By: Eric Fey
With a redfish and trout in the bag early, I decided to dedicate most of the morning to finding a flounder in order to complete my slam. I was anchored at the edge of an oyster bed and dragging a bucktail jig/gulp combo just along the perimeter of the bed. I abruptly stopped the rod when I felt the subtle tap of a flounder sucking up my lure. I waited for just a second, ensured there was tension in the line, and began my hook set. About half way up my rod came to a screeching halt. At that moment, although unsure of exactly what was on the other end of my line, I certain that it was not a flounder. I fought the fish for nearly 5 minutes before ever getting it to the surface of the water for a first look. As soon as the dorsal fin of the fish appeared I knew exactly what I was up against.
It was a black drum, and a big one! The fight continued for almost another 5 minutes. He would pull out 30 yards of line, and I would tow him back. Each exchange left me more and more fatigued. Finally I was able to get the grips on him and pull him into the yak. The BOGA grips put him at just OVER 25LBS! After some measurements and pictures, I released the beast back into the water and sat back for some much needed rest.
Paddle Palooza XIII really kicked off for us at Friday night’s captains meeting. I would be spending the weekend and fishing with two of my fishing buddies, Jared and Jeff. At Top Water Marina, a group of gentlemen dubbed the Golden Girls (because of their age and apron color) cooked up a delicious pastalaya while everyone visited and helped set up. After a couple of beers and a full stomach, we sat back and listened to the BCKFC directors go over the rules of the tournament. The rundown was followed by the raffling of a handful of prizes. After the captain’s meeting Jared, Jeff, and I went back to the motel to game plan over a cigar and a few more beers. Jared and Jeff had spent Friday morning scouting the Leeville area but had little success. Jeff managed a few reds while Jared came home with a lone trout. We kicked around the idea of making a location change but ultimately decided to fish an area familiar to us. We turned in early to rest up for what would be a very early morning.
We had the kayaks in the water by 5:00 AM and began our journey out to our fishing grounds. By the time we arrived, the sun was starting to come up. I began fishing a popping frog trying to coax a red or big trout into an early breakfast. I had one taker after only a dozen or so casts but it spit the frog before I could set. The water was quite high so I floated over to a grassy area that is normally dry. I threw my frog into the flooded grass and started working it back towards the open water. Before the frog could make it to the clearing a redfish smashed it and I boated the first fish of the day. He was only 18” so he went back into the water and as did the frog. Only a few minutes went by before the frog was attacked again. This time the redfish measured in at 23”, went into the bag, and I went on to find some trout. I switched over to a walking style topwater in a mullet pattern. I found a cut separating two patches of marsh grass through which the water appeared to be flowing much quicker than the surrounding waters.
On the second cast a trout swatted at the bait but didn’t pick it up. On the third cast I had a trout on the line. The trout was only 13.5” but I had every intention of sticking to my game plan. I needed to find a flounder before spending too much time trying to upgrade my fish.
I swapped over to a white bucktail jig with one of the white curly gulp from the captain’s bags. Aside from catching the black drum mentioned above, I was able to pick up two more reds on this bait before switching it up. After 3-3.5 hours of trying to find a flounder, I was demoralized to say the least. But the day was about to turn around. The sun was getting high in the sky and I started spotting signs of feeding redfish. Here and there I would see fish crashing bait along the grass or the occasional tail sticking up out of the water. I couldn’t resist any longer. I took out the old trusty weedless swimbait and peddled up onto the flat in search of clean water.
It didn’t take long to find water that was clean enough. And just as I did, the redfish started revealing themselves. The cruising reds were the easiest. These fish were actively searching for food so a cast anywhere within a few feet of their nose would elicit a strike. The “floaters” were a little tougher. Sometimes they were sitting on the bottom and sometimes they were under grass overhangs with just their nose and pectoral pins sticking out. These fish wouldn’t jet out after the lure. The key was to get it close enough to see a faint reaction. This reaction could be as subtle as a twitch of their nose or as obvious as a thrust towards the bait. As soon as I spotted the reaction, I would let the lure fall straight down to the floor. More often than not they would pounce on it during the fall. If not, one gentle bounce of the rod tip was enough.
Of all of the fish that I put the lure in front of, none of them turned away. There were several fish that I missed from poor sets or spits, but no fish completely rejected the lure. I easily caught over a dozen reds. Between the 3 of us we landed around 30 reds, 5 trout, and 1 big black drum. Jeff and I literally stopped fishing around 1:00 due to fatigue. Jared continued on trying to get a flounder to bite. He had a 26.5” red and a 19.5” trout. A solid flounder could have put him in the running for the top 10. Unfortunately he was not able to find one.
Back at the weigh in it was evident that mostly everyone had a great day on the water. Out of 280ish anglers about half of them had plenty fish to weigh. About 40 of those caught slams! We saw 8+lb slot reds, near 6lb trout, and 2 lb flounder! Fellow Team Backpacker and Hobie Fishing Team member Casey Brunning claimed the top spot with a 12.47 lb slam stringer. For his efforts he took home a brand new 2016 Hobie Pro Angler 14 courtesy of The Backpacker. Second place was fellow Hobie Fishing Team member Vlad Molnouveanu with 10.69 lbs which won him a brand new 2016 Hobie Outback also from The Backpacker. Aaron Breaux took third place with 10.44 lbs and earned a $1,000 gift card to The Backpacker. Jared’s 7.11 lb redfish ended up missing 5th place big red by only 0.1 lbs!
After the weigh in, all of the donated fish were fried and consumed by the anglers. The award ceremony followed as did the raffling of all of the amazing gifts provided by the event sponsors. The event was successful in raising money for both the Wish to Fish and Louisiana Sportsmen’s Coalition through registration and raffling. It even helped give money to Heroes on the Water by hiring them to clean fish for the fish fry! All in all, this event was a major success. A lot of people caught a lot of fish, got to hang out with some awesome folks, and even went home with some amazing prizes. The weather was perfect and the food was good. Can’t wait for the next one!
Below is my video from the tournament on Saturday. It only includes a few fish. All of these fish (with the exception of the black drum) were caught sight casting. ENJOY!