"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."
-André Gide

Friday, March 26, 2010

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tournament Thoughts and Lessons Learned

Well, the first tournament of the year is in the books and it was a predictable one. The Xtreme Redfish Tournament Trail kayak tournament (http://www.xtremeredfishtrail.com/) was just that extreme. If there’s a tournament in early spring, odds are the weather is going to be horrendous. No psychic (meteorologist) required. It blew and it blew. And if the wind wasn’t enough, the tides hovered around extreme winter lows and a cold front blew in the day before the tournament.

All of the participants fished in downright brutal conditions on tournament day. You could not have scripted worse fishing conditions: extreme low tides, high winds, high pressure, and a cold front that drop the water temperature several degrees in less than 24 hours. My hat goes off to my fellow competitors that were brave enough to battle and/or able to find fish in these extreme conditions.

Some of my best fishing lessons have been acquired through trial and error, especially error, while prefishing or preparing for a tournament. I learned a few things this past weekend that will be helpful to me in future and that made me a better angler.

First, I learned that my teammates Tony and Chris hate the Corpus area. Second, the T-Pain iPhone App is well worth the money. The entertainment it provided us throughout the weekend was worth every penny spent.

Next, Tony and Chris hate Corpus. In addition, don’t try to fish the marsh when the tide is extremely low unless you want to be completely muddy and exhausted by the time you make it back to the launch. Dave (Nueces Bay) can attest to this.

Furthermore, Tony and Chris hate Corpus. Also, don’t make an hour and twenty minute paddle one way when the wind is forecasted over 20 mph all day. Sometimes the weather guessers are right. Additionally, carrying a spare paddle might not be such a bad idea. You tend to learn this type of lesson when you’re over 4 miles away from the launch and you’re holding what resembles two oars.

Did I mention that Tony and Chris hate Corpus?

All joking aside I actually did learn a lot about a few areas I have been fishing over the last few years and how certain conditions affect these areas. I was able to cross out a bunch of unproductive water (36 miles worth over 5 days of fishing) given certain conditions and I even found a pattern that I’m sure I’ll be able to reproduce in the future.

Out of the five days I spent in the area, I was only able to find fish on my first day in the area. Although the fish were plentiful, the bites on the other hand were almost nonexistent. That first day I literally had fish swimming all around me and I didn’t go a few paddle (oar) strokes without seeing a fish. But they refused everything I had to offer and I finished the day with only one fish landed.

Tony and Chris both despise fishing around the Corpus area but not without good rationale. Most of their fishing experiences in the area have been bad and nonproductive. I was supposed to be the gracious host for them this weekend showing them a few spots to hopefully change their outlook about the area.

I think I failed miserably in helping change their minds and if anything, I made their viewpoint even worse. I apologize and assure you both that the fishing is not always as bad or tough as your experiences suggest. We’ll have to make a trip to the area when the conditions are more favorable so I can redeem myself.

Tournament day was comedy of errors. The area we decided to fish was blown out almost completely. We struggled to find fishable water much less any signs of fish. By the time we reached an area where fish might inhabit, most of our fishing time was used up.

Chris saw an area that looked similar to fishing back home and went to work almost immediately. He put on a display by quickly landing a nice mid-slot redfish and bunch of undersized reds. Sam also managed to pull out and bunch of rat reds out the same area. I remember mentioning to Chris that “you can take Chris away from Freeport but you can’t take Freeport away from Chris.”

We found these fish in small deep creek that fed off of main channel. Plastics and gold spoons bumped slowly along the drop-off produced the best bite. We worked the creek and main channel without much more luck and our day was coming to an end. Tony and Chris decided to head back to the launch to make it to the weigh-in on time.

Me and Sam decided to check out one last area that we had scouted on Google Earth in hopes of pulling out a last second miracle. Making our way to our last spot was definitely not easy with the wind and tide. I considered turning around a few times but Sam alleviate my hesitation by reminding me that we had absolutely nothing to lose.

We made our way into the area and Sam immediately hooks up with a solid redfish. After a few minute battle, Sam gets the fish close and by this time visions of a last minute Hail Mary are going through both of our minds. Within sight, the fish makes one last run and headshake for survival and the hook pops out. We both just stand there and stare at each other in amazement at what could have been.

We fish the area for about an hour more and we both managed to catch numerous undersized redfish. By this time there was no hope of making the weigh-in so we relaxed and began to fish solely for enjoyment. In the midst of the mayhem Sam managed to catch, the biggest red of his life, a 35” beast that ate a ½ gold spoon. This was by far the fattest redfish I have ever seen with my own two eyes. The fish bottomed out a 15lb Boga Grip. It was probably well over 20 pounds and as fat as can be.

By now it was about 2:30pm and we were a long way from the launch so we decided to make our way back in. On the way in we decided to make one last cast before leaving the area and we both hooked up simultaneously with undersized reds. We smiled at each other and decided it was the perfect way to end an otherwise arduous day.

We found all of our fish sitting on drop-offs where the water went from 1'-2' to 4'-6' deep. Gold spoons out fished plastics 3 to 1. If only we had found this area sooner who knows what the outcome would have been. Live and learn.

I love the format and the potential this tournament series possesses. The inaugural event had some setbacks but nothing that can't be easily fixed. Overall things were very professional and well-run. I’m looking forward to fishing the entire series this year. Hopefully the conditions will be more favorable for the remainder of the series.

Paddle or Oars?

Testing the new Fish Grip

The Beast

Just under 35"

Big Red Released

Monday, March 22, 2010

Elite Angler and New Paintings

Ever since I first heard about the Elite Angler program I knew it was something I wanted to work towards achieving. Over a year ago I submitted all the paperwork and pictures for five different species but some of the fish were not accepted because I overlooked the rule that requires you to submit everything in less than 60 days after the catch.

I took me a lot longer than I expected to get the last species I needed but I finally got it a few weeks ago. I submitted all the information and receive my award this past week. Not a very hard award to achieve but very few anglers are aware of the program.

Elite Angler Award

You can find out more details about the program here...

The five fish that helped me receive the Elite Angler Award...

16.5" Sand Trout

29.75" Redfish

24" Ladyfish

25.5" Speckled Trout

19.25" Flounder

While in Corpus Christi fishing a tournament this past weekend I picked up three new paintings I had my grandfather paint for me. I think they all turned out great.

Clear Water Redfish

The Five Boats of the Texas Coast

Fly Fishing the Flats

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Why I Fish Tournaments

I have heard all the excuses of why people don’t fish tournaments but most of these excuses come from people with little or no tournament fishing experience. I fully understand that tournament fishing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and all I can say to that is to each his own.

I still remember the first kayak tournament I entered over three years ago. I came into my first event with great hesitation but with good reason. At the time I just started kayaking and saltwater fishing with lures and had never fished competitively. I was also fishing alien waters that I had never fished before. I was in a completely unfamiliar world. Other than their avatars and online personas I knew no one with any familiarity. I felt like a kid at his first day at a new school. There was a myriad of emotions that triumphed internally during that first go-around, which included being nervous, overwhelmed, scared, and intimidated.

The tournament fishing community was no semblance of what I made it out to be. I came into competitive fishing thinking everyone I was fishing against was a pro or sponsored fisherman, meaning I had no chance to compete with these individuals because they were inherently better than I was. I also believed that these same people were egotistical individuals that were only competing for the bragging rights and to boost their own self-esteem.

My prognostication couldn’t have been more wrong. As a whole, the tournament fishing community is like one big family; everyone is not out for each other’s throats. Although the very nature of tournaments leads to competitive battles, I never once felt it was me against the field. It felt more like a friendly battle, like the kind between siblings. Tournament anglers are some of the most helpful individuals I have been around with regards to their willingness to share knowledge.

Participants were actually willing to help out greenhorn tournament anglers. They were eager to share their expertise about seasonal patterns, lure selection and presentation, and tactics that have proved successful in their past fishing experience. Some of my best fishing alliances have been formed through my involvement in the tournament fishing community. My proverbial “learning curve” was expedited tremendously by hanging around and fishing with fellow tournament anglers.

Who would have thought you could catch monster trout in the middle of the night on topwaters in shallow water during the winter time? I sure didn’t, but it was one of many things I learned from fellow kayak anglers whom I met at various fishing competitions.

What I gained from that experience and all the other tournaments I have fished since is what has led me to where I am today. I love tournament fishing for a number of reasons. I love the preparation, scheming, and strategizing that tournament fishing entails. I love the camaraderie of the tournament fishing community. And last but definitely not least, I love the competition.

Tournament fishing is great because it forces you to become a better fisherman whether you want to or not. You are forced to fish in whatever conditions Mother Nature decides to throw your way and at the end of the day you get to compare your results with others that had to battle the same set of circumstances. If you are one of the people fortunate enough to come out near the top, you get a great sense of accomplishment knowing that you were able to defeat a field of qualified individuals. Tournament fishing also forces you to fish foreign places throughout the entire Texas coast not just your home waters, which helps you become a more versatile angler. You are never losing money in a tournament because you gain so much through experience.

For anyone unsure about fishing tournaments, come on out and get in on the fun. Talk to some people you don’t know, meet some new fishing partners, and learn some new waters. You will have a good time and meet people that share your passion of fishing from plastic boats and if you’re lucky you might even walk away with a prize or bragging rights to take home.

Be aware though, tournament fishing, like kayak fishing as a whole, can be very addicting. If you are on the fence go ahead and give it a shot but you can’t say I didn’t warn you. If you are reading this and are interested in tournaments but hesitant of jumping in shoot me an email or PM with any questions, comments, or concerns you might have.

Sam holding two tournament quality reds from one of our previous prefishing excursions...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Spring Break Fishing

Future Ceviche

Greg with a nice flounder

Few for Dinner

Big Sandy

Hooked another near the pectoral fins

"Triple Hooked Slam"