Monday, June 30, 2014

Dry"Tunes" for High Tides

 Growing up on the Tchefuncta river and living within a few hours of white sandy beaches, it's easy to say that most of my life has been spent on or around water.  And while I appreciate the peacefulness and solitude that the rivers and marshes offer, there are many times where music helps bring my surroundings closer, but no matter how much money I spend, no radio or speaker ever holds up to repeated use in Louisiana saltwater or the pressures of a tubing trip down the Bogue Chitto river.
Over the years, I can only cringe at the amount of money I have spent on so called, "quality" outdoor speakers, only to find out that none of them hold up to our salty, corrosive, humid environment.  I even remember building my own contraption as a kid, that I thought would revolutionize the "on water" music industry, only to find out later that even my own design was a failure. 
Then one day as I was sitting in front of the computer, next to yet another Bluetooth speaker that the charging port had become so corroded it looked like a green penny that's been at the bottom of my cupholder in my truck for the past two years, I came across an advertisement from a local company boasting their new waterproof and dustproof Bluetooth speaker.  I thought, yeah right, here we go again, another promotional box that won't last a week in a kayak or an hour under the watchful eye of my kids, but what the heck, what do I have to lose at this point.
I immediately got online and put in my early bird order, I even got a discount for purchasing before production began. The next few weeks of waiting was brutal, every day I kept reading more and more on this so called "Drytunes" device.  The design seemed simple, yet very advanced technologically, it was a speaker system inlaid into a Pelican box, I'm a huge Pelican Box fan, it's the only case system I trust for my high end camera equipment.  It had a rechargeable battery that was supposed to play up to 16 hours on a single charge(yeah right, been there, read that), and was Bluetooth ready or plug and play ready, depending on how advanced your phone, iPod, or musical device was.  Being well versed in the Pelican Box, I knew it would be water proof, and I knew it would be dustproof and it would likely be indestructible if it was anything like the Pelican Boxes I have abused over the years, but how in the heck is music going to come out of a completely sealed box, and not sound distorted or like your listening to someone on speaker phone while their sitting on the toilet?  While I was buying it physically, I wasn't really buying it.
Well finally, I got the call, your Drytunes is ready for pickup.  I shut down shop, ran to the car, and sped to the warehouse in Mandeville, La where the device is made.  As I walked in the front door I was met by Jonathan and Chris, and that's when the magic began.  We sat down and they ran through all of the ins and outs of the Drytunes device, it was simple enough that to this day I still haven't opened up the directions.  With box in hand, I headed to the car in a hurry to get home and start working this thing over.
I immediately grabbed my youngest daughter and asked if she wanted to take Dads new radio and go through it in the flooded ditch, she grinned as big as she could, jumped off the couch and headed to the driveway. I gave her the Drytunes unit and told her to have fun, she must have thrown that box in the ditch 20 times, and each time, the music never stopped.  At the end of the bonanza, we went inside, dried the outside of the box and the opened it, and everything inside was bone dry. Test number one...passed.
Well ok, it passed the kid test and the water test, but how did it sound?  Well, it sounded great, the clarity of the unit was amazing, especially being it was coming from a sealed box.  It didn't sound like a speaker phone in the bathroom at all, it was very clear and crisp with an amazing acoustical background.  Now for the bass factor, when I think speaker and box, I think boom baboom boom boom, but this is not a boom box.  If your looking for something you can throw on your shoulder while strutting down main street in your bright colored knee high leggings and sleeveless shirt hoping to wake all the neighbors with window shaking, deep hitting, sonic type boom then you need to look another direction.  But if your looking for clarity and crisp instrumental sound with just the right amount of bass, then this is your ace in the hole.
The speakers are actually designed to project from the lid of the Drytunes box, as you open the unit, while it's playing, you will notice the sound coming from above is now projected away from you, and if you turn it around, its going to be screaming in your face.  My initial thought was that the integrity of the units sound would be amplified by the air space within the unit itself and would likely decrease performance if the unit was open, but that wasn't the case at all.  The sound is not altered in any way whether the unit is open or closed, the completely sealed speakers hidden from the elements within the lid must be sealed so that the air space of the unit, whether filled with sunscreen, phones, wallets, keys, feminine products, or whatever else you choose to put in there, doesn't effect the performance in the least. 
The unit comes with two foam pieces that fill the entire cavity of the box, they are both customizable if you choose to do so, or you can just set them in there as they come, or you can chunk em in the trash, they don't do anything for performance of the unit, they are more for protection of the items you put in the box.  Under the foam is an area covered in bungies to help hold down any valuables you may want secured, if you choose to chunk the foam,  and there is a molded divider under the bungies that my android phone fits in perfectly.
There are 2 ports and 2 buttons on the interior right side of the unit, one port for charging and one for an audio plug in, and the two buttons are really simple, one turns it on/off, and the other is for programing your Bluetooth.  I programed my phone, my wife's phone, and both of my kids tablets, and after two months of use, the programing is still in there, I just turn it on while one of the devices Bluetooth is turned on and the unit links up automatically, just like your phone in your car does.
A really creative and well thought out aspect of the Drytunes unit is how you operate it.  I mean, if your in the pool or floating in the gulf or tubing down the river, the last thing you want to do is open up your fancy smancy waterproof case to the elements just to change a song on your music device right?  Well the crew at Drytunes found away around this one, and it's magic, actually it's magnet.  On the outside of the unit along the side, you will see 5 symbols, just below a stylus type magnetic pen.  Each symbol is like a button on your radio, increase or decrease sound, pause or play music, and advance to next track or go back to previous tracks.  You simply remove the magnetic stylus from the magnetic clip and touch it to whatever magnetic button you choose to, and al-a-ka-zaam, magic happens.  These symbols along with the customization of what ever name you choose to add to your unit is laser engraved and won't be fading or rubbing off anytime soon.
The battery, does it really last 16 hours?  Easy answer..yes, more in depth answer....conditioning.  The battery within the unit is one of those fancy ones that needs to be conditioned.  By conditioning I mean you have to run the battery completely dead and then recharge and the run down and recharge.  I had to do this somewhere around 7 times to get what I consider great results.  When I first got the unit, it lasted somewhere in the 4-5 hour range, and now after reconditioning the battery, I get an easy 12 hours of solid use out of it without recharging.  I am confident I could have reached the 16 hour mark, but I generally play my music loud which results in lower run time.  Kind of like running your trolling motor on high all day vs low, high is going to drain your battery a lot faster than low will.
Another cool trick if your looking to wow your friends, or more likely your kids, turn the unit upside down while your in the pool, remember, the speakers are designed to project the sound out through the lid, the underwater sound of this unit is amazing.  Also, my kids like to use it as a floatation device, although Drytunes does not recommend this and I'm confident the USCG won't ever give it a flotation rating, this unit will float me anywhere I want to go, its buoyancy is great.
To add to the safety of being waterproof, the latches on the unit are locking latches, you actually have to press the center buttons that are within the latches to get them to open, it's a simple process and not hard to do at all, but my unit has been in the hands of over 20 kids in the pool at different times with them attempting to stand on it underwater (its now become the new game in our subdivision pool), and timed races across the pool using the unit as a float, and I have zero concerns that the latches are ever going to open up.
Overall, with the nearly two months of use I have gotten out of the Drytunes unit, I am pleased beyond expectations.  My unit has been from Texas to Florida, from muddy water to clear, covered in fish slime, mud, ditchwater, saltwater, freshwater, chlorine water, and in the hands of more kids than I ever want over for a birthday party, and it has performed flawlessly.  I am an advocate of the Drytunes product and the company, I love local, and I buy local, and more importantly, I am not paid, sponsored, nor do I represent Drytunes in any fashion.  I just appreciate good quality, made in America, made in Louisiana products.  If your interested in seeing or purchasing a Drytunes unit, you can check them out at
and while many retailers are now carrying them in stock, if you happen to be in my neck of the woods, I know you can find them at Massey's Professional Outfitters in Covington, New Orleans, and Baton Rouge, and if your venturing into the French Quarter, you can pick one up at Marsh and Bayou Outfitters on Chartres Street.
So, if your in the market for adding some tunes to your outdoor adventure, I would suggest investing your money in something that's going to last, not just something that will last a weekend.

Until Next Time,
Stay Safe and Catch1

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Trout Challenge 7


This past weekend was the 3rd tournament in the BCKFC's angler of the year 5 tournament series, and it was a challenge to say it nicely.  I hadn't been able to fish Louisiana waters in what felt like an eternity and starting a new job this month was the culprit for my lack of preparation. 
As I usually fish alone, this event was different, I had decided to team up with Ty Hibbs, a local angler that spends more time on the water in one week than I do in a month.  Not being able to pre-fish as  I usually do, I was leaving the scouting up to Ty, I felt very comfortable going into the tournament on his knowledge alone being he always seems to find the fish.

Well, at 9:30 pm the night before the tournament, we changed our plans.  Originally we were going to fish Lake Pontchartrain from several different locations, but a last minute scouting trip by Ty had us dumbfounded.  The fish were not where they were supposed to be.  So we decided it was time to load up and head west.  Around 10 pm we hit the road and were on our way to Lake Charles to follow the same route I did the year before for this same tournament.  After several stops, and a dozen cups of coffee, we arrived at our launch point around 2 a.m.  Safe launch light was 3 a.m., we got our yaks unloaded, prepared all of our tackle and were watching the clock with anticipation and a little bit of anxiety.  We were very cautious with where we were launching and wanted to keep it quiet to the rest of the night owls on the road, so with every passing car, we would turn our headlights off and sit in the darkness.  When suddenly a vehicle pulls around the turn and then slows to a crawl, I couldn't imagine who it was, other than maybe the poh poh, coming to investigate what we were doing, but when the vehicle turned in, it was obvious who it was, Brendan "Lego" Bayard and his fishing partner Lance.  I couldn't help but laugh.  As we helped unload their yaks and joke about following each other to different launch spots within the area, the clock hit the top of the hour.  We dropped the yaks in the water and the race was on.  Four us peddling like the Flintstone's heading for a brontosaurus burger, we all headed to the dock lights that were in front of us to pick up a quick 5 specs and then head in another direction for sunrise trout. 
As we pulled up, there was already a boat in place, and they were bringing specs up one by one, I flanked their left, and Ty flanked their right, Brendan then eased around me and flanked my left, and Lance worked another area in the darkness.  Within seconds Lego was bringing in the specs, he would bring them yak side quietly and out of view of anyone, as to not raise suspicion that he was on to something, and he was.  It didn't take him 15 minutes to fill his bag, I knew they weren't beast, but they were more than the croakers and dinks I was pulling in.  Finally the boat left and then Lance and Lego headed off into the darkness.  Ty and I stayed, we landed 10-15 specs within minutes of the chaos disappearing into the darkness behind us, I even pulled in an 18" flounder and a red, but no keeper specs.
We were now 15 minutes behind schedule for our next launch location, so we peddled back to the truck, loaded up and went to spot number two.  You wouldn't believe what we saw when we pulled up.  Yep, it was Lego's truck.  At this point I knew we were going to have to do something different, we decided to run further south than the dynamic duo in an attempt to make it to an area I fished last year that proved productive.  As we passed Brendan and Lance, it was made clear that they had fish in their bags, nothing special from what they said, but anything was better than what I had. 
As we made it nearly a half mile past them, we came across some bait piled up along the banks, and there were some trout in the area, I landed one then Ty landed one, I stayed closer to the bank as Ty worked the waters a hundred yards or so off the bank.  I then decided it was time to find some small reefs, I took my jig rod and chunked the matrix shad behind me and began peddling as I was working a topwater in front of me.  Within 100 yards, I landed a spec in front, while at the same time my jig hung up on a reef and took my rod right out of the yak and to the bottom of the lakes floor.  I landed the trout, put it in the bag, and then began my search for my rod. Within 10 minutes I was hooked up and relieved to be reeling in my Bullbay rod and Shimano reel.  I made some safety adjustments to my reef finding strategy and began further south again, when bam, another fish on, and then another, and then another.  It was obvious at this point that these little reefs were holding some fish.  As soon as I noticed my rod tip bouncing up and down from the jig hanging up on shells on the lakes floor, I would turn the yak and start working the area.  It worked flawlessly all day, find some shells, and you find the fish.  I ended up with over a limit of trout and a limit of reds within 4 hours of working this technique.  They weren't the big female trout that I was looking for, but they would end up being enough to weigh in.
As the time moved closer to 1 p.m. I knew we had to make it back to the truck in time for our nearly 3 hour drive to the weigh in at Cabela's in Gonzales.  Not happy with the fish we had, we had to call it quits and head in.  Being it wasn't far to the truck, I decided I would make a last ditch effort and through out two jigs to troll back.  Big mistake, within seconds both rods bowed over like I just hung a tank, one was going left and the other was going right.  I grabbed the closest one and began the fight, the drag was screaming and I couldn't gain an inch on the fish.  As the yak spun around, so did the other fish on the rod that was still in the rod holder.  Now I had two screaming drags, and the fish were tag teaming each other and wrapping lines on everything, at one point I looked 

 back and every rod in my black pack was wrapped up in fishing line from the rod in the rod holder.  I finally got one of the fish yak side, it was  red, and as I began to clip the Boga grip on the fishes lip, the other fish took off and took the yak side red with him.  At this point, I'm yelling to Ty that I need help, and he's next to me laughing at the circus that's going on.  Ty took my rod from the rod holder, I landed one fish, cut the line after I had him boated, and then cut the line of three other rods in order to free the nest of knots that had been created.  I then began to fight the next red by hand, pulling the line in foot by foot until finally, the red escaped capture and straightened out the hook.  It was a sight to see, and needless to say, after that, I headed straight to the truck.
As we reached the truck, we were both a little bummed, we both had our limit, but we didn't think we had anything close to finishing in the top 10 of tournament.  And with our tails tucked between our legs with 5 small specs each and stories of the big ones that got away, we were on our way east to Cabela's.
As we arrived, I was surprised to see the amount of people in line to weigh fish already, at this point I was now convinced that maybe I shouldn't even take my fish bag out of the truck, but I did.  We signed in, sat our bags at the end of the line and began listening to the stories around the table.  It appeared that we weren't the only ones that didn't have a good day.  In fact, after hearing all the stories of people that didn't catch fish at all, my spirits began to lift.  As the scales opened, the weighing began, first it was one fish, than three fish, than one fish, I was surprised to say the least.  This tournament is usually one where some big mules are brought in, but not today.  The only mule brought in was by Steve Lessard who weighed in 5 fish and one of them broke the 4 lbs mark. Steve is always one of the guys you have to look out for at weigh ins, if he is fishing, you can bet he's going to be at the top of the board come cut off time.  After Steve loaded up the basket, it was time, time for me to grab my bag and see what I had.  All I knew was I had a bag full of fish, but not really sure where they would fall, I opened it up, sorted through the smaller ones and put my five in the basket.  I was very surprised to see the scale floating between the 7.5 and 8 lbs mark. WOW, 2nd place and only two more people to weigh in.  I couldn't believe it when the weight held true to the end.  Steve Lessard ended with Big Fish and 1st place, I had 2nd place and the Trout Calcutta, Brendan "Lego" Bayard had 3rd, Denis Sognier 4th, and Ty Hibbs, in his first kayak tournament, had 5th. 
What I thought ended in a poor showing but a fun day, ended with a bang and a big surprise placing.  I couldn't have been happier with my performance given the lack of fishing conditions that everyone endured this day, the sun shined, the wind blew, the tide moved slightly, but the big fish just were not biting.
Congratulations to everyone that participated and placed in this event, and Thank You to Pack & Paddle and Cabela's for your continued support for the BCKFC AOY Series, it has been a fun year thus far, and with only two events left in the race, it's still anyone's game.

Until next time,

Stay Safe & Catch1

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Getting Back to My Roots---Bass Fishing


This week I had to take a trip to Nashville, Tn, for work.  As I arrived in Nashville, I did something I rarely do, I checked in on Facebook.  Why I did it, I will never know, but rest assured there will be many more check ins in my future.  Within minutes, my phone started blowing up, and one of the messages was from Craig Dye.  Craig is a native Cajun from Louisiana, we met two years ago in the Everglades while fishing the AFWC, Craig finished 2nd there and we have stayed in touch ever since.  I even put Craig on reds when he makes his way back south to La, from his current residence in the Nashville area.
Craig asked if I would have any free time to come fish a tournament within minutes of where I was staying, I quickly replied that if he could round up the equipment in time, I was in.  Well the next day, Craig picked me up from my hotel, brought me to Bass Pro so I could get some flip flops and clothes, all I had with me was business attire, and we were off. 
When we reached the launch location, I was in awe, I had never fished a lake like this, the scenery was breath taking, the water was clear, and it was surrounded by giant slabs of rock and cliffs that ranged 80 feet high and the water ranged from 0-55 feet in depth.  Craig informed me that Chad Hoover with Hook1 was having a yak delivered to the launch for me to use.  I was a little nervous at first being I only fish out of Hobies, but when it arrived, I began smiling.  Chad had not only had a Hobie delivered, but in true Hoover Nashville fashion, had a Hobie PA 14 owned by country singer Easton Corbin delivered. 
As anglers showed up and rules were given, we hit the water.  No depth finder, no map, no clue where I was, and borrowed equipment from 5 different people, but I was on my way.  Every 5 minutes, I would yell out to Craig, how deep is it, what's around the bend, where is the ledge, what's the water temp, I bombarded him with all the questions I would usually have answered had I been at home.  When we reached our point, there was someone already fishing it, I kept my distance and Craig kept his, and on my third cast, I landed my first largemouth of the day and was on the board.  The jig & craw hit its mark, he wasn't big, but from what I was told, he was good enough to place if I landed another one. 
Over the next three hours, it was clear that the jig was the way to go. I threw topwater, crank baits, and spinners, but the Jig is all that would produce. I was able to land 6 more fish during the tournament, and based on conversations with other anglers, I was sitting pretty for a good finish, as others weren't catching much of anything, or at least they weren't telling the new guy if they were. 
As we made our way around the last bend headed back to weigh in, we came across 8-10 anglers that were all headed in.  As they paddled their yaks forward, I sat back for a minute in hopes for one more cast at a spot that was calling my name.  As the herd of anglers made it about 40 yards ahead of me, I yelled out, got another, and thankfully that fish surpassed the 18'' mark, and at that point I knew I was taking the win home to La.

As I walked up to the scales, I had a big grin on my face, thinking I just won this tournament in the last 12 minutes of play, what a story.  Well, as in true fashion, fellow Alabama deep see fishing rodeo, and IFA cohort, Scott Harper(who I actually invited to fish) walks up with a grin on his face.  I knew this couldn't be good.  When I asked him how he had done, he said he caught the same amount of fish as me, and then finished that statement with "I caught a 19'' Smallmouth."  My
Scott Harper's Smallmouth Beast
smile dropped, did I really just get beat by a smallmouth, how does a smallmouth beat a largemouth,?  I was dumbfounded to say the least, but then it hit me, two out of towners, with zero knowledge of the waters, may go home with first and second place, now that's a cool story.  Realistically, I was just excited to fish for bass again, it has been over 13 years since I have targeted or fished a bass tournament, and it felt good to get back to what I used to know, and even better to know that I still had a little knowledge, luck, and gusto to make it happen in the world of green trout.
Well as the cash was handed out, Scott and I both walked out happy, Scott left with around 300 bucks, and I left with enough to cover the clothes I had just purchased hours earlier in order to not have to fish in a business suit, and it was worth every penny.
If you ever get the chance to get on the water around the Nashville area, make sure to check out the crew at Kayak Bass Fishing TN, and Tennessee Kayak Anglers.  They are all first rate anglers and first class individuals, I borrowed rods from strangers, while others walked up with tackle boxes offering up whatever lures I chose to fish with.  It was a true display of southern hospitality and I am grateful for the opportunity to have fished with each and every one of them. 
Special thanks to Craig Dye for making this day possible, Chad Hoover for the yak, Ron Champion for the lures, Jeremy and Sarah Meiers, Geoff Luckett, Mike Mclean, and anyone else that helped make this day memorable.  Dinner was great following the event, and yes, I bought for Craig, but the stories and company were even better.  Thanks for a great trip Tennessee.

Until Next Time,

Stay Safe and Catch1

Sunday, June 8, 2014

SUNCOAST Tarpon Shootout 2014...kayak style

If you have ever considered chasing the acrobatic, high flying, daredevil fish some refer to scientifically as Megalops Atlanticus, while others refer to them as poon, silver king, or just plain ole tarpon, now is the time.  On the west coast of Florida, June is prime time to get into some giant pods of tarpon.  The tarpon migration in the Sarasota, Fl area is around mid may and is really heating up in June and will last until around September according to several of the local tarpon guides and anglers within the area.  So when the call came from Mike McDonald and Rusty Driver that it was time for us to head south and get into the Suncoast Tarpon Shootout, we couldn’t resist.  Jason Austin and I fished this tournament last year and I was fortunate enough to place second from a kayak, a feat of luck for the beginner that I was, and we have been waiting and talking about the tournament on a weekly basis ever since.
On Wednesday, Jason and I packed our bags, loaded the truck, and started on our way around 6:00pm, we were so excited about seeing another silver monster tail walk across the water like a porpoise at Sea World, we didn’t even turn the radio on the entire trip down. Day One Tarpon Air Show
Team Kaku captain Jamie Hooks
Awards Jason Austin a
Kaku SUP 12 Honu
As we got within two hours of Sarasota, we called Mike McDonald, a close friend that was allowing us to crash at his house and tell us where the fish were, to update him on our status.  Mike then informed me that if we could get to Anna Maria Island by 5 a.m. he would take us out on the boat to chase some poon.  As I was relaying the phone discussion to Jason, I could feel my brain bouncing off the back of my skull from slamming into the headrest as Jason put the gas pedal of the H.O.W redfish truck to the floor.

Tarpon below the kayak
We arrived at the location and met up with Mike, Red Dog, and Chris Conley(former Ole Miss punter) and we loaded up the boat and were on our way.  I was like a kid on Christmas Eve, I asked every question to this boat full of well oiled, highly respected, tarpon extraodaniares, like how long do you let them hold the bait, do you set it right away or reel it, where in the column do they usually strike, what do you do when they jump, what patterns are we looking for, how do you handle a 14’ hammerhead attack, do you ever get a double hookup, I asked it all.  Remember, this is only my second trip targeting tarpon, yes I placed second last year, but I’m confident that was a fluke all the way, and I also landed one in the Everglades four months ago, but I was fishing snook that day and I am still confused how that one happened.  I wanted to mentally prepare myself for every possible situation that could present, or at least I thought I would prepare myself.

After a 10 minute boat ride we turned the corner into the pass and there they were, Tarpon rolling everywhere, and of course there were already 40 boats in play in the area, but in the world of tarpon you learn quickly that there are no personal boundaries, every inch of water is in play. We stayed in the area for what felt like eternity, but was likely only 30 minutes.  My heart was racing nonstop from the second the engine cut off,  like a boy chasing his first kiss behind the video games at the local skating rink.  From there we cranked up the horsepower and made our way down the beach, it didn’t take long for Mike to look back and say,”get ready boys, there they are.”
I jumped up grabbed my rod and threw the trolling motor over board like it was my boat, I can only imagine what was going through Mike’s mind as I blindly took control over his vessel.  Within minutes I was hooked up, and yep, I pulled the hook.  All those questions I was asking and they were answering went right out the window.  With tarpon and circle hooks, you have to reel down on them hard, and I don’t mean rod bending, I did that, I mean your rod tip has to actually be bowed over like it’s about to snap and then after that you can get in three or four good hook sets like it’s a 12 pound largemouth or a 50 pound redfish.  I was devastated, but then everywhere I looked I could see pods of tarpon rolling in every direction and it didn’t take me long to get back into the game.  During my self pitty party, Mike was able to hook up with another silvery
Underwater Manatee View
beast, and it was on.  Mike reeled it down until he couldn’t reel anymore and then set the hook, wham, bam, thank ya mam, and the show began.  This fish exited the water like an underwater missle headed to the stars, again, and again, and then on her third double tandom, triple over step summersault, one and a half backflip, she spit the hook.   Mike was working her too, from the front to the back, the left to the right, he got in every angling position possible and I was in aww while taking in every move and every response he had attempting to counteract the fishes every move, I wasn’t going to lose my next one.  Tarpon Air Show #2
Mike quickly said look, throw over there, well when the king speaks, the servants listen, and before my crab could get inches below the surface, I said the words,”here we go” and I was hooked up.  I reeled down until the drag sounded off and then I set the hook again and again and again.  All that was going through my mind was mimic Mike, do what Mike did, I felt like that kid in the early 90s commercial, I wanna be wanna be like Mike.
The tarpon made a short run and allowed me to gain some line on her, and then it happened, she came out of the water like a bullet, I would have sworn she was 12 feet long and 700 lbs, later I was informed she was between 140-170 pounds,  but I didn’t care, to me she was a beast even if she was 70 pounds.  As she landed back in the water from her double twist, triple sidewinder, backwalled barrel role, I thought, I got her, I got her, I made it through the aerial show and she is still on the end of my line. Then I heard her summon me from the depths, “Negative Ghost Rider” and at about that time she came back up, and this time she pulled a fast one, she went straight up and shook her head back and forth so fast it became a blur, she didn’t spin, she didn't twist, she didn’t flip, in the Olympics she would have been scored a 0.001 for her performance, but what she did with that not so colorful headshake was throw my hook.  I was like, my line broke, Mike chuckled and said no it didn’t, she threw it.  As I reeled in my empty hook, there was no pity party to be had, I was so stoked I couldn’t find a reason to be upset. 
Actual Picture of us
Mike immediately cranked the trolling motor on high to catch up with the pod, and when we got in front of them we all cast our lines, if our lines were lighted it would have looked like a hundred dollar firework exploding in every direction,  5 people on a 17 foot flats boat is a tight squeeze to say the least, thankfully almost the entire boat was deck. 
In the back corner of the boat, sitting in the shadows came the subtlest yet excited voice, it was Jason, “I think I’m” and before he could get “on” out of his mouth the reel started screaming,  and I mean screaming, this was a big fish, and she was making a run to the Swollfest tournament in Grand Isle, la.  She never let up, she didn’t twist, she didn’t turn, she didn’t jump, it was like in the movie Prison Break when the guard said, “we gotta runner,” and just like in the movie unfortunately, during that run she was able to spit the hook and maybe, just maybe, made it to Swollfest in time.
Minutes later, Mike hooked up again, that’s 5 hook ups  within 30 minutes, but this time Mike had this fishes number, or at least we thought.  He fought her through thick and thin, jumps, twirls, flips, runs, everything.  At one point the fish appeared to have given up and even laid on her side along the side of the boat like it was all over with, but in the blink of an eye she took off again, this time she ran out about 50 yards and began her display, after two jumps, she did the famous tail walk, and during her stroll on top of the water she began that head shake that I had witnessed just 20 minutes earlier and then it happened, she spit the hook after a nearly 15 minute battle.  Tarpon 5 Anglers 0
After this fish, we decided to call it a day, after all we haven’t slept in over 30 hours.  After visiting tackle shops for more crabs and intel we headed back to Mikes to relax.  With all that was running through my mind I couldn’t help but get up and go back on the water, alone.  I sabki’d my own bait and started my search, I came across one pod of tarpon but they weren’t biting, at least they weren’t biting the freshly caught Threadfins I was using.  So, I decided to target a smaller fish and within minutes and the sun going down I landed a Spanish Mackeral on a shrimp creole colored Matrix Shad.  I loaded up the yak and took my hour drive back to Mikes, and sat up with Jason discussing the next days tactics.
As 4 a.m. rolled around Jason and I jumped in the truck and headed to the beach. As we arrived I learned that my live well wasn’t working properly and I had to hand fill it with enough water to keep the crab alive, I also left the power on just in case it decided to change its mind and start working, as it has done in the past.  Within 30 minutes the first pod of tarpon showed up, as I stealthily approached I suddenly realized I was in the middle of the pod, and as I was rearing back to cast, my confused live well decided it wanted to be a part of the game, and it let out the most awful squealing sound you could imagine.  The
Tarpon Everywhere
tarpon erupted around and beneath me like I was peeing on a buddy from the top bunk.  It was mania in every direction except in the direction of my crab.  Fortunately Jason was a quarter mile behind me and was able to hook up with one of them until it made a quick run and broke his braided line.  After a couple more hours, we decided to call it quits and go get ready for the captains meeting and the tournament the next. Playing With Some Snook
Tournament morning we arrived at the launch spot and hit the water about 5:45 a.m. with a safe fishing light of 6.  After a 20 minute paddle and the sun beginning to break over the horizon, we could see flashes of what looked like white caps surrounding us.  Jason quickly yelled out, “its tarpon, they are everywhere.”  We had
The Battle Begins
just peddled right into a pod of poon that was without question larger than the size of a football field.  With a quick look at the time and a confirmation that we were safe to fish, Jason and I immediately cast our lines out.  Within seconds, I heard the sound of a squealing reel along with a squealing voice, “Fish On…..Fish On.” Jason was on.  As I grinned from ear to ear, I reeled my line in to avoid getting tangled in Jason fish.  As I casted out immediately in another direction, I grabbed the camera and held it close. 
This fish was pulling Jason’s kayak around so fast I thought he was gettting up on a plane.  It pulled him 50 yards in one direction and then spun him around to head 100 yards in the other direction, line was ripping, the fish was jumping, and Josh Maitland and I sat there and watched in envy that it wasn’t us, but in excitement that it was Jason.  After 10-20 minutes, Jason had the fish yak side and was holding the leader.  In this tournament all you have to do is get a leader touch release to consider it a catch, that and a picture or confirmed outside witnesses. 
As Jason is screaming, ”I got the leader, I got the leader,” I dropped everything trying to make it up close enough for a solid picture.  You could see the fish at this point swimming alongside the kayak and Jason grinning like a little girl that just got her first kiss.  As I was fumbling around to get situated, apparently the tarpon “snapped into a slim jim,” because as I approached, the beast took a nose dive below Jason’s kayak and to the other side, nearly flipping the yak.  During this run Jason had a slight equipment failure, his reel fell off the rod.  Now he has a 80-100 pound tarpon running at mach 10 trying to flip his yak, and he is stranded with a reel in one hand and a rod in the other.  As the fish made it to the end of his run and Jason got his yak turned for another Sarasota sleigh ride, the acrobat show began, with jump after jump until it finally was able to throw the hook.  It was a leadered catch & release experience for the ages, and I can assure you that neither Jason, Josh, nor myself will ever forget.
As the screaming subsided, high fives given, and the excitement slowed, we called the tournament director to record the release.  We then moved up and down the coast line in search of more pods, and we found them.  We saw well over a thousand tarpon on tournament day, we saw them rolling, tailing, splashing, swimming below us by the hundreds, but we couldn’t get another one to bite.  At one point we were in the middle of 57 boats on the flats while we were following the pods.  We probably saw 10-12 hook ups and only one fish landed between all the boats.  The Tarpon had moved to the 20 foot depth line, and while we could see them, we couldn’t get down to them, and if we were lucky enough to get our baits down, they weren’t biting it.  Around 1:00 I paddled up to Jason and asked if he was ready to call it.  Jason quickly replied, “I’m only out here waiting on you.”  With that in mind, along with my pride sitting at the bottom of the Gulf, I decided it was time to bow down to the Silver King and call it quits.  At least I wasn’t going home empty handed, after all, I get to travel with, fish with, and go to the weigh in with a winner and a true hero to this country, with a story, a timeline, and pictures to accompany it all.
While not placing in a competitive event is always hard for me to accept, being a part of this experience and being able to document Jason’s first tarpon release ever, sits higher on my pedestal of accolades than any first place finish I have ever taken home. 
I learned a lot this trip, and I feel more prepared than ever for next year, and we are already putting our plan in play to revisit the same waters, but with different strategies that will hopefully yield us both greater results. 
So, while only one of us gets to come home with the cash, we are both coming home winners.  And if your ever looking for a true lesson in humility, it’s time you try to chase tarpon.  These prehistoric creatures have evolved over the years and adapted to a way of survival that even when hooked can elude capture time and time again. Believe me when I say, this is not your typical saltwater species, it is something you have to experience firsthand if you ever want to get the full story, and a show to go with it.  Sometimes the story can be put on paper, but with a fish like this, you’re going to have to live the experience to truly understand what it’s like.
Until next time,
Stay Safe & Catch1