Ride the Bull is back with creative weigh-in, conservation measures

The target species for Ride the Bull is a hefty bull redfish. Although current law allows anglers to keep one redfish over 27 inches, proposed new regulations, once in effect, will likely no longer allow keeping any bulls. New tournament rules encourage anglers to keep all reds in the water until the chase boat comes to weigh and release it on the spot.

Ride the Bull 12 is scheduled for Bridge Side Marina in Grand Isle for August 25 and 26, 2023. Once again presented by the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA), tournament sponsors The Backpacker, Big Adventures/Native Kayaks and AFTCO have a host of prizes awaiting the winning kayak anglers.

With all the talk about additional conservation measures needed for Louisiana’s redfish, CCA has preemptively implemented some weigh-in changes this year to help ensure the future of the tournament as well as enhancing conservation efforts for the event’s namesake, bull redfish.

Proactive measures

One of the unique features of the rodeo has always been the live weigh-in, tag and release practices used. To enter a contestant’s fish, a fleet of chase boats mill around Caminada Pass watching for kayak anglers that have landed a bull. The chase boat moves in, takes a handoff of the live bull from the angler. The angler’s tournament number was tagged on the fish, the time of catch recorded, and the fish whisked away in a livewell to the scales at Bridge Side Marina. On days when the bite is fast and furious, some boats bring multiple fish at one time. The fish are then weighed, tagged and released by CCA volunteers and the Tag Louisiana Program. It is a precision operation that has been finely honed over the the years of the tournament.

However, although the proposed redfish regulation changes have not been finalized and the current suggestions are subject to change, one big change is almost certain — the new regulations will likely prohibit keeping any bull redfish over 25 or 27 inches in length. This would present a problem and likely make the current procedures illegal.

Getting smart

In looking for solutions to get ahead of the coming law changes and do their part in getting a jump on upping the conservation efforts for reds, CCA has partnered with Bubba brands to weigh the fish at each individual kayak and eliminate several steps in the weigh-in process. Bubba will be supplying several of their new hand-held “Smart Fish Scales” to the chase boats for digital weighing of the fish at the site of the catch.

Anglers will be able to keep their fish in the water until the chase boat arrives. This cuts out multiple handling steps and gets the fish reliably weighed and returned for a quick, healthy release.

“We’ve had great success on fish releases during the past tournaments, but are just looking at ways to remove as many negative variables as we can,” said Rad Trascher, Executive Vice President, CCA Louisiana. “Our goal is to always ensure that these fish get back in the water safely, and extra emphasis and procedures will be employed this year.”

Innovative scales

These innovative scales are touted as “the most advanced fishing accessory that Bubba has ever released.” They come in the Pro Series Smart Fish Scale and Smart Fish Scale. Both weigh up to 60 pounds maximum, are IPX7 waterproof rated and boast a best-in-class accuracy of +/- 0.3%. The Pro Series has additional benefits of advanced-tournament management, bluetooth and connectivity to the new Bubba Mobile App for even more features. The scales are already being used by some prominent bass fishing tournaments, such as Major League Fishing.

CCA is implementing changes to the Ride the Bull weigh-in procedures. The chase boats will now weigh the fish at the angler’s kayak with a Bubba digital “Smart Fish Scale.” This change helps ensure a quicker, healthy release of the fish back into Caminada Pass.

“This new partnership could not have come at a more opportune time,” Trascher said. “CCA supports the necessity for new redfish regulations and these Bubba scales are allowing us to be proactive in changing our weigh-in practices while staying true to the roots of Ride the Bull. Getting ahead of the coming changes allows us to implement these new procedures and get them fine-tuned for when they are ultimately enacted.”

Ride the Bull continues to carry the distinction of being the World’s Largest Kayak Fishing Tournament. With nearly 750 kayak anglers participating at its highest year, the event routinely continues with several hundred participants each year. Although Covid cancellations and Hurricane Ida’s destruction of Grande Isle caused some decline in attendance, RTB 11 returned last year and hosted nearly 300 participants and weighed in 115 bull reds.

Back in full swing

Grand Isle is back in full swing and many more rooms, camps and campsites are available for participants to stay on or near the island. The Grand Isle State Park, popular with kayak anglers and recently reopened, has many sites for camping. Host marina Bridge Side is eager as ever to host this Grand Isle signature event.

Spectators are another unusual aspect of the tournament. A couple fishing piers, a large bridge over the pass and a beach shoreline afford non-fishing friends, family and curiosity seekers the unique opportunity to watch the fishing action as it unfolds. The large public pier next to Bridge Side Marina, a popular viewing spot, has recently been repaired and reopened.

Crowds also typically gathered under the pavilion at Bridge Side to watch as the fish came in for weigh-in, tagging and releasing. That aspect of the tournament will be lost due to the new on-the-water weighing procedures. More than just a kayak fishing tournament, Ride the Bull has truly evolved into a festival celebrating everything kayak fishing has to offer.

From beginners to pros

Kayak fishing continues to experience great yearly growth. The atmosphere of Ride the Bull is different. Although there are thousands of dollars of prizes on the line, there’s no sense of cut-throat competition. The tournament participants range from professional kayak anglers to those that are kayak fishing for the first time. While fishing experience does not hurt, all realize that any participant can win the event. Bull reds are not picky eaters and you just need to be lucky enough to have your bait in the right spot at the right time. There’s no solitary fishing here, the anglers are close enough to hold friendly conversations.

The new weigh-in procedures ensure that the tournament can continue in its original format in the face of changing regulations while doing everything possible to ensure the health of the fish that are caught and released. The tournament looks forward to hosting new participants as well as the returning regulars.

About Chris Holmes 247 Articles
Chris Holmes has kayak fished in the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and many places in between.

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