At the very first Ride the Bull tournament at Grand Isle in 2009, Capt. Danny Wray remembers wondering if anyone at all would bother to attend.
“We actually have some video that a videographer shot from the first one, and I say, ‘I hope somebody shows up,’” Wray said with a chuckle. “We were hoping we would get 75, and that’s what we got, on the money.”
Fast forward to 2014, as Wray contemplates how many kayakers will descend upon Bridge Side Marina Saturday morning and head into Caminada Pass in pursuit of a winning bull red for Ride the Bull V.
“I’m guessing based on the last four years that there’ll be another 50 to 70 people who show up that hadn’t registered,” said Wray, the tournament's organizer. “I told the caterer to cook for 700, so that’s kind of where we think it’s going to be.”
The catch and release spectacle has grown steadily each year, and now features prizes from the likes of Wilderness Systems kayaks, Kajun Custom Kayaking Company and GoPro, as well as $10,000 cash.
“I mean, you could be in fifth place and still win a boat,” he said.
Wray credited the event’s steady growth to the community of Grand Isle for embracing the tournament since its infancy.
“I think early on, when I first started kayaking at Grand Isle, it could have gone both ways,” he said. “It could have gone pro-kayak or anti-kayak. Thank God it all worked out for the best.
“We couldn’t do this without the support of the town of Grand Isle, the mayor and the community development team.”
Saturday’s schedule call for a safety meeting at 6:45 a.m., followed by a 7 a.m. shotgun start, weather permitting, with fishing ending at 3 p.m..
The beauty of the tournament is the sheer luck involved, but Wray shared a few pointers for anyone interested.
“They should paddle out somewhere between the third and fourth caisson on the up-current side of the bridge, and they should have in their possession an 8-pound mud anchor on about 30- to 40-feet of rope,” he said. “They should have already bought some mullet from Bridge Side and cut them up in 1 ½-inch chunks. I suggest a Carolina rig with 2- to 3-ounces of weight.
“Drop that over the side, and say some Hail Marys if you’re Catholic.”
Wray suggested getting pre-made Carolina rigs with a large hook so catfish aren’t as much of a bother, making sure your drag is set and keeping fresh bait in the water.
“Change your bait every 12 minutes or so,” he said. “Stick with it and keep your bait fresh. That’s important.”
The magic number in the pass depth-wise is about 12 feet for schooling reds, he said.
“I watch people catch them all the time, and that 12- to 14-foot shelving is where those fish move up to feed,” Wray said.
The sheer logistics of 700 kayaks, probably with more than 1,000 lines and hooks in the water in a confined space inside Caminada Pass for eight hours is daunting, but Wray said the particpants roll with the punches.
"They definitely tangle up sometimes, but nobody gets mad," he said. " It's fun. The kayak community feels like one big support group, I guess."