I had bought an entire army’s worth of weedless baits and rigs at Academy, and knowing that the waters in that area were full of the green stuff, I felt the need to experiment and see what I could do to fish the cover for reds and trout. Little did I know all my research and all I had experienced and learned would pay off - not in the way I had hoped, but in a dividend that would make every drop of fuel and bit of lost sleep worth it.
I had no idea how long it would take for me to get to the fishing grounds, so I began my journey at 3 a.m., driving through the thickest fog I could recall, music from Silent Hill running in my head, conjuring images of Pyramid Head in the dense cloud cover. Casey relayed to me that I would have to catch a ferry to cross over from Highway 23 over the Mississippi to the other side. When he told me the ferry started at 6 a.m., I was relieved; I could nap at the ramp. I arrived close to 5 a.m. and within a few minutes of the Explorer being put in park, my eyes snapped shut.
5:50 came, and the horn of the ferry arriving snapped me back to situational awareness. As I tried to get on the ferry, the woman in charge of the cars on it decided to inform me that I had to wait till last, which I didn’t know at first. Since people were behind me, I was put on the ferry post haste.
The launch conditions were golden: no wind, the sun and moon conversing with each other thru their shared light, no bugs sticking blood-sucking things into my skin. The mile-and-a-half paddle to the canal my friends were sharing was easy going, with swells from underwater creatures getting my heart beating harder and my palms sweating. With the canal in my sights, I started casting my new Stanley “Ribbit” frog. I wanted something topwater-oriented, yet weedless. I cast against the leeward and windward sides of the canal, not even getting a strike at the little guy. Further down I went, finally meeting up with Jason and company. They had both already hooked into lovely reds, beautiful coppery creatures. I began drifting along the windward bank, casting the Ribbit frog. I let it sit for a minute, and bam! Something struck her hard. A little two-minute battle later and…
It seems quite funny that so many times I catch fish that I am not even targeting. I go out for reds, I catch trout. I go out for specks, and the reds wanna play. Today I am targeting BOTH, and my first fish of the day is a lovely largemouth bass! The hook firmly in the corner of her mouth, she was dedicated to swallowing up that frog. With a kiss on her head and a loud “Thank you!” I let her back on her way. The canal produced no more bites, but had given Jason a lovely stringer of golden scales.
Jason lead the way out of the canal, hugging the right side of the main bayou, looking for cuts to fish. I tied on a Zoom “Z-Hog”, a lovely creature bait, and Texas rigged it onto the mono. I had researched different weedless ways of fishing for reds, and these baits I had heard were deadly on redfish. I recalled videos of people fishing them slowly, barely twitching the rod tip. Since I had the feeling the fish didn’t want aggressive presentations, I know this would be my ticket.
Jason found the cut before I did, but I felt like Christopher Columbus, setting foot on virgin territory. Off a point opposite me, I saw bait busting, predators in the wild waters below me. The bearded one came around the bend, telling me he’d caught a trout where I was, and warning me of huge gar and gators in the canal’s backwaters. I wasn’t exactly comfortable fishing that kind of area, and I was planning on getting out of there. But on the last cast, a few twitches of the rodtip, and bam! A bullet train hit the lure, and a 14” speckled trout greeted me. I got the camera, and videoed his exit from the world of the air breathing.
Our trio of fisherman met with a fourth guy, Rick, at an intersection of two canals. We were trying to come up with a game plan, as Casey still needed a red or two for a full five-fish stringer. We decided to stay in this general area, and fish it hard. Jason lead the way again along the windward side of the opposite canal, where he hooked on a barely legal trout, and I somehow managed to lose my stakeout pole. Perfect!
We backtracked. My friend decided to fish the first canal we had hit that morning, and I elected to hit a cut just opposite it, where Casey was fishing a point. First cast in this new area, and I missed a strike. I growled, and fished both sides of it. Casey made a point of showing me how to fish a fluke bait, something I had never been able to fish properly. It felt good to see an expert sharing with me, an amateur, the tips of the trade.
I put the Pandora Radio on Moonspell Radio, and fished further back down the cut. Bam! A slap on the Z-hog brought me a beautiful little 14” red. I got to test out my new measuring board, courtesy of Jason Austin, on this lovely guy. I put him back in the drink, rounded the bend towards the main canal, and called Casey to find out when we were leaving. He had gotten a full stringer, and they were walking the marsh back towards the launch, wanting to hurry and catch the ferry to get to the weigh in. I wished him the best of luck, threw the creature bait, and doink! I saw the mono move and set the hook, feeling the resistance of a 20”+ red pull drag. Sadly, he got into the marsh grass, and managed to get the hook lose. Dukes!
I started the mile-long paddle back in, headbanging with the down strokes of my paddle. Once I reached the trailer, I realized that the galvanized metal frame that holds my two kayaks had cracked. I would need to rig something new, and do it soon before I took another long fishing trip. I put Moonspell (the Ride 115, not the band) on the trailer, strapped it down as tight as a corset, and got caught at the ferry. An hour later, I was at the Myrtle Grove bar, talking to George, Barrett, Elliot, and all my other friends from the BCKFC.
George informed me that he and the F’in Crazy crew were going to Hooters, and I was allowed to join them. Eternally grateful for it I am, for that was the first meal I had eaten since 7 a.m. the day before. My day ended on a great note! Casey had placed fourth total in the tournament, another of their team had taken first (I am so sorry, I cannot remember your name off hand, please don’t hate me!), I got to eat great food with even better friends, and I had seen how much I have learned in just a few months of fishing harder and pushing my comfort zone. And when an expert like Casey tells you “Good job,” it means a lot.