Paddlepalooza XII

We don’t talk about the weather when there’s a tournament coming up. We don’t talk about it, but we do pay attention.

The entire week leading up to Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club’s oldest tournament, Paddlepalooza, saw two dry days. Early in the previous weekend, forecasts for tournament day were showing nice weather. But as the week rolled on, and we endured lots and lots of rain, the forecast started showing more of the same for Saturday.

I really did not pre-fish for the tourney. With the Arkansas trip and the weather, pre-fishing just didn’t happen. But Friday would’ve been a great day to do it, but not if you wanted the same conditions as tournament day. Friday was beautiful, and I’d heard reports of nice fish being caught. As for Karl and I, we met up Friday night at my house and discussed our plan while we loaded up. We slept maybe 2 hours before leaving around 3 am to our put-in. The put-in had already changed for us. We were originally planning to fish a marsh near to Fourchon, but ended up opting for a location where we could get on fish quick and get off the water equally as quick for dealing with the storms.

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We arrived at our launch around 5:30am. We had pretty much been watching the weather the whole way down. I had assured Tracey that if we had gotten down there and saw lightning, we’d wait to launch. And we did. We waited with a friend of ours, Nick, until we felt confident about launching. In the meantime, Nick decided to catch some live bait with his cast net. Bait was pretty scarce at that location, though he did pick up a few shrimp and mullet, and even a tiny flounder!

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It was around 6:45am when we finally did launch. Radar showed another storm about to move through, but we figured we could get on the water and stay close to the marina. In that timeframe, Karl foul-hooked a mullet with a Vudu Mullet, and Nick picked up both a trout and a red, but both were undersized. Then the storms rolled in and we were back at the marina.

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In the meantime, Nick went back to cast-netting and throwing out some bait on a Carolina rig. He caught a couple of hardheads doing that. It made for a good way to pass the time while we watched the radar on our phones.

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After about three hours, we were all finally comfortable enough to get back out and start fishing again. None of us minded the idea of being wet, which we were, but none of us wanted to play with the lightning.

I began working an area where I’d caught trout before. I started off throwing topwater. I can work a topwater best when I’m standing, but if I were to stand, the wind (which was now a major player) would push me out of position. So to get the same basic action, I started throwing a wake bait, or as I’ve also heard it, “a top-water for dummies.” It still didn’t matter, because I needed to move on. I did eventually get a trout to swipe at that lure, but no hook-up.

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I continued working my way down the bank and managed a couple of small reds. One on the wake bait and one on a spoon.

As always, in a slam tournament, you want to go for the slam category. That was my original plan. But as the day went on and I hadn’t even boated a qualifying redfish, I decided to keep my focus on the reds, with hopes of maybe placing in the Redfish division.

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I ended up getting to a point where I was facing nothing but wind and almost decided to start heading back to the launch. But after getting a glimpse at my phone and seeing how much time we still had, I decided to keep heading further into the wind. I’m happy that I was in the Cuda 14. Other boats wouldn’t have held up to wind and chop as well. Still casting the spoon, a black spoon, I finally hooked into a bigger fish. And with the wind pushing the kayak one way and the fish going the opposite way I’d thought that I had hooked a baby bull red. It was a pretty intense fight for a few minutes there. But as I got the fish boat-side, I could tell that it wasn’t as big as I’d liked. But still, at least I had something to weigh.

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With that, I began the paddle back (about two miles) to the launch. A quick phone call from Karl, who had met up with Nick, and he let me know that they were fishing in the main channel. When I did get back to the launch, Nick was right behind me, and Karl following him. He told me that they believed that Karl had hooked a shark using a whole mullet as bait. The fight didn’t last long though. He was using a barrel-swivel and it broke during the fight. And as far as fish went for them, Karl had nothing and Nick had only caught another dink trout.

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After loading up, Karl and I headed to the weigh-in. Even though I’d only had one fish to weigh-in, I was hoping the weather had deterred many of the 280+ anglers registered for the event, and that I at least had a shot at the Redfish category. When we reached Topwater Marina we came to learn that more slams had been caught in the bad weather than the previous year. I think it was around 15 slams were weighed in. My red weighed in at 5.09 lbs. Not fantastic but maybe I’d get lucky.

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We grabbed a bite to eat (thanks to the volunteers who fixed the food and did everything else. Tournament ran smoothly because of those guys.) and waited around. It’s a fun thing to talk to the other guys about how their days went and just catching up in general. I hung out with the Redbone guys while we waited for the results. By this point, Karl was ready to get home and Tracey was texting me, “how much longer?” I just wanted to see where I ended up. As they got around to the redfish division, 5th place was Norman Walker with a 6.14 pounder, so I knew I was out. Rather than make Tracey, Karl and his wife wait longer, we started the long drive home. In the end, my red finished somewhere between 6th & 10th place in that division. And with 289 other competitors, it doesn’t feel that bad. Congrats to all the winners!

Cajun Slam
1st Toby Armand – 10.33 lbs – Hobie Pro Angler 14
2nd Doug Menefee – 9.84 lbs – Hobie Outback
3rd Michael Ethridge – 9.76 lbs – $1000 Backpacker Gift Card and $502
4th Devon Beltz – 9.23 lbs – $1004
5th Mark Brasset – 8.18 lbs – $903
6th Cody Draggo – 7.68 lbs – $753
7th Benton Parrot – 7.33 lbs – $652
8th Tommy Eubanks – 7.11 lbs – $502
9th Bill Crawford – 6.98 lbs – $401
10th Jeff Robinson – 6.82 lbs – $301

Red Fish
1 Ryan Page – 7.71 lbs
2 Darla Flannigan – 7.61 lbs
3 Jennifer Brunnings – 7.41 lbs
4 Chuck Baham – 6.84 lbs
5 Norman walker – 6.14 lbs

Trout
1 Darren Kimble – 3.86 lbs
2 Steve Lessard – 3.23 lbs
3 Charlie Jones – 3 lbs
4 Justin Jennings – 2.99 lbs
5 Harry Flannigan – 2.49 lbs

Flounder
1 Tammy Hartley – 1.92 lbs
2 Zack Lemon – 1.73 lbs
3 Fred Trahan – 1.70 lbs
4 Sam Spear – 1.69 lbs
5 Mark Eubanks – 1.65 lbs

Leopard Red
1 Bryan Hurst – 13 spots
2 Jeremy Jenkins – 11 spots
3 Herb Leedy – 9 Spots
4 Brandon Dozer – 8
5 John Thompson – 8

Kids Slam
Seth Raspberry – Red Fish – 1.65 lbs

Ladies Slam
Darla Flannigan – Red Fish 7.61 lbs & Trout 1.63 lbs

It felt good to finally be back participating in a tournament. I’m looking forward to hopefully taking part in the Lafayette Kayak Fishing Club’s two upcoming events; the Speck & Redfish Cup (Fish Anywhere) on May 16th, and the LA-1 Slamboree (Topwater Marina, Leeville) on July 25th.

Interesting (and frustratingly) enough, the weather before tournament day was beautiful, and this was the weather after tournament day:

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