Saturday, August 30, 2014

Coming together to give something back to the sport of kayaking

Today, two outstanding organizations came together to bring awareness and education to the sport of kayaking and kayak fishing.  Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club partnered up with Cabela's, the World's Foremost Outfitter to help introduce the public to the world of kayaks.
In an intimate setting, nestled upstairs in a private classroom of Cabela's, in Gonzales, La, around 30 people joined together to learn about different aspects of kayaking and kayak fishing in Louisiana. 
The classroom setting was led by Bayou Coast very own, Todd Lewis, also known as Yak a lou, a retired enforcement agent of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.  Todd started the presentation with the importance of safety and went on to cover different regulations set by the state, and recommendations to follow based on his own experiences and knowledge from years on the water, both in a kayak and during his enforcement days. 
Todd covered things such as flotation, proper clothing for summer and winter days,  safety gear such as lighting, whistles, flares, and first aid,  and he also disputed the myth of drowning while in waders.
From safety, the class was led in many different directions, from landing fish the proper way, the different types of fishing line and when to use them, categories of rods and reels, and then finally closed off the morning session with a little paddle talk.
After lunch we all arrived back to class to watch a few video clips of some big fish being landed from a kayak and then ventured in to knot tying.  Several within the group shared the most common knots used, from simple palomar knots to the improved Albright knot used to mesh braided line to fluorocarbon line.  Everyone in the class had two different colored, climbing style ropes to practice their knot tying, which came in handy to help distinguish between the knots used to tie braid to flouro.
From the classroom setting, we made our way to the Cabela's lake.  There we had different stations that slowly became hindered by the onslaught of rain.  Within the stations, the class was broken up into several groups and each group made their way through the stations learning different casting techniques, actions of certain lures, entry and exit into a kayak, and of course the class favorite, falling out of a kayak and practicing re-entry.
After an hour or so, the rain began to come down harder and the class slowly began to dissipate, some of us brought our rods and tackle to try our hand at a little bass fishing before we headed home.   Thankfully it wasn't a tournament, because Sherman Walker would have been taking home all of the money as he was quick to find the sweet spot of the lake.
Over all this was an excellent workshop for both the beginner and the intermediate kayaker, and for anyone that has any interest in getting involved in the fastest growing sport to hit the water.
A special thanks for Cabela's and Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club for putting this together and having a great group of leaders that were willing to give up their Saturday to introduce a classroom full of strangers to the world of kayaks.  A special thanks to Todd Lewis, Craig Brown, Sherman and Norman Walker, Daniel Biggs, Elliot 5" fishfinder Stevens, Josh Thompson, Jorge "Bigredbobber", knot tying guru Mike LaFluer, and especially Melanie Boone, of Cabela's, for orchestrating a well oiled workshop.  

Until next time,

Stay Safe & Catch1

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Make memories last, take a rookie fishing


This month there are a lot of things happening that will change what you are doing and chasing on the water.  The trout are slowly moving further inshore, the waters are clearing up in areas enticing some good sight fishing for reds, teal season is on the brink of beginning, and hurricane season is in full swing.  And with everything changing and transitioning around us, there is no better time to introduce the sport of kayak fishing or just fishing to a beginner.  You can usually do some searching around within known speckled trout hide a ways or travel routes to help fill your ice bag, or you can tuck into a pond or two with clear water, to hide from the late summer winds and easily pick up a limit of redfish.  
Recently, I received a phone call from two guys I work with, one of them intrigued by inshore fishing, and the other intrigued by the idea of fishing from a kayak.  It didn’t take long for us all to get our schedules cleared and lined up for a trip of new beginnings.  Being our trip was being planned around work schedules and family weekends; we had chosen a date that worked for us, not necessarily for Mother Nature. 
As the day arrived, there was a storm brewing south of the Gulf, rain chances were 70%, and winds were predicted at 25mph, and while the conditions weren’t ideal for fishing, they couldn’t have been worse for kayak fishing.  With that in mind, I made a change of plans from our Grand Isle destination, to Delacroix, an area that I knew, no matter what Mother Nature threw at us, we would be able to hide from her wrath and still be able to fish.  Dale, from Kentucky, would be classified as a beginner in both the kayak and fishing world, while Scott, from north Louisiana, falls into the, “That’s what we’re fishing from?” category, but they were both excited to be away in an unknown destination.
We started our day with safety first, PFDs, netting a fish, how to anchor, what to look for, how to flip the bail on the reel, and don’t feed the alligators.  As we made our way down a narrow canal, opening into larger marsh ponds, the east winds were blowing hard.  From this location I usually like to head north, but today I had decided to take a southern path so we could stop and anchor near every inlet that had water being blown through it, and following this strategy, it didn’t take us long to start filling the bag full of reds.  The first cut we came to had 5 redfish moving slowly throughout the opening feeding on anything coming through it.  I got Dale anchored up and in line
to catch his first Louisiana redfish.  Well, this is where I learned Dale was new to casting in unopened water.  The first cast landed in my kayak, I was anchored side by side to Dale, the second flew over my head and to my left, but the fish were in front of us, the third cast resulted in a close call followed by a lesson.  Without a fish landed, we pulled anchor and began to drift with the wind and talk about casting, the angles, the line flow, the weight of the lure, and the wind.  Within minutes, Dale had gone from a 0 on the 10 scale to a solid 5 to 7.  He was now throwing his Seein Spots Inline spinner and Vortex Shad along every grass bed and shoreline we drifted across with near precision.  Now it was time to focus and fish.
We pedaled our Hobie Outback’s upwind around some islands and then proceeded to let the wind drift us through them and within minutes we were landing fish.  As Dale landed his first red fish ever, he was almost speechless.  It was a gorgeous, bright copper colored, 25” beauty, and he fought it like it was going to be his last meal.   I kept telling him, let it run, take your time, enjoy the ride, but he was in tuna mode.  He would rare back on it and reel in the slack, rare and reel, rare and reel, it didn’t matter how much drag she pulled, he was going to get that fish in the net in record time, and he did.  The next one he hooked, he did the same thing and halfway to the yak, while trying to reel in the slack, the fish came off.  I explained to him that this isn’t like offshore fishing, you don’t rare and reel, let the rod do the work, keep the rod tip to the sky, and don’t ever let the line get slack in it, because when you do, bad things happen.  He learned quickly as the next red came to the yak worn out with the hook deeply set in the corner of its jaw.  As Dale finally calmed his excitement and admired his catch, he looked at me and said, “this is the biggest fish I have ever caught inshore, my kids are gonna freak out.” 
As the morning moved on, we continued to fill our limits when Scott finally called, he had been delayed and was coming in late.  We then turned around and headed back to the truck to unload the third kayak and get Scott some experience in his first yak.  Remember, Scott is no beginner, he knows what he’s doing in the world of baitcasters and bass fishing, BUT as most of you know, red fishing isn’t bass fishing.  This time we chose to head due east and then let the wind blow us back through a different part of the marsh than what Dale and I had been fishing earlier.  Scott was excited, but playing it cool the entire trip.  He was casting like a pro, asking technical questions about structure, patterns, and presentation.  I was impressed with his line of questioning, at least until he hooked up.  Scott went from Snoopy’s, Joe Cool, to Tommy Boy in his first sales call, when he caught the model car on fire.  I am pretty sure the people in Reggio new that he was hooked up, he was yelling and cheering and screaming like someone just dropped fire ants in his pants.  This red was pulling him everywhere, he was going between islands, then left and then right, and after nearly a hundred yard drag he landed the fish.  I was expecting it to be a 30 plus inch red with all the shenanigans going on, but it turned out to be a solid table fare 18 inch red, with the will and strength of a sea monster. 

As lunch time was approaching, and three limits of reds and a handful of bass were landed and iced, we made our way to the only place I know to bring out of town guest for some of the best poboys and mac & cheese around, Rocky & Carlos Restraunt and Bar.  After getting sun burned by a sun that never shined, and wind burned by east winds that never let up, it was nice to just sit back in a crowded restaurant and enjoy some cool air, a hot fried shrimp po-boy covered in roast beef debri, and a Barq’s root beer with friends. 

This trip is one that will go down in the books, I got to experience  a native of Louisiana lose his Rico Suaveness for a moment, and a Kentucky Wildcat sit speechless after he landed the largest inshore fish of his dreams.  Moments like this is what makes fishing what it is, figuring out where to fish, what to fish for and how to catch fish is a challenge and an accomplishment we all get to enjoy, but living and experiencing the excitement of someone new to the sport is what last for a lifetime.  So next time you are looking to fill a void, or just fill your weekend, pick up the phone and call someone that’s never fished before, whether you catch anything or not, I can promise you there will be at least one story made, that you can tell for years to come.


Until next time,

Stay Safe & Catch 1
All fish were caught on Seein Spots Inline Spinners, with Vortex Shad plastics, flukes, and Live Target topwaters, winds were 15-25, water was clear, temps were HOT, grass was matted and everywhere.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

When It All Comes Together

This past week has been a marathon to say the least. In the last 8 days I was able to get on the water 7 times in preparation for this past weekends IFA Kayak Tour in Lafitte, La.  Now, I get teased a lot about never working, or spending too much time on the water, but what most people don't realize is that no matter what, family and work always come ahead of fishing.  Just because I got on the water 7 times doesn't mean, I spent 7 days on the water.  In this particular instance, there were days that I fished off the road, days where I left my house at one in the morning to hit the water for an hour or two, but by 8 a.m. was headed to work in a suite and tie.  Other times I was working topwater or jigging waters after the house had settled and the kids were in bed.  I am fortunate to have a job with vacation days and a family that supports my habits and my passion, and I give a special thanks to my wife for standing with me every step of the way no matter what journey or path I choose to take.   
No matter what you do in life, you are competing, whether its sales, digging a ditch, shooting a bow, or fishing.  You may not always be competing against someone else, but you are competing, against the flight of the arrow, against the mud in the shovel, against the client you are trying to sell, against an individual, against the elements, against yourself, and in this case, against the fish.  And no matter who or what you are competing against, the sooner you realize it, and the sooner you prepare for it, the sooner you will see success.  Everything I do in life, I prepare, and I do my best to prepare more than whatever it is I am competing against.  You wanna compete and be in the upper echelon, you have to put your time in and you have prepare.  It's not always about being in the right spot at the right time, it's more about preparing for situations and knowing your response and actions before the situation ever presents itself. 
So the next time, you choose to approach someone with a sarcastic comment about how "it's not fair", or "you fish too much", or "your in the click", maybe your should step back and re-evaluate the preparation time you put in to something, verse those you are competing against.
Now that I am done ranting on preparation, lets get to the week.  I fished the waters or Venice, Buras, Delacroix, Basons, Golden Meadow, Fourcheon, Grand Isle, and I even spent some time in Hopedale.  I wanted to cover as much ground in as little time as I could for this event.  I had trips that resulted in nothing and I had trips that resulted in more numbers than I care to count.
As the week moved forward, I felt I was getting a good handle on what was going on and where the fish were.  I had fished from land, from kayak and from boat and I was finding fish in lots of directions. 
When Friday rolled around, I took a vacation day and met up with some buddies of mine to take their kids out on the boat and get on some trout and reds.  After they agreed to let me run the trolling motor and pick the spots for the first hour of the morning, we were off.  We made one stop near a shallow ledge and were able to land a couple of trout with one pig lost at the boat when we couldn't get the net out in time.  From there we made a quick 5 minute run over to a deep canal that has held trout in the past.  We threw topwater with good success and landing most of the bigger trout, while the kids were pulling in trout and small reds on Matrix Shad and Gulp under a cork.  This one canal is around 3 feet deep with an 8 foot hole at the end of it, before we left, I am confident we pulled over 100 trout out of 150 yard section of the canal, with only 30-40 of them being keepers, and of those, only 2 of them that would have sufficed for the tournament.
From there we made a 15 minute run to an open water reef where I was expecting to get into some Bull Reds, and as usual, topwater did the trick, we were able to land two good reds that were pushing the 40" mark, which is exactly what I was looking for. 
From there we cranked the motor to head north when we came across a school of jacks, and after one cast with a mirrordyne and a 53 minute battle, we ended the day with a giant jack, a box full of trout and a slot red or two.
Saturday was the day, the day were I put everything together and confirm all that I have learned from this week, to get a good predictor of what my tournament day would end up looking like. 
But in true fashion, the fish didn't cooperate.  I actually launched in the same spot 4 times on Saturday, because I knew the fish would eventually show up, but they never did.  This was a spot that I learned earlier in the week from a local, and both times I fished it, I quickly pulled out solid trout, and then quickly loaded up and left. 
I think I pedaled over 20 miles and launched 7 times on Saturday.  Nothing I did was working.  I even made phone calls to people I never call trying to figure out what has changed overnight.  The wind was still the same, the tide was still minimal, the water was still clear, but the fish were either lip locked, or they weren't there.  I ended Saturday with only 24''s total, a 15" red and a 9" trout.  Now I worked harder this day than any day combined, my confidence was still there, but my results weren't.
As Sunday morning rolled around, I had so many options running through my head it was driving me insane.  I kept telling myself stick with the plan, stick with the plan, but remember, the day before, the plan didn't work, at all.  As I cranked my truck and pulled out to the highway, I began to turn left when something made me turn right.  I was sticking to the plan and I was doing it with confidence.
As I arrived at launch number one, I was excited to see minimal people there, which later changed to some company, but it was still good.  All I needed was 15 minutes in this location, and I would know if the fish were there or not.  When 6 a.m. rolled around, I took my start picture and was in the water.  Within 10 minutes I landed a 15" trout and I knew the fish were there, but 50 cast later, not another bump, so I quickly loaded up and headed to spot two.
When I reached spot two I could see others off in the distance working the flats, and rather than head their direction, I went the other way and within 3 cast, I landed a trout that I never expected to be there.  It was actually one of those cast that you just chunk out there to get any loops or knots out of your line, but fortunately the lure landed on its mark.  I walked the Skitterwalk back to me and halfway there a giant explosion went off and my lure was gone, the fish wasn't fighting like normal, but kind of anchored down with a head shake here and there.  As the trout approached the kayak, I dipped the net and in he went, I was breathless when I looked in the net to see a 22.5" trout with my lure embedded in the lower lip.  I was so nervous, I paddled to the nearest piece of land as fast as I could so I wouldn't have any chance of him flopping into the water and escaping.  After a dozen pictures on the board, I then headed to launch 3.
As I reached launch three, there were a couple people in the area that were coming in, when I saw smiling faces and high fives coming from a couple of the anglers, I knew that what I was looking for was close by.  And after nearly an hour of searching, working flats, and ledges with jigs and Gulp I finally came across some redfish.  And they were big, the first one I landed was likely the largest in weight, but not in length, he had a girth like no bull red I have ever landed.  After that beast, I stayed on them, working an area back and forth for miles and picking up one here and another there.  At one point I fought a bull that I know broke the 50'' mark and he was the perfect fish, long and skinny.  As I wore him out and got him yak side, I put the net around his head and at the same time knocked my lure out of his mouth, I couldn't fit the fish in the net, and as I scrambled to grab the small of his tail while the rest of his body was in the net, he was able to slowly slide out free and swim away.  I was devastated, but I kept fishing to end up landing a bull that went 44.25" long. 
That brought my total inches to 66.75'', a great aggregate in my book for a two fish tournament.
As I rushed back to the truck to make the ride to Lafitte for the weigh in, I couldn't help but think about that one redfish getting away.  The craziness running through my mind was endless, could I win?, could I lose by an inch, will I make the top 5, will all my efforts pay off ?  My mind was racing.

Sometimes in life, you make decisions that don't make sense, sometimes you are just lead in a direction and you choose to follow blindly.  Well the day before the event, I told Brendan B a story about numbers.  All week, everywhere I turned I saw the number 66, at the gas pumps, on signs, on my odometer,  I even had a dream about the number. But as I was trying to embrace the number in my head and relate it to inches in the upcoming tournament, Brendan laughed at me and said, "Yeah right, 66''s, if you get that you will win, but I wouldn't count on it." We both sort of laughed it off, but it was in my mind no matter what.  I later came across the number 666, and thought UH OH, that's not what I want, but believe it or not, when I weighed in, I had a 1/8th inch deduction on my trout for an open mouth, and my final aggregate came to 66.63''s.  It's a weird story and possibly just a coincidence, but for me, it was spiritual guidance, and rest assured, the next time I get that feeling to turn right, when I want to go left, you can bet your butt, I will be following the feeling.

Congrats to all the winners, to all that participated, and to all in the youth division that showed up to display their talents, it was a great event and I look forward to seeing everyone at the championship.

Until Next Time,
Stay Safe & Catch 1