Woke at 320 Friday and rolled south, with fresh coffee. Plan was meet Josh Redd at Catfish Lake for some scouting. We have been on good fish further south, but the weather had been horrible all week and all bets were off. I skipped the stop with the bearded lady as I had already performed bowel evacuation at home, so iced down at Rouses. We were launching early since rain was forecast.

As soon as we started pedaling, I was amazed at the power coming from my drive. Justin Lang at Massey’s Covington had changed/upgraded my spline, masts and fins to MD180 V2 after I destroyed it at PAC. I have never had a new drive but basically do now, I was flying! Anyway we got into the lake and Josh caught a legal red on the shoreline and had a blowup, nothing else. We moved south and I caught 2 legal trout on topwater on the way, ahhhhhh. When we got to the south shoreline, I caught another, bigger trout on a point, then Josh caught a nice upper slot red right in front of me. Fun to watch! We moved west and he got a couple more blowups and maybe caught a dink. We cut into the marsh and split up a little to cover ground. I was overcome from the last night’s Greek food and had to perform an emergency dump. While in process, I noticed the wind kicking up and changing directions, looked like a fog to the north. I splashed it off and put on my rain gear just in time. Yeah, I knocked my headlight into the water while donning my jacket but was able to net it quickly. Lovely. As soon as i got situated, it started raining, not drizzling. Josh was about a hundred yards away behind an island just like me. When it slowed down, he pedaled over and waited with me. There were more storms developing but we felt like we had a little time so wend a little further, for one dink trout each. I started working my way towards an easterly path and had a huge redfish blowup on the shoreline, but no hookup. Josh snuck up behind me and startled me, then I had to try and keep up. A PA14 with a fat guy doesn’t stand a chance against an Outback and a fit guy. We pedaled hard into a 20 mph wind and were happy to get into the main canal, sheltered. The storm had missed us and was hammering Grand Isle. We were out of the water at 1030 and decided to warm up and have an early lunch at MeMaws. Ahhhhhhhh. We stopped at Topwater to check the water quality and found it to be extremely high, and not too clean. Lovely.

Pulled up to Bridgeside and found Eric Stacey and a bunch of guys cooking. Greeted the cooks and started hanging out with all the other arrivals. At some point when a bunch of people were there, we set up tables and chairs then filled ditty bags, spearheaded by Michael and Whitney Ethridge. I’m sorry to report that last weekend, I lost my beloved $2.50 Walmart topwater after a year of faithful service. Luckily, I had a replacement and was waiting till the tournament to change hooks. Yeah, I took care of that before dark. The Backpacker, Zook Rods, Overcast Lures and Tail Chaser lures set up and we were rolling. The fabulous pastalaya was served in heaping portions by Eric Stacey guaranteeing a marsh emergency and Josh Thompson served me up some salad. Balance, right?!? Benjamin Day laid out all the prizes so we’d have something to salivate over. Michael Ethridge was the master of ceremony for the captain’s meeting and was met with the normal jeers and cheers. Awesome evening! Got my shower and was out like a light by 9. I bunked with Josh Redd as I do for most tournaments. We neglected to lock the door and I was awakened to some chick apologizing that this was the wrong room, turning out the light and closing the door. Yeah, really.

The wind had laid down a little when I walked down to the truck around 430 with lukewarm, tapwater instant coffee. Better than nothing. Rolled over to Terry’s for some ice and was blessed with some strong @$$, hot coffee. He told me Tommy Eubanks had just left and told some stories about Bruce having his own barstool at some local establishment, then about another member who had been stuck on a mud flat in some kinda custom kayak fishing houseboat recently. Imagine that! I wasn’t the first to leave Topwater, but 2nd. Got to my first feature just after first light and caught a 12.5″ trout on new #2 Gamagatzu EWG that probably cost more than the bait. Yes, I photographed the trout and bagged. Upgraded at least once before submitting, then again. Wind was laying down but the bite was weak. I moved a couple times and caught one over 16″. Fatty! It was about 10 and I needed 2 more species. I had 2 good options, one vast, one limited. I chose vast and went that way. I was casting a windward shoreline for reds and not even watching my bait when it hit. When it took drag, I got excited. There’s my red! When it doubled back and swam right by my boat, I saw the trout. Daaaaaaamn, nice trout! It was well hooked and laying on my board shortly thereafter, 18.25″. I went right back to redfishing.  I saw birds in a pass and hauled booty there. First gafftop of the year, no reds. I was at a pipeline known to be full of reds when the Stacey Effect forced me to make an emergency stop. He was right, it was the gift that kept giving. Again, I could see the rain coming and as soon as I was done, on with the rain gear, and it started. The wind was blowing perfectly down the pipeline and I could probably surf it easier than fishing it. There was a lot of open water around so I picked the safer choice and fished hard, pounding the shorelines and features, until 3 PM , when I was a half mile from the launch. I dragged in and evidently the other 6 or so guys who’d launched there hadn’t caught a red either. I talked to Wendell later and he said the airboats had been bow fishing the area heavily, for quite some time, then a charter captain confirmed it. Yeah.

I drove down to Bridgeside and the party was rolling. I took my Captain [email protected]$$ outfit off and got some dry clothes. I wasn’t prepared for the cool, windy, wet weather and was cold all evening. Ate some leftover pastalya which hit the spot. Fishing stories were told. Danny Compagno’s son lost a saddle flounder at the boat. Austin Johnson lost a 22″ trout at the boat. And on……. Sean Rastanis ran out of hot dogs, but reportedly had buns. Tyler Caldwell fed the information to Michael who again was the entertainer of the evening. Benjamin Day picked the prizes and Josh helped give em away, and posed with winners, a lot! The online raffle tickets were awesome and the drawings went super fast. It was great to see some new winners get in the money! I got 5th place trout which paid a plaque and $50 giftcard. Josh won 9th place slam which he got a plaque, but no money, goes by number of entries. Not a flounder caught so a red and a trout won. Congratulations to Breck Hotard and all the other winners. It will take him days to find the banana in that new PA12 360! I won two 4Horseman corks in the raffle but traded one to Austin Johnson for some soft plastics he had won. Everyone helped tear down and it went really fast. Then it was over. Josh Redd and I hung with some of the officers until we decided to go to the Starfish, Josh Thompson joined us. The simplest things are fabulous. I had a grilled ham and cheese poboy. Excellent. Unconscious soon after.

I was tempted by Austin Johnson to join him where he’d caught over a hundred trout Saturday. We left Bridgeside after I got coffee and combat launched into a stiff wind and dirty water. We worked hard for one trout each, and got out of the water at 10. Brutal. I was home around noon, put the banana away, cleaned up, and slept till 330.

Paddlepalooza was awesome. It’s great to see new people in the money! This assures new life for the club.  Met some nice new people and traded pleasantries/insults with those I knew. The weather was awful as was the bed. Can’t complain otherwise. Can’t wait for the next one! As always, comments appreciated. Be heard!