Jeff Gleason, RTB IV winner and
Michael Mathews, the Backpacker
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Storm Clouds did not deter 488 enthusiastic Kayak Anglers from paddling out into Caminada Pass to Ride The Bull Saturday August 17, 2013
Ann Taylor of Louisiana Sportsman brought in the largest Bull Red by a Lady & won 5th Place overall
Tournament organizer Danny Wray fancies Ride the Bull as South Louisiana's version of Woodstock. Saturday morning, it definitely had that feel as record crowds showed up to fish the only-of-its-kind kayak tournament.
Last year, 270 anglers entered the event, setting the record for the largest kayak tournament in Louisiana and top 5 in the country. This year's Ride the Bull nearly doubled that, however. A total of 523 anglers registered, and 488 actually fished the event, making Ride the Bull the most-popular kayak tournament in North America.
"When we started this, I would have thought 200 (anglers) was a stretch," Wray said.
Much like Woodstock, though, the record-breaking Ride the Bull IV was marred by sketchy weather. At the 7 a.m. blast-off rain was pouring on the western end of Grand Isle, and radar showed many more showers and even some thunderstorms just off the coast.
When the horn sounded to start the event, only about half the contestants answered the call. The rest remained under the cabana at Bridge Side Marina, watching the weather on smart phones and waiting for a break.
Eventually, though, seeing that it was only rain and no lightning, the laggers began to filter out to Caminada Pass in quest of one big bull red that would crash the top 10. Before long, the pass seemed to have more kayaks than water.
Jeff Gleason of Folsom was one of the brave souls who ventured out with the first group, but he really could have waited. His first hour of fishing was as productive for bull reds as the anglers were finding sitting under the cabana.
"I kind of got separated from my group. I cut over to the pier on the north side (of Caminada Pass), and fished there," he said. "I caught only a couple of small sharks, and then I thought, 'Well, it's time to move.'
"My wife was out past the barges, so I just kept on trucking. I got out almost to the point, and I could see the redfish rolling everywhere. I got anchored up, and within 5 minutes, I was hooked up."
Gleason could tell right away it was a nice fish, but he horsed it with braided line and 40-pound fluorocarbon leader.
"It wasn't a real long battle. I've got a pretty good set-up," Gleason said. "He made a couple of great runs, and a couple times he went under the kayak. There were some tense moments, but it was a great fight."
View full sizeBetsy Seals with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries measures a redfish caught in Saturday's Ride the Bull kayak tournament. She then tagged the fish and released it into the Bridge Side Marina harbor adjacent to Caminada Pass. (Photo by Todd Masson, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)Todd Masson
Gleason began fishing from a kayak in the autumn of 2010 after he first moved to South Louisiana, and since then, he's competed in some International Fishing Association and Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club events. He's seen a few big redfish over those years, so he was exhausted, ecstatic and relieved when he finally got a net under this one.
Wray, who watched most of the fight, moved over in his chase boat to take possession of the fish.
"I figured it was going to be a top-10 fish, but when the chase boat came up, Danny said, 'That's a nice fish!'" Gleason recounted. "Of course, when he said that, I thought, 'OK, maybe it's a top 5.'"
The fish was better than that. At 32.96 pounds, it took first place in Ride the Bull and netted Gleason a new Hobie Pro Angler kayak as well as $2,200.
His fish bit cut mullet, which is what most of the contestants were fishing. Gleason said he was simply at the right place at the right time.
"The thing about this tournament when compared to some of the other tournaments, it's pretty random who's going to win," he said. "The probability of any one person catching a fish is about the same because the technique from person to person is almost identical."
Eric Muhoberac, though, fished a technique that was a little different from most other anglers, and it paid off for him. While the tournament produced only 35 bull reds that were caught, submitted, weighed-in, tagged and released, Muhoberac was fortunate enough to boat two of them.
That earned him half of a $440 calcutta that he split with Casey Brunning.
"I threw out whole live crabs," Muhoberac said. "I stuck them on the bottom, and sure enough, the redfish ate them up."
While many bull-red anglers regularly fish cracked crab, Muhoberac said the whole crabs minimize the amount of catfish and other bait-stealers that peck at the crustaceans. He does, however, remove the claws to make the crabs easier for the redfish to ingest.
As important as what he fished, though, was where he fished, Muhoberac said. While most anglers focused near the Highway 1 bridge, last year's hotspot, he moseyed down to the mouth of the pass near the Gulf.
"The fish were turned on right away, as soon as I got there," he said. "You couldn't have asked for anything better."
That's the same general area where Gleason caught his fish.
Muhoberac was also part of the five-member team called The Swamps that pocketed $500 for catching the most redfish -- three. One other team also caught three redfish, but in the event of a tie, the rules awarded the money to the team that weighed in the first fish.
Ride the Bull also awarded Louisiana Fish Fry gift packs to anglers who traveled the longest distances to fish the event. The overall winner was Dominque Lewis who flew 3,983 miles from Hawaii for Ride the Bull.
Times are subject to change due to weather and other conditions upon the decision of the Tournament Director.
If you were at Bridge Side Marina early Saturday morning, you might have thought it was opening day of deer season: Hundreds of people milled about in bright-orange safety vests waiting on the 7 a.m. shotgun start of “RTB3.”
With ominous weather looming, anglers eagerly awaited the mad rush to stake out a prime spot in the pass in anticipation of “Riding the Bull.”
The event is the brainchild of Grand Isle residents Captains Danny and Kristen Wray as a way to showcase Grand Isle as a premiere kayak-fishing destination and kayak-friendly community.
On Thursday, Danny Wray was somewhat amazed at the number of kayakers pouring onto the island days ahead of the event.
“This thing is really becoming a festival,” Wray said.
For the next few days, it was difficult to spot a vehicle that wasn’t carrying or towing at least one kayak around Grand Isle.
The event is unique in that it is a live-weigh, bull redfish-only tournament. Several “chase” boats mill around through the hundreds of kayakers anchored up in the confined tournament boundaries of Caminada Pass; when a big red is landed by a participant, the chase boat takes the fish and puts it into an onboard tank.
After recording the angler’s entry number and the time of the catch, the fish is taken to Bridgeside Marina where CCA volunteers weigh, measure and tag it before releasing it alive back into the Pass.
On Saturday, the chase boats could hardly keep up with the action. Multiple hook-ups were the norm, and seemingly endless yells of “fish on” passed from one ’yak to another to get the chase crews’ attention.
More than 60 bull reds were caught and released during the tournament, which had to be shortened by several hours due to dangerous weather that moved in.
When all was said and done, it took a redfish just over 24 pounds to even make it into the top 10.
Mark Page of Slidell was crowned the 2012 Champion Bull Rider for landing a beast that weighed in at 32.28 pounds. Page took home a new Hobie Outback kayak and $1,250 in cash as his first place winnings.
In addition to the scores of bull reds caught, many black drum, sharks, jack crevalle and a handful of giant stingrays were also landed.
Final leader board:
1. Mark Page — 32.28 pounds
2. Joshua Bourg — 30.96 pounds
3. Charles Landry — 29.40 pounds
4. Aaron Oberste — 25.48 pounds
5. Kevin Tippett — 24.78 pounds
6. Derek Cabanis — 24.54
7. Steven Ramirez — 24.54
8. Joshua Bourg — 24.54
9. Jody Pillaro — 24.28
10. Steve Lessard — 24.12