Kayakers fight tide, fish in ‘Ride the Bull’ rodeo

Not many folks can lay claim to going 15 rounds with a prize-fighting heavyweight, say somebody like Muhammad Ali.

Then you can ask maybe half the field of an astounding 488 fishermen, who turned out for Saturday’s fourth Ride the Bull Extreme Kayak Tournament, how it feels and those who remember Ali in his prime can tell you he had nothing on Mother Nature.

Ask Danny Wray: “Yep, they were beat up like 15 rounds with The Champ. The tide was ripping, and the squalls set in sometime around 8:30 (a.m.) and that beat them up even more.”

Caminada Pass was not the place for the faint of heart, or arms, or legs or torso Saturday morning, especially not the faint-hearted in kayaks, but that’s why Wray and his wife Kristen baptized this event with the middle name “extreme.”

“We really have a lot of people to thank for pulling it off as a huge success,” Danny Wray said. “The Coast Guard and the Grand Isle Fire and Rescue and the volunters and the charterboat guides and the CCA folks who helped keep it safe. With all the help, there was a boat within 300 yards of any fisherman any time during the day.”

The kayakers and others in the paddlecraft-only rodeo made it the largest event of its kind in the country. Danny Wray said he’d hoped for 360-380 participants, but said he was thankful his wife ordered 500 T-shirts this year.

The boats were released from Bridge Side Marina into Caminada Pass shortly near sunrise. Anglers were restricted to fishing in the pass through the day until 3 p.m., weigh-in deadline.

“Some of the anglers were fishing productively, and most hung in there all day,” he said. “The ones who headed for the shorelines didn’t have to battle the strong tide, and we had 36 fish (bull redfish) on the board by 9 a.m. After that, after the first of two squalls came in, there was a noticeable drop in the action.”

Wray described Friday’s dinner and Calmwater Film Festival, a collection of 10 kayak videos submitted by the anglers, “a huge success” with several hundred crowding the marina.

“Kristen and I are honored so many people have turned out,” Wray said. “We happy for the town of Grand Isle, that this has turned out to be an island event and that it brought so many people to the island.

“And we learned something,” he said. “We set the date next year for Aug. 16 and I checked the projected tide. We set that date on a point-8 tide not the one-point-four tide we had this year.”

Jeff Gleason took the couple of grand in top money and went home with a Hobie kayak for his 32.96-pound bull red and Casey Brunning and Eric Muhoberac split the $440 “calcutta” money.

Kristen Wray reported that no youth angler caught a redfish, and the Kayak Bag donated by KidslovetheGulf.org was awarded to a junior angler via a raffle.

Swamps, Fighting Tigers and Mudflaps tied with three redfish each in the Team Division with the tie broken when Team Mudflaps weighed in the first catch at 8:25 a.m. Swamps fish came in at 8:30 and Fighting Tigers’ first red came at 8:40 a.m.

Tharp wins big

Florida angler Randall Tharp anchored his solid three-day catch with a final-round, five-bass 14-pound stringer to win the $500,000 first-place money in the Forrest Wood Cup, the tournament that ended the FLW Tour season on the Red River on Saturday.

Tharp’s four-day total was 53 pounds, 2 ounces, more than four pounds better than runnerup Jacob Wheeler.