Paddle Palooza

by • January 30, 2014 • Fishing Reports, Tournament TripsComments (0)3106

Back in April, I wrote of the experience of travelling to Louisiana to attend the Paddle Palooza X tournament in Leeville for Kayak Angler Magazine.  Here’s a recap of that experience and a link to the magazine article.


23inch_redfish_-_Tony_Hart_1[1]The Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club held their annual Paddle Palooza tournament on March 22nd & 23rd in Leeville, Louisiana.  This marked the 10th year in existence for this tournament, and it has grown each year.  It’s not hard to understand why this tournament has become so popular, garnering participants from 10 different states.  There were 272 participants fishing Paddle Palooza, making it the 2nd largest single day kayak fishing tournament in the country, only behind the Jax Kayak Fishing Classic in Jacksonville, FL.  The event was hosted by Bobby Lynn’s Marina in Golden Meadow, and you couldn’t have asked for a nicer group of people or a better venue.  There was a great sense of hospitality and camaraderie in the air surrounding this event amongst the participants, volunteers, and coordinators.

            My preparation for the tournament began on Thursday, March 21st.  My alarm abruptly sounded off at 11:45pm, and I quickly jumped in the truck for the ride in front of me.  What would make a perfectly sane individual want to drive all night from Jacksonville, FL to Leeville, LA just to fish a tournament?  Well, Louisiana is world-renowned for their fishery.  Think of it as a pilgrimage to the Mecca of redfishin’.  Catching some Louisiana redfish has been on my bucket list, so there was no chance of my missing this one for sure.  The drive went along very smoothly, and I made a stop in Mobile, Alabama to pick up some friends and fellow pro staff members.  After a quick stop for some breakfast, we were quickly headed westbound on I-10, giddy with excitement.  Our convoy only had one hiccup, as one of the guys had a blowout south of New Orleans.  After a Nascar-ish tire change, we were right back on the road.

We arrived at our destination roughly around noon and made our way right to the marina to check out the venue for the weekend.  We grabbed some lunch with Jason, president of the Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club, and swapped fishing stories from our different areas of the southeast.  We also ran into Capt. Bobby Gros, local charter captain and owner of the marina.  I can’t emphasize enough at the hospitality and generosity that we encountered.  It just goes to show that kayak anglers have a knack for looking out for each other.  We checked in to our hotel to get unloaded and unpacked, and prepared gear for what we all anticipated as an epic day of fishing ahead of us.

The Captain’s Meeting took place at roughly 8pm at Bobby Lynn’s, and while it wasn’t mandatory, there were still a ton of people hanging out.  It was a great time to catch up with old friends, and meet some new ones as well.  We got the gist of the tournament, rules, and when the official time to start fishing, then headed back for some much needed rest.  I’d pretty much been up since 11:45pm the night before, and I was pretty much running on fumes at that point.

Tournament day began with an unpleasant alarm signaling that it was 3:30am.  Surprisingly enough, we bounced out of bed like it was Christmas morning.  We quickly got ready and loaded the last of our gear, grabbed a little bit of bait as an insurance policy, then hit the road to where we’d be fishing that day.  Obviously, fishing an otherwise unknown area in the pitch black of early morning wasn’t the most ideal of situations, but we yakkers have a knack for overcoming these sort of obstacles.  We arrived at our launch spot to pitch black skies and a heavy fog.  We pushed off at 5am in search of redfish, trout, and flounder.  It was definitely a new experience trying to find your way around where you have absolutely no idea where you are.

The weather for the day was pleasantly surprising as there had been reports of nasty weather earlier in the week, but the fish gods smiled upon us with some fairly decent weather.  We fished until roughly 2:30pm, and packed up to head back in to get to the weigh in on time.  A few redfish had been landed throughout the day, but at around 12:30, I pitched a piece of shrimp out on a Saltwater Assassin jighead, and it was instantly slammed by a great sized redfish.  I finally landed the brute, and quickly measured it.  The redfish measured in at 26 ¾” and weighed (what we thought) was 7.4lbs.  I’d heard tale that someone in our initial convoy down to the tournament already had almost an 8lb redfish on a stringer already, but I felt pretty confident that this redfish would put me in the top 5.

We arrived back at Bobby Lynn’s to an already lengthy line at the weigh in.  Standing there holding this hog of a redfish, I kept looking around checking out everyone else’s fish and there were some quality redfish.  Finally, it was my turn to have my fish weighed and measured, and it held true at 26 ¾”, but weighed in at 8.15lbs!  We were all knocked back by the result, and we went off hoping that it would hold.  I also talked with fellow yakker and one of the guys, Hunter King, who convoyed from Alabama with us, that he’d landed a 7.51lb redfish.  We both felt confident that we’d represented well at the tournament and had a solid chance at a 1st & 2nd place showing.

We cleaned up and hung out with our old and newfound friends, all sharing fishing stories of how the day had gone, who caught what, and using what type of lures and baits.  I’ve come to realize that the kayak fishing community, while growing at an incredible rate, still has its roots in doing right by your fellow angler, building relationships, and promoting the sport to help it grow even stronger and larger.  Everyone enjoyed the huge fish fry, and waited anxiously for the results of the day’s tournament.  There were several divisions, including largest slam, redfish, trout, flounder, as well as a ladies division and a youth division.  I’m especially pleased that most tournaments are offering a ladies division and youth division, as kayak fishing can and is a family oriented sport.  Offering a youth division offers our children the opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy nature.

Finally the results were called out, and in fact, Hunter and I did manage to take 1st & 2nd place in the redfish division.  I think we were both grinning from ear to ear the remainder of the night and into the next day.  We watched and applauded the other winners, including the 12 winners in the slam division.    I can say with certainty that this was one of my more memorable events, and one that I would definitely suggest attending.  The atmosphere surrounding the tournament was incredible, the hosts and people involved in making this tournament as great as it was, and all the volunteers for all their hard work and selflessness make this one of the premiere tournaments for kayak anglers.  We’ll definitely be back next year and look forward to an annual pilgrimage to Louisiana for many years to come.

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