World’s largest kayak fishing tournament is ready to roll again
Kayak anglers rejoice!
The Coastal Conservation Association’s Ride the Bull returns to Grand Isle on August 26 and 27, 2022. After a two-year forced hiatus, the World’s Largest Kayak Fishing Tournament is ready to roll again.
RTB 11, originally set for August 2020, had to cancel due to Covid quarantines and for the protection of the kayak anglers, the tournament volunteers, and the community of Grand Isle. The disease was spreading at a high level and there was just no way to safely proceed.
Following the administration of vaccinations and a trend of lessening spread of Covid, a reset of RTB 11 was scheduled for August 2021. Despite a sudden ramping up of Covid, it was felt that the event could safely go on with proper precautions and social distancing in place.
But not so fast. With many kayak anglers already on Grand Isle pre-fishing for the tournament and generally enjoying an island getaway, Mother Nature threw in a big monkey wrench.
Tropical Storm Ida was out in the Gulf, rapidly intensifying, and setting her sights on coastal Louisiana. With forecasts becoming more ominous by the minute, CCA Tournament Director, Rad Trascher, took to Facebook just one day before the tournament to announce the cancellation.
“I’ve got some bad news. We’ve held out as long as we can, but obviously this storm is moving faster than expected,” he said.
Doing the right thing
Suspecting that evacuations would soon be issued for Grand Isle and the surrounding areas, there would be no way to safely hold the event. That plus the fact that the folks in Grand Isle didn’t need hundreds of people in the way of their hurricane preparation activities.
“We’re going to have to cancel….. With that, please keep all the Grand Isle residents and all the people of Hwy 1 as well as coastal Louisiana in your prayers and thoughts. Hopefully this will not be as bad as we think it is going to be,” Trascher said.
Unfortunately, it was. Ida quickly ramped up to a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 150 mph and post storm reports of gusts over 200 mph. The winds and storm surge rolled over the Hwy 1 corridor inflicting massive damage to Grand Isle, Fourchon, Leeville, and Galliano. It continued inland and brought its path of destruction to many other areas of south Louisiana.
In the immediate aftermath, no one knew if Grand Isle could or would return. The damage was severe. Bridge Side Marina, the home of Ride the Bull since its inaugural tournament in 2009, was all but leveled. The Vegas family who own the marina have been there before, too many times. However, with sheer determination and resilience, combined with literal blood, sweat, and tears, Bridge Side is back, along with many other Grand Isle families and businesses. There is still a long way to go, but there is no destroying the spirit that is Grand Isle.
Helping with relief
Trascher kept in close contact with Bridge Side and helped with several hurricane relief efforts over the months on behalf of CCA and Ride the Bull. In February 2022, an announcement was made on the Ride The Bull Fishing Tournament Facebook page that kayak anglers were waiting to hear.
“We have set this year’s Ride the Bull for Aug. 27 to help everyone plan their travels. But there is still a lot of unknowns about the progress of Grand Isle’s rebuilding efforts and whether there will be enough accommodations, facilities and other factors needed to supply you with the typical RTB experience,” Trascher posted.
After again consulting with Bridge Side to make certain they were up to hosting the event, all systems were a go. On May 31, the Facebook page announced: “RTB 11 Take 3…let’s try this again! We will open registration at noon tomorrow (June 1) on the ccalouisiana.com page. Bridge Side is ready for us and Grand Isle needs it more than ever. Much more to info to come…”
For those not familiar with the event, it is a unique live catch and release bull redfish format that takes place in a defined area of Caminada Pass on Grand Isle for kayaks and other paddle craft only. Assist boats mill about the kayakers and when a bull is caught, the boats are called over to take the fish and record the catch time and the angler’s tournament registration number.
Released back in the pass
The fish are placed in aerated tanks and whisked to the docks at Bridge Side Marina where they are weighed, measured, and tagged by CCA and LDWF volunteers. The information is recorded and the fish are revived and released back into the pass.
The tournament first broke the world record in 2013 with 488 kayak anglers participating. Subsequent years raised that bar dramatically to nearly 750. The most recent years were in the 400-500 range. With all the lingering Covid issues, ongoing hurricane recovery in parts of south Louisiana, and the general state of the economy, record breaking crowds are not expected this year. However, all that participate will be helping Grand Isle, seeing old friends, and guaranteed a good time.
Spectators are another unusual aspect of the event. Several fishing piers, a large Hwy bridge and a beach shoreline afford non-fishing friends and family the unique opportunity to watch the fishing action as it unfolds. More than just a kayak fishing tournament, Ride the Bull has truly evolved into a festival celebrating everything kayak fishing has to offer.
Ride the Bull 11, Take 3, will be held on Aug. 26 and 27, 2022 at Bridge Side Marina in Grand Isle, Louisiana. For information on participating or volunteering go to: ccalouisiana.com.
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