Photo Credit: Jeff Herman
Yesterday was the 2nd event of the 2014 Lone Star Kayak series in Galveston, TX. One of my friends (Jared) and I decided to fish together since we had both planned on going to the same general area. I’ve fished this spot many times in the past and have always had good luck when the conditions are right. After checking tide charts, weather, and wind direction/speed all week long I had come to the conclusion that our little marsh we were heading to should hold some decent fish. Tides have been running about a foot higher than predicted for more than a week now which meant I would be choosing an area with really shallow shell and mud. This cut my list in half on places I had been considering. While some areas produce well on really low tides, this spot is without a doubt a high tide marsh. The small lakes we would be fishing consist of soft knee deep mud and a ton of shell. When tides are running as predicted the shell will sit 3-5 inches below the surface on a high tide and will be completely exposed on a low tide. On this particular day we were fishing during the peek of the high tide which was running about 8 inches higher than predicted. This put the shell a foot or more below the surface of the water allowing us to float over it along with giving the redfish access to cruise the top of it looking for food. Because of the depth and amount of shell our lure options were limited. I rigged my rods the night before with a popping cork, topwater, and soft plastic. I figured the popping cork would be used for the majority of the day with an occasional toss of the topwater. The soft plastic was available incase a pod or tailing red was spotted and something to sight cast with was needed. Other than that it would not be used for fear of hanging up on the shell.
My alarm went off at 3 am and I was one the road by 330. Jared and I met up at McDonalds and after grabbing a quick bite to eat we headed for the launch. We arrived around 5:30, unloaded the kayaks, and sat around for the next 20 minutes waiting for 6 am to arrive per tourney rules. At 6 am on the dot we pushed off and headed straight for the first lake I wanted to fish. The majority of the fish I’ve pulled from this spot have been 25+ inche fish so I was hoping they would be around today. After a 15 minute paddle we were in the first lake and started casting. Jared threw his popping cork around the drain leading into the lake and picked up a 19″ red within the first 5 minutes. I spotted a red crawling around a small island and reached for my rod with the Chicken Boy Shrimp (Red Shad). While trying to get within casting distance my kayak scraped some shell and sent that fish running. I threw my Midcoast Popping Cork (Evolution) around the area where I had seen the fish but didn’t seem to have any luck. I decided to move away from the drain and fish the shell covered lake I had come for. The water wasn’t quiet as high as I’d hoped and as a result my popping cork would hang up on mounds of shell that sat higher in the water column. After hanging up 5 times in 10 casts with no fish to show for my trouble I decided go with the topwater. I knew this would keep me from hanging up and would be a great way to cover some water. I started off throwing a MirrOlure She Pup in the woodpecker color (red head, white back, chrome belly). On my 3rd cast I had a nice little blow up that didn’t connect. Five casts later I had another that did connect and the fight was on. However, the fight was short and resulted in me reeling in my line without the lure. When getting ready the night before, the thought never crossed my mind that I should tie on a leader connecting my lure to my braid. This was mistake number one of the day and costs me what might have been a good fish. The break off occurred 5 seconds after hooking up so I never really got a good feel for the fish. My other mistake was not getting my rod tip high enough to help keep the line out of the shell. To make matters worse I think the fish swims by my kayak to laugh at me. You’ll see the big wake at the end of the short video below.
I was disappointed in my mistakes but quickly tied on another she pup (black back, chrome body, orange belly), this time using about a foot of fluorocarbon leader to help deal with the shell. I began fan casting the small lake once again working the lure very quickly since thats what they wanted and after a few missed blowups I had my second hookup of the day. I made sure to keep my rod tip high and even stood up in the kayak when I had the chance. I wanted to make sure this one had no chance at cutting me off. After a short fight I landed my first fish of the day that weighed in at 5.56 lbs measuring 24 1/4″.In the video below you’ll see the fish bite on the pause as I move the rod from right to left.
I had a fish on my Grind Terminal Tackle stringer early which is always a good feeling on tourney day. I continued to work the area the same as before but the fight with the previous fish must have spooked the others. After a while we decided to move on to the next lake.
This lake was similar to the first one which meant it was very small, full of shell, and had enough water covering it to allow us to barely move over the top without scraping. As we neared the lake traveling down a small channel I began seeing mud boils in front of my kayak. This was a definite sign we were spooking reds that had just been sitting in front of us. I drifted over to a small island and started fan casting the edge of the lake while Jared took a separate channel 15 yards away that led into the same lake. On my first cast I had a good blowup that missed, 2nd cast produced the same thing, so did the 3rd and 4th casts which had me thinking smaller reds must be hitting my lure. On the 5th cast that theory was proven wrong. A nice upper slot red clobbered my lure and took off with it peeling off 15 yards of line before turning sideways. While it was running I was able to get out of my kayak and stand on the island I had been sitting next to in order to give me a higher platform to keep my line as far above the shell as possible. For the next 45 seconds the fish ran away from me pulling drag or moved side to side never allowing me to gain any line back. Jared watched from about 20 yards away as I was telling him how solid this fish was when all of a sudden my line goes limp. I reel in my lure and soon as it comes out of the water I see that two of the hooks on my front treble are missing.
After a few minutes of non stop cursing my lure I realized I was partially to blame. I switch out the majority of my hooks with VMC hooks for the added strength but had failed to do so on this lure. That was mistake number 3 on tournament day. I tied on my third topwater of the day sticking with the She Pup, this time going with hot pink with a chrome body. I seemed to be getting more blowups then Jared who was throwing a Rapala Skitterwalk so I didn’t want to change what was working. As I was tying on this lure Jared hooked up with a nice fish. He landed it as quickly as he could in hopes that he wouldn’t spook the other fish in the lake. His fish went close to 26″ which meant neither of us would show up to the weighin empty-handed. I finally retied my lure and five casts after the broken hook incident I started getting blowups again. I had three that didn’t connect so I decided to slow down my retrieve just a little and that was the ticket. I had just said to Jared, “I’m going to try a medium retrieve” and the fish hit as soon as the last word came out of my mouth. It ran straight towards me and I could barely reel in fast enough to keep up with it. When it got within five feet of my kayak it turned to run away but the fight was over by then. I landed the fish within a few seconds watching my lure fly out of its mouth just as I slid the net under it. That fish went 22 1/4 inch weighing in at 4.40 lbs. Neither fish was great but I had two for the weighin which takes a lot of pressure off anyone on tournament day. We worked the lake for another 30 minutes but the fish had left the area. We were finding good amounts of fish but the size of the lakes made it difficult to stay on them since a couple of hook ups would spook the rest. We decided to head to the first lake we had fished to see if they had returned after a short break. We covered the lake well but had no blowups or luck so we moved on to the third lake.
Photo Credit: Jared Esley
This lake, which was the largest of the three and had the same features as the first two so we were hoping for similar results. We each chose a shoreline and started crab walking our kayaks parallel with the shoreline staying about 10 yards away from it. We had multiple blow ups while covering the area with no hookups. Finally Jared caught his 2nd fish of the day which went 20 1/2 inches and gave him two fish for the weighin. We continued working the shoreline with more blow ups that just wouldn’t connect. I eventually hooked up with another red that again, cut me off on the shell after a 5 second fight. I was still using my fluorocarbon leader but somehow the fish was able to slide the braid part of my line across the shell and cut it above the leader. After a few minutes I spotted my lure which the fish shook free and paddled over to get it. I had already tied on my forth top water of the day so in the milk crate it went. The wind had kicked up a little by now so I went with the She Dog instead of the pup for a little more noise and splash. I missed another fish as I sat my rod down to secure my paddle which was about to fall off my kayak into the water. I had just made a cast and twitched the lure about 6 times when I sat down my rod to grab my paddle. Two seconds later I hear a huge splash and look up to see my lure missing and my rod being pulled over the side. I dropped my paddle and grabbed my rod and start reeling in only to find out he had already spit the lure. I connected on a another fish 15 minutes later that I never saw. Something had blown up on my lure and disappear under the water. I set the hook and began pulling the fish towards me. I could feel the tension of the fish on the end of the line but it never made any hard runs. As it neared my kayak it turned away and slowly peeled off 5-10 yards of line and began moving sideways again at a slow speed. It finally took off peeling another 10 yards of line from my reel before the hook came flying back at me. I was completely dumbfounded and all I could do was look at Jared and laugh because it was just one of those days. He suggested that it was probably a big flounder and after thinking about it he was probably right. I would have loved to have gotten a look at it because it was going to be a nice flounder if thats truly what it had been. We decided to head back to the truck and make it to the weighin early. It was hot, we had two fish, and it would be nice to arrive early and visit with everyone. We also wanted to make sure we got our fish there alive for two reasons. You get a 1/2 lb bonus for a live weighin, plus a raffle ticket for each fish released alive for a drawing later in the day for a Werner Paddle.
We headed for the weighin and arrived around 1:45 which put us there 15 minutes before the scales opened up. We talked with a few others that had just arrived and collected our captains bag full of some free gear from sponsors such as Yak Gear and Bass Assassin. We were 4th in line to weighin our fish with the eventual champion Joshua Majorka weighing his in 1st. Jared weighed his fish in before me and had 9.55 lbs including his 1/2 lb bonus. I weighed my fish next and to my surprise had 10.46 lbs with my 1/2 bonus. I didn’t expect to be in double digits with a 22 and 24 inch fish but both were decently plump. We spent the next two and half hours eating a Louis Bait Camp Burger and visiting with old and new friends. Before announcing the winners we always have several dozen drawings for all kinds of goodies provided by the growing list of sponsors. I had my number called at one point and received a nice little prize package that included a Dexter Knife, Plano Tackle Tray, MirrOlure She Dog, and Saltwater Assassin soft plastics and popping corks. My good luck at the weighin didn’t stop there. Aside from awarding the anglers with the heaviest stringers, the LSKS also gives away a prize package for the closets fish to 21″ without going over (Blackjack) and for the fish with the most spots. My 24″ fish had 9 spots so I won that prize package which included a one year membership to Saltwater Boys Kayak Fishing Club, a koozie, T-shirt, and a Grind Terminal Tackle Stringer. I have been meaning to register with the Saltwater Boys Kayak Club for a while but never got around to it. They are a fishing club located in the Beaumont area and have lots of gatherings and members only tournaments about once a month. The koozie and T-shirt come with your $25 membership fee. If you are interested in joining up you can find more information on their Facebook Page.
I was 2 for 2 on prizes and didn’t think I could get any luckier. It turns out my luck hadn’t quiet run out just yet. The drawing for the Werner Paddle took place after the blackjack and spots prizes were awarded and it was for a really nice paddle. I don’t know how Jeff did it, but he brought out a Werner Paddles Bent Shaft Kalliste. This is one of Werner’s top low angle paddles that they produce. The bent shaft Kalliste weighs in at 27 oz, has full carbon blades, and retails for $475. As a Werner Paddles Pro Staffer, I have never even had the opportunity to use this paddle.
Jeff walked on stage and asked a young boy from the crowd to come up and draw a ticket from the box. As the young man read off the numbers I was shocked to hear him read off my number as the winner. Earlier in the day when Jeff had handed me the ticket I had already told him I wouldn’t even keep it if I won. I told him I would just give it to my friend Travis who runs the Corpus Christi Chapter of Heroes on the Water. I was pretty excited as I walked towards the stage because I was about to have the opportunity to donate an awesome paddle to a great organization. When I reached the stage I told Travis to come up and take the paddle from me because I knew he would be able to put it to good use.
If you don’t know, Heroes on the Water is a non profit organization that takes current soldiers and veterans from all branches of the military kayak fishing as a way to relax and help relieve stress. Its an amazing organization that I’ve had the opportunity to help with on occasion and hope to become more involved with in the future. The video below is a short explanation about what they do.
I had already won three different prizes and knew I would be receiving another. It seemed like most anglers had a tough day of fishing because not that many fish were weighed in. As Dustin came to the stage to announce the winners I waited patiently to hear my name called. Jared placed 14th and I took 9th out of 79 anglers. My 9th place prize package included $110 along with a few other prizes. It was a really fun way to start off my summer which will consists of 72 days in a row of not working and lots of fishing. The next event is not until August which gives me plenty of time to pre fish. For some reason, the August event has been my toughest one over the last two years. I’m hoping to change that this year.
Photo Credit: Jeff Herman
Photo Credit: Jared Esley
Photo Credit: Jared Esley