For the last two years, the largest kayak fishing tournament in the world has taken place in Grand Isle, LA. Ride the Bull, just completing it’s sixth year in existence, finished up their event with a little better than 730 participants.
The idea of the tournament is simple, and it’s probably one of the most accessible tournaments for new kayak anglers. Bridgeside Marina acts as head-quarters for the weekend. It sits on the banks of Caminada Pass, which borders the west side of the island. On tournament day, anglers paddle out into the pass and anchor down. Using cut bait and cracked crabs, everyone hopes to catch the largest redfish. The angler to take top-honors won $3000 and got first-pick in a very large selection of prizes including several kayaks.
My Ride The Bull adventure started a few months ago. Several good friends of mine were finally able to purchase their first kayaks, and almost immediately had their sights set on August. Having competed in the tournament 2 years prior, I agreed to fish it with them, though we’re all shallow-water, sight-fishing anglers.
One of the many events that takes place as part of the tournament is the Calmwaters GoPro Film Festival, where anglers can enter their own kayak fishing videos to YouTube, then submit them into the festival. With about two weeks left until the event, I decided to submit two of my own; “Poisson Rouge” and “Muddy Pumpkins”. As the days passed, more and more videos were submitted. In the final 48 hours, the top ten were announced, and “Muddy Pumpkins” made it into the finals
I rode down to the island on Friday, the day before Ride The Bull. My plan, originally, was to fish in the marsh that morning, and then meet up with friends at the camp that evening before heading to the captain’s meeting at the marina. Unfortunately, I overslept Friday morning and ended up heading down right behind my friends. After making a stop to get food for the camp, we found ourselves at Bridgeside a little past 1pm. Already, there were a lot of vendors set up. We got our registration bags and ate some boiled shrimp provided by Camardelle’s Seafood.
We hung out down there for a bit taking in the festival-like atmosphere. It was myself, Trey, Chad, and Trey’s Dad, John. We eventually left and drove around the island. Chad and I have not spent a lot of time on Grand Isle, so Trey showed us around. We stopped for a few minutes at Sureway, the local supermarket, and then headed back to the camp to load the kayaks and get them ready for in the morning.
Trey and I returned to the marina a little later for the film festival. As I mentioned earlier, one of my videos made it into the top ten. All the videos that made the final ten were very entertaining for other anglers. The festival selects a top video for several different categories. There’s best editing, best catch, best storyline, best humor, and then a crowd favorite. To no surprise, the crowd favorite and best humor categories went to some friends of mine, Team Hookedonyak. They submitted a video titled “Santa’s Cajun Sleigh Ride”. You can check out all of the entries here!
Karl met up with us down at the marina during the film festival, and then followed us back to the camp. Once back, we all sat around and had a great time relaxing before whatever was to come the next day.
Four o’clock came early Saturday morning. I opened my eyes to Trey standing in the bedroom doorway, signaling Karl and I that it was time to get ready. We got ready, drank some coffee, and had one more dose of tranquil conversation before heading to the marina.
We arrived at the marina around 5am, and already there were kayaks tied up all over the place. The shotgun start wasn’t until 7, so there was still plenty of time to rig things up and talk to other anglers, some from across the country!
As 7 drew closer, we headed to where we had docked the kayaks. At the sound of the horn, everyone was off, heading to the section of the pass that they felt would give them the best odds in this big lottery. We headed to the northern side of the LA1 bridge. Using our depth finders, Karl and I guided the rest of the guys to the drop-off near the middle of the pass. And then we waited.
I was the first of us to get a bite. I knew it wasn’t a bull red, and most likely a catfish. Sure enough, but luckily, it released itself. About two casts later, another bite. This one was a sand trout, and then a croaker. Karl caught a large gaff-top catfish in that timeframe as well.
I repositioned a bit closer to the drop-off, and continued our streak of “trash fish”, catching two more catfish. It wasn’t long before the wind picked up and started blowing directly through the pass, causing 2-3’ white-capping waves, and occasionally a 4’ wave which would make you think you were momentarily levitating.
With so many lines in the water (remember, there were 733 participants), and so many anglers moving around trying to find a honey-hole, add the rough surface conditions and it started taking it’s toll. Chad was the first to head in after beginning to feel nauseous. John was next after fighting the chop for a bit. Then, already becoming frustrated, several anglers anchored right in front of me creating a wall, and I decided I was packing it in. After a few close run-ins with others’ fishing lines, I made it back to see Karl and Trey close behind me. Our Ride the Bull experience ended a little early with cats being our few catches.
Upon returning to the marina, I checked the leaderboard to see a few familiar names. At the top of the board was a friend of mine, Ricky Smith. His redfish weighed in at 35.5 lbs. and he’d been sitting in the top-spot for most of the day. It wasn’t until after lunch, with just an hour remaining in the tournament, that his fish was bested by a 39.1 lb bullred. It was caught by a female angler, Jamie Clouatre, who was fishing with her husband out of a canoe!
Two years ago, the first time I took part in Ride the Bull, I came away saying that it wasn’t my “cup of tea”, and I still stand by that statement. This is not my style of fishing, but the camaraderie and party make this a particularly fun tournament. I don’t know, I might be back next year.
We were all using Jackson Kayaks! I was in my Cuda 14 and was using a 15lb anchor in 15-22 ft of water. Trey and his dad were in their separate Big Tunas, Chad and Karl were in their Big Rigs.
My preferred method of fishing is artificial on light tackle, but during Ride The Bull anglers are encouraged to use medium/heavy to heavy tackle. The preferred bait is usually live blue crabs and cut, frozen mullet.