With only days to go in the 2013 CCA Louisiana STAR Tournament, the current first place anglers in the speckled trout division just dodged a big bullet.
A 9.25-pound bullet, in fact.
Kirk Weldon, 32, of Moss Bluff, reeled in the speck of a lifetime Thursday morning on a trip with clients booked through Calcasieu Charter Service, but he wasn’t registered for the tournament.
“I didn’t even know about the STAR until I got that fish in the boat,” said Weldon, a manager with Eagle Electric Machinery, Inc. “That was the first trout that I caught that day, and in my life. It shocked a lot of people that were with me.”
The 9.25-pound, 28 ¾-inch speck would have shuffled the current STAR standings, and not only would easily be leading the Western Division, but would currently be the heaviest speck by almost a whole pound across all four divisions.
The STAR tournament ends on Labor Day, Sept. 2.
“It was a pig,” said Scott Ilhi, the guide with Calcasieu Charter Service who netted the big speck. “Whenever he hooked it, it took the drag and I thought it was a redfish.”
Ilhi, 27, saw it was a nice speck about 20 yards from the boat. The closer the fish got, the better and better it looked, he said.
“I originally thought it was a nice 5-pound speck,” Ilhi said. “But as it got closer, it came up and I got pretty excited because I knew it was way over 5 pounds. I put it in the net and stuck it in the boat, and I don’t think he realized what he had just caught.
“Because I was obviously freaking out.”
Weldon, who only fishes a couple of times of year, grew up fishing farm ponds for bass and bream near his home in Jackson, Miss., and only got acquainted with saltwater fishing when he moved to south Louisiana about seven years ago.
He said Thursday morning’s trip had gotten off to a relatively slow start until he hooked up with the big speck about 10:30 a.m. The group was fishing with live shrimp about 2-feet under a popping cork.
“We weren’t catching much of anything,” Weldon said. “We were barely getting any bites.”
That’s when Ilhi contacted another boat with Weldon’s group and decided to switch positions and join them. When they arrived at the new location in the ship channel, Weldon decided to keep throwing the same shrimp that he had been using from the last spot.
“I still had a good-sized shrimp on my hook, but it was dead by then,” Weldon said. “I had already thrown him four or five times in the previous spot and I said, ‘Well, I’ll just throw him anyway.’ I threw him out, and that’s what I brought back.”
An experienced deer hunter, Weldon said he has several bucks mounted, but the big speck will be his first mounted fish.
“I’ve never really had a fish that I cared about, I guess” Weldon said. “Once we measured him and weighed him, Scott told me I’ll probably never catch one that big again in my life... I took him to the taxidermist the next morning.”