Saturday, May 24, 2014

A break from the yak, with two dads and their boys

  Before the storms rolled in this week, I received a phone call from an old buddy, David Caserta, that I usually only hear from during hunting season, asking if I would mind going fishing with him and Joey on their boat.
Being I haven't seen David since before his son was born, and I haven't seen Joey in almost a decade, I was quick to jump at the opportunity to reminisce about the old times.  The opportunity to out fish David in front of an audience was a big kicker for me too, since he only calls once or twice a year to rub in the monster buck he just shot.
I made a few calls and got some first hand guidance from Rory Rorison of United Charters and Rory shared some areas that would go along nicely with my plan for staying in and around the marsh close to Shell Beach.  With a plan in hand, I called Joey to talk about what I was thinking and Joey was real quick to say, "if we catch more than 5 fish, we are breaking a record on my boat." I laughed and asked if he was serious, the line went silent, apparently when the call for a fishing trip came, it was more like a call for help.
I met David and Joey and their two boys, Sam and Scott, the next morning bright and early.  The boys were excited, they asked questions all the way to the launch, where are we fishing, are we gonna catch some reds, how many fish are we gonna catch, what kind of baits are we using, how long a boat ride is it, and the questions kept coming and coming.
As we reached Campo's we filled the bait well with some live shrimp for the crew and I was rigged with my normal Vortex Shad and Skitterwalks.
Within minutes of getting the 21' Blazer Bay on plane, I had Joey pull back on the throttle and shut the engine down.  I dropped the trolling motor and trolled for about 10 minutes to the hole.  As we pulled up I laid my lure right where I wanted it and before it hit bottom, trout on.  As I pulled the trout over the bow, the two boys were giddy with excitement, and before they could get their shrimp in the water, I had two more trout laying on the bottom of the boat.  And that's all I needed see, it was kid focused from here on out.  We put the anchor down, and Sam came up and stood right next to me and with almost every fish I hooked, he reeled in and slung em in the boat, and when he wasn't reeling my line in, he was reeling in his own with a trout or sheepshead on the other end.  Sam was the Sheepshead king of the day, with I think three hooked and three landed.

Scott on the other hand was in the rear of the boat and he and Joey were bringing in trout after trout.  About every 3 fish were too small, so we would TAG and release them back to water.
As the tide finally came to an end, the trout bite stopped and the mullet began to surface.  After about 10 minutes of no action, no wind, and no tide, I pulled out the skitterwalk.  I told Sam and Scott to watch, and if I got a strike, it would be a good one and it would be where they could see it.  As I cast the lure out, the boys were watching like hawks, and after about 5 feet of working the topwater, it exploded out of the water.  Joey and David focused in on the lure now, and I kept working it in another 5 feet, the trout came up swam sideways around it and blew up on it again, but missed.  I crippled the lure another 15 feet or so and she came up again and missed it, there was an awww and a "did you see that" with every blow up.
 Finally the lure was within 8 feet of the boat and I was working it up to the bow, when she came up and engulfed the lure, it was one the most memorable topwater moments I have ever experienced. Right in front of the two young anglers, this trout demolished the trout colored skitterwalk, I quickly worked her around the bow, grabbed the net and put her in the boat. Her tail was beat up from spawning, her color was dull, but she was full of energy, although her site must have been hindered, because she was sure off target when attacking the top water lure.  She wasn't my biggest trout by far,  coming in just under 4 lbs, but she will be my most memorable, and I am confident the boys will have those topwater explosions arising in their dreams at some point in the future.
It was a great day on the water, with overcast skies 99% of the day, a slow tide ending around 9:30 a.m., great friends,  and a lot of fish in the boat.  We closed out the morning before 10a.m. with over 100 fish landed and somewhere around 50 keepers.  The boys said it was hands down the best day fishing they have ever had and couldn't wait to go again.  I am no guide by any means, and I am sure not a professional, but leading this crew and seeing those smiles, and feeling their excitement, sure makes me wonder why I don't do this for a living.

Until next time.....

Stay Safe and Catch1

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

My first Mothership Yak Trip


This past week I had an invitation to go on my first mother ship trip.  Mother shipping is when you load your kayak onto a larger, engine powered, vessel and then make a run to your fishing location, unload and fish waters in a kayak that you normally wouldn't have paddled too.
The invitation came from a local charter captain favorite, Rory Rorison of United Charters. Rory is one of those charter captains that is always looking to get into something new, and loading up his 24' Blazer Bay with some bright colored plastics kayaks is likely something he never envisioned years ago when he started his guiding service.  Rory is one of those guys that caters to whatever it is you need, if you need shrimp, he's on it, if the fish aren't biting enough, he will move till he finds them, if your thirsty, he's got something to quench your thirst.  Heck, I was just happy to go fish an area I could never reach by kayak, I never expected the royalty treatment, but with Rory.......royalty is what you get. Along with me on this trip was local icon, Ty Hibbs.  If you are from South La and have any sort of means to social media with a mix of fishing, you will come across Ty.  Ty is a college student headed for a degree in wildlife biology, he is a major player in the TAG Louisiana fish tagging program, and if he isn't sleeping or in school, he has a rod in hand.
We hit the water a little before 7a.m. and headed south and after a little more than 20 miles, we had reached our destination.  We were surrounded by open water, rocks, and marsh galore, it was a taste of heaven to experience being this far south in a kayak. 
As we unloaded the yaks into the drink, we knew our time was limited as a large front was supposed to push through the area around mid morning.  As I hit the water and began peddling it didn't take long for the action to begin.  I was throwing a skitterwalk, and within 3 cast, and several tail swats, the rapala was finally engulfed by the first speckled trout of the day. It didn't take long for Ty to catch up to me and start chunking some plugs, we threw every topwater we had with us, but the bite slowed quickly. 
We eventually made the move to "ole Trusty" a 3/8 ounce jig head and a matrix shad.  Before you knew it, we were battling each other on which one of us would put the next trout in the boat, and one after another the specs were coming in.
As we were focused on the fish, we failed to keep attentive to the environment around us, and the front snuck up on us.  You could feel the pressure drop and the air went up in temperature and then immediately dropped.   It was finally here, and it was here to stay, the wind got so strong at times, we couldn't paddle against it even with the current on our side.  After almost 30 minutes of a world ending downpour, we decided it was time to put the yaks in the boat and head for cover.
Well, at least we thought about that, as soon as we got the yaks in the boat, we looked at the anchor line, looked at each other, and then grabbed our rods.  We continued to fish through the front and the rain and wind, Captain Rory had us right were we needed to be.  Ty and I were landing trout with every color Matrix Shad and Vortex Shad made, it didn't matter, if we put it in the right spot, and held our line tight, the trout were smacking it, apparently it was raining under water, and the fish weren't looking for cover, they were hungry.
As the rain subsided and the front passed, the skies opened up, and Captain Rory pulled out some warm jackets, we bundled up, and prepared for the journey home.
As we arrived at the dock, Captain Rory again took over, he pulled the fish out, added more ice, unloaded everything, and then began cleaning.  This pile of fish would have taken me at least a 6 pack or two drinks to get through, but the Captain on the other hand had them all cleaned and bagged up for us, before Ty and I could even get all of our gear loaded in our trucks.
This was hands down a great trip for me, I got to fish waters I haven't fished in years, waters I have never kayaked in, I got to experience mother nature at her best, and I got to catch a lot of fish.  If you are ever considering a guided trip, or if you ever want to fish true south Louisiana waters from a kayak but don't want to paddle 20 plus miles one way, you have got to get in touch with Captain Rory at United Charters.
You know, I never asked Captain Rory how he came up with the name of his Charter company, but when you look up United in the dictionary, it says.... joined together for a common purpose or by common feelings.  Well I gotta tell ya, when your with Captain Rory, united is what you get, its clear that he is there for the same purpose you are, and his passion for fishing and creating smiles is something so special I can't even put it into words.

Stay Safe

Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Last Second Win in a First Time Tournament

Click to see the MBKFA BAGWELL VIDEO
This past weekend unveiled a competitive edge in my daughter, Charlee, that I have never seen before. Charlee has played competitive soccer in the past, but the attitude and commitment she displayed over the last two days around fishing her first tournament was impressive.
We left the house and headed toward Mobile, Al, for the 8th Annual Bagwell Spring Tournament, hosted by Mobile Bay Kayak Fishing Association, I could feel the adrenaline coming from the seat beside me as Charlee sat, staring out the window.   When we arrived at Bass Pro Shop  in Spanish Fort, Al for the captains meeting, Charlee immediately made friends Gracie, daughter of Jorge Cancel, and we all sat, ate dinner, and awaited the rules and regulations to be explained to us all. As the meeting concluded, I grabbed a pizza to go and Charlee grabbed her captain’s bag, thank you Jorge and Gracie for the special bag, and we headed over to Benton Parrott’s house for the evening.

The night went longer than expected as excitement was in the air, Benton and I sat up and shared stories and prepared our tackle, as Charlee and Katy played games in the darkness outside.  Around 10pm we decided it was time to call it a night, as the morning was going to begin at 3a.m.
As the alarms sounded throughout the house, it seemed as though we had only slept for 5 minutes, I got up, shared a cup of Joe with Benton, and then warmed up the truck.  My normal routine with Charlee is to have everything loaded and ready, so I can just carry her to the truck, while she is sleeping, lay her down and then wake her up as we are arriving to the launch, but this time was different.  As I entered her room, for the normal limp body carry, she was already awake and ready to go.  She jumped out of bed, got dressed and walked her tail to the truck and climbed in.  I was convinced at this point there was no way her energy would last all day, or for that matter, the hour plus drive to the launch, but in true Charlee fashion, she never nodded her head in exhaustion.
As we arrived at our launch point, a dark spot in the middle of nowhere, a place where Benton says go here, take a right, take a left, and then take a right on this trail and then park, the gps didn’t even know where we were.  When we
finished the 4 wheel drive mandatory excursion, I unloaded the Hobie PA 14, that we borrowed from Russ Pylant, the only yak big enough to haul us both and all of our gear comfortably, we got everything prepared for the journey.  I had tie wrapped a Larry Chair in the rear cargo area for Charlee,  and had fish bags strapped to the front hatch and the rear deck, the rods in the holders, headlights on, and we were off.
After nearly an hour paddle, I was amazed Charlee was still awake, we made it to our fishing location. Within minutes, speckled trout began coming over the edge of the yak.  Charlee was throwing a cork with a Rockport Rattler Jig head tipped with Gulp, and I was throwing topwater.  

We found our way to an underwater ridge that I knew I could fish one ledge while she fished the other, it was a perfect scenario.  I anchored the yak, and told Charlee to just chunk her lure off the right side, and start popping her cork, and I would fish left.  After two cast, I heard her sound off, “I got one, I got one”, it was music to my ears.  As she battled the spec the rod was bent like she had a whale on the other end, I was almost convinced she was hung up until the yellow mouthed speckled trout came to the top of the water and did its trade marked head shake all the way to the yak.  Charlee was reeling so fast, I actually netted the fish almost two feet above the water line. It was like a fast ball coming at me at 70 mph. 
As we calmed down and the excitement subsided, we were both amazed that she just pulled in a chunky 18 inch trout that almost topped three lbs.                      
The pressure was now off, she landed a good fish, and now it was time for fun.  We continued to fish the ridge and the topwater was on fire, but the fish were small, and since the cork approach for Charlee was fading, we decided we were going to make a move in search for scenery and some trolling.  I knew an area that had a few holes and ledges throughout it, so that’s where we went.  I loaded both of her rods with Rockport Rattler jig heads fitted with a Matrix Shad, both in the Tiger Bait color.  As we threw the lures out behind us, I kept the yak at
around 2mph, and as we would cross over the holes, I would tell Charlee to get ready, and you could see her head turn up to watch the rod tips.  Within seconds of every warning, the rod bent, Charlee would quickly grab the rod from the holder and begin reeling, I have never smiled and laughed so much at her excitement.  With every fish she reeled in, I was in defense mode, because each fish was coming in at Mach 1 and I knew I was going to have to catch the fish going airborne, rather than netting the fish in the water.  My net spent more time in the batter up position than it did in the normal underwater position. 
After Charlee’s 6th spec, I asked her, “how many is that”, her reply was “one.”  I said,” you just caught 6 fish, what do you mean one?” She said,” I don’t know dad, I’m not counting, I’m just catching em,” that was the best response I could have ever asked for.   
At the end of the day, we landed over 20 specs, with Charlee having two big enough to weigh.  As we made it back to the truck, we were joined by Benton, who had a beautiful 5 lbs. trout and a nice red.  We rested at the launch for a minute, took a few pictures and then loaded up in a rush to make the ferry in time to get back to the weigh in.
The weigh in cut off time was 2:00 and it was noon now, we had all kinds of time to relax and enjoy the day, so we thought.  As we reached the ferry, we were informed we missed it, and that the next ferry ran at 1:15 and it was a 35 minute ride across.  I’m no mathematical genius, but I knew when the ferry hit land, if it stayed on time, we would only have 10 minutes to drive to the weigh in.  To make matters worse, we didn’t even know where the weigh in location was once we got off the ferry.  As we waited I started laughing at the situation, what else was I to do at this point but laugh, and Charlee immediately chimed in, “what are you laughing at? It’s not very funny; I don’t want to be disqualified.”  At that point we had a talk about
making the best of a situation and that sometimes it’s best to cherish the experience and the day than it is to dwell on what could have been.  I think she got it, but you could feel the disappointment through her silence, she wanted to weigh in.
As the ferry arrived, we loaded up, joined with Benton, who we assumed had the big trout award if we were to make it in time, and Matt, who had a stringer of which we thought was big enough to take first overall, and then Charlee sitting there with her fish, that we thought was heavy enough to possibly place.  That 35 minute ride across open water was one of the longest I have ever been on. I tried to keep a positive outlook the entire trip on the ferry, even though I couldn’t help but prepare for the worse in the back of my mind.  We all laughed and cut up and did all we could to take our minds off of what might have been, if we didn't make it in time. 
Finally, the ferry slams into port, the gate drops and the engines revved, 8 minutes until weigh in closes.  I ended up being the first of the three of us to get off the ferry and all I knew was go left and look for a pink building on stilts.  As we turned left, the radio off, windows down, and eyes peeled for the pink building, we passed a road and at the end of it we saw the building.  Brakes locked up, tires squealed and we were in reverse as fast as we could go.  We made the turn, and barreled up in to the weigh in like Dale Jr. on pit road.  Charlee and I both jumped out and ran to the weigh masters table, we made it.  As we turned back to fetch our fish bags from the truck, Benton and Matt pulled up in the same fashion, and came running up just in time and before we could get back to the weigh in tables, they announced it, if you haven’t checked in yet, the scales are now closed. Thankfully, we all made it in time.

So what’s a tournament without a dramatic ending anyway, I’m just glad Charlee got to experience the experience, staying up late, getting up early, fishing all day, and making it in time to weigh in with just seconds to spare.  It was a great time for us all, a weekend away with just dad and daughter, a tournament, a visit to 5 rivers wildlife building, bbq, drinks, and great friends.  

Charlee finished 1st  in the Junior division, Benton finished 1st largest speckled trout, and Matt finished 1st overall, that dang ferry was full of winners……And then there was me….. no trophy….. no prize money……no monster fish…….. But, no matter what anyone else says or thinks……..
                           I was the biggest winner of them all.

Charlee spend half of the weigh in 15 feet up in an oak
Charlee was featured the M&B cover May edition
 Stay Safe and Catch1
Red Tail Hawk at 5 Rivers

Pepper the Opossum at 5 Rivers