2019 STAR: ‘The year for youth’

David Herard, 7, shows off the West Division’s winning sheepshead, which tipped the certified scales at Hackberry Fishing Camp and Marina at 5.75 pounds. For his catch, Herard is set to receive a $1,500 Academy Sports & Outdoor gift card at the CCA awards banquet on Oct. 17 in Baton Rouge. (Photo courtesy of CCA Louisiana)
David Herard, 7, shows off the West Division’s winning sheepshead, which tipped the certified scales at Hackberry Fishing Camp and Marina at 5.75 pounds. For his catch, Herard is set to receive a $1,500 Academy Sports & Outdoor gift card at the CCA awards banquet on Oct. 17 in Baton Rouge. (Photo courtesy of CCA Louisiana)

Young anglers figure prominently on final leaderboard

They say youth is wasted on the young — but that absolutely wasn’t the case for the 25th annual 2019 Coastal Conservation Association’s Louisiana STAR Tournament.

In fact, young anglers racked up in many categories and figured prominently on the final leaderboard of the tournament, which ended on Labor Day.

“This year was definitely the year for youth,” said Rad Trascher, CCA’s tournament director. “The overall speckled trout winner, Zachary Miller, is 23. After Zach, the winner of the trout East Division, who also won the fly-fishing East Division, was 17-year-old Graydon Hall. The second place trout in the east was from Charles Gordon, who’s 16.

Graydon Hall, 17, took home top trout honors in the East Division with this nice 6.26-pound speck that was weighed in at Cypress Cove Marina in Venice.
Graydon Hall, 17, took home top trout honors in the East Division with this nice 6.26-pound speck that was weighed in at Cypress Cove Marina in Venice. (Photo courtesy of CCA Louisiana)

“Jansen Weaver brought in a beast of a 91.45-pound cobia to win that division, and he’s just 21. And to top it all off, the sheepshead West Division winner, David Herard, is 7 years old.”

The youthful resurgence this year bodes well for the future of saltwater angling in the state, Trascher said.

“It’s refreshing to see that many kids who are not worried about video games, out there trying to win fishing tournaments,” he said. “You’ve got some where it was pure luck, but some are really serious anglers like Graydon and Charles Gordon. Zach is 23, still somewhat new to the game — but it shows we’re attracting those folks, and we love giving them prizes.”

What the winners got

Speaking of prizes, the tournament’s biggest one — a 2019 Chevy Silverado pickup truck — got scooped up on the very first day of fishing. Nicholas Varnado reeled in a tagged redfish early on the morning of May 25 near Hopedale, and it turned out to be the only one caught by a registered angler.

Nicholas Varnado reeled in this tagged redfish near Hopedale on the very first day of the 2019 CCA Louisiana STAR Tournament, and is set to win a 2019 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck at this year’s awards banquet on Oct. 17 in Baton Rouge.
Nicholas Varnado reeled in this tagged redfish near Hopedale on the very first day of the 2019 CCA Louisiana STAR Tournament, and is set to win a 2019 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck at this year’s awards banquet on Oct. 17 in Baton Rouge. (Photo courtesy of CCA Louisiana)

Nine additional tagged fish were caught throughout the summer, but none by anglers signed up for the tournament.

“I wish we’d had more winners,” Trascher said, noting that additional tagged redfish would have meant prizes including a 35-foot Kodiak RV, 21-foot NauticStars with 150 hp Mercury motors and 1754 GatorTail Extreme Series boats with 40 hp motors. “It’s all about being in the right place at the right time. Obviously, you have so many saltwater anglers out there along with the 12,000 fishing the tournament, the odds are people that aren’t entered are going to catch some.

“The big takeaway is to make plans to register next year, so you don’t eat a $40,000 fish like nine folks did this summer.”

Miller reeled in the biggest speck from all four divisions, a 6.93-pounder, and weighed it in at Hackberry Fishing Camp and Marina. He’s in line to win a 21-foot NauticStar with a 150 hp Mercury 4-stroke engine, and the three other trout division winners are set to receive 19-foot NauticStars with 90 hp motors.

In addition to Miller and Hall, Jeff Dempster won the Southeast trout division with a 6.32-pounder, and Lorrie Ardoin was the big trout winner in the Southwest with a 4.65-pounder.

7-pound specks

No leaderboard trout cracked the 7-pound mark this year, but Trascher attributed that to tough fishing conditions more than anything else.

“There are no 7-pounders so that might seem a little odd, but those bigger fish that typically win STAR come from either the far east or the far west, and those guys had high water all summer,” he said. “They missed their best fishing time. If you look in the Southeast, everybody on the board was over 6 pounds — that’s probably one of the bigger sets of fish we’ve had there. So I don’t think you can read a whole lot into it. Typically those winning fish come early, and nobody was catching fish in any of those spots at that point.”

All winners will be honored at a banquet set for Live Oak Cedar Lodge in Baton Rouge on Oct. 17.

Polygraph examinations had not been completed at press time, so tournament results are officially pending, Trascher said. For a look at all the winners on the STAR leaderboard, visit ccastar.com.

Patrick Bonin
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Patrick Bonin is the former editor of Louisiana Sportsman magazine and LouisianaSportsman.com.