Like many people, life gets in the way of a lot of the cool things we like to do. The end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016 has been on exception. So when 4pm on the 5th of April came around, I departed a cold and blustery Norfolk, Virginia on a trip that will always have a special place in my memory.
After meeting with my partner Joe at his house in North Carolina, we quickly load up his truck and start our journey south. 14 hours and almost 900 miles later we found our home for the next 4 nights at the Delacroix Lodge.
|Photo – Delacroix Lodge|
|Photo – Amy Angelopoulos|
|First Redfish of the Trip
Photo – Mark Lozier
While this was the only fish to come out of the graveyard for us, we worked our way further up the bayou looking for spots to mark in the GPS. I found an area with some wood structure on a flat adjacent to deeper water. This held reds, with schools surrounding the structure. It didn’t take to long to hook up to another red on the same watermelon spoon, so that went back into the box and I proceeded to catch more reds on copper spoons, inline spinnerbaits, Egret Baits vudu shrimp, and Power Team Lures swinging hammers rigged weightless. I was feeling good marking spots, catching fish, and working new areas with friends.
|One of many day 1 fatties|
|Some well fed drum|
As our day ended, I was not ready to stop. Back at the lodge, I loaded the kayak on wheels and proceeded to fish the north side of Delacroix Highway. Lots of gators, nutria, and gar made it more of a scenic paddle until I got to a spot that held lots of reds and Speckled Trout. My first cast with a copper spoon produced a solid thump and a massive run (in which I ended up loosing the fish to a broken Tactical Angler Clip).
|a 50lb clip broke, but at least my knots held|
I was struck with utter shock and disbelief at the fact that I finally managed to break a clip. I quickly regrouped and got on a few speckled trout that fought extremely hard for their size.
|Some feisty little trout.|
After an amazing dinner cooked by my teammate, it was off to sleep to prepare for day two. In the morning, we decided to do something a little different. We were off to either Shell Beach to fish Lake Borgne and see the old spanish fort, or over to Hopedale. Shell Beach was blown out, so going to a spot that I have seen thousands of times in what I consider the best Fly Fishing video of all times was an amazing experience for me.
|Big ass gator|
Joe and the Loziers ended up finding some decent numbers of specks, while I ended up with a skunk. It’s ok though because you can guarantee that I will be back to Hopedale one day to find some Bulls on Top! Dinner that night was made by fellow Virginia anglers Amy and Andy and consisted of some amazing carnitas tacos and the best dirty rice I think ive ever eaten.
|The view across the Bayou from Sweetwater Marina|
As Saturday came around, things changed big time. Unlike other events, the Adventure Fishing World Championship is unique in the fact that it challenges you as a paddler, navigator, planner, and angler. Some more information about last year’s event can be found in my post from 2015. Much like last year, every team received their map sheets and scorecard. At 7am, teams were allowed to open their maps and launch. Joe and I opted to relax, finalize our plans, and proceed with fishing the tournament. Unlike previous years, every team was given a token in which they had to keep on them the entire time. You could catch 4 fish before you go to any CP, with a photo of you in your yak being the proof you made the course. If you only have proof of hitting 2 points, you could only score two fish. Furthermore, you had to go to the manned double checkpoint in order to get the special token to score a double fish. We were the last team out of the gate and decided to proceed to our first (and only) double checkpoint. Checkpoint 1was our double, and our first target. The plan was to bang out a fish quick, and work the course in one big circle. Things change though and soon came the first obstacle.
|Photo – AMONGSTiT|
|Joe with a fat multi-spotted redfish!|
|25.75″ double points!|
Photo – Joe M.
|Checkpoint 5 at 1411|
On the way to CP 4, we were discussing our plan. It was along the lines of “as long as we can make it to CP 4 by 1500, the tournament is ours for the taking. We can finish from here.”
Joe was not as optimistic.
|Checkpoint 4 – 1.5 miles and 29 minutes later|
|Checkpoint 3 – 1.3 miles and 25 minutes later|
After hitting 3 checkpoints in just under an hour and 2.8 miles, we perked up knowing we had a chance. From here it just meant catching 2 more fish and making it to the check in by 1700. I had found some productive areas pre fishing Thursday night, and we proceeded to those spots first. Not long into fishing, I got slammed by a nice speck at the side of the kayak. It was a fish that would have put us 5 places higher, but like last year, we had lost a fish at the end of the day in the back. It was a tough pill to swallow, and I still feel like slamming my head against a brick wall 4 days later. We felt like we had a chance to break the top 10 with 3 fish, so we decided that since we were going to finish, getting all 5 checkpoints would be extremely satisfying for ourselves.
|Checkpoint 2 at 1605|
Checkpoint 2 marked the end of our fishing, as the focus switched to making it back to the weigh-in prior to the 5pm deadline. Well we made it back in time, washed up and reflected on our day, one in which we made it to all 5 checkpoints and covered over 16 miles!
|Fellow Werner Paddles and Astral Teammate Mark Lozier with a 29.5″ Redfish on Tournament Day
Photo – Mark Lozier
|Werner Paddles Pro Staff (L-R William Ragulsky, Mark Lozier, Kris Lally Lozier, Bart Swab, Jeff Herman)
Photo – Mark Lozier
At the awards ceremony we got the pleasure of watching Eric Jackson (Jackson Kayaks) doing a bootie beer.
EJ and his partner Steve Fisher ended up winning a pair of Jackson Kraken’s (which they donated to the team with the largest fish, which was caught by a 14 year old). Very classy and very cool!
Team Wicked Fishah took 13th place with 100.5 points. Not the showing we wanted, but we finished and did it as a team which is all that matters.
Photo – AMONSGSTiT
My fishing vacation in Louisiana was over, but I still got some good ole southern fishing in down in North Carolina. My search for redfish came up short on Monday, but I wasn’t about to let that deter me from getting some pullage.
|Fishing a lake off the NC ICW|
After a few hour drive north, I stopped into Chasin’ Tails in Atlantic Beach to get the skinny. Much like my last trip down to Atlantic Beach, good numbers of Grey Trout were being caught in some deeper water. I armed myself with a few Hogy Epoxy jigs, set up the fish finder, and went to work. On the way out to a deep spot I knew of, I found a little false channel with a deep depression. I kept this area in my back pocket.
Upon reaching my spot, I spent about an hour trying to figure out a pattern. Against rain squalls, opposing winds and currents, and nothing on the screen (let alone the end of my line) I was feeling dejected. As I was calling it quits, I went back to the depression I found in the false channel. I proceeded to find a mess of pinfish (to 6″), some Hogfish just under keeper size, some bait size croaker, and a few greys. As I was going over a area with some small bottom structure I jig and feel a tap. When I set the hook, I was thinking I got into a nice trout. As some stronger runs occurred, I started thinking redfish. As I got some color, my next thought was a Black Drum. Then I saw the tail, and knew exactly what I had found… SHEEPSHEAD!!!
I was looking at the fish each time I brought it up to the surface to see where it was hooked. I was unable to see, so I got it in the kayak as quick as possible. Much to my surprise, it was fair hooked.
|Fair Caught Sheepshead on a Hogy Diamond Jig|
This fish optimized my vacation. lots of work just to experience the unexpected. With perseverance though I was rewarded with memories that will stay with me the rest of my life.
Big shout out to my partner Joe (one of the toughest SOB’s I know), the Lozier’s, John Grace (without him, the AFWC IS NOT POSSIBLE), my teammates and friends at Werner Paddles, and the remaining sponsors of the AFWC (Jackson Kayak, Orion Coolers, Watershed Dry Bags, and all the other supporters). Im already excited and looking forward to AFWC #5!