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Team Toad Slam 03/05/2016

When Tony called me and asked if I wanted to join a 5 man team to participate in the inaugural Team Toad Slam tournament on Lady Bird Lake in Austin my initial thoughts were too pass. Bass fishing isn't my specialty. Don't get me wrong I've bass fished before its just been a really long time since. He went on detailing the plans to camp out, grill and have a couple cold ones the night before. I thought about it some more and decided it would be a good time and a good experience with some good people.

We all pulled up to Joe's Crab Shack bright and early for the captains meeting to find 115 people in total participating in the tournament. This was a very good turn out for the first Team Toad Slam kayak tournament. After the captains meeting broke up the teams dispersed to the launch sites to begin the day.

We made the decision we would stick to the launch area at Joe's. We weren't the only team launching there. This was all new territory as we were out-of-towners and did not pre-fish the area prior to the tournament. Regardless we set off with the knowledge and research we had for the area. As we paddled off we initially stuck together and began working a set of concrete pilings not far from the launch point. That is when Ozzie drew first blood and immediately hooked up with a bass. However the fish went 13.5 inches, short only 1/2 inch to submit. Regardless we were all pumped and ready to tackle some monster fish!

We worked the pilings thoroughly without any more bites and began to explore the shoreline. The overhanging trees and brush made for excellent areas for bass to lay up. Tossing a frog right along the shoreline Ty hooked up with a nice bass! As Ty reeled in his fish we could tell this one was going to put him on the board. 17 inches and 30 minutes into the day we were all feeling encouraged.

And that is when the action stopped. We all vigorously worked the shoreline, structure, docks and drainage pipes with no action what so ever. This went on for hours. The sun began to beat down on us and I personally was beginning to feel defeated. It was midday and we fished and paddled a good portion of the lake. Switching from Texas rig, to crank baits, to swim baits, nothing was pulling in that tournament winner. 

Not only were we not catching fish but now I have the game warden pulling up to me to check my fishing license. No worries for me though. Having a fishing license is like having a cell phone. Its a must for me every year. After finishing up with me the wardens began to head over and check out Brian's credentials....but not before he hooked up with a nice fish!! The wardens see him and backed off to let him finish his battle. I paddle up to him to see he's got a good one. This guy was a chunker! However in this competition weight didn't matter. This was a CPR (catch, picture, release) tournament and the only thing that mattered was length. Regardless it was our teams largest fish of the day coming in at 18 inches. After a couple quick snaps with my DSLR Brian released it back into the water. Don't worry the game warden didn't forget about Brian. They pulled right up to him as well as Ozzie to check and see if they had their license. No worries for these guys. They know the rules and always stay legal and safe while on the water. 

We had been working the shoreline for the majority of the day but the fish that Brian landed was caught in deeper water about 15 to 20 yards off the shoreline. He was fishing with a Senko wacky rigged. That is when I made the switch. And am I glad i did because not long after I hooked up! This was a keeper fish that was going to make the cut. Not the big fish I was looking for but I was on the board with a 17 incher. It appears we found a good pattern that may produce several more fish.

And produce more fish it did. The current and wind was allowing me to drift in a westerly direction giving me the ability to cover more ground.  I repeated the drift and landed another large mouth. This guy was a bit smaller measuring in at 16 inches. "Tourney X" is the application we used to upload our images. There are strict rules. We had to use a hawg trough board, fish placed up against the board and bracelet with team # clearly visible in the pic. All good rules to keep the people as honest as possible. The cool thing about Tourney X is the ability to "cull" a fish and upgrade your catch if you land a larger fish. Unfortunately this fish wasn't going to be culled as it was an inch smaller then my first fish. 

I continued on fishing this pattern which appeared to be producing. Sure enough I land another bass. It looked promising as I reeled this fish in. Shaking her head I felt I may have a chance at culling. This fish wasn't a monster but did allow me to upgrade measuring in at 17 3/4 inches. 

Now this was fun. I wasn't catching any monsters but I was having a ton of fun catching fish. A change of pace at that. I was far away from the salt and out of my comfort zone but I felt at home on Lady Bird Lake.

The day was coming to a close and we had 3 solid fish submitted. We knew we weren't going to win the tournament but that didn't matter to us. We were all having a blast fishing on this gorgeous lake. If you are ever in Austin I recommend getting out on the water on Lady Bird Lake. It's a no motor lake that has some great water activities. Whether its kayaking, paddle boarding, paddle boating, fishing or rowing it has it all. 

We pushed back to the launch to grab a drink and meet everyone back at the weigh-in. There was some tough competition as 40 fished over 20 inches were submitted. Big bass of the day came in at a whopping 25.25 inches! We finished 13th out of 24 anglers! Not bad for a mostly all saltwater team. A great trip with some good people. Couldn't be prouder of the team and definitely looking forward to next year!

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Lone Star Kayak Series 10/03/15

Tournament fishing is still relatively new to me. In fact this is only the 3rd tournament I have ever fished. The first tournament being the 3rd event of the LSKS in which i finished 6th. The second tournament being the Saltwater Survival Series which proved to be a difficult format for me. Now I find myself ready to embark on the final LSKS event of the year.

My alarm sounds at 3:30 AM and I quickly jump out of bed to get ready and head out for a day of fishing. 3:30 AM is a bit early but my launch point was 1 & 1/2 hours away and as you may recall from my last event I like to get a head start over everyone else. On my way to the launch I am driving down a dark farm road and nearly hit a 200 lb. hog. Thats right, I swerved off the road going 60 mph to avoid this beast. I did avoid him however only to find my heart racing! If there was any bit of restlessness left in me it was gone. I was awake! With that behind me I finally made it to my destination and as before I staged my kayak by the launch point. I met up with my fishing buddy Travis and we diligently awaited the clock to strike 6. 

24" Topwater Redfish

And we are off! The LSKS rules states we cannot launch until 6 AM. Sunrise is at 7:20 AM which allowed for a very early pre-dawn start. In fact it was so early that as I arrived at my first fishing location I found myself waiting for the sun to rise before I could start casting. I began the day by drifting a marsh lake and throwing topwater. As I worked a She Dog with a steady cadence over scattered shell I felt tension and immediately set the hook. In most topwater hook-up scenarios the strike is a visual presentation with an explosion on the water. However in this instance I didn't know I had a fish until it pulled the lure underwater. After a healthy battle with the fish he was in the boat. This was my very first drift over shell and I now have a nice 24" redfish. This wasn't going to win the tournament for me but needless to say it was a great start to my day!

Birds working a redfish school off in the distance

18" redfish caught on Z-Man MinnowZ

After only fishing for 15 minutes I am pumped as I already have 1 redfish on the stringer. I decided to work my way back and begin another drift. However before I could start the second drift I peered over my shoulder to find a group of birds hovering close together over the water. Sure enough there was a school of redfish feeding underneath. The topwater rod went back in the rod holder and I quickly reached for my go to soft plastic, Z-Man's MinnowZ in pearl white. One toss into the school and fish on! As I reel this guy in I can tell he is going to be a lower slot, in fact he may fall short of the slot. Sure enough he came in at only 18 inches. 

Typically this would be discouraging however looking over the lake I find not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4, yes thats right 4 more schools of reds scattered along the lake. Birds were hovering everywhere!!! As the sun rose over the horizon the redfish began to filter out of the marsh grass directly into the lake. This could not be a better scenario and on a tournament day at that! Again another toss of the MinnowZ and WHAM, as quickly as the lure hit the water, fish on! Now this time I can tell this was a slot, not an upper slot but a solid fish. Fin's 30 lb. braid allowed me to muscle this guy in quickly. A quick measure on the ruler and like the first fish this guy came in at 24". It was a spitting image of his brother that made his way onto my stringer earlier. 

24" redfish caught on Z-Man MinnowZ

Not wasting any more time I move onto the next school. Fish on! I battled this guy for about 20 seconds before he comes unbuttoned. The fish then dispersed. The next school of fish is a little further out so I paddled on over to it. I arrived at the school and like before a quick toss directly into the feeding reds and again, fish on. I battle him for a couple of minutes before pulling him into the boat. This guy measures in at 20" and goes back into the drink. This goes on and on for quite a while. I found myself coming up with a lot of great fish but nothing larger than 24". I know there were some "pigs" in these schools however my casts only landed sub 24" reds. After the fast and furious fishingaction the schools finally disappeared. However I had 2 solid fish on the stringer.

Flounder caught on Z-Man Scented ShrimpZ

It was mid morning and I decided to move on to a cut that had moving water and abundance of shrimp and bait fish present. It was time to make a change. My MinnowZ rod went back in the rod holder and out came the popping cork. This popping cork was rigged with an 1/8 oz jig head and a Z-Man Scented ShrimpZ. First cast, 3 pops of the cork and it goes under. This fish felt different and I knew immediately it wasn't a redfish. Flounder on! I didn't measure him because it was a tournament day and he wasn't going on my stringer. I expect he came in at 15 to 16 inches in length.

I continued to fish when all of a sudden the winds started picking up. It was getting uncomfortable. I met back up with Travis and let him know I was calling it a day. I know I wasn't going to win but I felt I could still have a solid showing. I decided I was going to get back and get my 2 fish into the live well to ensure I took advantage of the 1/2 bonus for live redfish. 

My wife had planned to meet me at the weigh-in which happened to be at the Lazy Lizard once again. My fish weighed in at 10.43 lb. with the 1/2 lb bonus. After the weigh-in my wife and I decided to have lunch. As the crowd began to arrive I met up with some people I knew and as well as other avid anglers. The good thing about these events is you learn so much from others. The kayak community is very close and there are a lot of great people willing to share their stories and what made them successful on that particular day.

It was 4:30 PM. and all fished had been weighed. This was a good day as a lot of healthy upper slot redfish were brought back. Dustin the event director calls my name at 16th. I was in the money once again and very happy with my showing. 16th out of 94 anglers is where I finished on this day. 

Lastly Dustin made an announcement that he would be stepping down from directing the Lone Star Kayak Series. However the series would continue on. The reins were handed over to Cameron the Director of the Saltwater Survival Series.

Another great event in the books. I am definitely looking forward to fishing the series again next year!

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Lone Star Kayak Series 8/15/15

I woke up at 3 A.M. well before my fishing alarm was set to go off but I decided to get up anyway and start my day. It was a fishing day as well as the day of my first Lone Star Kayak Series tournament. Even though I couldn't launch my kayak until 6 A.M. I wanted to get a head start over everyone else and decided to get loaded up and quickly head for the launch. 

As I approached my launch point at 4:15 A.M. I was pleased to see an empty parking area. My buddy Mike (who was also in the tournament) called me and said he would be there in about 15 minutes. The day was already off to a great start as we were both able to unload and stage our kayaks at our preferred launch point. We were now just awaiting the 6 o'clock whistle. Moments later the herd arrived. At this point I knew I made the right decision as I watched people looking for parking and jockeying for positions to stage their kayaks. 

18" CPR speckled trout

And we were off! I quickly paddled to my destination as if I were in a race. I arrived to the lake to see the tide was high and the water and winds were calm. My first target area was open water with scattered shell over mud. I began to work the area with a pink Skitterwalk. About 4 casts in I landed a nice 18" trout. Normally this guy would be dinner but it was a tournament day and I didn't want to add any extra pressure to potential reds I may be stringing up later. The weigh master gives an extra 1/2 lb to your stringer weight for live redfish. It was this trouts lucky day as he was released. I didn't want to waste anytime and began casting again.

Not long after I was able to entice another fish with the Skitterwalk. This time he blew it up on the pause. I could tell this guy was a red but knew he was going to fall short of the slot as I was able to muscle him in quickly. Another fish released and I continued on. I made several more drifts with no success. The bite had  all of a sudden turned off. I had a bad feeling that I had wasted too much time working these shell pads and had nothing to show for it. It was time to put the reels in the rod holders and paddle on to my next location.

26.75" Redfish

I left the open water behind me and paddled back into the marsh. I had pre-fished this spot in the weeks prior to the tournament so I headed straight for some areas that had been holding some shallow water fish. Not more than 10 yards into the marsh I noticed a large swirl to the right side of my boat. I picked up the rod with a white Z Man ElaZtech paddle tail and tossed it in front of him. He inhaled it! The reel began to sing my favorite song while he peeled drag. My heart was pounding because I knew this was a slot. Actually I was a bit concerned that he may be too large! The battle was over and he was boatside. I fumbled with my net. I began to convince myself I was going to lose him after 3 failures at netting him. Fourth time was a charm and he was in the boat. He measured at 26.75" and he quickly went on the stringer. Remember live redfish bring in 1/2 lb bonus weight.

Z Man ElaZtech paddle tail

Z Man ElaZtech paddle tail

At this point I felt like I had a chance to be in the top 25 and earn prize money and prizes. I continued on through the marsh polling through the shallows. I heard some commotion over to my left and paddled over to investigate. My ears served me well as I found broad shoulders of a red moving slowly through 8 inches of water. Once again I picked up the Z Man paddle tail and tossed it right past him. I slowly worked the lure back into his path timing it right and BAM, the fight was on! This guy was also an upper slot. Like before, my drag was peeling. However before I could get a crank of the reel the paddle tail came flying back at me. No!!! The fish was gone and all I could think was my opportunity to place in the tournament was over. I kept replaying the events over and over in my mind thinking what could have I done differently. The morning was soon coming to a close so I had to move quickly if I wanted to salvage the trip and pick up one more. 

24.5" redfish

I ran into another tournament angler I met at the launch point and received a report from him that he hasn't caught a fish yet. This was disappointing as I was heading in the direction he was coming from. Regardless I continued on and man was I sure glad I did. I scanned the grass line to find what I like to call a "wolfpack" of reds bulldozing shrimp parallel with the marsh. You could not see the reds but you could see the wake they were making as they were feeding aggressively. The shrimp scattered as reds pushed through. I repositioned myself as to not come from behind them but to cut them off. When the reds are in a pack like this feeding this aggressively there is no need to cast past them. I casted right into the pack and the fight was on. This guy was a slot for sure but not the upper slot I was hoping for. Nonetheless I was excited because I felt I had a good chance to place in the top 25. 

It was noon and I decided to head back to the launch so that I could load up and place my fish in the live well cooler I rigged up for transport back to the weigh in. The paddle back was a bit more difficult as the drag of the feisty redfish began to wear on me. I made it back, loaded up the truck and made my way to the weigh in at the Lazy Lizard in San Leon. 

I arrived at the weigh in about an hour early. There were a couple other anglers there also standing by ready to weigh in. I wasn't too worried as my live well was working great. I have to say this event was 1st class all the way. I was greeted by the event Director Dustin Koreba and was given a run down on how the weigh in works and what follows afterwards. 2:30 hit and I was all weighed in with my 1/2 lb. bonus. My total weight came in at 12.15 lbs. 

My wife joined me shortly after and we decided to eat lunch while we waited for the rest of the anglers to arrive with their final weigh ins. After the weigh ins were complete the numbers were tabulated and as we waited Dustin began the raffle give-aways. A bag of lures and a raffle ticket was given to everyone who entered the tournament. There were plenty of great prizes given away. 

The final  numbers where in and Dustin began counting down the winners from 25 on down. I knew I was in the top 25 based on the weights already called out. 20 passed, 15 passed and I began to think it would be great to be in the top 10! My name was called at number 6! I won $180, a wade belt and a paddle leash.

This truly is a great event with great people. I want to congratulate all the winners as well as thank all of the people who work hard to put these events together. 

See you all again in October!

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Weekend trip to San Leon/Dickinson Bay

View over looking Galveston Bay.

My wife Kasey sent me a text saying the in-laws would be in town at their Bay House in San Leon, TX and we were invited to stay the weekend. Their home in San Leon over looks Galveston Bay with a pier that extends out about 40 yards. At the end of the pier you will find a large halogen light that is used to illuminate the water at night. I have spent many nights fishing under the light catching speckled trout, sand trout and occasionally redfish.

Needless to say I was excited to spend the weekend at the bay. Kasey and I loaded up the truck, strapped the little one in the car seat and headed out. We arrived Saturday around noon and spent the day catching up with the family. I had the kayak and gear strapped in the truck and was ready to do a little kayak fishing at some point during the weekend. The forecast for Sunday looked promising as the winds were set to be less than 5 mph. I decided instead of fishing Saturday afternoon I would catch the early morning bite Sunday morning.

I've fished the open bay looking for slicks or near by oyster reefs in the past. This has proven to be good fishing for speckled trout. However I decided to change things up a bit and try a different location. Directly south of the bay house is the Moses Lake flood gate. On the outside of the flood gate you will find a small section of marsh grass. This is located west of the flood gate. I had scoped it out on Google Maps and decided that is the area I would fish. 

I woke up bright and early Sunday around 5:30 AM to find glassy conditions. The calm conditions provided a nice paddle across the bay. It took about 20 minutes to get there however once I arrived I noticed an abundance of shrimp popping around the grass line. I immediately started working the grass shoreline throwing a pink Skitterwalk topwater. After multiple casts with no success I switched over to a watermelon Strike King Z Too jerk shad. 

I heard some commotion further into the marsh so I paddled my way further in. I posted up and started to fan cast the area. Then I heard a loud crash and could see the wake on the water out of the corner of my eye. I flicked the Z Too in the vicinty of the wake and bam the red inhaled the lure. 

The fight was on. I was surrounded by marsh and the tide was high so I fought hard to keep him away from the grass. More often than not when a red makes it inside the grass the lure gets worked loose. The combination of this red being a smaller slot and the use of Fins 30 lb braid gave me the ability to muscle him to the boat relatively quickly. 

I continued to work the area a little more before finally deciding to head back to the house. This was a short fishing trip but I always enjoy fishing new locations. 

 

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