The grim weather report included 4- to 6-foot choppy seas, 15- to 20-knot winds and an 80 percent chance of thunderstorms for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Taking our best chance to salvage the weekend, we took aim at a Friday-morning trip with rain forecasted to begin at 2 p.m. and 4- to 8-mph winds predicted on weather.com till lunch.
Boy, were they wrong.
Stepping out of my vehicle at Harbor Light in the darkness, I was slapped in the face by an oncoming 25-mph southeasterly gust. With two experienced captains and weekend conditions forecasted to worsen, we attempted a run at Pelto.
My brother and I had new bay boats, both untested, but they were made to withstand such conditions — or so we hoped.
With chocolate water in Bay Sainte Elaine and a quick hook-up with nothing more than a sting ray, we pressed farther south. The ride, though wet from the crosswind, was not as bad as the giant waves looked, but finding fishable waters in the choppiest whitecapped Lake Pelto I've ever crossed was going to be tough.
I knew if I could handle the oncoming waves, making it back with the waves would be a piece of cake. I was amazed how my new boat sliced through the huge whitecaps and landed each time softly, taking everything the wind and water would dish out. I knew making it to the backside of Last Island was the ticket to calmer seas and trout, but a quick stop on the calm side of the Sulfur Mine was our next play.
At 8 a.m., just as we were about to start fishing the perfectly laid submerged treachery known as the Sulfur Mine, storms had other plans, with western rain clouds accompanied by lightning bolts fast approaching. Temptations dawned upon me to beach the boat, hunkering down in the abandoned camp structure or Last Island, as I've done numerous times before. But terrifying the inexperienced saltwater crew, scared to ever boat again, seemed an unwise way to start a party weekend.
I let my crazed, gung-ho feelings subside as I gritted my teeth in defeat, throttling northward. The day's battle was over; yet the weekend had just begun.
The rest of the day, we chilled at the rented camp as more guys arrived. That evening we headed to the Coco Marina and Harbor Light bar. Being a non-drinker, I had no problems being assigned to designated driver duty.
With rain forecasted all day Saturday we stayed up late with plans of sleeping in and catching crabs for a boil.
6:15 a.m.: I awoke to an excited brother saying it was calm and cloudless.
I thought this to be a humorless prank, as I groggily walked out the door. But it was no joke; it was fishing time!
I rushed to launch the boat and hit the bay ASAP. Not knowing when the rain would arrive, I stayed in the marsh right out of Sevin Cut, catching scattered undersized school trout with an occasional keeper.
I was upset, thinking I could've gone farther south to really put a smack-down where the bigger fish lived, but little did I know a monster fish feeding in the shallows was avoiding the oncoming storms, too.
I fish quickly while working birds, using plastic lures as the school trout are constantly moving. I was cranking in my cork with two glow/chartreuse tail jerk shads so I could throw to another spot where birds where diving on fleeing shrimp.
My lures were skittering along the water's surface at an unfishably fast pace when a giant red torpedo exploded out of the water like a dolphin, lure in mouth. My buddy and I were speechless, thinking, "No way that just happened" as the fight began with something neither of us had ever seen before, an airborne redfish.
Not just any ol' redfish: a Brahma bull of a red!
In all my hundreds of saltwater fishing trips with an addiction to topwater fishing, I had never seen a redfish leap completely out the water with the head and tail at once, nor have I seen that size redfish in 2-foot-deep marsh ponds in the warm months, but here one was and it was a-pulling.
With a 20-pound leader on my tandem rig slightly frayed from trout teeth and oysters, I had to keep a loose drag — but that meant line was stripping. Stripping fast.
My 50 yards of spooled string was about to be completely unspooled until my buddy got on the motor in the knick of time. The battle lingered, as every time the bull red saw the boat he'd rip drag and take off with a fury. With shallow oyster reefs and a fish that had an aim for the boat's propeller, I thought surely I was going to get popped off.
Finally, we got the massive head in the net and landed him. With a now-bent landing net, it was euphoric putting my hands on this giant.
I've caught several bull reds that size and bigger with heavy tackle on cut mullet and crabs out in the pass, but nothing close to that size on plastic while trout fishing the marsh. We didn't have a scale big enough to weigh him, but at 43 inches stretched out and a 23-inch girth he is plenty big enough to be my first mounted saltwater fish and my first trophy caught in the "Trophy Magnet," the name of my all grey/charcoal boat.
Sure enough the rain came, but not all day as stated. The 4- to 6-foot seas that were forecasted all weekend were dying out, with the now-revised forecast predicting no rain on Sunday.
The Last Island trout smackdown we had planned all along was in reach.
This was mainly a fishing excursion and so, unlike a usual bachelor party, we picked up the camp the night before the partying. This way we could check out of the rented camp at dawn and have longer to fish. Some guys grumbled, calling it lame; but I kept reminding them what was waiting.
"Try calling reeling in giant specks on every throw lame," I said.
By this point of the trip, the inexperienced anglers were weary of my predictions, except for the best man who happened to fish with me that morning.
We awoke at dawn to dead-calm seas and a cloudless sky. Perfection. Having our live bait bucket come lose from the dock overnight put a worry in some of the guys, but I knew plastic was all I needed to put the crew on the fish.
By 10 a.m., both boats were limited out, totaling 150 trout and six happy fishermen. Not giants as with live croakers or topwater, but solid 14- to 18-inch trout caught on plastics under corks on the Gulf side, many two at a time.
Then we headed to Wine Island Pass for a few fun bouts with large quarry, ending up with a 37-inch bull red, a few sharks and stingrays. While sitting in the pass waiting for giant fish to bite, we also caught a bunch of white trout, black channel mullet and speckled trout on dead shrimp.
Luckily, the hardheads and gafftops weren't thick on the scene. Also, I caught a beautiful 20-inch Spanish mackerel, which made my day.
Don't expect any craziness like in the slideshow from the movie "The Hangover," but here's the link to the rest of the pictures from the weekend.
I was really excited that our two new boats worked great, handling a large crew and the rough waves with ease. Usually, I would never have battled such seas, except everyone wanted to try some fishing since the trip was looking to be completely weather-wrecked.
It pays to search, research and go to boat shows. At the Louisiana Sportsman's Show in Gonzales, my brother and I met Steve, the vice president of sales of Blue Wave, and we got all kinds of valuable information that none of the many boat dealers we had talked with gave us including: performance insights, trailer-weight specs and certain customizations that we never even knew existed on boats. Steve was able to hook my brother up with the sweet deal in Alabama.
Zack bought a practically new 19-foot demo Bluewave Evolution decked out with every accessory you can dream of and a 140-horsepower Suzuki for the price of a plain new rig with a smaller motor. He had been wanting a deal on that shallow-running model all year.
On the other hand, I had been eyeing a particular vessel ever since I bought my Escape four years ago, but I wanted to pay off my vehicle first. So I had been having to carefully choose my saltwater trips on rare dead calm days with my 13-foot Whaler.
With the fresh and saltwater I fish, I wanted a small center-console bay boat that could do it all, have room for the dogs and fish up to two couples, if needed. After many rough freshwater trips trying to cross extremely choppy lakes, I knew a deep V was what I wanted to feel safe, but I didn't want too large of a boat, as maneuvering through shallow stumps while bass fishing or jigging sac-a-lait in big bay boats is not fun. Also, growing up with big bay boats, maintenance and cleaning was always a pain. I wanted the smallest, highest-sided boat I could fit in my garage.
The Bluewave I was craving is the lightest center-console bay boat by over 200 pounds on the entire market — 795 pounds, dry weight. With the small towing capacity of my economic Escape, this was the only light, high-sided deep-V boat to fit the ticket.
This was going to be one hard rig to find, as most dealerships have either bigger saltwater boats or smaller freshwater boats. I would only settle for the easy-to-clean, all-grey hull and interior that is even harder to find. I was going to have to save up nearly $20,000 to custom order my boat, unless I got lucky; I got lucky.
After searching the Internet every single day for months, one morning I clicked on a Texas fishing forum and there was the exact brand-new grey Bluewave 160 V-bay I've been searching for at an inventory closeout special in Houston for under $14,000. Minutes later I put a down payment and booked a weekend vacation at Toledo Bend for the ride home.
It was the exact rig I wanted, but was only offered with the 60-horsepower instead of the 70-horsepower Yamaha, though going a tad slower is not a problem for me. It came with the boat seat, 55-pound hand trolling motor, normal livewell, stern ladder platform, etc. The platform works better than a ladder because it can be used as a bathroom station, too. You may snicker at that thought, but it is by far the neatest thing I've come across while fishing — as long as you aren't around other boats.
Also, with muddy dogs, dirty shoes and several days of hard fishing, the grey/charcoal splatter interior still looks spotless and can be cleaned with a brush in less than five minutes.
The Toledo Bend trip I've always dreamed of taking went great. We stayed at a cabin in Pirate's Cove Marina, and the scenery was gorgeous. No whopper bass were caught, as many people struggled to catch a single keeper with the post spawn and windy conditions.
However, I caught a bunch of small fish with a few keepers. Unfortunately, all my big strikes had bad hookups on buzzbaits. This included a nearly 5-pounder that spit the hook and trailer hook boat side.
I'll be back one day to retest those beautiful waters.