Well the past few weeks for me have held a lot of unexpected events. First of many, California Chrome, which was the favorite horse attempting to win the first Triple Crown since ’78; He placed 4th in his final race and fell short of the prize, which in turn lost me a little money. He was a good horse and had the ability to win, but in the long run came up short. So that being said, when you go to a championship and every person there has their eye on the same prize, there are no underdogs. When the gate opens all bets are off and the odds just do not match up sometimes. Last weekend I found just that when we arrived to Biloxi, Mississippi for the College Kayak National Championship. College anglers from all along the coast came to battle it out and take home the title of National Champions. The format was going to be a 2 day tournament at various launches around Gulfport and Biloxi. The total of your inches caught from both days would show the outcome and produce a champion.
My buddies and I get home Wednesday afternoon and load up our kayaks, poles, and everything else and depart at midnight for Mississippi. We arrive at daylight at a designated launch, unload, and start to explore some new waters. As soon as I get in I taste the water and it is fresh! I should of been throwing a wacky worm for bass, fresh. Already a bad sign, but we fish for a few hours and do not really catch much. The wildlife around there though are use to human encounters which helped with a few good pics.
Being exhausted we get off the water, get a bite to eat, and crash for a few hours in the hotel room. Later that night we head to Academy and buy a few things that we need, go get a nice steak dinner and then back to the hotel room to rig and plan for another day of pre-fishing. After examining the next 2 launch points we decide to split up and fish and try to cover some more area and hopefully find some fish. The next morning I am dropped off first and fish an area and watch 2 guys rip solid trout, only thing is they are throwing live shrimp. I hang around them and try to catch some but they do not want anything to do with my lure. Still a nice morning to be on the water though.
Willie and Stu pick me up and same with them, seen some fish caught but all on live shrimp. Get back to the hotel and chill for a little bit and then decide to make a quick trip to the casino before the captains meeting that night. Long story short, we all lose but I did get to place bet on my horse that was suppose to win me some money. Anyways make to the captains meeting at Everything Kayak we start talking to the teams and everyone has had the same problem, really fresh water and no fish. They start to brief us on the rules and check in times for the tournament about to ensue and then they pass the floor to a local guide. He goes over the launch locations and starts to reveal some of secrets for the area. After that he mentions that he has a 38′ pontoon boat and could load up all of the kayaks and take us out to the barrier islands. This of course catches everyones attention and was really a shocker that he was willing to do that. The tournament coordinators talk to him and then ask the participating anglers if they would like to go. I told my teammates they could fish where they wanted to but I was going to be on that boat in the morning. We all talk to a few other teams and tell a few lies about fishing between now and the last tournament we had seen them in. Overall a really good time.
4:15 came early the next day with 3 phones going off at the same time with all different ring tones. We all jump out of bed ready to get this tournament started! Get to the marina, and strategically place our kayaks on the boat and we are off.
Get to the island around daylight and we all jump off, unload, and split ways. Lamar decided to paddle into the wind to some marsh, it was rough. Once there we all kind of go our own way. This is one of the coolest things I have ever got to do and fish. To put it in perspective, I am fishing in the marsh, on an island, 8 miles out in the middle of the Gulf. Does not get to much better than that. Anyways, I start down a cut and nothing, I get to the end and I notice my line is moving sideways. I know what that is, set the hook and a nice 16” red. I am on the board with at least a fish. Go over to the next cut and same thing, in the very end of it I hang into another fish. I start to see the pattern and just head straight to the back of these cuts and there was always a fish in the back of them. Ended up catching 8 or 9 fish with a 20” and a 16″. Get back to the rendezvous point on the beach and come to find my partners found a few fish as well. No big ones, but we have fish to turn in. Talked to a few other schools and a few people found some nice trout and some other fish. Get back to Everything Kayak and turn our scores in and we are in 1st place and leading by 10″. A good lead for the first day. Also in individual I am in 1st by only a quarter of an inch.
I had a buddy that told me to go check out The Half Shell and order the Oyster Orleans. Sounds delicious, so I figured it was worth checking out. Asked Jameson and Drew, the tournament coordinators, if they like oysters and they immediately said they were in! Arrived there, got some oysters on the half shell along with a cold beer, and could not be happier. After my first dozen I ordered the infamous Oyster Orleans. For anyone reading this, if you ever find a Half Shell restaurant, just go ahead and order several dozens of the Oyster Orleans. Hands down the best cooked oysters I have ever had, they are a must have. Get back to the hotel room, pass out for what seamed like only a few minutes and back up again for day 2. We all get to the marina and University of Lafayette decides not to go on the ferry out to the island. A bold move but one of the guys told me “We do not have much to lose after the first day so either we will find fish and win or still be losing.” We depart and I am excited to finish up this day strong. I am the last boat off the mothership and the first one off the Island. I kept the same plan, go deep in the marsh and keep throwing my purple Norton Sand Eel. Sure enough they are right where I left them the first day. First one I catch was 19″, a solid first fish!
End up finding a few more reds and later in the day I hung into a 17.5″ flounder and that puts me an inch over the length I had the day before. After a long hot day on the water I make my paddle back to the rendezvous point and the boat is pulling up. My partners did not have as good of a day as the day before. LSU caught a 30″ red paddling in as the boat was pulling up. We start adding up the inches on the boat ride back and thinking we may be in 2nd or 3rd. Only other team we are not sure about is Lafayette. I hear some one say “No way!” and Lafayette entered there catches from the day and are way ahead! The daring call to stay back looks like it may pay off for the long shot team. We all load up and get back to Everything Kayak and are eagerly waiting for the results. There was a few discretions with some of the pictures sent in and a few points were deducted from a few teams and individuals. Lafayette had a picture and was ineligible and against the rules so the fish did not count to there final score. A true let down but rules are rules and they have to be put in place. They start to pass out prizes and awards and I ended up winning 1st place individual by 2″. That flounder I upgraded with put me ahead just by that much. Since I had the win for this tournament that sealed the deal for me winning Angler of the Year. Me winning this, my prize was a brand new Jackson Cruise 12′! Then they start to announce the teams outcomes and Lamar would take 3rd place. We take a few pictures, say thanks to the people that made it all happen and get back on the road to end a long, fun road trip.
Yesterday was the Saltwater Boys Kayak tournament and I was ready to keep my winning streak going. I got a tip of where some fish were but the only thing was is that it was a long paddle. Hey whatever it takes to catch some quality fish, I am in. Arrive to my launch and it is glass all the way across the lake. Even better I did not need any guidance due to the full moon. This is honestly how bright it was at 5:30 A.M.
This is how pretty is was at 6:00 A.M.
After a 45 min paddle I arrive to the pond that I want to fish. 6 A.M. hits and I can start fishing. I see a few red fish hit along the banks but no luck. At 6:10 right in the middle of the flat I see 6 redfish with all of their tails sticking out the water. My adrenaline starts kicking in and I creep over to them, make a cast, and am hooked up with a nice fish first thing in the morning. Get him on the stringer and thought hell yea, I got the rest of the day to catch one fish. Little did I know, there was not enough time in that day to catch another one. I hit several reds in the face with my lure and they wanted nothing to do with it. I even had a redfish come right beside my kayak and I drug a gold spoon in front of his face, twice, and passed it up. Around 1:15 I make a cast and start thinking about when I need to head back. I was daydreaming about what I was going to do tomorrow, what was for supper, anything except fishing. I look up and see my cork moving and knew I had a fish, but my mind never registered to set the hook. After 4-5 seconds of this I snap, set the hook, fish takes off and spits the hook. After that I decided to just call it a day. Get to the weigh in and I believe 12.6 lbs. won it. My one red was only good enough to get 7th place. Still very cool getting to see them fish do that this morning.
Next Saturday I will be fishing the Triangle Tailchasers tournament and then the week after that I am heading to Port Aransas. Absolutely can not wait to get back out there to PA. Just remember when you think something is going to go a certain way or there will be an undeniable outcome, it does not take much to throw everything out of whack and change up the game.