About the Trout

BY JAY POTTER

Fall fishing is probably the best fishing in South Louisiana. After cool front or two, things really begin to turn on in the salt marsh. Trout move in and redfish group up and get rowdy.

It is the perfect time of year to go stalking redfish in the shallows and have a chance to score some trout in slightly deeper water.

One amazing thing about the K12 is that everything slows down so much from fishing in a normal boat. Trout, redfish and mullet all produce their own noises and the stealth and silence of it all can be a huge help in finding fish.

In October, we found trout by hearing and seeing them pop the water not only under lights, in the dark and during the day, but even as late as midday.

In November, more, bigger trout have pushed deeper into the marsh and we have caught them anywhere water is moving, particularly working bait in open water, both under birds or otherwise.

The main thing with trout seems to be their preference. You may get eight straight bites on one bait, then nothing. Don’t give up. Switch colors, switch baits, switch presentation methods to try to elicit another round of bites.

Unequivocally, Matrix Shad has been the most productive artificial bait for us, and (almost in any color) has been the hottest bait for trout in South Louisiana in general. They work great for reds or trout on a jighead on the bottom, but for some reason, a Matrix under a popping cork has been nearly irresistible to trout. The underwater tail action on the Matrix is awesome, and when a trout sees it fall post-pop, the speckled fella is powerless to resist.

An important part of the trout chase is having an effective popping cork. With many brands and price ranges, it really is worth the extra money for a premium cork. Glass or plastic beads, rattles, miniature propellers, springs, etc are all potential additions to make more, effective noise over your bait.

Most of it is about feel. Ideally you want a cork that:

1) Keeps you in the closest contact with your bait. 2) Pops easily and effectively 3) Is weighted and can remain in one spot. 4) Will allow you to create a variety of different popping sounds.

The last one takes the longest to figure out. As I mentioned, trout will make different sounds when they feed, so it makes sense to try to vary your popping sounds to imitate theirs and give them what they want.

When it gets really cold (down here that means 30s and maybe even the dreaded 20s), like it is this week, the fish will slow down and head into deep water. Sluggish from the cold, trout and redfish will stack up in deeper holes, and will still gladly bite a bait worked slow across the bottom.

Normally we always want to fish moving water; the water moves the bait, the bait moves the fish, we catch the fish. In the winter though, dead end canals and other deep spots with little to no current offer an easy place for fish to settle down.

A few things about the K12 are perfect for trout fishing:

- Open deck: it gives you a lot of space to cast, room to set out different baits and tools and plenty of room to flip trout into your boat.

- Stability: Standing up gives you better leverage for an easier hookset, especially when fishing a cork.

- Boat positioning: Using the scupper holes and a stick anchor, or just an anchor on a rope, you can pull into a spot and anchor on any side of the boat to face desired direction based on wind. Similarly, you can stand or sit and fish in any direction in the K12.

- Multiple Rigs: Three different rods and reels fit easily into the built in rod holders and one of the cupholders in the seat. It helps to have easy access to different rigs if you need to quickly switch from topwater to bottom fishing or to a cork etc.

Stray the Course.

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Top O’ the Water to You?

BY JAY POTTER

Sometimes they suck it underwater. You hear a rattle, see a splash, and it’s gone. Sometimes they strike from the side, a flash of red and again, gone. And still sometimes–because of that downwardly shaped mouth built for bottom feeding–sometimes that riled up redfish will launch his head all the way out of the water to smash that topwater lure.

I have written before about the violence of a redfish or trout strike, and a topwater lure is the key to the full experience.

Lately, some of the KC Kayaks team’s best bites have been on topwater, and that kind of action coupled with the intense LA heat makes an early start or a late finish all but a necessity.

One morning I went with three out-of-state KC Prostaffers and we dominated close to 50 reds from 7-10 am. Joe Waple of North Carolina, Joe Davis of Texas and Rex Del Rey De Guzman of Texas and I waited out a small shower and hit the water. Waple and Davis had never fished in Louisiana prior to the weekend and everyone immediately started slamming fish. Davis, a longtime bass fisherman, threw nothing but a bone colored topwater and kept piling up the fish.

I started with my trust black/chartreuse but the overcast day found fish wanting the lighter colored baits: bone, chrome and pink, etc. Top-Dogs, She-Dogs, Badonkadonks (Bombers) and GunDog Dummies all pulled in fish. All are hard floating baits equipped with rattles and treble hooks.

Prime topwater time is before the wind starts first thing in the morning, sometimes before sunlight, and when it lays down right before or right after dark. To figure out if the topwater bite is on, not only must you find the right color, but you must find the right presentation. As with most types of fishing (bass, trout, reds especially), it’s important to vary your retrieve and pay attention to what does or doesn’t elicit strikes.

The ideal topwater method is to use a combination of rod movement and reeling to “walk the dog” or make the lure zig-zag back and forth on top, simulating a baitfish. It takes significant practice and every trip it may take time to find your groove, but keep working it. Speed it up, slow it down. Stop it briefly, pop it a couple times. Shoot, depending on what you’re doing, cruise forward and troll the lure, leaving a perfect “V” wake behind it. I like to cast toward the bank and work my way out, sometimes working along the bank is productive. With a high tide early, they will often be found in the grass, a nice topwater presentation can coax them out.

One more CRUCIAL thing to remember: DO NOT set the hook until you feel the pull on the end of the line. Depending on how hard they hit it and how fast they run, you may have to reel down quickly to feel the fish, but DO NOT set it until you do. Frequently the fish will hit and miss, and you can stop the bait, twitch it etc, with the possibility of getting another strike. I had had up to three failed strikes on one cast, but damned if that isn’t exciting!

Most mornings haven’t been that strong, but I always bring three rods (jighead with a plastic for sight casting and bottom fishing, popping cork with a plastic and a baitcaster rigged with a topwater early and late) just to make sure I am ready if an opportunity presents itself.

Lately I have caught most of my fish under a cork, but there is usually a reward for putting in a concerted effort with the topwater. It might only be one or two blowups that don’t even yield a fish, but it is so exciting to see a strike that offers a little insight into what makes redfish go.

KC ProStaffer TJ Harris and I had some fun during a recent afternoon trip to Dularge. We left Baton Rouge at lunch and not long after launching, we were finding fish under a cork but had managed only one topwater strike. That changed abruptly as the sun began to sink.

Fish activity picked up on the calm side of the bayou, a thick grass bank sitting in two feet of water. The wind was dying and produced some glassy water until about 10 feet out from the bank. I readied my black/chartreuse lure for a long cast, but stopped as I noticed a giant wake 30 yards out and closing.

It was clearly a good fish that was calmly cruising looking for an easy meal. I paddled a couple times and positioned myself pointing right at him. After flicking the lure to the grassline, I worked it at about a 45 degree angle toward the fish, but was careful to keep it in front of him and not sneak it up behind or beside him and spook him.

At about 4 feet away, the fish sensed the lure and surged forward, eyes out of the water, to slurp up the back half, including the shiny treble hook. After some war whooping and a nice fight, I had a 28″ red in the boat.

I kept casting and every few casts produced a blowup but no fish. Honestly, I wasn’t too worried because they were clearly interested, and I was getting treated to quite the show.

About that time I heard the unmistakable sound of a big red crashing around in the grass on the bank. I made a couple more casts before the grass started shaking and giving way to a fiesty red storming out like a big guy wading through a crowd into a bar fight.

I knew he had heard my topwater and was either pissed, hungry, or both, and that he was coming for it. As he cleared the edge of the grass, an even bigger wake materialized, headed toward where my previous retrieve had begun.

Hurriedly I reeled up and fired again. About three twitches later, the water exploded as a big red head came fully out of the water and slammed into the lure. The fish had come from the side and a perfect view produced a private National Geographic moment for me.

This fish went about 30″ and I was treated to an awesome, drag-pulling fight. Luckily he had chomped right onto the back treble hook and it was neatly in the top of his mouth. By any stretch a great red, particularly in a kayak, but adding a topwater lure to the mix made it that much better.

Stray the course.

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Obey the Bay

BY JAY POTTER

Weather in South Louisiana can be tough on kayak fisherman. High winds, changing water levels and inconsistent temperatures can make fish hard to find. Still, there’s a great way to keep your kayak fishing fever at bay: get to a bay.

A lot of the kayak fishing done by the Kajun Custom team takes place in somewhat protected water. Sight fishing shallow ponds, anchoring near points or casting down banks of canals.

However, starting in the winter time, we often take a different approach. Louisiana’s coastline is littered with small bays and in the Port Fourchon/Grand Isle area, and several provide exactly what we need to find fish in the cool winter months, the windy spring months, and even early summer, as fish settle into summer patterns.

When the weather is particularly difficult, it may be time to outfit a K12 with a trolling motor to help cut the wind. Our production staff has done a great job with internal wiring and aqua plugs for battery cords, so a motor becomes much more a benefit than a burden.

KC Pro Staffer TJ Harris almost always fishes (except in tournaments) with his internally wired K12 and a trolling motor. A fiend with a popping cork, he has also been known to terrorize trout populations in these aforementioned bays.

The water we are discussing here is roughly two to six feet in places (it’s nice to have it vary so you can try different depths). Most of the bottom is covered by mud, but along the edges and throughout the interior are located small oyster reefs. The larger reefs are marked with white PVC poles, but there are numerous other pockets that will hold fish.

What can make these bays so special, though, is the clear water. When it cools off and the sediment settles, the water is clear six feet straight to the bottom, making these oysters, and sometimes fish, easy to spot. In warmer weather, water might still be clear if the tides and fresh water levels are right.

One last facet of an ideal bay setup is some sort of deeper trench that serves as fish a highway through this water. Since TJ and I have different aims and different styles out there, I think it makes sense to discuss both. In both cases, using the wind is important. Pick what area you want to concentrate on fishing and determine where you must paddle to let the wind drift you over that area.

Depending on the wind and the tide, your drift may need more or less adjustment. It’s useful to work in some kind of pattern. I like to think of it as a grid, so you can remember the areas so you can systematically cover the un-fished area. TJ prefers to work the length of the trench with his popping cork, then back down the edges and off into deeper water. He will drift and make several casts, then back up and over to work the area next to where he just fished.

With Matrix Shad Green Hornet, Tiger Bait, and other colors, TJ provides a suspended fish-like bait. His methods work, as he has been seen catching limits of trout in less-than-ideal conditions.

Since I am mostly going for reds in the bay, and since I don’t have a motor, I fish a little differently. First, I seek out the oyster reefs I know are there. I’ll circle around the spot to not stir it up and get the wind at my back. I angle casts across the area in a fan shape, and spend a few minutes with a couple different baits. If nothing bites, I move on to the next spot and repeat.

Sometimes the reds are stacked up, and you may get lucky and guess right early. If not, I’ll pick a spot to drift and stand and cast while I drift and look. The K12 makes this easy.

Two things happen from here, either I get a bite on a blind cast, hang a fish and throw my anchor down; or, I see some oysters, then a red or two, throw my anchor down and try to find where they are holding. Should those fish be part of a nice school, get ready for action.

A couple times this winter, we had three people on one school catching fish nearly every cast for a good 20 minutes. Many of these will be throwbacks, but the excitement is still there. One day I sat without moving very much, caught reds until my shoulder hurt and left them biting. Another day I caught 20 or 30 fish over the same oysters.

Then there is trout fishing. It seems good sized trout will travel a bay, and even hunker down, sometimes in three or so feet of water.

After setting that ever-important drift, the way I get to the trout is to put a fish-style plastic with nice action on a 1/8 or 1/4 oz jighead (depending on the wind and tide etc.) and reel slowly but steadily with my rod tip pointed down at the water. A couple twitches here and there don’t hurt, but I want my bait staying down in the water if possible. Sometimes a trout will hit with their trademark violent strike, but particularly in the winter, you may feel only weight on the end of your line.

Like a bass, the fish may take your bait then run straight at you, so speed on the reel and a quick raise of the rodtip will help keep the fish hooked. Keeping a grid in mind, I will work the bay in long straight drifts, and paddle back up and go down again. The trout seem to come when and where they come, so its important to get as many casts out as possible and always be ready.

Stray the course.

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“The Scout” at Lake Fontana, NC

Sitting in the middle of 600 foot deep Lake Fontana, Jared and Daniel would be the first to push “The Scout” to its limits. Loaded with gear, the boat managed to hold everything needed for a two-man camping excursion: two 60-liter backpacks, two fishing rods, a small  ice chest and a medium-sized dry bag for their tents and sleeping bags.

They left Baton Rouge and drove all night to Fontana Village, North Carolina with KC Kayaks’ newest addition, ”The Scout,” the boat designed and manufactured for the Boy Scouts of America.

Eleven hours later, at 8 am, they pulled up to the 27-mile long lake, loaded up all their gear, and were on the water by 9 o’clock.

The goal for the first day was an exploratory five mile paddle to end up on their destination island, where the two would set up a full campsite and spend two nights. The goal for the second day was to fish and do absolutely nothing.

At 16.5 feet long and weighing 78 pounds, the Scout is a true tandem sit-on-top kayak that can be dragged by one, or easily carried by two. When the guys reached their island, there was nowhere to safely dock; and the water was rising a foot every night because of the heavy runoff from all surrounding streams. No problem, as they hauled the boat 20 feet up the sheer rocky shoreline.

As it turned out, the water was so low, that the “island” would not be an island until the water rose another 20 feet. Because of this news, they were forced to hang their food and gear in the trees to avoid any bear confrontations.

The second day was spent further exploring in the kayak. The guys had been told to fish the bottom of the lake, unfortunately, they found nowhere shallow enough to actually reach the bottom.

Luckily, they brought food and they still ate well after enjoying their daily adventures.

After a weekend on the water, the Scout had been tested and approved. Stability was no problem, nor was space to fit all that gear, and after 10+ miles of paddling, the guys were already planning their next trip.

Stray the Course.

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Warm in Winter

BY JAY POTTER

As the thick, humped, nasty-looking black drum sidled up to my kayak, I bobbed a Gulp shrimp in front of his face. He slurped it lazily and showed a similar indifference once I set the hook.

This hoss had given himself away from 30 yards by wallowing in  less than 2 feet of water, typical behavior this time of year. The entire process lacked any suddenness, atypical of redfishing in the marsh.

I spent more time working this fish (roughly 15 minutes) on my Shimano baitcaster combo than I had paddling (10 minutes) from the launch to this spot. Luckily KC Pro Staffer TJ Harris showed up in time to assist and snap some pictures. A couple more of those large drum were seen, caught and released, but honestly dealing with them got tiresome.

This mid-February afternoon the temperature rose into the high 60s, and the sky was clear with 5-10 mph winds. Sighting reds in the shallows seemed the way to go.

Standing and poling with my paddle, I had a great view of these flats. Groups of sheepshead thrashed around me and further muddied the two foot deep water, it held no reds.

Then, I drifted into a deeper cut that led out to a bigger bay, the water turned a clear green and I immediately saw a red spook off. Still standing, I flicked a Gulp! in that direction into the deep middle of the cut. A slow retrieve on the bottom was too much for a nice eater. Fish down, but I still wanted to sight fish.

Continuing down this clear deep cut, I approached some broken marsh leading into another small bay. In the K12, my standing eye-level is roughly six feet above the water, so I peered over a tall grass island to see a tail break the surface in a small pool. Paddling over to a circular series of interconnecting pools, I went into shallow water stalk mode.

The fish  had already made it a couple pools ahead of me, and I was worried that if I followed behind him, he might outpace me into open water. Quickly bending down, I exchanged my rod for my paddle. After a couple quick strokes, I spun and headed around some oysters and more grass clumps to meet this red head-on.

Again, since I could stand and see over the grass, I marked the fish from a distance and planned my assault. I angled myself parallel with the fish to my left at 15 yards and the bank 3 feet further to his left.

Some may question the maneuverability of a spacious sit-or-stand-on-top kayak like the K12, but here it was certainly no issue. I was able to sight a fish, switch from rod to paddle, turn around, visually follow the fish, paddle and re-position myself in regard to the fish, switch back to my rod and make a cast.

This all happened in a matter of a seconds while standing in a kayak and maintaining visual contact on my fish without spooking it from noise or movement.

My plastic dropped a couple feet in front of the fish, right next to the grass on the bank, but the fish stopped. I wanted to cast to where the fish would be, not where he was so he didn’t spook; and I wanted my plastic on the mud bottom, so when the fish moved over that spot, I could twitch it past his face.

Hard-wired to eat, the fish usually has little choice in the matter, even if finicky or full. Inspecting some oysters, this fish hadn’t sensed my bait, and almost made me reel in to try again. Somehow I managed to wait.

Ideally, I’ll stay behind a fish in the shallows, but I was already drifting in front of him, so a retrieve and cast might give me away.

Blood pounding in my head and my chest, I realized I wasn’t breathing as the fish started up again, right in the same direction. Just as the wind pushed me almost too far, the fish arrived in front of my bait. I twitched and he obliged, drilling the plastic. I tightened up, set the hook and we were off.

Adrenaline hits me every time I actually sight and chase a fish, but on the first one of the day, it always hits the hardest. That’s one reason I keep going back out in the K12. After that fish, I caught several more because I was comfortable and I had everything I needed to last the entire day. That’s another reason.

Stray the course.

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New Modifications

Just wanted to share a quick update on some of the new modifications folks are putting on the K12.

Thanks to John Warta at Paddlerscove in Washington, New Jersey for the innovations and the pictures.

Throw on a second seat and customize your own dashboard. 

For more support mount a backed seat on top of the K12′s screw-in seat.

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When You Shouldn’t Be Fishing

BY Jay Potter

When the weather says you shouldn’t be fishing, you really shouldn’t be fishing in a kayak. As long as there’s no lightning, though, I am probably still going fishing in my K12.

With an extra day off (or two) for the Mardi Gras holiday last weekend, many of us in South Louisiana were ready to get on the water. Inclement weather had been the norm and of course struck again, rain and thunderstorms were forecast for Sunday, Monday and Fat Tuesday.

Saturday would have to be the day, despite the expected clouds and 15-20 mph winds. KC Pro Staffer TJ Harris and I loaded up and left Baton Rouge about 3:45am, trucking it down the Mississippi River to Pointe a la Hache.

Upon arrival, it seemed even windier than was forecast, but we were already prepared to be tossed around.

TJ’s kayak has some of the trolling motor customizations now offered by KC. Internal wiring and a motor mount with a 45 pound thrust motor would enable us to cut through the chop.

Perhaps the best way to travel by kayak.

Yes, I said us. That motor was more than enough to pull two K12s with all of our gear and the extra battery that sat in the front of my kayak.

Even straight into the wind and the tide.

Normally, the clip on the end of the rope on my “Stick It Anchor Pin” cajun anchor would be hooked to an eyelet on the back of my kayak.

This time, we clipped my anchor rope to TJ’s kayak, I put the anchor’s hand grip in the kayak’s front handle, and we were into the marsh. Gray clouds covered the sky as the sun apparently rose somewhere further down the river. We chugged against the wind and the tide for a mile or so until TJ angled us up to a nice protected bank.

As expected, no clean water was to be found anywhere we went, and the wind and strong tide made this a Gulp! and poppin’ cork or bust kind of day. I am usually sight fishing or tight-lining plastics on the bottom, but TJ always has a rod with cork rigged and in no time he was hooked up.

I headed over for some pictures and before I even got my line back in the water TJ’s cork was down again and had a trout on his line.

Setting up as nice a drift as one can in roughly 20 mph winds and trying not to be outdone, and I managed to stay near the bank for a few casts each time before paddling back out of the wind.

Finally, I dropped a cast next to the grass in a couple feet of water and my cork with a New Penny Gulp! shrimp below went under.

As I set the hook, the cork torpedoed off out into open water and my drag screamed.

Never rush one of these moments.

I try to savor it and enjoy the hurt a good red can put on lighter rod and a bad shoulder. This guy pulled me out into the wind and tried running against it. I eventually wrangled him up and we measured a chubby 26 and 3/4″ redfish. A perfect tournament fish.

Over the course of the day, the sun made brief appearances, but winds stayed up and my luck down. TJ boated my fish’s twin and had a couple strikes but mostly it was a day of cruising around, sipping a couple of cold beverages. Sitting in the back, I had an extra leisurely day as TJ steered and pulled me around.

All told, we traveled 8.1 miles and didn’t even get too far into our second trolling motor battery.

Luckily with our K12s, we had the ability to hook up a motor and get out and about on the nicest day of the weekend, even if it was blowin’ 20.

Stray the Course.

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Old Line Sang

BY Jay Potter

Standing in the K12, I quietly paddled and peered down a canal 20 feet wide and three feet deep.

Rounding a bend that was protected from a light wind, I saw a thick red moving under the surface 15 feet ahead.  Being completely submerged, he made no ripples, and I was only able to see him because of the angle of my standing vantage.

He had that look in his eye. Apparently I did too though.

As I dropped a clear/chartreuse H&H sparkle beetle by him, he spooked slightly and gently turned away. When spooking off, redfish have two speeds: fairly calm and get-the-hell-out. When moving at the latter, it is nearly impossible to elicit a strike.

Since this one wasn’t running hard, I prepared to cast out in front of him. He hadn’t gotten too far, so there was still a chance.

As I let the line go, I spied two even bigger fish slowly cruising near the bank. I hardly had time to reconsider my target before I realized red #1 had snagged the falling beetle. Hook slamming into the corner of his mouth, the fish blasted off and my reel sang. A straight drag-busting run down the canal started my new fishing year.

Eventually, a beefy 28″ red appeared at the side of the boat, and my war whoop was the kind that guys only make when alone in nature. After snapping pics of the first fish of the year, I revived him and sent him down the canal.

Chubbs here went all out for the Sparkle Beetle.

It was around noon on my first trip of the new year. After days, the clouds had finally broken a little, and the temperature in Port Sulphur, La. sat in the mid-fifties. Clouds and rain would return soon and stay for two more weeks. This day, however, I expected active, hungry redfish.

A light, sub-10 mph NW wind figured to keep the gnats off me, without muddying the water or causing too much disturbance on the surface.

Port Sulphur sat on the edge of a huge cloud bank that ran all the way to Venice and the water was extremely low in the marsh. I wasn’t concerned about the lack of tidal movement because everything looked right for a great day of sightfishing in the K12.

A short paddle from the launch, I tried one of my trout spots to no avail. Checking the water levels to determine my route I made a beeline for the aforementioned canal, as it would lead me to the perfect sightfishing grounds.

Standing, setting my drift and working down a bank like this usually yields results. I just have to keep searching for ripples, fins or tails that might betray a redfish. When the light is right and I am standing, their bronze glow shows up from far away.

Upon hitting that canal, I quickly shifted from paddle mode to fishing mode. I’ve described this before, but that’s why I love the K12 and can’t really imagine fishing another kayak.

Sitting with the seat in the raised position, it’s easy for me to grab the rod laying below me with my left hand, stand and either set the paddle down, or use it to steer. When I can get a good drift going with the wind or in a protected area, the one-handed paddle and baitcaster combination is deadly in a K12.

The three early red sightings suggested success, and I was psyched to get to the shallow back ponds I knew would be warm. Really though, the thing that made these spots so appealing was the combination of deep water and shallow water.

A wide sprawling pond with small grass islands and scattered oysters had been a dynamite spot in warmer weather. Reds cruised all its edges in groups or alone, they fed in the middle, tails breaking the surface. Standing and fishing, I had spotted and chased them down from as far as 50 feet away.

Winter wear early. The "buff" keeps ears warm in the cold and gnats off when it warms up and the wind dies.

However, it was winter so the deeper trench that wound through this area was to be my friend this day. On a warm winter day, shallow marsh redfish prefer to reside in water a few feet deep where a shallow flat lies nearby. They can hold in the depths and come up to snatch a quick bite to eat and head back down.

Patrolling with this in mind, I saw more fish than ever before. Groups of rat reds scampered across points and oyster flats.

I set my drift a few feet off of a 20 yard section of a straight bank and as I neared its end I saw a bronze glint under the surface. Another fat red was casually checking the bottom, but he wasn’t tailing and I never would’ve seen him had I not been standing in K12. An added bonus to that standing perspective is the chance to see a rowdy red’s lit up blue tail, nearly glowing under the water.

This fish kept zig-zagging left and right, looking for food. I cast past him and waited for him to turn so I could rip the bait past his nose. As he turned back to the right, I reeled and gave my rod a quick jerk the same direction. Instinct overcame the fish and as the sparkle beetle whizzed by, he struck with a thrust of his thick tail, swirling the water. A short fight later, I had another nice red in the boat, a mere 27 incher this time.

I was able to sight-fish my limit of reds because I could see them under water. Truly an adrenaline rush.

Only a few times did I see fins break the surface. Clouds briefly covered the sun and in 15 minutes I saw several fish feeding in the extreme shallows, backs and all out of the water. Unfortunately, I could see this fish from so far away, that by the time I entered the pond, they had sunk below the surface and were nowhere to be found.

A full day and a full box sent me back to the launch. With an awesome start to 2013, everyone at KC Kayaks is looking forward to another great year.

Stray the course.

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Giving Thanks in November

By Jay Potter

November is a month for giving thanks, and after the truly important gifts like family and friends, there is plenty of room to appreciate the pursuit of fishing, kayaking and quiet moments outdoors.

Unfortunately I was doing more working and fishing than writing in November so I have to fit it all into one massive six-course feast of fish tales.

The cornucopia that is the South Louisiana marsh produces its full bounty in the second to last month of the year. Cold fronts blast in from the north without cooling the water to it’s chilly dead-of-winter temperatures. Like the weather, the fish are in transition and have been great in size and number.

I’ve been lucky enough to sample the harvest-time wares all across the state, and as they say, “variety is the spice of life.”

11/1: Port Fourchon. The start. I decided to go hit our spot in Fourchon, a place I did great last winter, but a place from which I had been taking a break. It was a truly awesome day and on the drive down, I started really getting jacked once the sun rose, breaking through some thin clouds. I was ready for November fishing. A cold front had come through just a couple days prior, and there was extremely low water with a huge tide swing and a rising tide all day.

I launched about 9 am and went straight to a deep point where a high volume of water pushes through. While waited for the sun to get all the way up and turn on the redfish, I got into some white trout and decent flounder on the LSU Cocahoe, but no specks would hit that. Switching up baits provided me no luck, and once the sun rose a little more I headed off after the real target. It didn’t take long.

As I came around a tall grass point I saw four bronze backs inches out of the water on a shallow mudflat. While drifting into position, I merely sat and watched in amazement. It’s productive to just watch these awesome fish sometimes, to see how they move helps me know what kind of ripples might betray a fish on a cloudier day. A moment later, I flipped my plastic in front of the group. One fish broke the formation and grabbed it, signaling  the start of November with the sing of my reel.

I sight-fished my limit in the next hour and spend the following hour watching and catching reds grouped up everywhere. Cruising shallow banks, and shallow ponds, groups of two to ten were easy to spot and in full feasting mode. These fish were active and they were  simply destroying the H&H LSU Cocahoe.

It was the kind of day where I look around seeing if there’s anyone else watching this. After releasing several more fish, I left them biting and headed back to the trout hole. After changing baits a few more times, I finally got bites from four nice specks on a glow and chartreuse Norton Sand Eel. Whites and flounder before noon, reds everywhere in the middle and specks in the afternoon. Great day.

11/10: Venice, the Wagon Wheel. An overcast and windy day, it didn’t look like Corey, his fiancee Katherine and I were in for a great one. We left Baton Rouge around very early and hit the water about 7:30. We launched off of Tidewater Road and picked up a couple reds jigging Gulp! among some cypress knees on the way into the Wagon Wheel. A thick cloud cover made me think a black/chartreuse Mirrolure She-Dog might be fun. I started working the topwater through the calm water on the backside of a small grass island. As a red surfaced and slurped at the lure, I forced myself to freeze, waiting not for the strike, but for the pull. We all saw him get it on the second try, and things were immediately looking up.


Being mostly unable to sight fish, we were lucky enough to haul in reds on Gulp! all day, both in the depths and the shallows. It was right before a front and we were working with a small rising tide, so fish were active all day. I snagged a bigger red on topwater in a deep cut, and some in the shallows, but I couldn’t find fish in the football field-sized area I saw them on 10-
20.

Fighting the wind, the three of us posted up behind some Roseau Cane on the edge of the wheel and began casting out into the open. Immediately, trout were slamming Gulp! of all colors. The only problem was Katherine seemed to be catching them all. As we fished this one spot, we picked up 20 very nice specks with only one throwback. To boot, casting closer to the bank in the piece of calm water on the backside of a point resulted in very nice 25″-27″ reds. Even drum and flounder were pulled out of this spot.We saw the sun once, but fish were everywhere and we stopped by about 2pm once trout began escaping from the cooler.

11/16: Shell Beach/Hopedale. My fishing buddy, fly fisherman William Salzer, took me to his closest-to-New Orleans spot. The tide was ripping past the rock jettis as we paddled across the MR GO (Mississippi River Gulf Outlet) canal and into the broken marsh backing up to Lake Borgne. I managed a few reds and a bass on the LSU cocahoe and Grey/White Gulp! shrimp. We saw the smoke clouds and wakes caused by spooking fish, but with deeper water and high wind, sight fishing was not overly productive. We ended up with two nice keepers for dinner though, and a bad day on the water is better than a good day at work.

One reason the Leeville Reds weren't overly aggressive... They had been gorging on shrimp in the marsh.

11/18: Leeville. This day, Will’s brother Stephen took us to one of his favorite spots in the marsh on the other side of the Hwy 1 Expressway. Though not a huge swing, the tide was rising throughout the day, and we hit the water about 9.

Straight away, Stephen and Cody snagged a couple of big trout on the H&H LSU cochaoe in a deep channel passing through the middle of a big marsh island.  We found a pond 2-5 feet deep that was full of spooky reds. I cruised through there several times, unable to get a bite, even with several plastics placed on fishes noses. However, Stephen showed us the “Redfish Highway,” a long mudflat where I was able to sight cast a couple reds. We saw a few more on some oysters-filled flats. Some fish inhaled New Penny/Chartreuse Gulp! and some ran way from it.

11/23: Wagon Wheel II: I Pulled up on Tidewater road about 7 am with my buddy Cody. The wind had laid down the day before, and it was extremely foggy on the way down from Baton Rouge. We launched into the four foot deep green water under a thick cloud cover, but I was optimistic because of the front coming through the next day. I cruised and casted some open water and tried cypress knees while Cody worked a shallower cypress area and the edges of some cane. We both promptly picked up fish on Grey/white and New Penny/Chartreuse Gulp! I got a black drum on a H&H LSU Cocahoe in open water before I snagged my first red, a decent fish I saw patrolling a shallow point.
The water was clear and the sun came out, but most of the fish were able to see us about the same time we were able to see them. Cruising along I saw some big fish, including a monstrous black drum. We tried some trout spots, but no tide and no trout. Still, we fished hard for a few hours and put together a nice box of 22-26″ reds, just short of our limit. Then it happened.

Cody was sitting on the edge of some cane facing a point that, about 10 feet away, opened into the bay. I came across a channel on his left and we were about 15 feet apart.

I looked down and saw, in the two or three feet of water below us, a fat bronze beauty gliding up between us from behind Cody. Still having my paddle in my hand, I wasn’t ready to cast and I
whispered at Cody did he see it. He had just finished a retrieve and happened to be ready for a cast, but he answered no. So I pointed at  the fish as it sunk out of sight and he dropped a Gulp! in what looked like a great spot. As he slowly cranked down he said “OK I feel him,” and he got ready to set the hook.

The next few moments were some of the most amazing and hilarious I will surely every experience in a kayak. When Cody set the hook, a huge red missile exploded forth from under some dead cane, loudly stripping drag at a rate I would need a mathematician to calculate.

At first sight I could tell it was a nice fish, but my glimpse of it fleeing and Cody’s reel told me this would be that 30-34″ bull I wanted to put him on. When the fish left the cane however, he pulled Cody’s K12 nose in, while at the same time getting the line caught over or under three or four pieces of dead cane. Cody had to hand off his rod while he freed himself, and I did my best to keep the line taught.

He then began removing the cane from the line, but we both were afraid it had caused enough slack in the line to let the red free himself. “We probly lost him?” Cody asked as he pulled off the last thick stalk. I reeled down quickly and felt a hoss of a fish pull back. “Nope!” and I handed the rod back.

Using a 1/8 oz jighead with a three inch Gulp! and an ultralight reel with two half spools of 15 lb monofilament line connected by an apparently sturdy mono-to-mono knot, Cody wrangled this fish for the better part of 15 minutes. We believe it was the 7 foot Ugly Stick rod that saved him. Even when he got the monster next to the boat, he couldn’t pull him off the bottom, the tip of his rod bending almost to the water. I only got one glimpse of the tail… it was huge.

Once we finally wore this fish down enough to net it, Cody pulled it from under his boat. As the fish’s head entered the net, I yelled; its head filled almost the entire net. We hauled it out for pictures, just laughing at the size of this saltwater eating machine. Our tape only measured 36″ so we put him at about 42″. We didn’t have a scale but this was easily a 20+ pound fish. Grabbing the base of his tail was like grabbing someone’s wrist, except that thickness was pure muscle. He was damn near too heavy to hold at all, and I tried getting a picture with him above the KC Logo but had to drop him and revive him. Setting him free made us feel almost as good as catching him, but we left that day in awe of the biggest kayak redfish catch we have ever seen.

We agreed that though it was Cody's fish it was a team effort. And there was no way I wasn't cashing in this photo op.

11/25: Port Sulphur. Fresh off Big Fish Friday, I was ready for more, but was lazy and didn’t feel like heading all the way down to Venice. A small front blew through the day before, but there was supposed to be a good tide, low tide before sunrise, and it would rise nicely throughout the day.

Also, I’m an optimist (this has become a running joke.) My buddy Brad and I launched and shortly found some very deep water. I fished around a little with no bites, then I headed over toward a deep bank with a wide cut flowing through. I found a dropoff 25 yards off the cut where the water went to about 8 feet deep. About 9:30 I flipped an LSU Cocahoe into the depths and started bouncing the rocky bottom. WHAM! Mike Trout victimized my plastic, shaking all the way to the boat before entering the cooler. Brad and I kept getting hard bites, putting great trout in the boat.

The bite died suddenly and nothing else I threw down there would work. I checked the box and we had seven +16″ speckled trout.

Proud of my trout. Always good to find a new spot and showcase your skills (what I mean is get lucky.)

Sun high in the sky, we decided it was time to chase reds. Fish were all over points and mudflats, and in shallow cuts and back ponds. With the hot trout bite, I figured reds would be hungry too. However, they were super spooky and simply wouldn’t eat, no matter what we threw or how close to them we did or didn’t put it. Still, we got a couple reds, saw lots of fish and had a great time capping the end of an incredible month of South Louisiana KC Kayak fishing.

Stray the Course

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Fall N Tide VII

Great prize setup with that pristine K12 as the star.

By Jay Potter

It was an early morning Saturday October, 20 for the Fall N Tide VII kayak fishing tournament. We left Baton Rouge at 3:30 and headed to Delta Marina in Empire, LA. There, we met Dave Underwood of the Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club and dropped off a donation kayak to be used as a prize, along with some other kayaks. Dave took the other kayaks and some adventurous women who wanted to use them to Joshua’s Marina to launch.

The newest Kajun Custom Kayak, tentatively named the "Swamp Scout."

The KC crew kept trekking Highway 23 and onto Tidewater Road in Venice. We pulled over and launched off the road, then paddled out to some broken marsh in the Yellow Cotton Bay/Wagon Wheel area.

Daniel rockin' the yella boat.

Corey and Andrew debuted KC’s newest addition, tentatively named “The Swamp Scout,” a true tandem boat designed for the Boy Scouts of America. It was designed to help the scouts store camping gear on long trips, but the guys equipped it with rod holders and the like to make it easily fishable.  They took turns standing to fish and easily out-paddled Daniel and me back to the launch at the end of the day.

 

Appropriately the tide was falling all day, and we immediately found some good water. The first point the four of us fished provided action, two tourney reds were promptly taken on popping corks. We also picked up a trout or two and Corey hooked into a monster red that dragged the tandem boat for about 15 minutes before the fish wrapped the line around something and broke off.

The water was clear enough to sight fish the shallows and I found a football field-sized area that was teeming with reds. I noticed a couple other of the tournament’s participants whose kayaks had pedal drives check out my spot, but they were unable to draft shallow enough to fish this area and moved on. I didn’t mind having it to myself.

Andrew and Corey quickly christened the new boat with fish.

Reds were crashing up and down the bank, and for a couple hours I stood and paddled up and down, sightfishing nice 20″-24″ reds, but none that would help me in the tournament. I was pleased to snag a couple nice flounder too, though that impression would change once we hit the weigh-in.

Good fish all around. Big flounder were being weighed in all afternoon.

The tide dropped pretty quick, but even as the water dirtied up more, I was still able to find reds and cast to them. Of the other three KC Team members, everyone caught some good fish. None of us could put together a solid slam though, so we weren’t too hopeful because it was such a nice day.

Daniel, Corey and Andrew found good reds eating up plastics on points also, both under corks and tight lining. They also picked up some speckled trout and Daniel got a big black drum too.  Dark colors and chartreuse plastics (LSU colors are always good) and the pink and green electric/nuclear chicken color.

Proud Sponsors (From l-r) Corey, Andrew and Daniel

I had some decent reds and even one with 7 spots, and those two flounder, but I never did pick up a trout. Over 150 kayakers fished the tourney and most everyone got some big fish. We called it a fairly early day and headed back to Delta to watch the LSU-Texas A&M game and eat a cheeseburger.

Big thanks to the BCKFC, especially Dave Underwood for assisting the women’s division and producing the awesome prize setup with the K12, and congratulations to Rebekah Cox, winner of the women’s division and a brand new KC Kayak.

Cajun Slam 
1st Ben Roussel 12lb 10oz
2nd Benton Parrot 12lb
3rd Tommy Eubanks 10lb 4oz
4th Butch Ammons 9lb 14oz
5th Brendan Bayard 9lb 8oz
6th Elliot Stevens 9lb 6oz
7th Blake Walters 9lb 2oz

Ladies Cajun Slam
1st Rebekah Cox 6lb 4 oz

Kids Cajun Slam
1st Jacob Cox 5lb 28oz
2nd Joshua Robles 5lb 4oz
3rd Rory Craft

Slot Red
1st Cory Cade 7lb 12oz
2nd Edgar Oubre 7lb
3rd Jayson Poucher 6lb 10oz
4th Casey Brunning 6lb 8 oz
5th Scott Harper 6lb 8oz

Mule Trout
1st Devon Beltz 4lb 4 oz
2nd Mike Behrnes 3lb 6oz
3rd Chris Weaver 2lb 10 oz
4th Derrel Thomas 2lb 6 oz
5th Don Hanson 2lb 4 oz

Saddle Flounder
1st David Mericle 3lb 10 oz
2nd Michael Ethridge 3lb 4oz
3rd David Toregrossa 3lb 4oz
4th Jonathan Alford 3lb 4oz
5th Jason Austin 2lb 10 oz

Andrew and Corey with Gorilla Hinges inventor and KC Pro Staffer Eric Pendarvis, winning of Fall N Tide VI.

Leopard Red
1st Paul Bernard 13 spots
2nd Louie Blanchard 9 spots
3rd Bill Crawford 9 spots
4th Clayton Shilling 5 spots
5th Brian Baze 4 spots

Stray the Course.

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