heavily on my conscience, as it did after Redfish Rumble.

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I still had time to go out and fish for an upgrade to either the trout or the red, and I did, but it was pretty unsuccessful. On a day like Sunday, I was really just happy to have caught one of each. My aggregate was 43″ and as it turns out, that was good enough for 7th, so I took home a check as well. Seems it was tough for pretty much everyone else as well, except for the winner, John Kay, who turned in an aggregate of 59.25″. His score was bolstered by catching the only bull red weighed in, at 39.75″. The winners are below:

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From left to right: Steve Neece(2nd), John Kay(1st and big red), Casey Brunning(3rd), and Marty Mood(big trout)

Congrats to the winners, having fished the same tournament I can tell you they earned it. Only 29/67 folks weighed fish, so a big credit to those who even caught fish. I’m thrilled with my 7th place finish, it’s not every day you get paid to fish. I look forward to the next Louisiana IFA event, which will be held out of Bridge Side Marina in Grand Isle August 25th.

Traveled down to Plaquemines Parish this past weekend for the IFA Kayak Fishing Tour event held at Delta Marina in Empire. The IFA format is catch-photo-release redfish and speckled trout. Your score is the combined length of your biggest redfish and trout. 34 people showed up to fish the event despite the less-than-stellar weather. A cold front moved into Louisiana over the weekend and Sunday’s post-frontal conditions included high winds, 20-30 mph – nemesis to any kayak fisherman. You could feel the wind shake the cabin at Delta while laying down to sleep Saturday night. Not exactly the confidence boost you want pre-tournament.

There was a chill to the air Sunday morning with the wind howling. The silver lining was the fact that I didn’t see a single bug all day, that hardly ever happens in the marsh.

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At the launch

I fished for trout in the early morning anywhere I could escape the wind. I started picking up rat reds and got on board with a 16″ red. No trout though, so I pressed on, paddling straight into the wind to hit a pond that I knew I’d caught redfish in before. The tide was out so the water was low, I wasn’t sure if I could even make it into the pond, especially with the NW wind blowing the water out. I did make it in and I was greeted with a pair of redfish, backs fully exposed from the tops of their eyeballs to the spot on their tails, crawling around on the mud flat eating crabs. I flipped a jig in front of one of them and after a short fight had him in the boat, 23″. Not bad. By the time I caught him, measured, and took a picture, the other red had moved on. I kept going around the perimeter of this pond and picked up a 22″ red, then another upgrade, a 23.5″ red.

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23″ red

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23.5″

I learned my lesson in the first IFA tournament I fished and now try to pinch the tail for all my fish. Squeeze out every inch you can out of a fish. All the reds in that pond were sight fished, never thought I would be able to do that in 30mph winds, but when the water is low, dirty, and rolling, they have no clue you are there. I was literally hooking and catching them right next to the boat. It was a lot of fun. I left the pond, went back into the bay, to again try for the trout. I fished the rest of the day for trout, trying several different lures, but nothing was working. Water clarity all day wast not what I was hoping for, but there were some pockets of clear water where I was optimistic. I found myself in the same position I was in for Paddlepalooza, except this time it wasn’t a flounder eluding me, it was a trout. A 12″ trout would have netted me 5th place.

Results: http://www.ifakayakfishingtour.com/tournaments/2012/empire_12.html

Congrats to Steve, Clayton, Adam, Devon, and James, all fellow BCKFC members and solid anglers at that. I ended up 13th with my 23.5″ red. There were only 8 people who caught both species and only 20 people caught fish. Conditions were tough and it was reflected in the results. I looked at Weather Underground to see what the observed conditions for Grand Isle, LA were on Sunday and it showed winds at 23mph and gusts up to 39mph.

I  was not very optimistic on the drive down, conditions were going to be tough and I had not fished the area in a long time. However, even with the tough conditions, I had a great time and am happy I was there. It was actually a really pleasant day, the sun was out and the bugs were nowhere to be found. The Cuda exceeded my expectations, slicing through the wind, I never felt it was a burden to paddle, even directly upwind. The rudder was a big help in drifting shorelines, definitely worth it’s weight in gold on a day like Sunday. Maybe one of these days I’ll be able to put it all together and bring home a check. I’ll just have to keep fishing these tourneys until I do. The next Louisiana IFA event is in Delacroix on June 17th.

It won’t be long until the IFA Kayak Fishing Tour is back in town with the first Louisiana division event slated for April 22, 2012. It will be held in Empire at Delta Marina. Louisiana will host 3 events this year (and potentially a 4th if the final comes back). The 2nd event will be June 17th in Delacroix and a regional event will be held in Slidell on September 9th. I am making plans to attend all of them, hopefully I can compete. The tournament is a CPR(catch-photo-release) style tournament of the combined length of your biggest redfish and speckled trout. I can handle the redfish, pretty clueless when it comes to trout, no less it should be a lot of fun. They always have a lot of great raffle prizes too.

A copy of the rules and signup form can be found here: http://ifakayakfishingtour.com/2012_signup_form_rules.pdf

Empire event details here: http://www.ifakayakfishingtour.com/tournaments/2012/details/empire_12.html