'The one that got away' harkens back to fishing stories probably as old as time — but 15-year-old James Dupuy gutted out a two-hour battle with a giant redfish late Saturday afternoon that kept the outcome of Ride the Bull 8 hanging in the balance on Grand Isle.
Dupuy, who had hooked a 26-pounder early on in the world’s largest kayak fishing tournament, decided to move to the north side of the Highway 1 bridge later in the day and set out his two redfish poles in hopes of catching an even bigger bull.
But while waiting around 1:45 p.m., he decided to cast out a dead shrimp on light tackle — a Lews Mach II spinning combo — in hopes of catching some baitfish.
“Instead, I hooked up on a monster red, and that’s where the ride started,” Dupuy said.
The tournament officially ended at 2 p.m., but anglers with verifiable hook-ups are allowed to finish the fight — and a nearby assist boat was watching Dupuy’s ongoing battle.
““We saw the fish come to the surface after about 20 minutes and confirmed it was a redfish,” said Steven Plaisance, captain of the assist boat.
Not only did the power boat follow along, but fellow kayak anglers who were out of fishing time stayed a safe distance and also paddled with Dupuy for a ringside seat for his bull red ride.
“The fish was taking line out like a marlin and it almost spooled me three times,” Dupuy said. “The fish drug me all around Caminada Bay in my Hobie Quest kayak. It drug me from the middle of the bridge toward Grand Isle then back to the north side of the bay, then back and forth again ….
“When the water was shallow, the fish would run straight out, but when it got deep, it would be next to the boat, but straight down. It was like trying to pull up a sunken ship from the bottom.”
Back at Bridge Side Marina, the crowd patiently waiting for the awards ceremony cheered when they heard Dupuy was hooked up with a big bull.
Finally, with the battle approaching two hours, Dupuy and his floating entourage got a good look at the beast.
Unfortunately, it also was their last look at the big bull.
“I finally brought it up along side the boat. I saw its tail first and then its head,” Dupuy said. “However, he immediately dove straight down bending my pole almost in a circle — and then my 15-pound test line snapped.”
A two-hour battle, gone in a split second — and along with it any hopes of a new kayak or some serious cash at the awards ceremony. But the young angler took the crushing blow like a true champ, and earned the admiration of his fellow competitors.
“James handled the devastating loss better than any adult fisherman I know,” Plaisance said. “He was obviously disappointed, but also realized what he had just experienced.”
Totally spent from the two-hour fight, Dupuy and his kayak were loaded onto the assist boat for the short ride to Bridge Side. The assist boat crew, all experienced fishermen, concluded the big bull could have pushed the 50-pound mark — which would have made Dupuy the tournament champion.
When they arrived at the dock, all attention focused on the young angler, highlighting a day he’ll likely never forget — even if the big one ultimately got away.
“When I got their everybody cheered for me. At the end, I received an award for the biggest redfish for the Junior Angler division. I also received fishing poles and various gifts from vendors, and they were congratulating me,” Dupuy said. “That day was one of the best days of my life — and I really know what it means to ride the bull.”
Shreveport’s Steven Pracht, using a borrowed kayak and borrowed tackle, won Ride the Bull 8 with a 36.78-pound bull.