Monday, October 19, 2015

The Magical State of North Carolina

While Im a Coloradoan living in Virginia, I feel that North Carolina is my true home.  Amazing weather, waterways, people, and scenery keep me chomping at the bit to come "home" every chance I get.  So when tournaments come up, I do everything possible to make it down.   I feet like I'm meant to soak in all this wonderful state has to offer.  One of these events it the annual NCKFA Oak Island Classic. 

The Classic is unique in the fact that it comprises two separate tournaments (Inshore and Ocean) into one event.  Over a period of three days each October anglers congregate from the south and mid-atlantic regions and take over the sleepy town of Oak Island.  The islands inhabitants are all for the classic, to the point that when you walk into convenience stores, tackle shops, and restaurants, proprietors and employees ask about the days fishing, and offer up local intel.  It is truly a sight to see.  For me, my classic started at Midnight, a mere 7 hours prior to the beginning of the ocean division start.  A five hour drive was accompanied by lots of coffee and a level of anxious excitement.  Upon arriving to the 49th Street beach access, I had the pleasure of preparing with some of the best people the state had to offer.  Tim "NCPIERMAN", the Kingfish Legend  Capt. Jerry Dilsaver, perpetual event winners Big Jon Grady and Brian Klammer, Mike Eady and the one and only "C-breeze" Patterson were just a few of the people I shared the morning and coming days of the event with.  After a quick meeting and safety brief, we were off to fish and that is just what we did.

Photo Credit - NCKFA
Upon launching that first morning, my focus was set upon catching bait.  This focus was shattered by the shrills of my friends Tim and Mike.  They got on fish, and did it in quick form.

NCPIERMAN with his first Kayak Bull (and NC Citation)

Mike with a competitive 39" Red
My experiences did not mirror those of my friends on Day 1.  I was struggling, barely catching bait.  It wasn't until Mike shared some intel with me, and I was rewarded by the Drum Gods for recapturing and reviving a floating fish that was poorly released by a boat (and yes... the drum gods are real) that I got my first action of the day.  I dropped down, and after 2 hookups that seemed to manage long distance releases, I was in the zone.  I bought a 36" (fork length) drum in the yak, and was thankful to get on the board.

Fighting my only scorable fish of Day 1
Photo Credit - Mike Eady
Day 1 ended with Tim on the board at 41", Mike with 39", my 36", and about a half dozen others with fish ranging from 33" up to 43".  Klammer had a big drum and a good flounder, and Big Jon had a Big Drum and Spanish to take the lead.

Day 2 began much the same as the first, with the exception being that I was well rested.  On the beach, I made a point of getting on the water quickly to catch bait and have a better showing.  Well, it didn't take long for me.  Almost immediately Mike hooked up, and I quickly followed.  It ended up being nothing short of magical, with at least 20 Reds between 37"-40" for the morning.  While I have had a few days with better numbers, the quality of the fish were nowhere near what I experienced.  I was fishing the Ocean division, but with my showing day 1 and the added factor of a big fish calcutta, I opted to go for the latter.  This didn't fare well for standings but it didn't matter.

An 18 spot beauty!

1 of 2 NC Citations both at 40"
While I still had a few hours left to chase Kings, Spanish, Specks, and Flounder, I opted to do so.  Mike and I paddled out to the reef trolling spoons and plugs.  I ended up with nothing more than bluefish to show for my efforts.  While at the reef, nothing was going on so with an hour left to weigh-in, and a 20 minute paddle ahead, I trolled my way back in, hoping for a big hook up, but expecting nothing... and that's when it happened.  It seemed that I was immediately stopped in my tracks.  As I looked behind me, I see a king re-enter the water, and the spoon rod starts ripping line.  I am super excited, knowing this was the king I had spent years chasing.  But like all big fish stories, this ended poorly... resulting in a lost fish due to equipment failure.  I quickly throw on a king rig, and go back at it.  This time I drop a live croaker back and while Im feeding the line out, I get slammed!  Again, I loose the fish due to error.  With 30 minutes left on the water I paddle back in, having no lines out and my head down.  Then I realized that I have just experienced a day that many people could only dream about.  With that in the back of my mind, I was bound to end on a strong note.  No more than 30 yards of the beach, I dropped a bait back down for drum, and was rewarded with a solid 39".

While I did not catch enough to place in the Ocean division, I experienced something truly special.
  1. It was my best drum day (and up there with overall fishing days) ever.
  2. I got to share it with some amazing friends and anglers.
  3. I got to witness some firsts (first citations, first larger drum, and first drum ever)
  4. Amazing level of competition, but also camaraderie and teamwork.

David Adcox First Ever Redfish - 38"

At the Inshore Capt. Meeting that night, Seth Goodrich and I were feeling good about the following morning.  While I was in the parking lot, on cloud 9, I saw one of my sponsors and all around awesome people (Bryan Owen-Astral).  In talking with him, his usual tournament partner had to run back west, so the only logical option was to invite him to fish with us.  So glad I did, because I (and Seth) learned a lot from him.  After the meeting, I decided to set up camp at the launch for the next morning.  This is when I met my old friend Fred.

I offered Fred a beer...  Fred wanted me to go for a swim...  Fred didn't get his beer
The tournament morning came too soon, and started much like the others (being awoken by vehicles pulling up to the launch).  I slowly get moving and was thankful for the help of my teammates Seth and Bryan to kick into gear.  Enroute to our first spot, we were laughing, joking, and just having a great time.  Then the mood got serious.  As we pulled into the grass, Seth whispers "Reds... Tailing..."  Such a sight is not common in our neck of the woods.  Bryan sneaks into the grass and positions himself to fish a great location, and that was when tails popped up in his area.  As the two of them work the grass, there was lots of tension and hard fishing, but nothing came tight.

Bryan Owen awaiting another shot at a tailing red.
The water started dropping, and the reds made their way out of the grass.  In hindsight, we had the right baits for the grass... during the summer, but not in the fall.  As is, we worked deeper in the cut, making some stops for bait along the way.

Walking the Grassline, Searching for Bait
Photo Credit - Bryan Owen
After making our first attempt at bait, I managed my first fish towards the slam.

Followed shortly by my second...

And finally my third (well 4th actually, which was an upgrade)

And that was it.  A whopping 35.5" slam, which Im sure set a tournament record for smallest slam in recorded history.  About this time, we got in an area that was chocked full of bait, so all three of us got out of the kayaks to get something more enticing ready for the fishes to eat.  Bryan managed a rat red in the net, I managed to get a number of lacerations from oysters on my legs and hands, and Seth learned first hand why I wear my Astral footwear on the water (thanks Bryan for helping Seth out)!  The fishing stopped for us, but our time on the water kept going.  In our conversations, things like "Spirit Animals" came up.  I think that my spirit animal is actually a gator, much like my buddy Fred (onry, hard headed, water loving creatures).  

Normally, my showing inshore would have been an irritant on my day, but thanks to my fishing buddies and frankly the previous day to keep me happy as a clam (or an oyster).  While this placed an uneventful end to the 2015 Oak Island Classic, it did not end my time on the island.  Tim, Michael Allen, Jamie, and I went out to see if we could coax some more fish from the surf.  While Tim got a Red rather quickly, the fishing almost stopped until Jamie got a hell of a run on the Balloon Rig!

A Studly King (from just off the surf)
I spent a little bit of time trying to get a king after Jamie got his, but quickly got bored and went after drum.  Well, hours had gone by and the fishing frankly sucked until we found that magic spot.

The Magic Spot... or Three
Fishing picked up and Tim and I ended the day with a half dozen reds each between 38"-42".

One of my Sunday Redfish
Photo Credit - Tim Taramelli
And that last run of reds coupled with a huge release of water from the Cape Fear River ended my day.

When the River Meets the Ocean
All of this was amazing, but I still had one more day to go on my vacation.  My good friend Joe "da Wicked Pissah" offered his pad an hour north of OI, and after spending the last 4 days in the car, I quickly accepted.  A few beers, great food, and amazing company were on tap.  The following morning, we planned on fishing but heavy rain and thunderstorms kept us off the water.  As I was preparing to drive home, the heavens parted, and we had beautiful conditions.  One look at the radar to confirm what we just witnessed, and our minds were made up... its time to fish!

Joe "guided" me to a new part of the ICW I had never fished before, and I quickly hook up to some rat reds and belt buckle flounder.  Joe fared better than I, with some slot reds and flounder on the ole fall go to, the Jumbo Vudu Shrimp.

One of the Wicked Pissah's Well Fed Reds
This trip was the conclusion of an amazing five days in Coastal Carolina, but I didn't (and haven't) have enough.  So as re-aclimitizing to work after such a great vacation and the upcoming weekends forecast gave me the blues, I decided to do something about it.  After soliciting for fishing partners, Luther Cifers so politely obliged.  It was off to the Crystal Coast in search of Drum, Mackrell, and Mr. Fat Albert himself.  I felt confident in my drumming know how to get us some fish, but the Albies I had to ask around for.  While I got some general guidance to confirm my suspicions, the day was left up to mainly the knowledge I had gathered over the years.

As the 0400 wake up arrived, I was greeted by chilly temperatures and the unmotivating thought of a 4 hour drive.  Well, I got moving and met up with Luther mid-morning.  With very little knowledge of the area, I quickly found a beach access point.  After seeing the conditions and abundance of bait, we unloaded, got rigged, and were off.  Luther quickly hooked up to a stud of an albie, which was over the 30" fork length mark.

Luther with a Stud Albert
I was pumped now.  We got a target!  While I was trolling around looking for Mr. Al, Luther was busy collecting drum bait.  While my fishing was non existent, we met back up and worked the shore line searching for Luther's first bull.  Drifting baits past the breakers, through pods of bunker, and off ledges produced nothing and my confidence was shot.  I didn't even see anything that looked drummy, so I went out looking for albies.  About a mile off the beach, I saw a slick, and quickly I thought drum.  I bring one of my trolling lines in, and drop a bunker to the bottom.  Then it happened.  I thought I was going to have a flush mount pulled out of my kayak the hit was so violent.  While I am unsure what is going on, I grab the rod out of the rod holder and proceed to get pulled around at a very high speed.  After watching fishing shows where folks catch lots of tuna, I was sure I knew what was happening.  My confusion led to excitement as I had my first False Albacore pinwheeling under my yak!

28" Fork Length False Albacore
 As the day went on, the fishing was slow.  Still no drum near the mouth of an inlet, and no signs of the Albies.  As Luther and I paddle toward the launch, we see a beehive of birds working.  We both have baits behind us, and haul to the spot.  As we near, we see the water boiling with feeding albies on the surface.  Knowing it is a damn near futile effort to catch up with the school, I try anyways, and ended up putting myself in the right position.  At this point, I have one rod still in the water, and one casting to the school.  This is when the rod in the rod holder goes crazy.  I get the rod to hand, and this fish runs right to Luther.  As we are only feet apart, I am unable to stop the fish.  At one point my rod was in the water between our two kayaks, then it was over his yak damn near attached to his Black Pak.  He gets his lines cleared, and I manage to get away from him without cutting his lines, breaking a rod, or loosing the fish.  As my fight is about over, I see him hooked up.  DOUBLE BABY!!!

My 2nd of the day at 26" FL

Luther's 2nd, and complimentary fish to the double
As the sun is getting lower on the horizon, I see birds working again.  I get myself in position, but trolled baits are attracting Blues and Greys, and I am not seeing anything happening.  At that moment I think the day is over, I am super stoked with the outcome.  Then out of nowhere, I see a school of fish 20' off the bow of my kayak coming straight for me.  It would have been such an amazing shot with the faces of the fish pushing but not breaking the water, silversides going in every direction, and the golden glow of the sun shining down on them.  It would have been an amazing shot if I had the camera in my hand.  But I didn't...  I only had a rod so I worked to my strengths and put a 4" Ronz right in there faces.  Within a split second, I was hooked up for a third time.  The fish ran in the exact opposite direction I was going in and I went along for the ride.

Obligatory Tuna Shot 

This fish ended my day on the water, and was a fitting end to a 10 day period down south.  Record book days, new experiences, and fishing with some of the greatest anglers and industry professionals made for a truly magical experience.

North Carolina still has its spell on me, and rest assured, my next trip is already in the works!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Double Vision

Thankfully, I have a lot to write about.  Unfortunately at this point, it would be way too much for one post so I'll keep it quick.

Low pressure, scattered rain, and a crap ton of wind put a damper on my 2015 Labor Day weekend.  What originally started out as an amazing 3-day period of big water and even larger fish turned into a period of sadness when I felt there was a legitimate forecast.  Fishing was put on a hold, and I had to deal with it.  Sometimes safety comes first!

So, before the weather turned to total crap on the friday leading up to the weekend, I was given an hour off work to rush to the water.  I met up with my bro Tommy Dewitt, and joined him in his chase for his first VA Release Citation Sheepshead.  He had been out for a bit before I launched and ended up with a few nice fish, but not quite what he was looking for...

Tommy's Sheepie just a hair shy of 24" and a VA Release Citation
(Photo - Thomas DeWitt)

Tommy with a consolation prize - Dinner
(Photo Thomas DeWitt) 
While Tommy got to enjoy some decent conditions, I launched into total garbage with a stiff NE wind, and lots of chop opposing an outgoing current.  While these are not enjoyable conditions to fish, the sheepies do enjoy them.  I made a few drops on a couple of pilings and was plagued by the Sheepshead fisherman's worst enemies; Black Seabass, Puffers, and treaded Portsmouth Tautog (Oyster Toad).  I move on and get the bite I was looking for.  I didn't set the hook, and brought up my rig to find a missing fiddler.  I smiled to myself, re-baited and dropped, and immediately found myself setting the hook onto what would become my Personal Best Sheepshead.

25.75" VA Release Citation Sheepshead
Unfortunately, the conditions were such that Tommy didn't hear my calls, and there was not a proper picture taken of this hog.  No worries...  Shortly after landing this guy, the conditions got too snotty to effectively fish, and we called it a day.  A personal best to end a long weekend of fishing before it started lessened the sting a bit.

Fast forward to Saturday Evening.  No fishing, just talking fish with Kayak Kevin and Lee.  Prior to starting, I just had to get on the beach and see how bad it really was in the bay.  After seeing this view, I knew staying landlocked was a good decision.

Sunday consisted of great company and amazing beer from one of my "Unofficial" (ok, DREAM) sponsor Back Bay Brewing.  Almost a growler of IPA in, the talk shifts to fishing.  After exchanges over the conflicting forecast (in which Tommy and I were referred to two "Bitches"), I caved and we made plans for the next morning.  The wind was still clipping which made me unexcited to wake up early and experience a day where I would be getting a whoopin'.  I make it to the launch at sunrise, to find excitingly and unexpectedly nice conditions.

Labor Day Sunrise Services... At the launch and on the water!
(Photo - Thomas DeWitt)
First order of business... make a drop and get Tommy his paper.  Well, the fish gods had different plans, and I had the hot rod of the morning.  Immediately, I hook a 20" class sheepie, and as I bring him up, I notice the hook is not in the skin, but pinched between two teeth.  At this point, without a net, it's a crapshoot.  I went for the sweep, and it popped off.  No worries, "cause I got this... This is what I do"!  Within minutes, I hook up again, and this time land a nice sheepie a hair short of 25".

We work the grounds for a bit longer in search of Tommy's sheep, but come up empty.  Lots of baits being eaten by trash, but no sheeps means we decided to keep a few crabs each for the trip in and head out in search of larger fish.  Upon arrival to "The Grounds", I was greeted by a waiting Jay Brooks, Meghan, and the Family Seed on their respective boats.  The reports were not great, but it didn't matter.  I know what I can do, and I was feeling good!

A few Kayakers from TKAA were out, and I decided to do something different from the rest of the fleet.  I went to find a spot and instead of following the pack and using their techniques, I paved my own path.  Each pass rounded out some different fish.  Some stud Flounder, a solid Gag Grouper, and some baits for my friends on the stinkpots.  It was all fun, but kinda boring until I feel a "THUD"  This could mean one of two things, the not so elusive, or them big, nasty bulls.  I set the hook, and get into one of the oddest drum fights I have had.  Not much initially went into getting it off the bottom, but about half way out, I had a strong run back down.  Each time I gained more ground on the fish, but it was if the structure had an equal draw.  With the drag cinched down, I made short work of the brute, but still got worked at the same time.  Hard runs, but not heavy head shakes had me scratching my head, especially given the hook placement right on the nose.
Landing the second paper of the day... A 46" Red
(Photo - Jay Brooks)
I got the fish on the grippers to keep it fresh in the water, got an official measurement of 46", a few pictures, and got her off.  In all, the fight was less than 5 minutes, and she was out of the water for less than 2.

A big, nasty, spawning bull released to"Get it on" and make some youngins.
As time went on, it was apparent that not much more was going to happen, so we paddled in and attempted to again get Tommy on his paper.  Unfortunately, things sucked for both of us and we called it a day...  But not after I did something I had never done before.  I got multiple saltwater species citations on the same trip for the first time.  I can't wait for my next trip out.  Hopefully I'll be seeing double once again!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Sheepshead Surprise

Back in the day, Kayak Kevin coined the term "Spadefish Surprise."

             def.  When ones bait (clam) is struck by a target specie other than spadefish.  i.e. Sheepshead

Well, Ill give your the definition of a "Sheepshead Surprise" in a minute, but lets set the scene shall we.  All week long, I had a good feeling about my first VA saltwater outing in a month and a half.  So good I felt that I was going to be a hero and do some epic things.  On August 1st, there were forecasted ideal conditions for what I was wanting to do, but I just couldn't find the right people who were willing to go all out and leave any trepidation's at the launch.  Calls went back and forth, and I got confirmation that the plan was a go, but i had a feeling something would change (and it did).  Oh well, I guess I will just relax and sleep in.

One of my favorite things is waking up on my own terms, with no alarm clock or other am annoyances to start the day off on the wrong note.  So when I woke up at 0600, and saw a text from Tex, I was shocked but ready for what the day would bring.  I collect myself, get bait, and head to the launch.  Paddling off the beach at 8am on a Saturday is less than ideal, and this was confirmed when I counted no less than 10 kayaks in my first 10 minutes of launching.  I kept telling myself it was still going to be a good day, and when I met up with Tex,  all the other kayaks and boats that were at the front of my mind disappeared.  Tex had made a handful of drops when we decided to move on.  As we approach one of my favorite spots, there was already yaks on it.  Well, it just goes to show the early bird gets the worm, and it increased my pace to get to my favorite part of the 3 mile span of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.

First drop was met by a spade that was all of 10".  The right target, just not the right size.  So I moved around looking to gauge the attitude and location of the school of spades.  Within minutes, I feel the tall tale "tick tick", drop the rod tip and gather slack, and drive the sz 4 Owner home.  "Fish On"!  I'm getting bulldogged, and my rod is not shaking, which can mean only one thing Spadefish Surprise.  As I navigate through the pilings, I am getting ready to sweep the fish in when I get that gut wrenching feeling of slack line.  I look at Tex, and say "sometimes you got it, sometimes you don't".  As I inspect my rig, the small spadefish hook just didn't have enough purchase in the toothy mouth of the Sheepshead.  time to go back to basics and remind myself that I don't need a ton of drag when I get these fish to the open.

While all this drama is going on with me, Tex is putting on a spadefish clinic!

Roland with one of the nicer Spades on the day
I had a pretty good day on the spades in between dropping crabs to the depths.  Not long after loosing the first sheepie, I feel a tap while on the bottom.  I set the hook, and get worked much like a sheepie would.  This fish is working me through the piling set and once I am in the clear, I let up on the drag.  About this time, she is coming to the surface, and much to my surprise, I ended up with a true Sheepshead surprise.

40" Striper brought up from the depths

After landing, snapping pics, and getting a healthy release, I was back at it.  I went back and busted out a few more spades until I got bored again and dropped back down.  This time, I feel the hit and felt some weight, but had horizontal instead of vertical runs.  In shock, not quite sure of what to expect, I bring the fish up to find a 7-10lb Black Drum.  Now Ive never really targeted them, so my personal best was a whopping 8" fish.  Imagine my stoke when I brought this bad boy up.  While most fish go back to live another day, I love eating blacks this size, and he came home for dinner.

Personal Best Black Drum
We went back to spade fishing, but as the current got stronger, we decided to go take refuge and find some triggers.  While they were there, they were extremely skittish and we managed a pair a piece.  I enjoyed chilling, but Tex was on a mission for his personal best Sheepie.  We start moving in, and hit some of our favorite spots.  On my first drop, I feel that all to familiar tap tap, and this time I wasn't disappointed.  I get the fish in the open, and this is where I get to enjoy the fight without the fear of loosing them.  If they want to run, they get to run, as there is nothing that is going to break me off.  The leg sweep brought me this beautifully colored fish.

A solid 23" sheep to end the day
This last fish marked the end of our day.  Not necessarily all we had hoped for in alot of ways, but more than I would have expected in others.  So now I have a new definition for ya:  The Sheepsead Surprise

                 def.  1. a game fish other than a sheepshead, that comes as bycatch while fishing for sheepies
                         2. a sheepshead that comes after a day full of "Sheepshead Surprises" (see #1)

This day fulfilled both parts of the definition!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Carolina Bound

This has been a odd summer for me.  In the years past I have been hammering the fish inshore getting on good numbers of quality fish, of many different species.  This year, the inshore fishing in SE Virginia really hasn't materialized into much to talk about, so I have spent my time carp fishing instead.  Besides a few outings which produced a few Sheepshead to 25", Carp fishing with the fly rod has been my main pursuit.

Bowed up on the 6wt

A bit over 32" Common

My first Mirror (on the fly none the less)
Carp fishing has presented me with a number of challenges that have helped me step up my fishing game.  It teaches you patience, to make the right presentation on a fish, observe their moods and adjust to the fish, and fighting fish in close quarters.  All of these skills I worked on came into play the past month, when I went on a 3 week marathon to the great waters of the North Carolina coast.

These trips all occurred on days off, with the schedule looking something like this...

0600 - wake up for work
1600-2300 - go over gear, pack the car, and relax
2300-0430 - drive south
0530-1700 - fish hard!
Repeat for the following days off
last day 1600-2200 - drive north

This leads to very little sleep which requires good decision making and patience when your body just isn't willing to do what your mind tells it to do.  It also requires a good playlist to keep you going. 
Money Trees - Kendric Lamar
Woah! - Black Robb
Root Down - Beastie Boys
Woo Hah!! - Busta Rhymes

The music got me going, and it was time to get some fishes!  Week one presented muddy waters, low tides, and lots of wind.  With all of that being taken into account, there were still a good number of flounder being caught on the natural Ultra Shrimp.  These bad boys were sight casted along marsh edges.  Just look for sudden and violent explosion's, and there you have it!

Flounder on the Fly
 Day two was searching new water for reds.  Again, the conditions were challenging at best but we still got a few fish to hand.

The Wicked Pissah of the world famous Wicked Pissah Guide Service with a quality inshore Redfish
This greedy lil' guy fell for a Chatterbait with a PTL JP Hammershad
Following this trip, I had a 5 day hiatus in which I met up with Kevin and Lee for a fishing/fight podcast.
Late during the week, my boy Ted Crumb and I decided, "What the hell, lets do it again".  Another night of driving found us at the fishing spot in just enough time to get unloaded, rigged, and on the water at sunrise.  Sunrise services consisted of Topwater and Trout Tricks, resulting in a good number of aggressive, healthy Speckled Trout.
A feisty fatty fell for a Tactical Anglers Crossover
This weekend ended with some keeper founder coming off the flats, and a crap-ton of reds between 20-24" coming from a cut through an oyster field.

The third weekend was the weekend of the 2015 Hook, Line and Paddle TJM tournament out of Wilimington NC.  This is an event that I fish every year, and has become one of my favorites.  I would miss Christmas before I would miss this.  So, I had a 4 day weekend to get out and really hit it.  Friday morning was forecasted to be calm and clear.  Everything was supposed to be perfect, except it wasn't.  Winds were NE at 10-20, pushing the tides out, making things difficult.  The Trout Trick ended up being the skunk buster, bringing a few flounder to 17" and some spike specks to hand. 
Flounder on the Trout Trick
 After a less than encouraging pre-fish, Seth Goodrich and I decided to change things up, with the plan of being "Hero's or Zero's".  A paddle across the mouth of the Cape Fear resulted in some beautiful cuts with lots of oyster mounds, and clear, moving water.  When we first saw the area in person, our mouths dropped as it was one of the fishiest areas we had ever seen.  Unfortunately, looks can be deceiving, and this was not the case.  In looking for reds, Seth and I both saw a fish pushing 30" that would have made for a great day.  This fish didn't mind us being there and looked as if "I'm going to stay here and watch y'all make fools out of yourselves trying to catch me."  We saw other small reds, that just weren't in the eating mood.  I ended scratching an insignificant speck, but the fish of the day was the flounder.  Seth and I both lost flounder that would have put is in the top 3, with 4 of mine being 2nd and 1st place fish.  I was sickened, but at least we brought home a few for the frying pan and found some new water.  Youngblood Drew Camp really did some work with a 30 1/4" red that brought him home 1st place and an awfully large bag of donuts.  I'm super stoked and honored to be able to call him a teammate!

At least the tournament day view was plesant.
With two days remaining, I drove a bit further north, and fished with the Wicked Pissah himself.  We went out to two spots that produced fish for us the previous two weeks, but were fighting strong North winds and falling tides again.  The first day, we expanded our search area after only finding flounder in the oyster fields,  As we worked our way south with the wind, we started getting into flats filled with large mullet and some reds.  I ended up getting out on a grass island to find a better vantage point and could see 5lb mullet spooking mid 20" reds.  Our problem was that we were spooking mullet, which in turn spooked the reds.  In 10-20 mph winds, we gave it a good try, but only had a slot red and a few flounder to show for our efforts.  On our last day, we decided to go back into a spot along the ICW in which canals would lead us into ponds and lakes in search for reds.  This was a good choice!  On my 3rd cast I landed a red just shy of 29".  Hopes were high, and the fishing didn't disappoint!
1st fish of the day
 As we progressed we found more solid pumpkins.  It was also an opportunity to test out fish shots with the DSLR.  I still need some practice but all of these shots came from the camera on a tripod, and remote.
Notice the "selfie" setup back in the marsh.
 Had over a half dozen quality fish in the morning, with some shots that I am extremely happy with.

The trip ended as uneventful as it started, with a long drive back home.  As I write this, I cant help but wonder... When 1600 comes around on Friday afternoon, will I be Carolina Bound again?