When hundreds and hundreds of kayakers, paddle-boarders and canoers churn into Caminada Pass bright and early Saturday morning for Ride the Bull 8 — the world’s largest paddle-powered fishing tournament — there likely will be more than 1,000 hooks dangling in the current within the legal fishing boundary.
It’s truly a great time, with a spirit of camaraderie and fun ruling the day.
Everyone knows this is one fishing tournament where luck plays a big part in determining the winner.
So exactly which bait will that winning bull red decide to devour?
To increase your odds just a little, I talked to four pretty serious Grand Isle anglers to see what they would do if they were looking for that one magical bull ride bite: Capt. Keith “Herk” Bergeron, Capt. Eddie Berthelot, speck specialist Tommy Vidrine and Bridge Side Marina’s Buggy Vegas.
To a man, they said the way to go would definitely be a Carolina-rigged whole crab to give yourself the best shot at buttoning up a big bull.
“I’d basically look for 12 to 15 feet of water, maybe 18 feet at the deepest,” said Bergeron, with Pair-A-Dice Charters. “I just find they run better in that depth. With the crabs, I break the two main claws off and the points on the end of the shell.
“Some people fish with cracked crabs, but there’s so many smaller fish that just eat the meat out of the crab with the back off, so I leave the back on.”
Vidrine also said he’d recommend a heavy Carolina rig with an 8/0 circle hook and a live crab.
“The key is having a whole crab,” Vidrine said. “Just take the pincers off and hook them properly with enough weight to keep it on the bottom — that’s where you’re going to get the winner. Lots of people break the crab in half and they end up catching lots of small redfish and hardheads. If you put a whole crab on there, a catfish won’t touch it.
“You don’t have to smash him. If that big bull comes by, it’s nothing for him to crush that crab inside of his throat — he’s got crushers made just for that. If you’re catching a 35- or 40-pounder, it’s no problem for him to swallow a crab in one bite.”
Vegas said Bridge Side will be stocked with all the supplies participants need, including any type of live bait they want.
“Crabs and mullet will be locked and loaded,” Vegas said with a chuckle, noting that a dozen live crabs will sell for $12 and a pack of three mullet will sell for $4. Six live crabs will cost $6, he said.
“For the bigger ones, I’d put a crab on it. To catch one to say you got one, I’d go with a croaker or a mullet,” Vegas said. “With a crab, you might not catch, but if you do it will be a nicer one.
“You can catch a big one with a mullet, too, but normally a crab will win the rodeo.”
Berthelot, with Spots and Specks Charters, agreed with the idea of going with a whole crab.
“Catfish suck all the meat out of a cracked crab,” he said. “But cut mullet will work just fine, too.”
He said he typically uses whole crabs for bulls — without modifying them at all.
“I usually just throw them out there,” he said. “You could cut the outside pickers off the shell to get it in his throat faster, but they crunch them up before the swallow them anyway.”
As far as fishing locations in the Pass, Vegas offered up the spot he’d try if he wanted to hook up with a big bull.
“When you come out of the marina, go straight then take a left toward the Caminada rocks,” he said. “About a quarter of the way down, a couple hundred yards away from the rocks on the Grand Isle side there’s a little pass there.”
Vidrine said he’d fish the north side of the Highway 1 bridge, in the northwest corner at The Crack between Chenier and a lone island.
“The tide is going to be very light the whole day, but the wind might create some tide and help out,” Vidrine said. “If it was me, I’d be on either side of The Crack because there might be a little more current there than in the main pass because it’s pinched off.”
Bergeron said he’d focus his efforts on the Gulf side of the bridge, toward Elmer’s Island. Berthelot joked wherever you decide to fish, Lady Luck ultimately needs to be on your side.
“Hopefully one passes underneath your hook,” he said. “Then just enjoy the ride.”