Kayak tournament season is in high gear ,with tournaments being held across the state that cover a wide variety of formats and species. We caught up with some winners to get a few tips on their strategies for success.
Paddle Palooza XV - Grand Isle
Louisiana’s oldest kayak fishing tournament is hosted by the Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club and features a Cajun Slam format, awarding top prizes to those that manage to catch a trout, redfish and flounder. Flounder once again proved elusive, with only seven caught by more than 225 participants. Of those, only three anglers managed to combine their flounder with a trout and a red to weigh in a full Cajun Slam.
Coming out on top was Mark Eubanks with a total slam weight of 8.24 pounds. Obviously born with good fishing genes, Eubanks’ father Tommy is a two-time Paddle Palooza winner, taking home top honors in 2011 and 2013. Mark has placed in several previous kayak tournaments, but this is his first major win.
Eubanks didn’t get to pre-fish, but did have a plan.
“I launched early to go hit some favorite spots in Golden Meadow. I was ready at the 5 a.m. lines in time, and immediately began throwing topwater plugs. I also tossed out a cork and Vudu shrimp combo,” he said. As the sun came up, Eubanks started getting bites. He missed a big trout that threw the hook, but landed an 18-inch red and 13-inch trout. “I then caught a couple of over-slot reds and then a couple of 22s. I made a few passes over the area and then landed a solid 26-inch red. It was time to flounder search,” he said.
Eubanks made several moves by kayak and by vehicle, but his preferred flounder spots were all occupied, including one by his dad.
As a final plan, he headed to Grand Isle to try his luck at the rocks and camp structures.
“After about 20 minutes, I had a 13 ½-inch flounder take a live minnow fished on a ¼-ounce Carolina rig with a circle hook. I tried for a while to upgrade my flounder, but headed in to the weigh-in since early weigh-in time breaks a tie,” he said.
It was a long wait for the final results.
“Knowing that my dad had won Paddle Palooza twice, the pressure was really on now. If I was to win, we would be the first ever father-son combo to win,” he said.
When the results were in, Eubanks came out on top and was given the traditional ride in his new Hobie Pro Angler kayak.
“I now have the pressure to repeat, or follow in dad’s footsteps and win both Paddle Palooza and Fall N Tide in the same year. If so, we can be the first father and son combo to win both major tournaments in the same year, and I’ll be the second person to ever do it,” he said.
Boats on the Bayou - New Orleans
Started several years ago in conjunction with the City Park Big Bass Rodeo which is shore-based, this fun tournament allows kayak anglers to participate in a separate division since kayaks are not allowed in the park’s lagoons. The event takes place in Bayou St. John and offers trophies in bass, speckled trout, redfish and trash (any other species caught) categories. This primarily freshwater bayou was reconnected with Lake Pontchartrain, and is home to a variety of fresh and saltwater species, but the fishing is generally considered pretty tough.
Jon Carter decided to target speckled trout first, betting on better chances before the sun and wind got too high. It worked. “I fished the north end of the bayou (more salty) and caught the trout on my second or third cast to a dock with a hard suspending jerkbait,” Carter said. He took the fish to the nearby live weigh-in station. “I then trolled a swim bait around for a while with no luck. It was now mid-morning and the wind was really kicking up, about 20 mph, so I decided to fish some windy points with the trusty jerkbait,” he added. He caught a few small bass fishing near the island, but finally landed a much bigger bass. When the results were tallied, Carter took first place in two divisions with his 1.6- pound speck and a 3.89-pound bass.
Marsh Madness Top Bag - Cocodrie
This unique tournament is hosted by the Lafayette Kayak Fishing Club and features a grab-bag draw of lures on the morning of the tournament.
Each angler submits eight plastic tails and one wildcat lure of their choice. Anglers blindly draw a bag and have the chance of choosing their own submission, so everyone is encouraged to submit quality, confidence lures. Each angler may additionally bring eight jigheads and their own choice of one wildcat lure. That’s all they can use to fish in the tournament. As an incentive to submit quality lures, part of the prize money goes to the person who’s bag was used by the winning angler. The top prize is for the heaviest combination of two slot-sized redfish.
To virtually no one’s surprise, first place was taken by Kalon Johnson, who bested the 66 other anglers to weigh-in two reds totaling just under 12 ½ pounds.
Johnson is a regular to the stage in both kayak and powerboat tournaments. Possessing redfish whispering skills like no other, he shared some tips that helped him win this tournament.
“The high winds and dirty water made the fishing tough. In these tournament conditions, you have to be mentally tough to get through that long two, three-, four-hour drought without a bite,” Johnson said.
While he caught his first slot red before the sun started shining, the other did not come until about noon. His fish were caught on a Matrix purple haze/Chatterbait combination. Due to the high winds, he opted to fish the calm side of the ponds where the water was still dirty, but good enough for him to still see the reds as they floated high in the water column. “Perseverance and patience are always ingredients toward success, and today was a good reminder for me,” he said.
Marsh Bass Madness - Lacassine Pool
The Lake Charles Kayak Fishing Club hosted an open bass tournament on the Lacassine Pool featuring a catch-photo-release five-fish stringer of largemouth bass.
Utilizing the TourneyX real-time tournament management system, participating anglers uploaded photos of their qualifying catches and participants (and spectators) could get live standings by checking the app.
Vincent Soliz of Iowa logged in a full five-fish stringer with a total combined length of 67.25 inches. “First thing that morning, they wanted something flashy. I found fish throwing a spinnerbait where it was deep enough and not too grassy. That bite ended around 8:30 a.m., but I already had three fish logged in,” Soliz said. Around 10 a.m., Soliz changed tactics and started fishing areas with lily pads. “I started throwing topwater frogs and speed craws over the pads and dropping them into the holes where the pads were thick,” he said.
Soliz ultimately filled out his stringer, and took home first place honors.