The objective of the IFA Kayak Fishing Tour is to catch one redfish and one speckled trout. In South Carolina this means that redfish can’t be smaller than 15”, and trout must be longer than 14”. Since this is a Catch, Photo and Release style tournament, the redfish that can be caught, photographed, and release can be up to 45”. This limit is established by the maximum length of the measuring device that is provided to all participants.
My plan for this event was to fish Murrell’s Inlet. This decision was based from my experience from the week before, when I pre-fished an area known as South Island Ferry Landing on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). This area looked like it might be pretty good for some redfish along the shoreline of the ICW towards Winyah Bay, with a possibility of some flounder. Although the flounder are not part of the program for the IFA Kayak Fishing Tour, it would not hurt to at least pick up some dinner.
At the mouth of the ICW at Winyah Bay are some riprap rock piles that would be good for speckled trout, redfish, and flounder. I managed to make it the mouth but the weather turned nasty with rain. My only issue with the rain was the lightning that was off in the distance. To be safe, I paddled the Jackson “Big Rig” back to the landing before the real storm arrived within unsafe distance. I managed to get back and get the Big Rig loaded before the storm arrived. This scouting trip was a bust, as I did not have the time to really test the waters.
I will need to revisit this area someday so I can really see if this section if the ICW and the Winyah Bay will be a great area for targeting redfish and trout. For the tournament, I decided to fish Murrell’s Inlet; I had fished this area several times before with the Jackson “Cuda 14” and the Big Tuna for flounder, trout, and redfish. I had very good confidence that this area will produce for the event.
Pre-fishing the Murrell’s Inlet area on Saturday, I launched from the oyster shell recycling area and I was able to locate (but not land) some nice trout. I was still unable to find any redfish, but I decided that I would commit to this plan. I headed back in to the launch site, as it was getting close to time for the captains meeting at the Campbell Marine Complex. Twenty-two kayak anglers planned to compete in the second leg of the IFA Atlantic Tour. At the meeting, we learned the general rules and that we could launch at safe light - 6:15am.
When I arrived at the oyster recycling area the next morning to prep the Jackson Big Rig about 30 – 40 minutes prior to safe light, I discovered the entrance was gated and I did not know at what time the gate would open. So plan ‘B’ for launching the Big Rig had to be put into place. There is another launch site a couple of miles down the road at Morse Park Landing. However at low tide there is the possibility that the water level can be a problem, even with a kayak.
At 6:15am it was time to launch into the skinny water at the ramp. The Big Rig did a great job launching into the really low water. I did not notice any issues gliding out to the deeper channel even with only a couple of inches of water above the pluff mud. Once into the main creek, I saw trout hitting the surface, so I started casting towards points, creek mouths, and oyster beds in the hopes of enticing a trout or a red to take the topwater lure. Unfortunately, I missed the hookset or the trout missed the lure. At any rate, it was exciting.
As the sky got brighter the topwater action stopped, so I switched over to a ¼ oz jighead with a Slayer “SST” but didn’t have any luck with this setup. There was a small section along the main creek with some action, as the bait fish were jumping out of the water and occasionally there was some feeding action. I worked my way to the nervous water and made a cast. Something big took the bait, but two head shakes and the mystery fish was gone. This did not feel like a redfish or trout - it felt more like a bonnethead shark. The mystery fish did not have any issues with the 15lb fluorocarbon leader, so I think the mystery fish had to be a shark of some type.
I retied another jighead and attached a similar Slayer SST. Then I swapped for a rod that had with a Lucky Craft “Pointer 48 SP Ghost Minnow”. This is a 2” hard body lure that suspends at 1’ – 2’. This lure in Charleston has been really productive on speckled trout, and I hoped it would produce on Murrell’s Inlet, as well. I managed to get a good hit, and was soon fighting a fish. I landed a pair of small bluefish, one on each of the treble hooks. Then I managed to land a small pinfish using the 2” lure. I decided to go back to the jighead and the SST. I needed to at least catch a trout or redfish that would qualify. It was close to time to head back to Morse Park Landing. As I worked the shoreline along the main creek, I had a hook up the on the SST -a nice lizardfish.
I then had a long dry spell back to the landing. I decided to anchor in the Weston Flat, as I had noticed some surface action around the oyster beds. I fan casted the Lucky Craft Pointer to the various oyster mounds and got a hook up. It was not big, but I managed to land a small croaker.
The time was approaching 1pm, so I decided to head back to the landing, load up the kayak, and head to the weigh-in. I feel it is important to at least show up and support the winners and anglers who caught fish. Of the twenty-two anglers who participated, only seven caught qualifying fish. The top three finishers caught the required trout and redfish; the other four only caught redfish.