Kayak fishing tourney grows

Meet Eric Muhoberac and it’s easy to know why he catches fish the way he does.

His enthusiasm makes it easy to understand he likes to fish skinny water and the reasons he’s spent most of the past 20 years guiding folks to fish in the shallow marshes off La. 23 in Plaquemines Parish.

But Caminada Pass is different. The 15 to 20 knot westerly winds and July’s strongest tide presented him, and a dozen others, conditions they normally don’t face. And a rare July cold front was beginning to push its way to coastal Louisiana.

Not to worry. Muhoberac was ready to show how to catch a giant redfish and to lead the pack into the fourth Ride the Bull Extreme Kayak Fishing Tournament.

Ride the Bull, brainchild of Danny and Kristen Wray, was first held in 2009 with slightly more than 100 “yakers” taking to Caminada Pass in search of the biggest redfish they could hook.

The BP-Deepwater Horizon oil disaster blanked the 2010 RTB, but the tournament came back in 2011, and in 2012 has a field of near 300.

This year RTB is Aug. 17 out of Bridge Side Marina on Grand Isle.

Although last year’s RTB was beset by late-morning squalls, enough fish were weighed to add to tournament lore. Seems “extreme” is what kayaking anglers around the country have on their bucket lists, and folks as far away as Colorado and Wyoming are tweeting and Facebooking questions about the wheres, whens and hows to get to Grand Isle.

Muhoberac is a native angler.

More than 150 Louisianans have entered with at least that many more from out of state entered two weeks out. More than 400 anglers are expected. It’s apparent the novelty of battling a bull redfish in depths ranging to 60 feet is a challenge out-of-state “yakers” want to tackle.

Wednesday morning, Muhoberac headed straight to one of the deep-water stanchions for the new post-Katrina bridge spanning Caminada Pass.

“On the (west) wind and the rising tide, redfish will position in front of the bulkhead,” Muhoberac said.

That’s opposite of what most anglers would figure a big redfish would do, that being to position itself in the slack water behind the stanchion to feed on crabs and baitfish pushed by the tide and wind.

“Water movement creates a little divot in front of the bulkhead, creates a little trough for the redfish to sit and wait and feed,” Muhoberac said.

He used cut mullet for bait. Heavyweight redfish also like cracked-in-half blue crab.

Muhoberac’s pushed for mullet. Most anglers use a giant chunk of the fish threaded on a stout hook tied on a Carolina rig.

“I use the head, and use the rest of the fish for chum,” he said. “Cut the fish in chunks, put the head on the hook and start fishing by chumming with smaller pieces, maybe two inches long from the fish I cut from behind the head. It’s a theory I started using months ago and it seems to work.”

A 20-minute-long fight with a 30-pound-plus bull red proved his point, and could change theory to fact.

His Carolina rig ran 80-pound Power Pro from reel to a barrel swivel. He tied Berkley Vanish flourocarbon line to the other end of the barrel swivel, then to a hook baited with the mullet head.

Muhoberac’s special fish

The Wrays provided the “chase boat” for that day on the water, and hauled Muhoberac’s fish into their boat.

“This is a No. 1 fish in the Ride the Bull,” Danny Wray said before affixing a special yellow tag into the right side of the bull red.

“It’s a $500 fish. Buggy (Vegas) at Bridge Side has offered a $500 bonus for anyone catching this fish on tournament day,” Wray said. “It’s just one of the specials we have for the rodeo. As it grows, the prize list grows.”

Prizes include a Hobie Pro Angler kayak, Go Pro cameras, Costa sunglasses, fly rods, spinning rods and enough tackle to sink a kayak.

Entry is $50 and includes an Aug. 16 steak dinner (limited to 500 diners) and Calmwater Film Festival at Bridge Side, and $20 of the fee goes to prizes for the top 10 bull reds weighed.

Fish films

“We had the film festival for the first time last year, and it was a giant success,” Kristen Wray said.

Kristen Wray said a panel will pick the top 10 paddlecraft fishing videos to be viewed at 8 p.m.

“Y ou don’t need to enter the Ride the Bull to enter the film festival,” she said. “We’re going to have a panel of judges to select the festival winner, who’ll get a Go Pro camera.”

New categories

New this year are Team, Junior (age 17 and under) and Ladies’ divisions. A team is limited to five anglers and each fish caught and weighed adds to the team’s total for the $500 winner-take-all money.

The Wrays said the increased field means more “chase boats,” so an angler catching a fish waves a paddle and a chase boat maneuvers near to watch the catch. The chasers help move the catch into the chase boat and transport it to Bridge Side, where state fisheries biologists take lengths and weights, tag the fish and release it into a holding tank to help the redfish recover.

As soon as the fish appears to be stabilized, it’s released into Caminada Pass.

“The way it looks now, we could have as many as 450 entries,” Danny Wray said. “We set a record for the largest kayak tournament ever last year, and this one will put us way beyond that.

“It’s important that fishermen know we can help them book rooms, rent a kayak for themselves or for a family member or a friend and get them on the water.”

Details and registration forms are available at website: www.calmwatercharters.net.