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The second leg of the IFA Kayak Tour Louisiana division was held yesterday out of Bridgeside Marina in Grand Isle. 52 anglers signed up to compete in the event and despite weather conditions being horrible, most showed up to fish the tournament. Most brought their A-game as well because a lot of nice fish were weighed in yesterday, it was by far the most competitive IFA event that I have fished. The weather was horrible due to a low pressure system in the northern Gulf, it wasn’t organized enough to be a tropical cyclone, but it produced enough wind and rain to make it feel like it. I made it down to the island Saturday afternoon and was planning to do a little pre-fishing when I got down there, but decided against it due to the weather, ended up just hanging out with some friends until the captain’s meeting.

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I had two gameplans to choose from for Sunday, one being tried and true and the other being new to me. Since I didn’t get a chance to pre-fish the new area I opted to fish a spot I’ve done well at in the past. With a low pressure system in the Gulf the high tide was somewhat magnified. The water at the boat launch was spilling into the parking lot when I went to launch the kayak in the morning. I actually got off to a nice start in the morning with the World’s smallest slam.

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The action on dink trout and reds was fast and furious where you found moving water in the marsh. It was nice to be catching fish as the rain was non-stop throughout the entire day and I don’t want to think about how miserable I would have been if the bite was slow. Thankfully it was usually just a drizzle, but a few times it would open up and really come down. Interestingly enough I caught two fish when it was raining hardest, the flounder and my big red on the day. I was waiting out the heavy stuff, tucked against the marsh grass, I just tossed my popper in a cut to do something instead of just sitting there Eventually it went under and attached was a 12″ flounder. I saw the big red cruising the shoreline of a pond I was in and as I made a cast to him the skies opened. I was laughing as I fought him in the rain – I didn’t think I’d be able to do any sightfishing on a day like yesterday. 

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I had a 13.5″ trout and a 27″ red by 9:30am and because of the weather I seriously considered just packing up. I kept at it though heading to areas where I thought bull reds might be hanging out. The weather seemed to improve as the day went on, unfortunately though the fishing (for me at least) did not. I was never able to upgrade either fish, so I ended with a 40.5″ aggregate. My consolation for staying on the water was one more slot red. He gave himself away as he was crushing crabs against the bank.

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I wasn’t sure where my agg would hold up against the rest of the guys, but I figured with the weather we had anything was possible. As it turned out a lot of folks had great days, here are the results:

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I ended up 17th, not bad, not great either, but I’m happy with it, it was about where I expected 40.5″ to be. I was pretty excited to see my buddy Brendan take first, no one works harder on a tournament day than he does, nice to see him at the top again. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy seeing my name above his whenever possible.

One thing I’ve noticed fishing these tournaments is that you have three levels of angler that enter. 1 – You get your new guys and guys that aren’t there for the competition – they are there to learn and have a good time.  2 – You get the guys who are pretty good anglers and are getting better. 3 – Then you have the next level guys, guys with a do-what-it-takes-to-win mentality – these guys take risks, paddle far when they need to, and are motivated to win. I like to think I fall in category 2, but trust me I’m a category 1 guy at heart. It was obvious this weekend that I don’t fall into category 3. Mad props to the guys that pushed themselves in that weather to get after the big fish.

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From left to right: Casey Brunning(big trout), Brendan Bayard(1st and big red), Steve Lessard(2nd), and Scott Harper(3rd)

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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.