Riding the Bull into History E-mail
Written by Barrett Jones   
Thursday, 29 August 2013 16:01

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Ride the Bull may have been on August 17th this year, but for many like me; it started weeks before the actual date of the event. This is a different type of tournament, with a style to which many kayak anglers are not accustomed. Ride the Bull actually sounds pretty simple, but it is not. The tournament participants fish one particular area in Grande Isle, Louisiana that is very well known as the entry way to the Gulf of Mexico. All anglers must launch at Bridge Side Marina with a shotgun start and fish for one species of fish, bull redfish. Anyone who has caught a redfish knows how hard they fight. In this event you are looking for a bull red in the 20lb plus class or more, and you are doing so in deep water. Caminada Pass is known for schools of huge bull reds that make home in this entry way to the Gulf of Mexico in August. Shark, jack crevalle, stingrays and many other species also congregate in the Pass this time of the year, and baitfish fill the area. What do you do with this monstrous fish after you catch it? Simple, one of the tournament chase boats comes and takes your fish to the marina to be weighed, tagged, and released. Oh, it sounds so simple. We will get to the actual event, but like I said in my opening sentence this event started weeks before.

It’s the month of July and everyone that kayak fishes in Southern Louisiana knows that Ride The Bull in Grande Isle is right around the corner. Fishing reports are coming in on internet fishing forums, social media and text messages, and it’s time to start getting that itch to head to Grande Isle for some big redfish action. The Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club forum is full of questions. What size anchor? What size hook? What type of bait? The endless talk of the upcoming event just makes you that much more excited to get down to the Island. Personally, I was chomping at the bit, and by mid-July I was checking my offshore gear and already debating on what I was going to do for bait and where I would fish the Pass.

The week before the event is one of the longest weeks at work. Reading the fishing forums you can see people are already headed down to the island. Make an afternoon trip to Academy Sports and you notice low quantities of large circle hooks and 4-6oz lead weights. The time is nearing! Friday is finally here and I, amongst others, am ready to kiss my wife and kids goodbye and jump in the truck and get down to Grande Isle. The drive on down to the island is long, as you are excited to get down and see all your friends. The moment I come across the bridge my face lights up with excitement. There are trucks with kayaks as far as the eye can see. I know in my gut that this is going to be the largest kayak event in history. Every brand and every color imaginable of kayak is here. Kayak fishermen from all over the country are gathered under the tent, even Hawaii! Everyone is just as amazed as I am with how large this event has become. We all know we are now part of kayak fishing history and the excitement is immeasurable.

After everyone gets registered and receives their shirts, safety vests and numbers, it’s time for the film fest. This year the films that were presented were incredible. Everything from huge top water trout to bull reds, these anglers definitely have some talent. In the end, Casey Brunning walked away with over $600.00 worth of GoPro equipment for his video footage from his kayak for catching the huge bull reds that he is known for.

Well, Friday night is still young, but I know I have a long night ahead. Bull reds love mullet and I still need bait. Tyler Hall and I climbed in our trucks with cast nets in tow to go and find our luck. We knew we needed big mullet, not the usual finger mullet for trout, but the largest mullet we could find to cut up into nice steaks. After a couple stops we finally hit the jackpot and found a big school in a roadside ditch. Time to take it back to the hotel and get some rest before the big day! At this time I realized I am not the young buck I once was. Its 1:00am, I am dragging and still need to do some tackle rigging. Well, that never happened as I hit the sofa and I was out!

Buzzzzzzzz!!!! The alarm goes off and I wake with excitement! No throwing the alarm clock across the room and rolling back over as I am going to RIDE THE BULL!!! I only had 3 hours of sleep and it’s raining, but I do not care as I am hyped up! Grab a cup of coffee, load the kayaks, and haul to the marina we go!

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All I can say is “WOW!” when we pull up to the marina. It is a kayak show! Kayaks are tied up all around the marina. On land, under the tent and 10 deep in the launch. It’s an unbelievable sight for sure. Everyone is running around just as excited as we are and making last minute preparations before the 7am shotgun start. No one says anything about the rain or cares if more is coming as it does not matter, because we are hitting the pass in the largest kayak fishing tournament ever. They announce that 488 kayak anglers are fishing the event! Amazing! I could not believe 488 confirmed kayakers were launching and over 520 had registered for the event. Just think about this for a minute, 488 kayaks in one area using the same launch, it’s a sight everyone should see.

It’s now 7am and the horn sounds. I decide to wait to launch as I just have to see the armada paddle out. It was really funny actually with paddles flinging and peddles pushing as far as you could see. The water in the marina was choppy with waves going everywhere just from the kayaks making their way out to the pass. Seeing this, I am anxious to head out myself and get out on the water!

Tyler and I head out of the marina and make the left into the pass and we just start laughing! There were kayaks everywhere. I would have loved to have flown over the one-mile area to see the colors. You could pretty much make a cast in any direction and hook a kayak. Hopefully, it would be like that for the fish. We make it to a spot in about 30’ of water and anchor up. As I am reading the bottom and looking for large fish targets on my Raymarine Dragonfly down imaging sounder, a school of mullet moves in. Within minutes we hear hooting and hollering down the pass. “Hookup!!!” “Fish-on!!!” Someone yelling, and paddles waving in the air, the excitement of a fish on gets everyone in shouting range excited. Sure enough, you hear another hoot and holler as someone else lands another bull and the chase boat runs off to the marina with the catch for weigh in. By now, you can imagine my heart is racing with excitement waiting for the tug on the rod. Finally, the drag makes a run and I get a fish coming towards the boat. Just my luck, a big ole nasty catfish! After trying our luck for another hour in this spot we decided to move. As we paddled away we notice the tide has turned and the current is picking up. It’s now 12:00pm, and we decide to paddle in for lunch. The crew had a big lunch for everyone and the stories were being told amongst the anglers. Some nasty bulls were caught along with big jack crevalle, drum and numerous large sharks. I knew I needed to get back out there.

After lunch had settled, I get my gear oriented and Elliot Stevens and I decide we need to get back out and try to get a bull red on the board. As we made our way out of the marina the current was ripping fiercely. Many anglers were already headed in and some had to be towed by the chase boats. We made it across the pass, but with the current as strong as it was the fish would not be eating in this much rip. We knew we had a very tough paddle back across and had to get with it. Paddling back, I was amazed at how strong the current had gotten. Chase boats were now either towing people in or picking people up that flipped in the current. I really have to thank these crews in the boats. They would motor up to every kayaker and ask if they needed help. They were on their “A” game for sure. Elliot and I make our paddle in and just stand there looking back at the pass. This event had just become an extreme kayak tourney for sure.

Casey Brunning

I talked to Casey Brunning about his day and he was very excited about the overall Ride The Bull experience. Casey had a great day catching two bull reds for the day adding to his winnings from the night before from the Media Festival. I asked him about his experience with landing the two Bulls. “The fight was one of a kind for me… I’ve caught hundreds of bull reds in my life but never caught one on braided line” he said. “In a kayak I am used to fighting a good redfish for 5 to 10 minutes on 12lb monofilament … I’m still a lover of mono, but for tournaments where time is of essence due to predators in the area I will be using a braided line set up.” He also stated, “I brought both of my fish to the surface in well under a minute… I spent more time getting the boga grip on the fish than I did fighting it.” Casey was using 65-pound braided line with an 80-pound leader that he usually uses to fish for sharks off the beach.

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There were not many fish caught at the event this year due to the weather conditions and tide, but some big bull reds were still caught. Jeff Gleason was honored with first place for his bruiser this year and took home a new Hobie kayak and $2200.00 in cash! Many other great prizes were handed out from wonderful sponsors this year as well. This event is definitely in the record books for me. It was the most extreme conditions I have ever paddled, but also the most fun I’ve ever had at a tournament. I am already looking forward to next year. Rain or shine, slack tide or raging current, I will be there.

Kudos should be given to the tournament directors, Danny and Kristen Wray. They really stepped up and made this a great event. Danny, Kristen, and the rest of the volunteers had this event running smoother than other smaller events. It was a sight to see how everything unfolded, and I want to congratulate them all on a job well done.

Top ten tournament winners were Jeff Gleason (32.96lbs), Shane Pantoja (30.94), Mitch Schexnailder (30.02), Johnny Bergeron (29.96), Ann Taylor (28.98), Derek Lafosse (28.9), Ryan Lauve (25.98), Easton Dumont (25.76), Ryan Lauve (25.7), and Loye Ayres (24.68).

Next year’s “Ride The Bull” is set for August 16 2014, and I am already looking forward to spending another weekend down on Grande Isle. For more information on Ride The Bull, visit www.calmwatercharters.net.

 

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