After meeting with my partner Joe at his house in North Carolina, we quickly load up his truck and start our journey south. 14 hours and almost 900 miles later we found our home for the next 4 nights at the Delacroix Lodge.
|Photo - Delacroix Lodge|
The "cabins" are nicer than you would expect for being so deep in the Louisiana Bayou. They have twin bunks, cable TV, a full bathroom, and a decent little kitchenette. At $150 a night they are a bit pricey, but beat any other alternative on the island. This was our second year staying at the lodge and you can bet that when I make my next trip down, it will be where I will continue to stay. Another consideration about the area is the necessity for both a Basic and Saltwater license. At $5.00 and $17.50 respectively for a day licence, anything under 3 days this is your best option. If you are going 4 or more days, the $90 seasonal option will be your best bet. With that being said, we opted for 3 days from Thursday to Saturday, and enjoyed warm showers, cold beers, and amazing "Adult Grilled Cheese"sandwiches made by fellow competitors and friends Kris and Mark Lozier.
On Thursday, before the sun rose my internal alarm was sounding loudly. Some Community Coffee got the day going and we were off. Launching right down the road at Sweetwater Marina put us on the water quickly and safely. Joe and I launched with Mark and Kris for a trip to the "Graveyard".
|Photo - Amy Angelopoulos|
Not far into the trip, we started finding Redfish blowing out from under us. I paddle a bit further to find a spot I am comfortable with, chuck a watermelon Aqua Dream spoon and proceed to hook up with my first, and largest fish of the trip at 29".
|First Redfish of the Trip|
Photo - Mark Lozier
|One of many day 1 fatties|
|Some well fed drum|
|a 50lb clip broke, but at least my knots held|
|Some feisty little trout.|
|Big ass gator|
|The view across the Bayou from Sweetwater Marina|
|Photo - AMONGSTiT|
About 3/4 or a mile away from CP 1, we ran over reds. Quietly but frantically, I told Joe "cast...CAST!!!" He got the strike, and quickly slammed our first, and largest of the day at 26.5"
|Joe with a fat multi-spotted redfish!|
We were feeling good. In just over an hour we had a good fish on board. Just a bit further up the shoreline we found these fish in, I casted a spoon into a cut and landed a 22.5" red.
In only in 1:30 we managed to make it near our CP, and had 49 points. We paddled looking for a few more fish, then went to the checkpoint at about 0900. Almost immediately upon receiving our double token, I saw a mid 20" red tailing. I make a beautiful cast with a spoon. On cue I feel "tap", and slam the hook home. Unfortunately, the hook didn't purchase and the spoon wizzed behind me. It wasn't the end of the world at the time, but as minutes - then hours passed without as much as a follow, the early missed fish was becoming a monumental mistake that we didn't feel we could overcome. We hit all the areas within a mile radius of the CP that we knew held fish, with no luck coming our way.
Around 1230, we had all but given up. We were both in horrible moods knowing that our tournament was all but over. Beaten and battered, we paddled towards CP1 when like a ray of sunshine focusing on a pot of gold I saw 3 reds tailing towards me. We quickly staked out and I casted the old trusty watermelon spoon to the fish. I felt "tap...THUMP". This time the hook got purchase in the grill of this gangsta ass redfish. The fight was less than a minute, but felt like it was over an hour. I get the fish in the boat, sweep my legs over it, and started shaking uncontrollably.
|25.75" double points!|
Photo - Joe M.
I was so happy and relieved that my eyes started to well (and I expected tears of joy that never came). Joe's attitude improved and instead of silence, we were chatting it up on the way to our next checkpoint. Again, happiness quickly subsided as we realized that we had over 4 miles to go to reach our next checkpoint. The thought quickly turned to "can we reach 2 more points to even qualify". 4.34 miles later, we reach CP 5 at 1400. We were excited, but didn't spend any time fishing as we had to get moving to the next point.
|Checkpoint 5 at 1411|
Joe was not as optimistic.
|Checkpoint 4 - 1.5 miles and 29 minutes later|
|Checkpoint 3 - 1.3 miles and 25 minutes later|
|Checkpoint 2 at 1605|
|Fellow Werner Paddles and Astral Teammate Mark Lozier with a 29.5" Redfish on Tournament Day|
Photo - Mark Lozier
|Werner Paddles Pro Staff (L-R William Ragulsky, Mark Lozier, Kris Lally Lozier, Bart Swab, Jeff Herman)|
Photo - Mark Lozier
Photo - AMONSGSTiT
|Fishing a lake off the NC ICW|
Upon reaching my spot, I spent about an hour trying to figure out a pattern. Against rain squalls, opposing winds and currents, and nothing on the screen (let alone the end of my line) I was feeling dejected. As I was calling it quits, I went back to the depression I found in the false channel. I proceeded to find a mess of pinfish (to 6"), some Hogfish just under keeper size, some bait size croaker, and a few greys. As I was going over a area with some small bottom structure I jig and feel a tap. When I set the hook, I was thinking I got into a nice trout. As some stronger runs occurred, I started thinking redfish. As I got some color, my next thought was a Black Drum. Then I saw the tail, and knew exactly what I had found... SHEEPSHEAD!!!
I was looking at the fish each time I brought it up to the surface to see where it was hooked. I was unable to see, so I got it in the kayak as quick as possible. Much to my surprise, it was fair hooked.
|Fair Caught Sheepshead on a Hogy Diamond Jig|
Big shout out to my partner Joe (one of the toughest SOB's I know), the Lozier's, John Grace (without him, the AFWC IS NOT POSSIBLE), my teammates and friends at Werner Paddles, and the remaining sponsors of the AFWC (Jackson Kayak, Orion Coolers, Watershed Dry Bags, and all the other supporters). Im already excited and looking forward to AFWC #5!