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I truly went from mountains to marsh this past weekend after spending last week working in West Virginia then heading on a weekend guys trip down to Grand Isle Friday afternoon.

I left Baton Rouge Friday mid-afternoon and contemplated putting the kayak in once I passed Leeville just to fish for an hour or so before it got dark.  I didn’t though, opting instead to hit a culvert where water moves under the road before I went to the camp.  Not much doing there except a few ladyfish on a clouser.  I could hear reds crashing on bait in the marsh though, man what a tease that was, I was hoping that scene would play out tomorrow.

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I met up with everyone at the camp just as they were heading down to the beach to run the crab traps.  I threw the clouser in the surf for a bit, out of curiosity more than anything, but fishing was not really the priority at this point.  We spent the evening drinking good beer and catching up.

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I was the lone kayaker in the group so on Saturday when everyone took off in boats I hit the backside of the island in the Cruise FD and went looking for redfish.  Conditions weren’t ideal when I launched, but the high tide was the biggest thing putting a dent in the sightfishing game.  I managed to fool one overslot redfish and got broken off by another.  I caught more ladyfish on the fly rod and at lunch time decided to get off the water before the thunderstorms that began to surround me closed in any further.

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After lunch I hit the beach outside the camp with some of the guys where we alternated throwing cast nets for big shrimp, running crab traps, and trying our luck surf fishing.  With the cast nets we’d catch one or two shrimp every few throws, but that added up after a few hours.  We ended up putting a nice little ice chest of palm sized shrimp together by the end of the day.  The crab traps produced as well and those began to fill an ice chest of their own.  In the surf the white trout and ladyfish were abundant and fun to catch on light tackle, our target fish however proved elusive.  No bull reds and only a few speckled trout were landed, but we had plenty of seafood for a feast that night.

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That night we ate like kings, redfish from Friday and Saturday were grilled on the half shell while the crabs and shrimp were boiled to perfection.  There was even a good bit of Best Stop boudin shared among the group.  Everything was incredible.

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After a long night of cornhole and beers most folks opted to sleep in, clean up, and head home.  The weather was too nice not to get out one last time for me so I stopped in Leeville on the way out and put in off the side of the road.  I kept a watchful eye on the thunderstorms that were off to the west and the south of me this morning, but thankfully I was far enough north to be clear of them.  The high tide again made it tough to sight fish, but I found a good spot with moving water where the fish were a bit stacked up.  In short time I caught three reds, multiple ladyfish, and had another break off (I think my leader line is finally too old to be useful).  It was almost like fishing a winter hole.

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After the bite slowed down at that spot I pedaled around the area just to explore and found another spot were water was moving over a flat and fish were present.  I caught a couple speckled trout off a point and as lunch time crept up I decided to get off the water and head home.  I didn’t want to be home late and sightfishing wasn’t going to pan out so it was an easy decision to leave.

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Truly though my wife called and didn’t flat out say it, but it was inferred that I needed to head home.  She also wanted me to pick up shrimp so I stopped at the Seafood Shed on the way out and picked up some $4/lb 16/20 sized shrimp (same size as we caught in the surf) to take home.  We made New Orleans style BBQ shrimp with a few pounds that night and she got to eat a few leftover crabs from the weekend.  I put mine over instant grits and had a poor man’s shrimp and grits, which was surprisingly very good.

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I really enjoyed hanging out with the guys this past weekend.  Fishing was what brought us down there, but it’s the camaraderie that will keep us going back.  Big thanks to Ray for letting us stay at his camp.  Grand Isle in the summer is an amazing place.  The beach won’t win any beauty contests, but it sure is bountiful in it’s seafood production.  I look forward to doing it again next year.

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I was not planning on fishing this past weekend, there was way too much going on for me to even consider it, but it’s funny how plans change.

We took a family trip to Disney last week and I assumed that the long road trip back would have eliminated the desire to pack for a fishing trip and drive down to the coast.  I underestimated the power of social media though.

The Bama group was down in Grand Isle this past weekend and it seemed whenever I had a little down time to glance at my phone all I saw were fish pics and good times.  It was during the drive back on Friday that I happened to check the weather.  Near-perfect conditions meant that I had to try to make it happen, even if it was for just a day.

We made it back to Baton Rouge around noon on Saturday after having spent the night in Mobile.  What should be a 10-11 hour drive turns into a 14 hour one when you have two small kids.  I unloaded our vehicle then packed my stuff and took off hoping to squeeze in a little time to fish that evening.

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I made it down to Leeville, pulled off the side of the road and squeezed in about an hour and a half of missed topwater strikes, wind knots, and otherwise dumb mishaps that hurried anglers make.  I did catch the smallest rat red in the world to eliminate the skunk, but I really probably would have been better off just holding off until Sunday.

Shortly after the last light of day dwindled on me I met up with the group at the camp and had a great time catching up with everyone.  This year brought a fresh batch of new faces mixed in with the old and all the talk was about how nice it was to not have to fight Mother Nature.

Since the weather looked fortuitous on Sunday I pitched the idea to some of the guys to try and hit some water that really required good weather like in the forecast to access it and found a few brave souls interested in the adventure.

Armed with our fly rods, James, Bjorn, Drew, and myself, headed out on Sunday hoping to find some big reds in shallow water.  It didn’t take long to find the shallow water and run into the reds, but they all seemed to be the same 18-22″ size.

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The reds were roaming the marsh in small packs of 3-5 fish and were terrorizing the massive amount of bait that was holding tight to the banks.  After landing 5 mid-slot clones I began sightcasting the outside waters hoping to run into a bull red.  I saw a few bulls, but was never in any position to make a cast at them, usually seeing them too late.

I posted up on a shell island to get out and stretch my legs.  It had a good bit of current running around it from an incoming tide and I ended up catching a few decent trout tight lining a Matrix shad across a hard sand/shell flat.

The tide was very low at the start of the day and it rose throughout the day, allowing access into areas that were previously inaccessible.  With that incoming water though the clarity decreased and spotting the fish before they spotted you was becoming more of a challenge.  We headed back to the launch shortly after satisfied with a pretty successful day on the water.

 

 

 

After the success of their last Louisiana trip Jameson and Brooks with JK Media House made a return trip to Louisiana this past weekend for another round of fishing and filming.  This time they brought with them the all new Coosa FD, Jackson Kayak’s first pedal drive boat, for some pre-production testing in our Louisiana marsh.  I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try out the new flex drive system and of course hang out with my good friends so I joined them for a day and a half worth of fishing down in Pointe-aux-Chenes.

I haven’t talked much about the FD here as I wanted to wait until this boat was actually in production before I got all excited about it, but after about a year’s worth of speculation the time has finally come.

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It’s no secret that the more time your bait spends in the water the better your chances are at catching fish and having a pedal drive system is a great way to keep that line in the water.  What sets the flex drive apart from other pedal drive systems is it’s flexibility – it’s right there in the name.  The flex drive moves up and over underwater obstructions, protecting the prop and other moving parts from damage.  I got to experience this firsthand the last couple of days and it works as advertised – oyster beds are no problem for the FD.

I met up with the guys at PAC Kayak Rental where Eddie and Lisa Mullen operate the finest kayak launch around.  They were incredibly gracious hosts to the Jackson team back in December and were a big reason that they decided to head back down to Louisiana again here in June.  The excellent fishing has a little something to do with it too, but excellent customer service goes a very long way – something the folks across the canal from Eddie and Lisa never learned.

We got on the water in the hottest part of the afternoon and I got my first taste of pedaling, rather than paddling, a kayak.

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Jameson was very quick to point out that the boat I was in was still a pre-production model, meaning we were essentially beta testing the new boat and providing feedback before a production model is actually produced.  More specifically the flex drive system was still in pre-production and could still be tweaked before production models actually went out – I’m pretty sure the hull was already in production as change to that are a lot harder to make.

Regardless I was excited to be on the water in Jackson’s new pedal drive boat.  I’ve got to admit, my whole kayak fishing experience has been from a boat you paddle, the pedaling thing was very awkward at first for me.  It took me a little while to find the right distance to sit away from the pedals and comfortably pedal – luckily on the FD the seat trims fore and aft on a track system and it was very easy do while on the water.

Rudder controls are found on either side of you on the FD and these control how well you track in the boat.  While at speed it didn’t take much of an adjustment on the rudder control to steer the boat left or right.  It took me a while to get use to that as well.  I kept wanting to make big adjustments of the rudder and in doing so my track looked more S-shaped than it really should have been.  I’m chalking that up to user error since by the end of the trip I was pedaling straight and true.  Being in a new boat for the first time there is always an adjustment period and for me being in a pedal boat for the first time that adjustment period took a little longer.

The fishing was not on fire that afternoon for me, but eventually I found some redfish right as the weather was beginning to look scary.  I got into a natural bayou that connected the canal with a pond and began to hear redfish attacking fiddler crabs on the bank – one of my favorite sounds.  That’s why sight fishing is not just about seeing fish, but it’s also about hearing them and when that happens you’ve got to locate those fish as best you can based on where you hear them and then patiently wait until they surface again or you see them cruising.  Shrimp popping out of the water along the grass line are a dead giveaway and that’s how I caught my first red.  I pitched a Matrix Shad in front of the popping shrimp and it got hammered by a nice mid slot red.

I was able to catch that one and another before the thunderhead released it’s down draft and made us evacuate the area.  Jameson and I took shelter in “tetanus city” under an old dilapidated camp that may have had more metal on the ground than in the air.  We never actually got rained on, but the wind was enough to move us off the water, after it was all over we headed back to the launch – hunger overtaking the desire to catch fish.

On that pedal back I actually paddled, which gave me a chance to see how much of a bear the boat was to paddle.  Surprisingly it actually paddled pretty well.  With the drive system up it tracked well and paddled at a decent speed compared to Jameson’s pedaling.  Now I wouldn’t want to paddle it all day, but if I had to I could and that’s all that matters in an emergency situation.

The next morning we got to do a mothership trip which is offered by Eddie at PAC Kayak Rental.  He ferried our kayaks 8 miles south into pristine marsh that rarely sees a kayak or even a boat.

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It was a very pleasant boat ride in protected water the whole way.  When we arrived at our destination we still had cell phone coverage so should we have needed anything from Eddie he was just a phone call away.  The marsh was beautiful in what Eddie called the “Promised Land”.

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After spending a half day on the FD yesterday I was far more comfortable in the boat today.  One of the really nice things about the boat is it’s incredible stability.  Standing up and sightfishing from this boat is no problem – there is amazingly little rock from side to side.  It’s like fishing from a floating dock when you’re standing in it, reminds me of the Big Rig in that regard.  Another FD perk, while you’re standing and poling, the flex drive system makes a great rod rest!  It was a much shorter distance to grab my rod when I did see a fish than in my paddle boats.

It was a beautiful morning out on the water, winds were pretty calm and the sun was shining.  Conditions however weren’t perfect for sightfishing.  The water was a bit high in the marsh and had a slight stain to it so I opted to work the points and cuts with a topwater.  Trout were still in the marsh here and I found them mostly on those points and cuts where the water was moving.  No matter the size they were pretty aggressive striking at the She Dog.

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Most of the trout were in the 14-16″ range but I did get one hammer.  I was in a natural bayou fishing a point, catching dinks on the She Dog, having a good time watching the trout blow up my topwater lure.  Jameson and Brooks soon joined me as they were trying to film some of the blow ups.  I could hear some commotion behind me in front of a cut where there was obviously something attacking some balled up bait.  I drifted back and worked my lure through the area and missed a huge strike.  It was a fish that was obviously bigger than the others and we all knew it.  I threw back in and thankfully connected this time, albeit a bit closer to the boat.  It was a nice trout, 21″ on the tape, I was really thrilled to get him in the net as it has been a while since I’ve caught a solid trout from the kayak.

I had done pretty well catching trout, but everyone else was fooling around with the black drum.  The oyster flats were littered with big black drum and every once in a while you’d catch a glimpse of one as he waved that big tail at you, then disappeared under the surface.  Brooks and Jameson both got on a couple stud drum and as Jameson was fighting his I hooked up with one of my own.  The funny thing was mine came on topwater!  I’ve never seen a black drum hit a topwater before, but I guess now I can say that I have.  He didn’t smash it like a redfish will do.  It was more like a cutthroat trout sipping a dry fly.  He came up and sipped my plug then gave me a few nice runs.

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He wasn’t the biggest drum caught on the day, that distinction belonged to Eric, another Jackson teamer from North Carolina, but it was a fun catch.

Things kind of slowed down after that as the winds began to pick up.  It wasn’t until after we got off the water that we heard there was a Tropical Storm forming in the Gulf and making it’s way toward Louisiana.  We pressed on despite the wind and it gave me an opportunity to see just how effective pedaling into the wind was as compared to paddling.  My legs are undoubtedly stronger than my upper body thanks to a life of playing soccer and they definitely take longer to fatigue than my upper body.  That being said with paddling I have always found it to be more of a core workout than an upper body one and if done properly you rarely feel that fatigue in your arms, but tired paddling does lead to poor form which leads to more fatigue.

As things slowed down we spread out and I got lucky and made my way into a cut that was leading from the main bayou into a large lake.  It was super shallow, but protected from the wind and I began running into redfish that were cruising the shoreline, much like they were yesterday.

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I caught one little guy on a topwater plug on my way into the lake.  I threw that plug right on a point in some grass and he came after it and blasted it as I pulled it out.  Once I got to the lake I found a shell/sand bar where I could get out and stretch my legs and wade fish a bit.  These are usually pretty good places to fish and often times trout will stack up around them.  I didn’t find any trout this time, but I did catch a nice 27″ red while out there.

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Another fish that hit the She Dog.  I saw her working the shoreline behind me in the pic and had to make a long cast over to get her.  I didn’t quite get it there, but it made enough noise to get her attention and she hit it on a beeline.

I worked the area over a bit more, but came up empty and headed back up the cut toward the others.  Of course on the way I got sidetracked by a couple more redfish that were cruising the shoreline.  They didn’t fall victim to the the She Dog, but rather the more subtle Matrix Shad.  That’s my go-to sightfishing bait, I can cast it with accuracy and I’ve got a lot of confidence in it, which is what matters more than trying pick out the perfect lure.  As I released the second redfish I could see Eddie pulling up in the skiff and figured that was a pretty good way to end the day.

One thing I forgot to touch on about the FD was the deck layout.  This boat is built for fishermen.  It is a lot like the Coosa HD, which is a boat I always liked, but never had a place for in my floatilla.  It is a great design with some pretty cool features.  Gear tracks in all the right places.  A cushioned foot pad for comfortable standing.  The new hatch system is very easy to use and a big improvement over previous hatches.  The integrated rod tube storage is a really cool feature too.  The tankwell is a bit smaller than I’m used to and I know my extra long milk crate won’t fit back there, a regular sized one will work just fine.  I used a JKrate for the first time the past two days and liked it, so I may go that direction with my tackle storage.

I was very impressed with the FD after using it the last day and a half.  The flex drive system is so easy to use too.  You can move it up or down with the flick of a toe while steering left or right can be controlled with either hand.  When launching and loading the boat the drive system doesn’t even have to come out, you just put it in the up position and treat the boat as if nothing is there which is a bonus for guys hard on gear or prone to forgetfulness – it’s a very well thought out design.  I’ve had one on pre-order for a while and am happy I made that decision.  I can’t wait for the production model to get here.

For the last few years the Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club and Massey’s Outfitters have gotten together and offered one of my favorite kayak fishing events, the Massey’s BCKFC Fish Pics Tournament.  It’s an 11 month long CPR style (catch-photo-release) tournament that starts on Jan 1st of each year and is free to members of the BCKFC.  It has two divisions, one for conventional tackle and one for fly fishermen, and each division winner is awarded a kayak at the end of the year.  You heard that right, a tournament with essentially free entry awards two kayaks!  Other awards are also given out for the biggest fish in each category – redfish, trout, bass, and flounder.  I love this style of tournament because now every trip becomes a potential winning trip.

Last year I started off hot, catching some big redfish in January.  This 42.25″ red was good enough to land me the award for biggest redfish in the conventional tackle division.

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In the fly division, I took home 2nd place overall with the help of a 35.5″ redfish also caught that same day in January.

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My bass and my trout weren’t the biggest, but they were enough to eek out a 2nd place finish.  They were both caught during my week long stay in St. Bernard in October.

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This past year was the most participation that the tournament has ever seen, which was around  40 people total, so as you can tell, it didn’t take much for me to place.  It’s a shock to me that more BCKFC members aren’t taking advantage of this opportunity and submitting fish from their trips.  Maybe this year the tournament will see even more growth.

For more information on the Massey’s BCKFC Fish Pics tournament or to start competing, sign up to become a member at www.BCKFC.org.

Following my trip with Blake I met up with the Bama boys, who were in Grand Isle that weekend.  That gave me another opportunity to fish with my buddy James, the idiot lawyer as he’s affectionately known in our circle.  The weather forecast had me scratching my head on where I thought we could do best that morning, Fourchon was what I came up with, a spot we’ve fished together in the past.  When winds are stiff I tend to lean on fishing in Fourchon due to the greater presence of mangroves, which seem to provide more of a wind block than your standard marsh grass.

We made our way to the ponds we’d fish and at my first stop I ended up catching a nice upper slot red on topwater.

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A great start to the day, however, things were pretty slow going immediately after that.  We fished a few tried and true areas and had little luck, but finally there were signs of life.  I heard some crashing on a far bank and instead of being one redfish raising hell, it was a school!  Nothing gets your adrenaline pumping more than running down a school of reds.  I hollered at James that we needed to head that way and followed them as they went through a small cut onto a flat on the other side of some islands.  As I’m sitting in the cut I see them swim right in front of me – 4, 5, 6, 8, 12, damn, they just keep coming!  Not sure how many reds were in that school, but it was an awesome sight.  I threw a fly in the mix and immediately got a hookup.  While waiting on James to make his way over I decided it was a good idea to throw my Matrix shad in there too and soon I doubled up, bent rods in each hand!  Utter gluttony I know, but I couldn’t help myself.  Meanwhile those two fish kicked up enough sediment that James had a hard time spotting anything and was never able to pull another fish out.  He was left with a rod in hand as I was giggling like a schoolgirl, he got a pretty good screenshot of it from his GoPro.

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We lost the school after that and split up again.  I set up on a point for trout, and caught a few that were undersize, but kept getting distracted by reds that were crashing the shoreline at a nearby cut.  Of course I had to pull anchor and chase them down.

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After the reds things slowed down through the mid-afternoon, they weren’t crashing bait like they had been earlier and everything went quiet for a while.  James and I eventually met back up and instead of heading out we decided to fish some marsh at the far end of a big pond. That marsh led to a cut that went from the big pond to a canal.  I worked each point in that cut and finally caught a decent fish, a nearly 19″ trout.

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While I was hauling in that trout I hear James hooked up back in the cut, his reel peeling drag.  It was a big bull red and the fight was on!

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Earlier in the day James had landed his personal best redfish at 29″, this beast was about to eclipse that, if he could get it in the boat.  The red had hit a topwater that James was throwing and it came from a bank in a cut that I had just worked – right place, right time.  After some good forearm pumping runs the red had given up and James was able to slide him over the bow for a brief photo op.

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What a great way to end the day!  It always feels good when you’re not sure where to head in the morning and by the evening you know that you ended up making a pretty good decision because of the results. We paddled out as the sun was setting and made our way back to camp to meet up with the rest of the crew.  Jameson and Brooks from JK Media House would be getting in later that night, giving me an opportunity to paddle the new Cuda HD the next two days.   After the first two successful days of fishing I was hoping the action would stay hot as they were prepared to do a good bit of filming over the course of an entire week.

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