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Last month I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days in a kayak off old La 1 and sight fish for redfish and just like it’s always been it was a blast.  It was the first chance I’ve had to take out the Jackson Bite and the first time I’ve fished inshore since maybe January.  These days it takes a special occasion to motivate me to head that far south and on this particular weekend some old friends from Alabama were staying in Grand Isle and since the weather was nice and LSU beat Bama I had to make the trip.

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I headed down on the Sunday morning after LSU’s triumphant victory and got a later start than anticipated due the previous afternoon/evening’s celebration.

Conditions were decent upon arrival, with winds a tad higher than I’d prefer, but the area I was fishing had a ton of mangroves so I wasn’t bothered too much by the wind.

In the first canal I stood up to fish I came upon a large pack of reds marauding shrimp along the shoreline – exactly what you want to see when you haven’t thrown a fly at a red in months.  I was able to pick a lead fish off the pack with a good cast and a strong drag and the pack didn’t spook, they just turned around and went in the other direction.

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I released that red and continued on down the shoreline until the pack decided to turn back around and head back toward me again.  I got some grainy, Sasquatch-esque cell phone video of the reds I’ll try and attach:

Again I was able to pick off another fish, this time the pack caught wind of me though and took off.  I thought I might be able to spot them again given some time, but I never did.  Still it was a great way to start the day.

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After a brief meetup with my friend James I kept searching for redfish.  I came across some trout in the process, settling in on a school that was feeding in a cut between two larger bodies of water.  The action was hot enough to break out the fly rod and catch a few on the fly as well with a few of the fish being keepers, most were throwbacks, but it was fun to mix it up and catch some trout.

I ended up catching a couple more reds on the fly with one being a nice baby bull, coming in just under 30″.

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After that fish I decided to call it a day and paddle back.  At the launch I was able to catch up with another buddy Matt, who had a tougher day, but managed a 30″ red on the fly as well back in the skinny water.  It’s always a blast finding those over-slot sized fish in the trenasses.

The fishing was fun, but if I’m being honest the best part of weekend trips like this are the hangouts at night.  Nothing beats sitting around sharing some brews or cocktails and swapping stories of past triumphs, defeats, or anything entertaining enough for a group of fine, upstanding citizens like the group from Alabama that has assembled in Grand Isle on an annual basis for nearly ten years now.

I was hesitant about fishing the next morning because I needed to be back in time to pick the kids up from school.  I was hesitant until I saw that the weather was gorgeous.  I saw that the marsh behind the camp was glass so I quickly made plans to get back on the water.  Marcus was also planning on hitting the water that morning, so we decided on fishing from the same launch, but hitting a slightly different area, one I hadn’t had a whole lot of experience at, but should yield the same results.

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The tide was a bit lower than yesterday and was visibly ripping through the canal we launched into, which told me that the water clarity would probably be a little poorer than it was yesterday.

I covered a good bit of water, good looking water too, before I started seeing fish.  Seems like they needed the air temps to warm up before they were active.  I found a small slot with a colored up tail in a small pond to get the skunk off.

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I was only fishing until lunch time and it was already mid morning so I didn’t have much time left to make the day a success, but like I mentioned earlier as the temp warmed up so did the fish.  I got into a pipeline canal and started seeing fish and managed to catch one in the mouth of an offshoot canal.  I kept moving down that canal and as I progressed into the canal it got narrower.  As it narrowed I was spooking redfish, the water was clear and shallow in the canal and the fish were seeing me (or feeling me) coming from further away than I could get a cast off to them.  I finally made it to the end of the pipeline and the canal veered off into a ditch going in a 90 degree angle.

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In that ditch I could see two reds coming toward me, with no idea that I was even there.  I made a good cast leading them and the smaller fish looked like he inhaled the fly so I did a strip set and lucky for me pulled it out of his mouth and as I did the bigger red saw it and nailed it.  Fighting a 26″ red in a ditch you could jump across was a hoot!  He ran back under my boat a few times, I’m glad I was at the intersection so he had some room to run into the larger (6-7 ft wide).

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I was getting ready to head out after that, that was a tough fish to top, it was nearly lunch time and I needed to make it back to BR before the school bus came by the house.  I had to poke my head into one more pond because I saw a bit of nervous water and what I saw was another pack of redfish with some of the pack skittish while the others were playing it cool.  The first few casts I made were at skittish fish who just swam right on by, but the tail end of the pack was more than happy to pounce on my fly.  As I fought the fish I hooked I could tell it was a leopard red, when I got him to the boat I counted 14 spots.

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The fight may not have topped the previous fish, but this red sure had him beat in looks.

I bid Marcus adieu as he decided to make his way toward another pond before he headed out and hit the road home.  It was great to get back into the marsh and have some success.  I miss redfishing a little bit, I certainly don’t miss the drive though.

The Bite performed admirably.  It’s a slower boat than I’d like, but that’s the trade-off for the stability it offers – this thing is wide.  For the price you’d be hard pressed to find a better boat available, which is why I pulled the trigger on one.  It’s a fantastic platform to sight fish reds from and I will happily use it over the Cruise FD I’ve got collecting dust in the garage.

Got out again in the Kilroy this past weekend and with favorable conditions on the coast I made the long drive south to fish for reds.  I hit an area that is new to me, but was recommended by a friend at Paddlepalooza.  Another benefit to an already long list of reasons to attend a BCKFC tournament and stay through the weigh-in is just talking to and learning from your peers.  There is a lot that is lost in translation if all your research and knowledge-base comes solely from the internet.

I arrived at sunrise and worked a topwater early, but to no avail.  I was hoping to stumble upon a few trout, but that wouldn’t be the case as the day progressed.  Working Gulp under a cork began producing small redfish.  They were tagged and released and hopefully in the future Tag Louisiana will give me an update on these fish.

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Conditions were pretty good throughout the day.  As you can see, winds were calm and it was very overcast – seemingly perfect conditions to walk the dog, but I didn’t have any luck.  It didn’t much matter as the water clarity was pretty good in the grassy areas and I was able to sight fish reds with either the fly rod or on spinning tackle using a good ‘ol tight lined Matrix shad.

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The reds went from 13″ up to 23″, so no big upper slot reds or junior bulls were had, but it was a lot of fun just catching consistent fish throughout the day.  Most of the fish I caught came on the fringes of the grass or around cuts and points, I didn’t mess around with any of the thick grass.  A few of the fish I caught were pulled from schools, which are always fun to see and hear.  You’ll just be minding your own business when all of the sudden around a point comes a wave of red terror, with bait popping out of the water in front of it, looking for any escape.  It doesn’t matter what you throw in front of the red mass, it just matters that you throw something.  It was a lot of fun trying to pull of the double by throwing the fly rod first, getting a hook set, then picking up the paddle tail and pitching it in the area.  I wasn’t able to connect this time around, but it is always a hoot to have the opportunity.

That is my friend Catch Cormier’s favorite line about the annual Spring kayak fishing tournament organized by BCKFC, now in it’s 11th year. After attending the event this past Saturday, he couldn’t be more right! Everyone involved put on one heck of a show for the 244 folks that signed up.

I missed out on the Friday night festivities and opted to leave super early Saturday morning. I didn’t make any scouting trips prior to the tournament so I decided to limit my tournament day options to places I’ve had success at in the past catching all three slam species; redfish, trout, and flounder. I was running a little late and wouldn’t make it on the water by 5:00am, but that gave me a chance to see just what LA 1 looks like during a tournament day. Every place you could toss a kayak in the water had a vehicle and the more popular options had vehicles lined up on the shoulder. It was pretty amazing to see just what kind of impact we kayak fishermen can have on a community come tournament time.

Lucky for me my spot was empty and I was on the water just before the sun came up. For the next 2-3 hours the winds were calm and the weather was perfect, the only downside to that was it meant the gnats and mosquitoes were out in force. The fishing though in that time was so good that the I wasn’t bothered by the bugs (being covered in clothing from head to toe helped as well). Fishing an oyster lined pond I had an incredible morning catching redfish and trout on topwater. When it was dark I threw a Spook Jr. in black/chartreuse and when the sun came up it was a Spook Jr. in bone. I couldn’t tell what the water clarity was upon launching but as the sun came up I could see that it was very nice. After landing about a dozen trout and maybe half a dozen reds the best of each were a 4 lb red and a nearly 2 lb trout. A good start, but I would definitely need to upgrade each.

I started working the spot for flounder focusing primarily on the places I had caught them in the past. Points and cuts in the marsh and anywhere the water moved were the areas I was targeting. At about lunch time I decided to pack it up and head up the road to try a different spot.

I didn’t realize just how windy it was after leaving the first spot, but I sure felt it upon arrival at the second spot. Conditions had deteriorated but I wasn’t deterred from trying to find a flounder. Water clarity here was very good as well – I guess I could thank that strong Southern wind for that. Bugs weren’t an issue any more either – thanks wind! Again I worked the flounder spots and again I was coming up empty. Knowing that I still needed to upgrade my trout and my red, I continued to throw topwater in likely looking spots. It wasn’ t long before I had a big fish on, only problem was it was a bull red! A fun fight, but not what I needed on tournament day.

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Catching that fish showed me that it was still effective to throw topwater even in terrible conditions, though it is harder to work the bait. Fishing the islands of a big bay I was getting hammered by wind, so I moved on to some marsh to seek shelter. Settling into a cut just to take a break I threw out some Gulp and watched as my cork immediately went under the water. On the other end of the line was a redfish upgrade at 5 lbs! Not a big upgrade, but better than nothing. On the next cast, this time out into the bay and back toward myself in the cut I watched as a red tried to take down the cork! Giving it a pop to take it from his mouth he luckily found the Gulp underneath. Another redfish in the boat, not an upgrade on weight but this one did have 13 spots! I didn’t want to get my hopes up on taking the leopard redfish category (I’ve made that mistake before), but I at least had a shot now.

It was getting close to weigh-in time so I decided to make my way back to the launch, which was of course into the wind across open water. Thank goodness for Jackson’s low seat position and the Aqua Bound Manta Ray blade size. I hardly ever use the low seat position, but this proved to be the perfect situation. I made good time considering I was plowing through building waves heading into the wind.

Back at Bobby Lynn’s standing in line to weigh fish, everyone began to recount the day’s events, which is one of my favorite parts of any tournament. It became increasingly apparent that there were a lack of unicorn, I mean, flounder brought to the scales. By the end of the day I believe only six were weighed. In a slam tournament that pays out to ten places this meant that the back half of the slam placings would be two fish slams (a three fish slam will always beat a two fish slam in a BCKFC tournament, no matter the weight). I knew I didn’t have a shot at a placing with my two fish slam, but it at least took some of those folks with two nice fish out of the individual species categories. The other thing that became apparent was that a lot of leopard reds were brought in. Not just any old leopards either, these were reds with more than a dozen spots – there were two 17 spot reds turned in! My little 13 spot wouldn’t hold up for first and barely hung on for 5th! At least I wouldn’t be going home empty handed though.

withplaquePhoto: Brendan Bayard

After weighing fish I was able to grab my captain’s bag (including the tee shirt Clayton is wearing in the pic) and shoot the breeze with a lot of the other competitors who have become friends over the years. Although the fishing was pretty tough for most (only 75 weighed fish) I didn’t see any disappointed faces, thus the real reason “there’s never a loser at Paddlepalooza!”. Between the captain’s bags, meals, tournament, raffles, and camaraderie among fellow like-minded individuals, you always come out ahead.

Speaking of raffles, the raffle items this year blew away what has been offered in years past. I should have bought more tickets than I did because there was a lot of good stuff on that table. The officers did a tremendous job with the raffle this year, I was impressed. It made me long for the days when placing in a category meant your pick of prizes from the raffle table.

IMG_2587 In closing, Paddlepalooza XI was a ton of fun, BCKFC knocked it out of the park on this one. I had a great morning catching fish and was lucky enough to take home 5th place leopard red that afternoon. The fried fish dinner was excellent as always – a lot of credit goes to the guys that volunteer to help cook and serve. I think it was a great move to hire fish cleaners this year to help take care of the one job no one really enjoys. Those guys were far more efficient than the average Joe, really cool to watch them work. The raffle went fairly quick considering what it had been in years past and the prizes were off the charts. Things just seem to get better and better with this organization and tournaments. Heck, even the shirt this year was one of the best I’ve seen. Super soft with another great Brendan Bayard design; these things are like collector’s items for kayak fishermen down here in Louisiana. It makes me proud to be a small part of BCKFC and I hope we continue to grow and put on outstanding events. We do a great job getting in state folks to attend, but it would be really cool to see more out of state folks down. The more people we can get registered for events like this, the more money that gets directed to charities like Heroes on the Water and the Palliative Care Foundation of Baton Rouge – the real winners at functions like this. Here’s hoping Paddlepalooza XII is just as successful as this year’s event!

2014 Paddlepalooza XI Results

Cajun Slam – Angler – Weight(lbs) – Prize Won

1st – Jeff Breaux – 10.19 – Hobie Pro Angler 14
2nd – Jason Austin – 8.15 – Hobie Outback
3rd – Wayne Lobb – 6.45 – $1000 Gift Card to The Backpacker
4th – Elliot Stevens – 6.33 – $800 
5th – Bill Crawford – 6.33 – $750 
6th – Steve Lessard – 9.52 (2 fish) – $700 
7th – Chris Holmes – 9.26 (2 fish) – $650 
8th – Brendan Bayard – 8.81(2 fish) – $600 
9th – Tommy Eubanks – 8.45 (2 fish) – $550 
10th – Shane Curole – 8.29 (2 fish) – $500 

Heavy Slot Red – Angler – Weight(lbs)
1st – Justin Pisani – 7.27
2nd – Jonathan Craft – 6.96
3rd – Timothy Caldwell – 6.93
4th – Perry Watts – 6.85
5th – Craig Brown – 6.79 

Mule Trout – Angler – Weight(lbs)
1st – Fred Trahan – 3.72
2nd – Toby Armand – 3.72
3rd – Jeff Suber – 3.56
4th – Sam Speer – 3.19
5th – Scott Harper – 2.94

Saddle Flounder – Angler – Weight(lbs)
1st – Douglas Menefee – 0.87

Leopard Red – Angler – Spots – Prize won
1st – Jason Powers – 17 – KC Kayak
2nd – Dwayne Walley – 17
3rd – Jared Leroy – 15
4th – Matt Lehman – 15
5th – Ben Roussel – 13

Ladies – Angler – Weight(lbs) – Prize won
1st – Barbara Johnson – 5.50 – Custom Bull Bay Rod

Kids – Angler – Weight(lbs)
1st – Rory Craft – 4.60

Went scouting today with Blake in preparation for Paddlepalooza next weekend. I wanted to find some trout and possibly some flounder and that goal was accomplished. I caught 5-6 trout, while Blake caught 3-4 flounder. Reds were caught too, I think Blake limited out. Water was high in the marsh, but the clarity wasn’t too bad. Sight fishing was pretty much a disaster with the high water. I did manage to find one shallow flat that was loaded with sheepshead and scattered with reds and black drum. I got a few of the sheepshead to eat the fly I was throwing but they came off before I could land them.

Looking forward to next weekend. With over 180 people already registered, the guys at Bayou Coast are estimating around 200 kayak fishermen competing in Paddlepalooza. This blows my mind, kayak fishing is blowing up down here.

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