Sunday, February 16, 2014

Nothing But Bulls...

After weeks of unseasonably cold weather the tides finally turned and warm weather moved in. This past weekend was the first tournament for the Lafayette Kayak Fishing Club in Cocodrie Louisiana. This was our version of the "minimalist" tournaments. Doing more with less and putting the skill of the fishermen to test. And if you read on you will see just how much everyone was tested.

Friday me and my buddy Scott did a little bit of prefishing in some pretty fierce SW winds. Steady blowing 17mph was not ideal but I managed to find a slot redfish in a cove tucked behind some tall roseau cane. Did a lot of pedaling around in a few hours time and wasn't impressed by what I was seeing.

Like always I figured I'd come up with a plan the night before and throw it all out the window when I got on the water the next morning. Spent friday night having a few beers and eating some barbecue. My game plan for tournament day was much like any day on the water for me. Cover ground and get to places few, if any people will want to put forth the effort to get too. I headed out from the marina and made it about 2 miles before making my first cast.

I didn't stay long in any place until I started to find nice long, sheltered shorelines with clean water. I was making my way down a bank looking for any sign of fish when I saw a redfish tail waving at me. The water was about a foot and a half deep so I knew he was a good fish. He kept moving down the bank faster than I wanted to approach him but he eventually found my lure. One solid run was all I needed to realize he was over slot. A 30" fish is great fun but not your first target on tournament day.
Made a few more casts is the area and scooted down a bayou to where there was a nice pond that looked worth checking out. I immediately ran over two BIG reds at the mouth of the entrance to the pond. There was minimal cover in the pond and no oysters to speak of. Just a foot or less of crystal clear water. I pulled up my propel drive and stood up to see if the area was worth going deeper into. About 40 feet into my drift I ran right over a large school of fish. There were big mud plumes going off in every direction for about 40 seconds. I hoped the sluggishness of the fish would keep them in the same area once they settled down. I gave em about 20 minutes to regroup after tucking myself against a bank and having a cup of coffee. My kayak was pushed up onto a mud flat where I wouldn't move and I started booming casts as far downwind as I could.
It wasn't two casts until a fish hit. He ran like hell but the first time I got a good look at him I knew it would be close to either a perfect tournament fish or over the slot limit. He tape out at 28"! And so were the next two on the consecutive casts!! Hoping, just hoping this was the spot where the perfect redfish was gonna come from was awesome. I made a few more casts in the same area and was getting strikes on every cast. My worst fears were realized when the next pig measured 32". I hate to be the guy complaining about easily picking off bull reds in a school but I needed to find smaller fish!
I made the decision to leave the area. It was either gonna be the best, or worst thing I did that day. I paddled straight through the school that had re-congregated in the same spot I was picking them out of. By the amount of leaches every fish had sucking on them they were still laid up dormant from the freezes we've been gettting.

With the weather and water I was seeing I figured it would take 2 hefty reds to place well in this tournament. A lot of the guys in our club are seasoned killers when it comes to redfish and I had to make something happen. After a 30 minute change of scenery I found nastier water than what I left and not a fish in sight. Unless you count the dolphin that was meandering along in a large bay half exposed. The water was a foot and a half at best and she was out cruising. I pedaled my ass off to get a good picture of her and when I was within 10 yards she turned broadside to me, paused, then took off like a rocket! It looked like someone dropped a Volkswagen in the water!
 The rest of the day I fished with half heart but still knowing I could find two fish at anytime that could make a decent showing. I was not far from packing it in when a fish showed up rod length from my boat and was barely moving up a small channel. He ate and I fought him slow hoping he was within the slot. 29". That was it for me. It was quitting time anyways and I figured I'd see how everyone else did at the marina. Didn't feel so bad for myself once I found out a LOT of people were completely skunked. People I consider to be excellent anglers went without so much as a nibble.

Only 4 fish were weighed for the 33 of us fishing that day! Hard to wrap my head around it but that's what mother nature threw at us for the day. Congrats to the winners and I hope the next one goes a little better for everyone on the water.

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