Eric Atkins 12/12/2017 | Posted in Fishing
When the JK Media House team gets together you know you are in for a good time at an epic location with some awesome people. That is just what happened when I rolled from north Alabama to southern Louisiana last week. It would be my first time stalking redfish in Louisiana.
A few days prior to the trip, I had to decide what fishing kayak to take and what tackle and lures to use. I knew that since I am primary a bass fisherman, I would have close to the ideal redfishing setup. I went with my gut and decided to take a Jackson Kayak Mayfly because it paddles effortlessly, offers stability for standing and sight casting, and may be Jackson’s best kayak for handling in the wind. At the end of the trip I ended up realizing that the Mayfly may by my favorite all-around boat from Jackson!
As for tackle, I took an 8WT fly rod, an 8’ long swimbait rod, two 7’ 3” Heavy/Fast action rods, one 7’ Medium/Fast action rod, and one 6’ 6” Medium/Fact action spinning rod. Due to the windy conditions and low water clarity, I kept the fly rod stored in the truck. And due to my success hooking fish with the smaller rods, I kept the swimbait rod in the truck as well (although, I’d like to see what a big swimbait would do in those waters).
One of the great things about getting together with the JK Crew is the information you get from the anglers in the group. Teammate and prolific Louisiana marsh angler Eli Braud hooked me up with a piece of advice that proved to be fruitful. After watching Eli lay eyes on a large redfish just in front of his new Cruise Flex Drive, making a perfect cast, and losing the connection, Eli clued me into the lure that was working that day; a Buggs Fishing Curl-Tail Jig. Sure enough as the day went on, it ended up being a big producer of redfish, trout, and even a sheepshead (which Eli says is a fish that rarely bites the jig).
I had stopped at tackle stores along my way to the marsh to purchase red eye jigs, Z-Man paddle tail soft plastics, white grubs and other shrimp and small fishing imitators. After trying out many of those lures, I did not have many fish interested in my presentations. My go-to bone Whopper Plopper 130 did not even see a blow up during a full day of fishing.
A few hours before sunset we noticed that birds were starting to feed on the water. We paddled for those birds, found some current, and threw our other topwater offerings (bone-colored One Knocker Spooks). With some walk-the-dog action of the bait, the bite was on! Speckled trout were having a field day connecting with the Spook. Even if they missed the lure on the first or second pass, a consistent working of the lure often produced a hookup after a failed connection.
As the sun began to get lower in the sky, I noticed that the bigger redfish seemed to not be shallow, but in the deeper waters of the marsh. We found a canal were birds had been feeding and with the tides flowing inward, the small canal offered a current break where it dumped into a larger grass flat. There on the corner of the grass flat near the current break is where I hooked with my personal best redfish, a 30 inch redfish which nailed my Spook—only the fish broke my line at the boat. The thing could have been close to 40 inches and it took my only bone One Knocker with it.
I retied with a Super Spook Junior in Wounded Shad color and made a long cast to where the redfish broke me off. Boom! Topwater explosion and I had another big redfish on the line. To boot, JK Media House crew member Brooks Beatty got the whole catch on film! It ended up measuring about 30-inches long on my Bending Branched paddles.
After catching a few smaller reads on the Wounded Shad Super Spook Jr, I saw my bone One Knocker floating in a pocket! I slowly paddled over the murky water to the lure and grabbed it with my Fish Grips. I was hoping that massive redfish was on the other end. Nope, the fish was not there, but I did recover my lure. It was a great way to end my first day on the marsh.
The next day, I tried the same tactics and was looking forward to the bite heating up as the tide came back in later in the day. Sure enough, the same kind of effect was happening. Fish began hitting on topwater and birds began diving into the water to extract a meal.
I paddled my way back to the location where I had caught the 30” redfish on the previous day. However, on day two, I had already caught a dozen redfish on the jig and decided to first work that spot subtly with a jig before coming back to work the area with a disruptive topwater lure. With my first cast to the trophy spot from the previous day I had a hookup! Yes! And this fish was fighting hard. It was fighting harder than the 30” redfish I had caught on the previous day so I just knew I was tangling with a nice fish. Was this going to be the 40” bull red or black drum I was hoping to catch?
As my line raced back and forth across the nose of my kayak I saw white flashes and then I saw zebra stripes. A sheepshead! And a massive one at that. This fish was much smaller than 30 inches, but it was fighting like a massive redfish. After a few minutes of battling the fish, I netted it in my YakAttack Leverage Landing Net (a device that landed all of my larger fish on this trip). The sheepshead measured 19 inches on my Bending Branches Angler Pro Carbon paddle and over five pounds on my Boga Grips (which came in handy because of the humanoid teeth these fish have). A new species was checked off the list and it proved to be a nice catch at that. Having spending an hour sight casting to a school of sheepshead on the day prior, this blind cast in stained water offered a sweet surprise catch.
Making the transition from freshwater bass fishing to fishing the marsh for redfish was easy. If you have medium-heavy fishing rods, you more than likely already have gear to catch big redfish. On the trip I used straight Power Pro braided line on all my rods and tied Palomar knots. I had 20 pound fluorocarbon leaders at the ready just in case the fish were being picky. I used the Leverage Landing Net to land the fish, a Power-Pole Micro anchor to lock me down in the wind, and a Jackson Kayak KKrate to my keep all my tackle and camera gear safe. Jigs, softplastic crabs, shrimp, and paddle tail minnows, spooks, poppers, and chatterbaits all caught fish.
My first trip to the Louisiana marsh was memorable both on and off the water. The great fishing and great new friends made this a trip I will not forget.