Catching fish, but not landing them
Day three of pre-fishing, we headed south-by-southwest. We went to Lost Lake, as we had overheard some chatter there might be some fish there.
We hit the north bank and began casting. Jake threw a spoon and I threw a paddle tail. About the fifth or sixth cast, Jake hooked up. We're both excited, as we have caught like four fish since we arrived in Houma. Jake landed a rat red. We finished that bank and headed for the south bank; according to the machine there was a cut that led back to some marsh.
We started down the canal beating the banks and Jake's spoon hung a piece of grass off the bank. He snatched, trying to get the spoon loose, and out of my peripheral I saw something waking across the cut. It was about a 6-foot gator beelining to Jake's spoon. It made it to about 2 feet from the spoon and just floated, looking at it.
We decided neither one of us were grabbing the spoon at that point. I slapped the water with my rod, and it swam over to it while Jake got his spoon unhung. We played with that gator for about 10 minutes before we moved on.
We went through the cut to the marsh and found nothing. We made a run northeast to another lake that looked good on the machine. We fished it and the river that fed it, and all we found were bass, black drum, gar and perch. We were on nothing, and it was time for the captains' meeting.
While at the captains' meeting, we talked to two guys from Texas that have Redtail Republic Optix as a sponsor as well. Come to find out, one of the guys has won Elite series tournaments, IFAs and Power Pole Pros. They invited us back to their cabin to grill and hang out.
At the cabin, I noticed all his rods but two were rigged with popping corks and artificial crawdads. I asked him about the popping corks, as I don't throw them at all. He said you have to stick with it, and he had won over $100,000 with a popping cork. Jake and I talked on the way back to our cabin and decided I would throw a popping cork with a Zman Minnowz and he would throw a spoon, and we’d see what happened.
We launched, headed to the first bank outside the canal the launch was on. I threw a popping cork and Jake started out with a top water. Jake's first cast, a gator came out of the water and grabbed his topwater in the air. Neither one of us could believe it. We used the trolling motor to work toward the gator as Jake fought it, discussing how we would unhook it.
When it was beside the boat, we saw it wasn’t hooked, it just wasn’t letting go of the bait. Finally, it let go and launched Jake's topwater at our heads.
My third cast with the popping cork, not knowing what I was doing, I landed a 4-pound red. Since it was the first fish and legal, it went in the live well. About five casts later, I landed a 3-pound bass. As we continued down the bank, I hooked up and landed a 5-pound red. Now we had 9 pounds in the live well, and it felt great finally catching fish.
About 20 minutes farther down the bank, I hooked up and it had weight; landed a 7.25 pound red. It went in the live well and the 4-pound red was released. Three casts later, I had a red bigger than the 7.25 swirl on the cork and then grab my bait. I set hook and off went the drag, and the line broke. We agreed it would have measured and been close to 8 pounds. I re-rigged and threw back in the same area. The very next cast, the same thing. A giant upper slot red roughly around 8 pounds hit the cork then my shrimp. I set hook and fought him up to the boat when the hook pulled. We went to pole down and realized the shoreline we were fishing had a 13-foot hole in the in the middle of the run.
While I continued to fish for the big reds, Jake noticed the 5-pound red wasn’t doing so hot and wasn’t going to make it if left in the live well. So we decided to let him go since the bite was hot and we're expecting to land another 7- or 8-pound red. As soon as we let the red go, I’m confident it informed all other big reds we were there and catching them, because the bite turned off like a switch.
We fished the until weigh-in, catching 12 more reds and not one over 21 inches. We chose to let the 7-pound red go instead of weigh-in since we weren’t in team of the year running and it wasn’t going to win
At weigh-in, 16.2 pounds won $30,000 dollars and a ranger boat. Seeing that just made it worse, knowing I had roughly that weight on the line and lost both fish. We should have been a top 5 team, taking home $10,000 or more dollars, and instead went home empty handed. It's all part of tournament fishing.
We will be fishing this upcoming weekend Aug. 17, the ECRC launching at Carl Gray Park. Check-in is between 5:15 and 5:40 a.m., and everyone is welcome. Launch is 5:45 a.m., and weigh-in will be 3:15 p.m.
Anthony 'AJ' Watson shares his fishing adventures each week in the Entertainer.