On a day when many anglers’ thoughts drifted westward to Hurricane Harvey and the havoc it was wreaking in Texas, Ride the Bull 8 and its 570 kayak anglers churned into Caminada Pass on Grand Isle Saturday morning for what turned out to be a fantastic day for targeting big bull reds.

More than 115 bulls hit the scales at Bridge Side Marina, and it took an almost 28-pounder to just crack into the Top 10.

But kayak newcomer Steven Pracht, who was in a borrowed kayak using borrowed tackle, landed two bulls, including one that tipped the scales at 36.78 pounds and made him the champion of Ride the Bull 8, the world’s largest kayak fishing tournament held every August in Grand Isle that focuses exclusively on bull reds.

“I’ve only kayak-fished once before in a rented kayak, and that was for speckled trout. Living in Shreveport, I don’t get a lot of opportunities to saltwater fish,” said Pracht, 22. 

Prior to Ride the Bull, Pracht’s largest bull red was only about 10 pounds. But he caught two  during the tournament, including the championship fish. 

“I took a nap after the long ride back to Shreveport and told my wife I was dreaming of catching bull redfish,” he said. “I came in a little after noon and that was a mistake. I spent the next two hours watching the weigh-in and worrying whether my lead would hold.”

It did — but just barely.

15-year-old James Dupuy sent a buzz through the crowd when he hooked up with a big bull at about 1:45 p.m. Tournament rules allow anglers who hook up before 2 p.m. to continue fighting their fish, so the awards ceremony was delayed while Dupuy battled the big red.

He was using a light Lew’s spinning outfit with only 15-pound test trying to catch live bait for his heavy tackle. But the big fish he was fighting surfaced briefly after 20 minutes and the assist boat confirmed it was a red.

Almost two hours later, it surfaced near his kayak but dove and finally popped the frayed line.

““It was heart-breaking, yet exciting all at the same time,” said Steven Plaisance, an assist boat captain. “If it wasn’t the winner, the big red surely would have been in the Top 10.”

Despite delaying the awards ceremony, the crowd went wild and gave Dupuy a rousing standing ovation when the assist boat returned him to the dock. Dupuy at least had an epic story to tell, and as a bonus, his first red landed earlier in the day earned him honors as top junior angler for RTB 8.

Despite concerns over the weather, 570 kayak anglers registered for the tournament, which featured a shotgun start Saturday morning where the anglers spread into a defined area of Caminada Pass.

While Ride the Bull is definitely a fun family event, winning it means some big time prizes. 

Besides the prestige of beating hundreds of kayak anglers, Pracht had his pick of five new top-line kayaks donated by tournament presenting sponsor Wilderness Systems, plus a huge cash payment. Pracht selected the versatile Wilderness Radar 135 with the Helix pedal drive system, valued at nearly $2,60

He’ll also be able to rig it out pretty nicely with some of his cash prize winnings of $2,864.25.

“Now that I’m a kayak owner, I can’t wait to come back next year to defend the title in my new Wilderness Radar kayak,” he said.

The remaining top-five winners picked their favorite Wilderness Systems kayaks from the remaining models and also received a cash payout. Winners in places six through 10 also received a cash prize in addition to selecting prizes like Lowrance fish finders and K2 coolers.

Top Ten Winners for Ride the Bull 8

1st Place:  Steven Pracht 36.78

2nd Place:  Matthew Carr 31.42

3rd Place:  David Spicer 30.90

4th Place:  Nicholas Austin 30.22

5th Place:  Carson Nunez 29.56

6th Place:  Johnny Bergeron  29.36

7th Place:  Chaney Serigny 29.02

8th Place:  Kevin Tippett 29.01

9th Place:  David Alford 29.01

10th Place:  Marty Gueho 27.64

*Ties are broken by earliest time caught

Top Lady Angler : Tammy Harley 23.90

Top Junior Angler : James Dupuy  26.42

Top Team: Marsaholics 12 fish