Got home on schedule just after 5 and staged gear. Wife got home at 525 and backed the truck to the cart, gave me hugs and kisses, wished me good luck and took off with her sister. 20 minutes later I was getting on I10 and a few minutes later I was idling in afternoon traffic. What was running through my mind was all the scouting I’d done in the past few weeks and where I was going to fish. Decisions, decisions. I got out of Belle Chasse right around dusk and and as I entered the marsh prairie my thoughts went to the unbelievable amount of bugs hitting the windshield and praying I had enough bug cleaning fluid to actually make it to Empire. Never seen anything like it, but I made it to Delta Marina during the “seminar” but was too late to catch the whole thing and figured that since they didn’t invite me to speak, I didn’t need to go. I quickly found Josh Redd and Wade Barbay, 2 of my roomies for the weekend, exchanged pleasantries and started having fun. There was probably 40 people or so and it was great to see the regulars. I ate a couple cold burgers like cookies for dinner and eventually went up to the room with my stuff. It wasn’t bad at all and above all else, clean. I invited myself into the huge yacht that Sean Rastanis and a bunch of guys had rented for lodging. It had a beautiful commercial kitchen on the first deck. The second deck had a huge bar and living room, complete with gaudy 90’s LEDs glowing and changing colors. Looked like a hangover ready to happen, missing only a stripper pole which I assume would have come out of the bar had I found the right buttons. My visit was brief and I encountered an ungrateful, self-imposed outsider who I convinced to make himself welcome upon the boat. Word is he shamed some youngsters into drinking whiskey on board instead of their usual beer and whine. Shortly afterwards I was in the bunk attempting to maneuver myself into a comfortable position on the substandard mattress. Between the tournament anxiety and mattress, it took a while to fall asleep. It was a restless night but I managed a few hours sleep.


We woke at 5 and I cranked up the microwave for some instant coffee and a couple frozen sausage, egg and cheese biscuits. They left a lot to be desired and made me wish I was eating at Tyd’s. After a thorough bowel evacuation, the three of us made our way to Joshua’s. Breck Hotard and his buddy Jay were there and pleasantries exchanged, I proceeded to dog Breck out for the Torqueedo he’d installed on his boat. Lowlife bass fisherman and other insults were shouted. They went north and we went south. Brock Miller had just serviced my drive to get rid of a nasty, aggravating squeak. When I pedaled away from the launch,
I noticed the squeak was gone, but not for long. A few minutes later it was back with a vengeance! So much for sneaking up on some fish this weekend. Just after sunrise, Josh caught the first trout, then Wade caught one. We were fishing the shoreline and I wasn’t getting hits so I peeled off to what used to be a pipeline surrounded by rozos and just after I caught my first fish, Josh and Wade pulled up. In that area, the 3 of us caught about 30 trout in the next hour, all using different baits. I caught a 17″ trout on a big Tail Chaser swim bait, Wade caught on Vuduencork, and Josh caught on topwater. The 17″ trout was the largest I’d caught since Ida and the first decent trout in Plaquemines parish during a few weeks of scouting. Ahhhhhhhhh. We did some scouting and found clean water on a shoreline where Josh caught a 26.75″ red and I caught a 25″, in pretty short order. We leisurely headed back to Delta Marina, my drive squeaking every stroke. Totally annoying!

After a shower and some clean clothes, I went down to the gathering that turned into the captain’s meeting. Eric Stacey and Josh Thompson had cooked up an enormous pot of delicious pastalya and we were eating like kings. Eric had also procured some double chocolate pecan cookies that were mighty fine. About a hundred people were there and it was awesome meeting some new people and hanging out with the regulars. Brock Miller was there with his Louisiana Custom Kayaks display. He reinspected my drive and declared Hobie had sent the wrong spline when replacing it this spring. Lovely, now I get to deal with that. Chris Cocheran was there with his Tail Chaser bait display, and 2 bags of my favorite 5″ curlytail chartreuse flake baits. Right next to him was the Backpacker and that PA14 360. Red ain’t my color but I had visions of grandeur. Me fishing the Hobie worlds in one just like it! Michael Ethridge gave the captain’s meeting sporting a fabulous Abraham Lincoln beard making us all ask, what part of Mississippi is that popular in? When that was over the party crowd went back into the floating bar to hurt themselves and my crew went back to our room. Luke Beslin had arrived during the festivities and made himself comfortable, making our four pack complete. I haven’t mentioned that there’s a pogie plant just south of the marina and the winds were directing a scent ranging from annoying to rancid, directly towards us through Friday night. Yummy! In our room, we discussed the impending weather and fishing options. I wanted to stage a vehicle at Yellow Cotton bay and launch at Joshua’s. We could just drift all the way. Nay said Josh, but Joshua’s it was to be. After a full day of fishing, the bed was more comfortable and I slept well.

Saturday: Game Time!

I heard Wade’s alarm at 4 and laid there a minute, but I was up. I walked outside to check the weather and the cold front had indeed passed us. A brisk north wind had developed, and from then on, it smelled like we were in salt water instead of cat food heaven. Wade was already on the road to watch an irate marina owner cursing out a certain tournament director in the dark. I got coffee and microwaved some totally mediocre biscuits while watching people scramble to leave. We headed to Joshua’s about 515 and arrived to angry seas coming over the bulkhead and launch. It was going to be a lovely pedal. We got our boats in the water and as I pedaled away from the dock I heard Tiffany Marcello say, ” I’m not going out there!”. As soon as I came out of the marinas minimal breakwater heading north, every 2nd or 3rd wave was breaking over my bow. The first 3/4 of a mile were pretty dicey. Once we got past a point, it was still breezy, but much better. At 6 we started casting and trolling in the dark. Josh cut into the marsh and I kept peddling, squeaking along. I pulled up in the pump station basin and Steve Lessard was there. I told him I knew I was in the right place if he was there and he said I was silly. I moved in and he moved out. I anchored and cast for a few minutes, nada. I moved a little and started casting the shoreline when I noticed Josh pulling into the basin. I cast at the spot where everyone launches and missed, then a solid trout hookup. 16 3/4″! I was giddy and told Josh I only needed 2 more fish and the sun was barelyup. He went into some marsh that wasn’t there on my last visit and came back a few minutes later with a 26.5″ red. Now he was giddy. We moved north and I caught another trout right in front of him. I kinda felt bad but knew it drove him to persist. I missed something huge on topwater, twice. I threw everything else I had at it but nada. I went into a cut and caught a 15″ red on topwater. Not even close, but reds were hitting topwater. I pedaled along the shoreline and cast at every micro cove until an explosion landed me a 24.5″ red. I was extremely excited and in 1st place for a little while, it drove me! I pulled into the marsh and tied a double rig with a Gulp shrimp on top, and curly tail on bottom, both on 1/8 oz Deathgrip XL. Caught another trout and a white trout right away. I heard someone talking behind me, turned and saw 3 older guys in a bay boat. They shut off the engine and drifted out, talking with me as they passed. I thanked them for politeness, turned around, cast , and caught a flounder. Yes, I was shaking when i put it on the board and found it to be about an eighth too small. I was bummed out, but it proved that I could catch a flounder in the area, and became resolved. I started beating the flat and came across a friendly guy, we spoke briefly and I told him about the flounder.  I kept beating the bank. I crossed paths with Butch Ridgedell who told me the judge denied his biggest red.  I cut in the marsh anchored and started casting.  The current was strong and I thought my anchor was dislodged but upon inspection,  my anchor trolley had broken.  Lovely.  I remembered passing an Eric Stacey shell bank and got out on it to retie the rope. Back in business. By this time the sun was completely out and the high pressure had set in. The bite was slowing. I caught up with Josh near a cut and told him about the flounder. We came to a cut and because of our position I said you get the right point and I’ll get the left. We did, and he caught an 11 1/2″ flounder.  His slam was complete and he was beaming.  Mine was not but I was resolved that I could catch a flounder.  I was about 4 miles upwind of the launch and just started drifting. No pedal, no squeak. I went really slow and literally pounded the shoreline.   I caught a bull red, then a ribbon fish which I’ve never seen alive, beautiful! I didn’t get any pecks on the Gulp which told me the bite was off completely. At one point I was about 10 feet from a redfish and flipped the gulp in front of him 3 times. It was like the fish was asleep,  it didn’t even move.  I pounded and pounded.  I passed the pump station and then Butch again.  I was the last who had launched at Joshua’s and went north.  I could see about 6 people ahead of me doing the same thing as me. I started getting baitfish pecks on my Gulp again and knew the bite was back on, and pounded! I pulled into a big cut and cast on a shell bank with water pouring over it, nada. April Dubroc and Jay passed and were still in front of me. About 30 yards past the cut I felt the bump and instead of a snag, I broke the neck on a flounder and flipped it in the boat. It was 12″ and I yelled that I had my flounder! April congratulated me and I didn’t even know she was there! It was 240 when I caught the flounder and extreme visions of grandeur definitely took over.  I was glowing! I kept pounding thinking I might upgrade the flounder at the last minute and was rewarded with another thump, that wound up being a big, nasty bull drum. By the time I got it off, I cast one more time and hooked the bottom.  I couldn’t get it off and broke my line. Dat’s a wrap, and I was 3/4 mile from the launch.  I had pedaled past the shrimp factory and heard a voice calling from behind.  It was April calling so I waited until she pedaled over.  She had caught a 26.75″ red and took her pic just before 3, but the app wouldn’t let her register the catch. She pulled up along side and handed over her phone.  I backed up a step or two and got her to the registration page, and gave her back the phone. She got it registered in time and was giddy until she got a rejection email a few minutes later. She had taken the picture standing up and her hand was not on fish, nor the identifier.  That mistake cost her a few hundred bucks but taught her an important lesson and later earned her the dosgris award for the year. At the launch, Luke Beslin pulled up and reported he’d damaged his drive about a mile from the launch before sunup and that was the furthest he’d gone. Brutal. Mine squeaked annoyingly all day, but did the job.

When I got to Delta Marina,  I parked right next to the club trailer and walked right past all the tournament directors who were peering into a laptop,  with a big grin on my face. They all asked why I was so happy and I asked to look at the laptop. They ran me off. I got my ice and went to the room to clean up when my phone rang. It was Josh Thompson who said to come see him. I informed I was naked and he requested I dress first. Now I was really excited because I knew he was calling me for a lie detector test and that meant I was up there in the standings.  I walked down and waited my turn until Matt Dearman walked out of the floating disco and it was my turn. I kept trying to relax and calm down because I could feel my heart pounding.  When it was over, I asked the guy if my blood pressure was off the chart and he said no, but my heart rate was. I walked over to the festivities and found my crew, got something to eat and mingled a little. I sat down when Michael Ethridge started doing awards and was amazed at how many people had caught bigger fish than me, but I had a slam. When he started giving out slams, the money and prizes were bigger.  My heart rate definitely went up.  I’m pretty sure Josh got 5th,  and a healthy check. When Breck Hotard got 4th I was really pumped because he’d told me he had beaten me and I believed it. I got 3rd and was so excited to get to address competitors and talk about my day. I was pretty honest about where I’d gone and what I’d done.  I won a Power pole setup complete with battery and some cash, not to mention the coolest trophy we’ve ever had. When Matt Dearman won 2nd I had to laugh because we passed each other 2 or 3 times during the day. Awesome! 3 of the top 5 were in our area and 2 were just south of us. Very cool. I won a Dakota Lithium Battery, fishing tools and a fish cleaning table at the raffle from $60 worth of tickets, pretty lucky! I had so much stuff, I had to get help to get it back to the truck. Never had that problem before.  Once I’d put my stuff away, I sat on a picnic table by the stairs that went up to my room and talked with people who walked by. Sean Rastanis was pretty happy because of the success of the tournament and the long hours he’d put in to make it happen,  and getting happier. I declined the invitation onto the yacht and called out Matt Dearman as he walked by. He was an unknown but has announced his presence, sneaky dog. I showered and slept like a baby till 730. My crew declined fishing Sunday because of conditions so that’s a wrap. 

Thanks to the officers, club and sponsors for an awesome event! Congratulations to the winners and all who competed in very difficult conditions.  I’ll see some of y’all at the Championship and you know,  I can’t wait!


More pics in comments and comments welcomed!