Photo Credit: Joe Winston
Yesterday I fished the 3rd leg of the Lone Star Kayak Series and found a couple of nice fish. I had the chance to prefish both Tuesday and Wednesday with absolutely no luck at finding tournament quality fish. On Tuesday I put in a good 12 miles and only managed one lower slot red with the same results on Wednesday with a trout in the mix. A friend that doesn’t fish often joined me on Wednesday and did manage to catch his first redfish from a kayak and on topwater nonetheless.
T-Bone with a topwater red
It wasn’t until Wednesday evening when I finally chose an area to fish. I hadn’t fished this area since early July so I was taking a chance, hoping to get somewhat lucky. I spoke with a friend who fishes the area often and he said the fish were there but the bite had been difficult all summer long. He said I could probably pull at least two fish from the area around 13 lbs. if I worked the area thoroughly. At the time, I had no clue just how right he was.
My day started with a 2:45 alarm, followed by the snooze button, and another alarm five minutes later. I was out of bed, dressed, and on the road by 3:00 to meet a couple of friends at Whataburger. Each of us had planned on fishing within a few miles of each other so a few taquitos and caffeine were needed if we were going to make it through a long day of fishing. We enjoyed our breakfast and hit the road only to get stuck behind a few eighteen-wheelers pulling a wide load 30 mph with a police escort that wouldn’t let anyone pass. We each had about 40 miles to go before reaching our launches, which meant we were going to miss out on launching at the designated time of 6 am. Using my phone I located a side street that ran parallel with the road we were traveling on. With a little luck I figured I could possibly get around the trucks and resume the posted speed of 70 mph. I turned off the highway, raced down the back roads, and just beat the police escort. I contacted the other guys to see if they had followed but they had not and were still puttin along at 30 mph. I hadn’t lost much time and estimated that I would be able to launch at 6 am per tourney rules. I reached my launch in time to unload my gear and pull my kayak to the edge of the water with 5 minutes to spare. The predicted 5 mph SW wind was actually around 15 mph, which was causing small white caps to form on the open lake and crash into the shoreline. My two friends honked as they drove by which meant they had finally gotten around the wide load convoy and would have to launch shortly after 6, but only by 15 minutes.
6 am arrived and I hopped in my kayak and started paddling out. The first part of my trip required me to paddle directly into the wind, which proved to be pretty difficult. I scrapped my original plan of traveling a mile or so down the shoreline before entering the marsh and entered at the first opportunity for a little protection from the wind. Once inside, the 5-foot tall reeds, grass, and occasional tree made the wind feel almost non-existent. I made my way through the first lake looking for signs of fish while stopping at the occasional drain or island to throw out the popping cork with gulp with no success. It wasn’t long before I located several schools of dime sized button shad getting hammered by several dozen redfish. The small baitfish were going airborne all over the place and I started thinking that I may be able to string two fish before 7 am which is always a relief on tourney day regardless of size. I started off by throwing the popping cork with gulp in the middle of several schools of shad and just let it just sit. There was no need to pop the cork because the fish were within 5 feet of it, which had me thinking they would find it based on the scent alone. After about 10 minutes and several casts into areas with actively feeding fish but no hook ups I decided to start giving an occasional pop with no luck either. I decided to go with a soft plastic next and after another 10 minutes and dozens of casts, I still hadn’t hooked a fish. The she pup was next, followed but a Manns 1-Minus, followed by a Bugg. No matter what I threw, the reds didn’t care. They were keyed in on these dime-sized shad and didn’t want anything else. After an hour of working the area over hard with nothing to show for it I decided to move on. I continued the same pattern as before, slowly moving from small lake to small lake stopping at each drain and popping the cork before moving on. I had the occasional fish blowout near the kayak while paddling but hadn’t reached the area I had wanted to fish. I finally arrived at the lake I had been trying to reach. I had fished this lake a few times in the past with good luck and liked the layout and structure which consisted of a mud bottom with a little bit of grass and an average depth of a foot and a half. It also had several drains feeding into it with a few pinches and islands along the way. I spotted/heard several nice blowups as I entered the lake and decided to put the popping cork down and got with the trusty black and chrome she pup with an orange belly. I drifted across the lake making several casts while slowly making my way towards the blowups I had been seeing and hearing. I finally reached the area, which was located out in front of a small drain that led to another lake. By this time the tide had started falling and you could see the water pushing through the pinch that connected the two lakes with a little help from the wind. I turned sidesaddle in my Cuda 14 and began crab walking the area while fan casting towards the drain. After a dozen casts I had a good blowup that didn’t quiet connect. I made another cast into the same area and had another good blowup followed by a fish that finally connected. Unfortunately for me, the fish pulled off after 10 seconds, which made me mutter a few curse words under my breath. I continued working the area and finally connected with another fish after a good 30 casts. This time, the fish was hooked well and made it to the net. I didn’t even measure the fish at the time because I knew it was in the slot and wanted to get my lure back in the water ASAP. I worked the area for another 30 minutes with another few blowup but nothing to show for it. I finally decided to move on and search for more fish. The occasional bait being busted had slowed down some and I needed to find another fish.
I continued pushing deeper in the marsh repeating my pattern of looking and listening as I slowly paddle while throwing my cork or topwater at fishy areas (drains, islands, channels, etc.) but couldn’t find a second fish. I passed by a decent sized gator as the rain started to fall and kept a close eye on his location. The last thing I wanted was to bring in half a fish because an alligator had spotted an easy meal. There was no lightning with the rain so I fished through it and located a few crawlers along one shoreline. They were all super spooky and would shoot off to deeper water as soon as I made a cast or twitched my lure. I continued pushing deeper and deeper into the marsh. I finally reached the last lake and found the same thing I had found in the first lake earlier that morning. Thousands of button shad were exploding throughout the lake as the redfish were having a feeding frenzy. I didn’t feel too confident in getting a fish here but figured this would be my best chance. The fish were there and I just needed one lucky bite. The she pup had worked earlier so I decided to stick with it. I had plenty of choices between the open lake, along the shoreline, or in front of a small drain because the little balls of bait were everywhere. I decided to go with the drain because some of the larger crashes and occasional airborne reds looked bigger than the others. I was also hoping the drain would provide slightly deeper water, which would benefit my topwater some. I setup about 20 yards off of several bait balls and began working them with the she pup. I would make a cast 10 yards past the balls of bait and walk the dog right through the middle of them. The whole time the reds and shad are flying all over the place but nothing seemed to care about my lure. I would cast between the four bait balls within my reach and repeat. After a good 50 cast I finally hooked into a fish that came off after about 15 seconds followed by more muttered curse words. Fifty casts later I had a great blowup that shot my she pup a good 5 feet in the air but didn’t receive a follow up strike. Another 50 casts and I had my lure absolutely clobbered. I worked the fish for a good 2 minutes uttering “please don’t come off, please don’t come off” over and over. I never really saw the fish but knew it was a solid one from the amount of drag it had pulled. I finally got it close enough to the kayak, slid the net under it, and was pleasantly surprised when I lifted the net from the water. I knew I had a solid fish, as long as it stayed in the slot. I strung the fish and with a deep breath, laid it across the check-it stick, pinched the tailed saw that it was a hair over 27″ but easily under 28″. Stringing that second fish on tourney day is always a huge relief, especially when it’s a fish of that size. I took this time measure my first fish and it was a solid fish that was a little over 25″. I checked the clock and noticed I still had time for a possible upgrade. I worked the same area again with a few more blowups but nothing connected. I decided to start heading back to the truck since I had to paddle about four miles while dragging two fish. I looked for signs of fish along the way but the marsh had seemed to settle down some.
Grind Terminal Tackle Stringers with fish
It took a while but I finally reached the truck and loaded up. I started heading for Galveston with plenty of time to reach Louis, weighin my fish, and visit with friends. I talked to three different friends along the way and found out one had about 15 lbs. and two others were around 13 lbs. which is about what I thought I had. When it was all said and done places 2-5 were separated by less than .60 lb. Jason Blackwell took first with 15.2 lbs., Aaron Ferguson was second with 13.93 lbs., and I finished third with 13.63 lbs. Another friend (Scott Tilley) finished on my heels with 13.47 lbs. The paddle of choice this day was the 250 cm Werner Cyprus: Hooked. I received this paddle a few months ago and have been using it on every trip since then. At 24.5 ounces of full carbon its an amazing resource on days when double digit miles are reached.
It was another great tournament and as always, great to hang out with old friends and meet a few new ones. Dustin, his wife, and the other workers that help out do an outstanding job of keeping the tournament very competitive and fun for everyone. My prize package for third place included $290 cash, a trophy, castaway rod, a bottle of Silver Star Whiskey, and a goody bag full of a few different yak gear products, and bass assassin soft plastics. The two guys that finished ahead of me are good friends that I have the pleasure of fishing with on occasion so to be on stage with them holding our trophies made the day extra special. I’m already looking forward to the October tournament, which is by far my favorite event of the four.
Sonny Mills – 3rd Place – Photo Credit: Michael Harris
Aaron Ferguson – 2nd Place
Jason Blackwell – 1st Place