The largest Kayak Fishing Event in the nation was awaiting us in Grand Isle, La. We began our journey to the epic fishing grounds on a beautiful Thursday morning, keeping an ever-watching eye on Hurricane Harvey a few hundred miles off the coast of Texas. The drive from North AL to South LA was, by Google estimates around 8 hours, but after stopping for gas, getting out the stretch the legs now and then, and of course to ensure the kayak and other equipment was fine, we arrived in 10 hours and 15 minutes.
We arrived at Grand Isle, LA around 6:30 Thursday evening, stopped to get some photos and drove the length of the island to just get a feel for everything. We checked into the Cajun Holiday Motel and enjoyed speaking with Ms. Millie, who is a pleasure to talk with and has a wealth of knowledge about the area, and some good advice about fishing as well. We unpacked the bags and began to mentally prepare for the fishing and tournament that would take place over the next few days.
For those that are unaware of Grand Isle, LA, it is a fishing destination for many saltwater fishermen and women. Some of the best Redfish and Trout fishing you will encounter, as well as other saltwater species, in the backwaters, inshore, and offshore. The area is not the pristine beaches that one may expect to find in Panama City Beach or other locations on the Gulf Coast, no 5-star resorts or white sand. The accommodations are made for those who are fishing all day and really only need a place to sleep and shower before heading out again. If you want luxury, Grand Isle is not the place to go, but if you want to do some fishing for many saltwater species, this place has to be on your bucket list.
The Ride the Bull 8 (RTB 8) Tournament began on Saturday morning, so we took some time on Friday to scout the fishing area and then do some heavily needed personal fishing for Redfish and Trout. We found the Kayak Launch around the middle of the island and launched the Jackson Kayak Mayfly. We had our flies, net, safety gear all ready to go, so we prepped our Orvis Fly Fishing Outfits to catch some Grand Isle backwater Reds and Trout. The fishing began with a few Ladyfish hitting a Popping Flats Shrimp from Backwater Fly FIshing. This, of course, was not our targeted species, but they can be fun to catch, and we enjoyed them none the less. We saw a few swirls in a back pocket and had to cast over some grass to get the fly in front of the fish. When we got it back there the fish exploded on the fly with authority and purpose. We set the hook and fought it for a few moments and then brought our first Redfish on the fly to the kayak. We were, to say the least, happy...alright we were ecstatic to catch our first Redfish on the fly. We then paddled around for a few more minutes and began casting to the deeper waters that butt up next to the shallows, this is when a good size Speckled Trout inhaled our Popping Flats Shrimp fly and came out the water fully to do it. This was our first of those species as well. We had a great time fishing that day and ended up catching some more Ladyfish and losing a few decent other fish before heading back to shore to go to the RTB 8 Captains' meeting.
I think we should take some time to tell you a little about the Ride the Bull Tournament so that you can get some background on what the tournament is about. This tournament is an annual event, and this was the 8th tournament. The premise of the tournament is to catch the heaviest Bull Redfish. To be a Bull Redfish in LA the length of the fish must be at least 27". The top 5 anglers win their choice of kayaks and prize money. There are also great prizes for 6 - 10 place as well as best in Youth, Lady Angler, and heaviest fish on the Flyrod. Please check out the RIde The Bull link here.
This year the event was held on August 25 and 26th at the Bridgeside Marina in Grand Isle, LA. The Captains' meeting was held on Friday afternoon with free food, free entertainment, and plenty of people to talk with. The Safety meeting was held at 7 am Saturday morning and the fishing began shortly there after. This event allows fly rods, artificial baits, and live/dead bait to be used. All competitors are allowed on the water, however, they cannot fish or leave the marina area until the "shotgun" start is official. This year there were 530 competitors racing to get to their spots when the official start was sounded. There were all kinds of kayaks, SUPs, and Canoes in this years event, some tandem and we even saw one triple person Hobie. Out of all the people fishing this year, only 117 Bul Redfish were officially caught. Some anglers caught multiple fish, so the number of people who caught fish is more around 90. The awards ceremony was postponed for around two hours as a 15-year-old Youth competitor had hooked into a Bull Redfish 10 minutes prior to the Tournament stop time. The young man's father and I talked about how his son had caught large fish before this event and how he was confident his boy would be able to bring in the fish for weigh in. Unfortunately, the young angler's line snapped as the Monster Bull Redfish was just getting with in reach of the Kayak. He was using light tackle and it just couldn't withstand the stress.
We don't feel so bad with our results as we were one of the over 400 anglers that did not catch a Bull Redfish. We had some great fun, and we didn't see anyone else using a fly rod at all, let alone exclusively for this event. We were getting told that we were "purists" for going out in this event with just fly rods, but we like the feeling of being the underdog. It did make us think of a few questions while we were trying to find a place to cast where the Bulls might be swimming through. Were we crazy for trying to compete against all these other anglers that were using live bait? Were we naive to think that we could fish in such a tightly confined area with sometimes no more room than 20 or 30 feet to cast in? Maybe the answer is yes to both of these questions, but we had fun, made some great friends and even got a few photos of us out on the water.
We went out after our defeat to our spot the day before, as we felt we needed to redeem ourselves. It was just before sunset when we got a Redfish, again on the shrimp fly, caught about a dozen Ladyfish, missed a huge Trout all before paddling back into the Kayak Launch. We headed back to the Motel and fixed a ham sandwich, tossed some chips on a plate and ate our dinner enjoying the view of the Marsh from our balcony.
We got up Sunday morning and began our trip back to AL with no regrets about anything that weekend. We set out to have fun, catch fish that we don't have in Northern AL, and make some new friends. We accomplished that mission fully and therefore, we had nothing to be disappointed about, except maybe that we didn't stay longer.
One of the most interesting things about our trip was that we got to see a 30-foot Sperm Whale that had sadly passed away. The Wildlife and Fisheries department had personnel there to take samples and figure out what happened to the Whale. We got some photos of the Whale on the beach and spent some time talking with authorities about the Whale. We came away with the appreciation of seeing something that most will never get to.
We will be back to Grand Isle to fish with friends and make some more great memories. We hope to make a few trips back before the next Ride the Bull Tournament is held in 2018. We will do our best to be back for that event, fly rods in hand with a bit more knowledge about Grand Isle Bull Redfish and the lessons learned from this trip on tactics for placing next year.