Friday – Day 1

After about 4 hours restless sleep, got on the road Friday at 4. No sausage biscuit but some good, rancid, gas station hot coffee.  Talked to a couple guys at the launch and met Josh Redd for a 6AM takeoff, just like the tournament would be Saturday. On a hunch, and wanting to stay away from Catfish Lake,  we went South.  I’d studied an area on Google Earth that looked promising. We pedaled an hour before we started fishing,  but as soon as we let the topwaters fly, we started catching.  There were lots of fish,  but no size. Right about then it started drizzling. Didn’t think it would last and I was already wearing a raincoat so I didn’t put on my rain pants.  Yeah, it never really stopped. We moved further south to my primary area of interest and started catching bigger fish. Josh caught a couple reds pretty easy. We stopped in a canal and had lunch right after catching a couple trout in the slack tide. We were pretty much at the far end of a loop and started heading back, catching quite a few more on the way back.  We didn’t see another boat or kayak all day, fabulous! The first kayak we saw was in the canal that goes to the lake. I heckled Breck Hotard until he realized it was me, then we exchanged unpleasantries. More familiar faces at the launch. Benjamin Day and Josh Thompson had just picked up so we jumped on their tailgates for a ride over the levee. Well, Josh jumped. I had to climb up Ben’s step and wheel to make it into the chest high bed. Pitiful putting an old fat guy through that!

Stopped at GoBears by the launch and was offered a free coffee. Captain Weta$$ heaven. Rolled over to the prestigious Gallano Inn and cleaned a few smaller fish I’d kept. A crowd was already forming on the trailer park side. Went over and started the tournament mind game conversations and showed a few people pics of the bigger trout I’d caught for the intimidation factor. Oh the joy! I’d been messing with people all week on Facebook but it’s a lot more fun in person,  when you can see the look on their face. Somehow the conversation turned to kayak bowel relief,  thanks again Eric Stacey. I went for a hot shower and it felt great to be warm and dry. Then back to the gathering.  The crowd had grown, where I was able to meet several people I’d conversed with on our group discussion page, really cool. We all enjoyed the fabulous pulled pork sandwiches and camaraderie, along with the cajoling and normal fishing lies, but are still waiting for napkins. At 7, the baits were distributed. The soft plastics were fine, the jigheads had too short a shank for me and I was unhappy with the hard bait. No topwater. That’s what we’d caught most our fish on and our hopes were squashed.  Josh and I rolled out and started rigging.  I’d had a reel crash so I also had to respool. I put the 1/8 oz jighead with the white curlytail, and the 1/4 oz on the long chartreuse swimbait.  I rigged the crawfish on the weighted hook, weedless,  and tied on the hard bait. All four rods ready to go, we were unconscious shortly after.

Saturday – Tournament Day

At 3 am, some knucklehead started his loud truck and made  bunch of noise outside.  Startled, I was awake.  I tried, but no more sleep for me.  Got out of bed around 4 and put on my laid out clothes.  I wore my nastiest fishing shirt in honor of Wendell,  who couldn’t make it. He hates it but I’ve caught a lot of fish with it. Went and coffeed up to the pitter patter of light rain, lovely. Butch Ridgdell was leaving so I told him he was silly. Talked with some other guys watching the rain and when I got back, Josh was awake.  I put an extra layer on and all my rain gear before getting in the truck.  Lots of people launched at the Catfish Lake launch so it was pretty busy. Put in and went back to torture other contestants with bananas. Tournament fun. Got in the boat about 545 and sat in the rain.  The 6 announcement was made and we all took off. Pitch dark, raining steady. All one could see was mast lights. Some had headlights so Josh and I followed the pack towards the south entrance to the lake. I was without light. Most people turned at the first cut to the lake but 2 were headed south.  They turned at the commercial canal and Josh and I were alone, pedaling south.

We pedaled for quite a while longer and stopped at protected spot to take a break, and of course cast. After relieving myself of some coffee and drinking some more, on my second cast with the curlytail,  I hooked and landed a legal trout. Photographed, made a few more cast, and pedaled into the darkness.  We got to our second spot and I hooked up right away and landed a 15″ trout,  that escaped as I was attempting a photograph, in the wee light and rain, lovely.  Josh and I were fishing different features,  neither satisfied with the babies we were catching. We were at a point where we had made a big circle the day before and the wind was exactly opposite as well.  Josh started heading the way we started so I, not wanting to crowd, went towards the end of the route.  First stop,  babies,  pedal a while and cast in a cut pouring out to the flat, nice trout,  15″ or so. Again slipped while photographing. I wasn’t going to let it shake me. Caught a couple more then repositioned the Banana so I could cast into the cut. Switched to the chartreuse swim bait and bit off about 3/4″ as I was uncomfortable with the long shank. It was on! I probably caught 20 in that spot with very few throwbacks. I quickly registered 5 fish and started culling.  I was number one on the board but I hadn’t caught a red. Josh called and he didn’t have good trout so I told him where I was. We passed in an area where he caught reds the day before but none that day. The cut turned into a protected pipeline, I blind cast the banks with the craw until I anchored up by a mostly collapsed dam in about 3 feet of water.  I started throwing the craw, nada. Switched to the curlytail and got a bump, upgraded trout about 5 times then, 19 inch red. Wahoo,  I was back in the top 10! Went around the dam and fished the other side, yet another 16 inch trout. I released all my tournament fish or I would have had a serious bag, so I let it go. Focus. Nada. Josh called and he was on reds so I headed his way.  When I got to the area, the tide was out so far i couldn’t get where he was. I started throwing the craw on windward shorelines and after getting 2 big hits and not connecting,  I went back to the curlytail as the swimbait was about dead. More trout,  but I persisted and at 248, I caught my 2nd red, 22.5″. I thanked the lord after the photo and submission, then yelled really loud. In the howling wind, no one heard or was listening.  I was done. Limp with exhaustion and my arms were like jelly.  I started back towards the launch, called Josh and a couple other people and told them how excited I was.  The standings had been turned off but I was top 10 when I’d registered the first red so I had high hopes.  Really wanted to be in the money! Met up with Josh along the way and he wasn’t satisfied with his trout but had 2 perfect reds. We pedaled back at a leisurely pace and didn’t see another boat or kayak until really close to the launch.  Big John was loading up and graciously rode us over the levee,  2nd day in a row! Again I stopped for coffee to knock the chills off, ahhhhhhhh.

Got back to Galiano Inn and talked with Benjamin Day and some others. Tough day for many.  Robert Burkhardt was cleaning fish and I asked how many inches he had. Couple more than me. We were all pretty sure Breck Hotard had won. I’m still mad at him for blocking me on Facebook.  Girlyman. After showers, Josh and I went over to Memaws for the ceremonial, celebratory, pork chops. We were joined by Eddie Tyre but all got real quiet at 7, when Sean Rastanis went live for the awards.  Josh made big red Calcutta for 2 hours and was in 7th for a total of about $280 in winnings.  High 5’s at the table. I just kept waiting and couldn’t believe it when Sean started talking about me. 4th! More high 5’s. I was so excited I really couldn’t focus on the rest. Congratulations to Breck, Robert and Brock, and everyone who qualified for awards and the BCKFC Championship. My phone lit up with congratulatory messages. Thanks very much yall! Back at the room, I retied my real baits on my rods, had a nutty bar for desert, threw the Minamalist baits in the trash, and was unconscious about 9.

Sunday – Day 3

Slept in till 5, woohoo! Got some coffee and a snack, loaded up and headed to Leeville.  Sunday was the nicest weather so we figured to go catch a quick limit of trout. Fog was a bonus so we thought it would be topwater bonanza.  I caught a couple but switched to jighead and had better success.  Josh was catching on Vuduencork not far away.  The bite slowed with the tide and Josh rolled out. I hung around and found a few more when the wind and tide started moving again.  Small fish compared to Saturday but good eating size.  Got out of the water at 2 and went over to Topwater to clean fish. Hung out with Bubba for a while and christened the new fish cleaning table.  Fabulous! My favorite place to clean fish. Pelicans were on the dock and I felt something brush against my leg. Looked down and saw on orange cat, then Bubba said it hung at Topwater,  feed it. Damn,  that cat can eat more trout than me! Rolled to my favorite carwash and gave the Monsta Banana a warm soapy. Now I’m melting on the sofa after a shower.

A few notes about the tournament.  I scouted Catfish Lake and Leeville since the championship.  I couldn’t decide where to fish, studied Google Earth vigorously,  read reports and watched conditions.  Wednesday I threw my idea to Josh and he said what the hell. I was happy Friday and happier Saturday that we were able to go to an area we’d never been and successfully find fish. It ain’t easy. Thanks to Josh Redd and all yall who fished with me last year. I learn from everyone. Advice: get your jighead game on, always provided at Minimalist. Three years ago I was the newbie, old fat guy in a paddle craft who skunked, then slipped getting out at the launch,  fell in 8″ of water and had my pfd inflate, in front of 30 or so guys. Got some checks last year, 5th place angler of the year 2020. Great start to 2021 with a 4th at Minimalist, qualified for Championship.  How ya like me now?!?