Ride the Bull is back and better than ever for its seventh installment next month in Caminada Pass at Grand Isle, and once again promises loads of great prizes worthy of the world’s largest kayak tournament.
But organizers concede one thing definitely will be missing this year — the seemingly ever-present smile of Capt. Kristen Wray, who passed away in January after a long battle with cancer.
She co-founded the hugely popular event in 2009 with her husband, Capt. Danny Wray of Calmwater Charters on Grand Isle, and the two literally took “the bull by the horns” and made the event into what is today.
This year, Coastal Conservation Association Louisiana is stepping in to help out and keep the event going strong in memory of Kristen, with CCA’s Rad Trascher serving as the 2016 tournament director.
“Danny and Kristen founded Ride the Bull. Danny was the figurehead, but Kristen made it happen, and it was too much for him to handle on his own,” Trascher said. “So he looked to us with CCA, who had been a sponsor from the get-go and had provided volunteers from the start, and asked us to carry the torch.
“All of the same old players are involved. Vicki and Chris Holmes have been instrumental in making it happen, as well as our friends at The Backpacker. All the sponsors that have been around in the past are back, and we’ve even added a couple.”
The one-day tournament — which focuses on catching the biggest bull red from a paddle-craft — will take place on Saturday, Aug. 27, with fishing in Caminada Pass scheduled to begin after a safety briefing at 7 a.m. until scales close at 2 p.m.
The event will be a little later in the month than in year’s past, Trascher said.
“That had to do with the tides, and the fact that we all know later in August and September is when the big bulls seem to hit Caminada Pass,” he said. “That date was picked and suggested by Danny himself.”
The registration fee for Ride the Bull VII prior to Aug. 15 is $75 per adult, and $65 for children 17 and under. After Aug. 15, entrants are guaranteed a shirt, but not necessarily their size. On-site registration will be held that weekend at Bridge Side Marina, and will cost $85 per adult and $75 per child.
Online registration will end on Tuesday, Aug. 23.
“Your registration also includes a CCA membership,” Trascher said. “For anybody that’s already a CCA member, it will just tack on a year to your expiration date.
“This year, ditty bags will feature an AFTCO high-performance shirt, and your registration also includes dinner Friday night from Camardelle’s and jambalaya on Saturday from Friends of Grand Isle — plus lots of other stuff going on.”
Friday night’s dinner at the Bridge Side pavilion will also feature the annual film festival sponsored by GoPro, as well as a band, he said.
The appeal of the event — which Danny Wray likened to Woodstock, or Sturgis, S.D. without motorcycles — is that anybody who participates has a realistic chance of winning the grand prize, Trascher said.
“This thing has had 7- or 800 participants the last few years, and the last two have been won by a female on a paddle board and a female in a canoe,” Trascher said. “Anybody can win — and there are some serious anglers out there, and we encourage those kayakers to do it.
“But this is not what serious kayak anglers are used to doing. This is about hoping you get lucky, and hoping you can rag all your buddies around you when you get the bite.”
In addition to cash and kayaks from Wilderness Systems, Trascher said there would also be prizes from Shimano, Lowrance and more.
“It’s a very lucrative tournament, with some great prizes considering what the entry fee is and the other great things you get,” he said. “We expect to pay out a lot of money with lots of prizes, too.”
Trascher is gunning for another big turnout, and is hopeful paddlers will return to Grand Isle again this year to show their support for Kristen Wray.
“So many people did this tournament because it was a spectacle, and so many did it because they loved Danny and Kristen,” he said. “Part of the reason we did it was because it’s a good way to honor Kristen, and having everybody participate and make it as big as it ever was will speak volumes about the Wrays and their connections to the kayakers and Grand Isle.”