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Had a chance to get out and fish on Monday thanks to the Labor Day holiday.  The weather ended up being very nice; light winds in the morning, picking up throughout the day, partly cloudy skies.  It was hot, but it’s always hot down here in summer so you get used to it.  Conditions would have been ideal for sight fishing had water clarity been a bit improved.  The closer I got to the Gulf though, the better the water looked.  The tide fell throughout the day and by the time I picked up it was too low to paddle in some spots.

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It couldn’t have been better timing to finally get back on the water as I had just received the new Power-Pole Micro battery pack in the mail this past week.  I have been stubbornly waiting on this battery pack to come out for probably around two years now.  That’s about how long the Power-Pole Micro has been sitting on a shelf in my garage.  I’m not big on electronics in kayaks as I’ve never needed to run them or wanted to fool with batteries or wires, so I initially passed on the Micro.  It looked like it would be a great tool for my style of fishing though and was something that could make things a bit easier for me on the water so when I was told that a battery pack was in development for the Micro, I jumped on the opportunity to get one.  Little did I know that the folks at Power-Pole still had a lot of hurdles to jump before they could distribute their battery pack.

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I got to a familiar spot just before sun up and started to rig up.  The plan was to hit some familiar bull red and big trout water and hope for the best.  Every trip out is an opportunity to upgrade my fish in the year-long Massey’s Fish Pics tournament run through Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club so I wanted to hit some potential big fish water that would give me a good shot at an upgrade.  I caught a red fairly early on, in the first big pond I went in.  He was cruising a shoreline and I was able to intercept his path with a Matrix shad.  It is always a good feeling to get that first fish on the board.  I tagged him, took a pic, and then we parted ways.

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While in that same pond I posted up by the outlet and began to fish a spot where the tide was pulling water out into a canal.  I noticed something yellow up under the mangroves not too far from where I anchored and after watching it for awhile I noticed it was alive and moving.  It was a small tripletail floating on his side!  They aren’t unheard of to be in the marsh, but it is pretty rare.  So I re-rigged my fly rod with a smaller shrimp imitation and tried my best to convince him to eat, only he wasn’t having it.  I finally got hung on the mangrove and he spooked as I tried to retrieve my fly.  A pretty neat experience though I was a little bummed to not catch him, but I pressed on.

As I said earlier the closer I got toward the Gulf the better the water looked and when I got out to some rocks I started working the Matrix shad and suspending baits looking for trout.  A few ladyfish and a catfish later I changed it up and started throwing the topwater.  Don’t let anyone tell you a topwater is only for first light.  I ended catching a handful of keeper trout and had a blast doing it.  Shoot, it was a hoot to watch the ladyfish blast the topwater out of the water.

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I was really hoping to luck into a bull red on topwater, but unfortunately they weren’t anywhere to be found.  I headed back into the marsh after things slowed down and shifted my focus to sight fishing.  The falling tide was a pretty big one and it had the water clarity even worse than in the morning, so things were tough.  Plus the wind picked up and made things that much tougher.  Luckily for me there were still a fair amount of active reds patrolling the shoreline and I caught a few reds by sound more than sight.  They were crashing crabs around exposed oyster beds with reckless abandon and as long as you got your lure right in front of their face they would eat it.

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I had made my way back to that first big pond I went in and decided to go see if that tripletail was still around.  Sure enough, I could spot that yellow fish from across the pond.  I tossed that same shrimp fly in his direction and he wasn’t interested.  Eventually I had floated close enough to where I just assume net him, so I grabbed my landing net, calmly slid it under him, then scooped up and just like that I had caught a tripletail.  He didn’t move much while in the water which had me thinking he wasn’t 100%, but once that net hit him he definitely livened up.

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A bizarre way to land a fish, but it’s actually not the first time I’ve done it.  I caught a black drum like that once in the kayak.  Only when I went to net the drum he launched himself out of the water and onto the shore.  That’s what I love about kayaks, we can get right on top of these fish at times and they have no idea.

All in all it was a good trip, caught a few trout and a few reds and had an interesting tripletail experience to boot.  I wasn’t able to upgrade any fish for the Massey’s tournament, but that’s what is great about year-long tournaments, there is still plenty of time for that.

A quick word on the Micro after the first trip out.  It worked well, loved having the ability to press a button to drop anchor or pick up when I needed to.  It does take a little bit of time to get use to it while standing.  I found the extra weight on the back end of the kayak and the 8′ pole sticking in the air increased the wobble you feel when standing up  That wobble increased camera shake on the GoPro – which I actually used for the first time in a long time – but it also threw the boat’s stability off.  I was in the Cuda 14 – I’m interested to get it mounted on the Kilroy and see how it reacts.  With the Cuda 14 mount from YakAttack, it is actually the Micro is actually off to the side of the back end of the boat and not over center – that may have something to do with that increased wobble.  The Micro does come with a quick release mount, which is nice because it came in handy while sightfishing, but I really did not need it while I was fishing for trout.  With a boat like the Cuda the 8′ pole stores in the hull without a problem – so if I needed to I could have set it up while out on the water, parked on the shore.  I look forward to using it more and being able to give a better review of it down the road.

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Back in March I had the privilege of helping out Massey’s for a day at this year’s Louisiana Sportsman Show.  This was my first time at this show and I was amazed at the sheer size of it and the variety of goods and services offered for those that attended.  If you have any outdoor interest in the state of Louisiana, this show has you covered – from bird watching to bow fishing.  It was very cool to talk kayak fishing with lots of different people, not your typical boat show crowd – from folks who’d never even seen a kayak to guys who knew it all.

It was also cool to finally see the production model Coosa HD.  Massey’s may still have one in New Orleans if you want to check it out.  I got to paddle the prototype at the Dealer Summit and came away impressed.  Despite the name, this is a completely different boat than the Coosa.  I love the old Coosa, I’ve always said it is the best river boat out there, but I feel like the HD may be a better fit for Louisiana waters.

More about the show from their website below:

The 36th Annual Louisiana Sportsman Show and Festival, Louisiana’s largest outdoor show and boat show, was held March 12-15, 2015, at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, Louisiana. Louisiana’s premier outdoor show featured acres of boats, fishing and hunting equipment, ATVs, tractors and lawn equipment, and activities for the entire family.

Show highlights include:
• an indoor boat show featuring all the major boat brands and dealers from throughout the Baton Rouge area
• acres of fishing tackle and hunting gear for sale
• an extensive display of ATVs and off-road vehicles
• a dedicated tractor and outdoor power equipment area
• the Louisiana Sportsman Big Buck Contest, with display of some of the largest bucks killed during the 2014-15 season in Louisiana, Mississippi and across the country
• Cabela’s 3D archery range
• Splash Dogs, where participants can enter their dogs in retriever competitions
• a Kids Zone, with free admission to the show for kids on Sunday
• a Yamaha ATV test track
• a bass tank, where pros will be giving regular seminars
• fishing and hunting outfitters from across the United States
• an improved food court featuring three times the selection

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We took advantage of a Saturday in the Park this past weekend to attend the 67th annual City Park Big Bass Rodeo and Fishtival in New Orleans. I competed in the first annual Boats on the Bayou tournament and was shocked to hear that 88 others did as well – that’s a ton of kayak fishermen for little old Bayou St. John!

With the top prizes going to those who caught the few resident bayou redfish most of that kayak fishing crowd focused their efforts on the section of bayou closest to Lake Pontchartrain. I thought that would be pretty fruitless after the massive deluge the area received leading up to the event so I focused on bass. Fishing around Demourelles Island with a Texas rigged worm netted me a few small bass – so small I was too embarrassed to take them over to the weigh station. Later in the day I was able to land a bass worthy enough to weigh – it was 13.75″ and a little over a pound. He hit the worm as I tried to untangle a terrible cast I made into a tree, quite the lucky break, maybe a sign I needed to slow it down.

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The tournament was a pretty quick one, starting at 7:00am and ending at 10:30am, so I paddled toward the weigh station thinking my little bass might actually place. At the weigh station I found out it wouldn’t be the top bass as a 3+ lb’er had already been caught. I really didn’t think for a second it would win, but maybe it could place. As it turns out they only announced the weights of the winners at the awards ceremony so I still don’t know where I stacked up against the competition. One would think with 89 people signed up for a tournament, you would at least announce first through third places in each category. Still we enjoyed watching grown-ups act a fool as other grown-ups threw packs of soft plastics from the bandstand.

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Unfortunately no redfish were caught during the tournament. I’m not sure if it was because of all the rain, but maybe I made the right decision not to go after them, I at least got to catch fish. I was questioning the decision not to target them though when I saw my buddy Steve with a 1.5 lb trout on a stringer immediately after I launched! Had me worried the water was salty for a moment, but I think that trout was just lost, I didn’t hear of another one caught. It is pretty cool that you can catch redfish, trout, bass and bream all out of one body of water, right here in the city. I’m not sure many places can boast that.

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After the tournament and awards ceremony (results here) we took a stroll around the Sculpture Garden. It was the perfect time of year for it too as the azaleas are in full bloom and the live oaks are beginning to leaf out. The irises were looking a little ragged, but I’m guessing it is still a little early for them. Two of the pieces of art really wowed us and I think you’ll see why in the pictures.

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After that we headed on up the bayou to where Massey’s was having an on the water kayak demo day. What started off as a foggy, chilly morning turned into a hot and sunny affair perfect for paddling a kayak. Marin really took to the new Cruise 10 and who could blame her – it looks like the perfect little fishing boat for tykes.

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You may have noticed throughout the year that some of my fish pictures had a little card identifying my participation in an eight month long catch-photo-release tournament:

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The tournament, put on by Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club and Massey’s Outfitters, was free for club members to participate in and ran from March 1st through October 31st. It consisted of seven categories over two divisions:

  • Conventional Rod and Reel Division

    • Speckled Trout
    • Redfish
    • Flounder
    • Large Mouth Bass
  • Fly Rod Division

    • Speckled Trout
    • Redfish
    • Large Mouth Bass

What made this CPR tournament a little different was it’s point structure. Normally overall aggregate length wins in a slam tournament like this, but this one was different because each category was awarded a fixed amount of points. The goal was then to get the most points by trying to catch the longest fish in each category. This made each species just as important as the last and protected the tournament from being dominated by one really long catch. Each division would win a kayak so no division held more value over the other, both fly and conventional divisions would be competitive.

This tournament was a lot of fun to fish because it was so multifaceted. It lasted eight months, so my interest in kayak fishing was at an all time high during that time. There was potential in every trip to upgrade your standing and work your way to the top. It also highlighted species that I normally don’t focus on and really helped me to become a better angler for them. I made specific trips to fish for largemouth and intentionally fished for flounder – these things don’t normally happen and it was a lot of fun.

I didn’t do as well as I would have liked, getting 4th overall on the conventional side and 5th in the fly, but I was lucky enough to enter a fish in every category and being the only angler to do so the tournament organizers felt I deserved a special prize – a brand new Bending Branches Angler Pro paddle!

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I also took home a $100 check for 4th, not bad for a free tournament! A big thanks to the fine folks at Massey’s for their generosity. The rest of the results are below:

Conventional Aggregate
1st Clayton Shilling
2nd Steve Lessard
3rd Mark Eubanks
4th Ben Roussel
5th Steve Neece

Fly Aggregate
1st Jonathan Craft
2nd Kevin Andry
3rd Glen Cormier

Youth Aggregate
Rory Craft
Big Trout
Donnie Elliot
Big Red
Lance Burgos
Big Flounder
Michael Drenski
Big Bass
Don Hallet

It took a number of trips to earn the 4th place finish as I was upgrading fish throughout the year, but I didn’t catch anything memorable until the IFA championship. That’s when I was able to get a 31″ red and a 22.5″ trout.

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I was pretty disappointed that 31″ was the biggest red I could get because early in the year I had a few reds over 40″! At 22.5″ though, the trout may have been the biggest I’ve ever caught, so really stoked to have that fish to use for two different tournaments – the IFA championship and the Massey’s CPR tourney.

My flounder was caught while we were filming for Sportsman’s TV in June. It went 17″ and flopped in the water shortly after taking it’s picture, which was fortunate because I haven’t caught a bigger flounder since. Maybe I’m cursed after catching two monsters at Fall N Tide last year.

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The bass was an even bigger disappointment than the red. I caught it during a daytrip up to the Kisatchie National Forest. I thought I had a good shot at catching a nice bass at one of the lakes up that way, but all I could muster was this little guy, who went just a hair over 13″.

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Pretty embarrassing, but rules state they had to be caught on public water and I felt like this was the best place to get a monster and it didn’t pan out. I’ll have to spend a little more time on bass next year and hopefully find an even better spot.

What’s more embarrassing is that this was all it took to get 4th. You’d think that in a club with well over 300 members and the tournament being free this event would be a no-brainer for everyone, but it seemed to be the same core group of 20-30 competing with each other. Hopefully year two of the Massey’s Fish Pics tournament will be bigger and better and even more folks will compete – to me, if you have a kayak and fish in Louisiana, it’s worth the cost of a BCKFC membership ($25 last time I checked) to participate.

Back in June I had the privilege of filming an episode of Sportsman TV with host Greg Hackney that was focused on kayak fishing. Sportsman TV is a fishing show that airs locally on Cox Sports Television. I got the invite from Blake Gill of Massey’s Outfitters in New Orleans, one of our local Jackson Kayak dealers, who was generous enough to provide kayaks for both Greg and his cameraman/producer/jack-of-all-trades Jared Serigne. I’ve really enjoyed the new format the show has taken this year so helping them out was a no-brainer. Besides Blake and myself, Louisiana Sportsman’s kayak fishing guru Chris Holmes was also on hand.

Due to the presence of Tropical Storm Andrea in the Gulf, we decided the night before to head somewhere we could take cover from the relentless wind conditions we were experiencing.  As we got the launch that morning it was pretty evident that wind wasn’t going to be a factor, in fact it turned out to be a pretty awesome day. The only negative, for me at least, were the high tidal conditions we were experiencing.

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The water was high but we still had a really good day catching redfish. They were holding extremely tight to the grass. Greg picked up on that early on and wore ’em out. I think Greg really enjoyed his time in the kayak. It was his first time in one, but I’m pretty sure he outfished us all.

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I started the day off throwing topwater. I had a few throwback trout explode on my spook. One was right at the boat which was pretty cool to catch on camera. I picked up a couple reds later on and even ended up with a decent flounder to complete a slam.

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I’ve been holding on this report until the episode aired, which ended up being last week. I think Jared did an incredible job editing it all together, the episode came out really good. Anyway, check it out, let me know what y’all think: