Louisiana or Bust – A Cajun Fishing Adventure

Cajun FishingWell its darn near a tradition and this year’s pilgrimage to the Buras Marsh Media Bash at Cajun Fishing Adventures was awesome yet again. Though the trip started like a scene from “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”, the broken plane, storm delays and the late night rental car trip could not stop us from joining the 3rd annual gathering of outdoor writers and innovative companies that make up this unique event.

Cajun Fishing AdventureFor the last three years, I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing Louisiana’s incredible fishing and awesome hospitality in the capable hands of the Cajun Fishing Adventures lodge in Buras Marsh, Louisiana.

Louisiana fishingJust a few miles up the road from Venice where offshore fishing is king, Buras Marsh offers many access points to the amazing inshore world of the Louisiana marsh and coastal estuaries where big reds, prolific trout and so much more put this spicy paradise on the fishing map.

captains clean water
Capt. Daniel Andrews from Captains For Clean Water.

The goal of this event is focused on putting many of the new products recently introduced at ICAST into the hands of fishermen and guides in a fishery that puts any and all tackle to the ultimate test. We all benefit in gathering first hand experience with the tackle we want to write about and the companies benefit by getting the word out about the new products they are proud of. It is a win/win situation and the folks at Cajun Fishing Adventures make a living at showing groups a great time and taking care of the logistics; and they do it very well.  We also had the opportunity to listen to the crew from Captain’s For Clean Water from Florida and gained some great insight into tackling modern-day water issues that both States suffer from.

So my challenge is bringing to life the story of an annual event without it sounding too familiar, but the products are new and we all know that no two days of fishing are ever alike.

cajun adventuresRyan Lambert and his captains and crew at Cajun Fishing Adventures lodge are the heart and soul of the experience enhanced by the planning expertise of Ray Stansberry who organizes events like this for a living. They all go to great lengths to ensure that every aspect of the trip is taken care of.

13 Fishing
13 Fishing had everything set!

The participating companies also work hard to set up their gear or get it on location from a variety of starting points.

13 Fishing reelsWe were once again using rods and reels from 13 Fishing. A relatively new brand that has become well established in the freshwater market and has now introduced their saltwater series; the Prototype, which is set to release in the near future. The Omen Green rods performed very well for everyone across a wide variety of fish species and fishing techniques.

We were all very excited to get to try some new technology in the baitcasting realm.

Concept Z

13 Fishing has developed a reel without any stainless ball bearings, which as you know are the first to go from saltwater corrosion. These new reels are called Concept Z and the key to their smooth operation is the CZB, a polymer bearing, developed by 13 Fishing. It creates an incredibly castable reel that resists backlash to an amazing degree and increases throwing distance with less effort. In fact, the reel actually gets better with time as the polymer surfaces mate to each other according to Jose Chavez who we were fishing with at Buras. Each guide’s boat was equipped with a quiver of 13 Fishing outfits with instructions to go abuse them and push them to the limit. That’s exactly what we did starting on day one.

Skeeter BoatOne of the big advantages to fishing the Buras Marsh area is the ability to launch at a variety of locations depending on where the captain wants to fish each day. This is determined by yesterday’s bite, the predicted wind direction and what you want to catch. I was fishing with Capt. Ross Monet on day one and we came out of our pre-trip pow-wow with the plan to catch a mess of speckled seatrout and then go look for tripletail, which were just starting to show in the nearshore waters.

Bay BoatWe blasted off across the Gulf of Mexico in Capt. Ross’s Skeeter SX240 bay boat, which comfortably handles the task of crossing and fishing open water. Most of the guides who fish this area have chosen to make their living from a Skeeter Bay Boat because it can perform flawlessly in the wide array of fishing conditions that these captains need to fish.

Skeeter SX240They want a boat that can fish quietly in the skinniest tendrils of the marsh to stalk redfish in the grass and yet hours later, take to the open waters of the Gulf to chase big bull reds or probe the nearshore oilrigs and pipe lines for cobia, snapper and more.

skeeter boatsAll the while carrying a load of clients and all the gear to make it happen. These 24-foot bay boats only draft 16-inches and are extremely stable because of their 10-foot beam.

From redfish to red snapper, a Skeeter bay boat can do it all!

Capt. Ryan LambertThe Skeeter bay boat was specifically designed for this mission and often with input directly from the fishing captains from Cajun Fishing Adventures. Lodge owner and captain, Ryan Lambert has been using Skeeter boats for over 20 years. He knows what he needs a boat to do day in and day out and his Skeeter, powered with a reliable Yamaha outboard, has been his choice from the beginning. He has built a relationship with Skeeter’s design crew and is proud of the input he has seen come to life in today’s Skeeter boats.

trout fishingCapt. Ross pulled us up to a pipeline structure a few miles from the pass and we began casting a Z-Man Swimmin’ Trout Trick body on the new Mustad Grip-Pin Ned Jig Head. We were sitting in 20-feet of water, so a 10-count was required to get the lure down in the water column. Then quick snaps of the wrist would jerk the bait upward and then a drop of the rod gave it that trout-catching fall.

speckled seatroutWe began to catch speckled trout in earnest, but also had to pay our dues catching hardhead catfish that were suspended in the water too. It made for pretty fast action, the four of us hooking up repeatedly with a variety of fish.

Louisiana redfishCapt. Ross bowed up on something bigger at one point and brought a nice bonus redfish to the boat for a quick picture and release. The limits on trout are generous in Louisiana and the Skeeter’s big fishbox was looking good as we were on a mission to catch dinner for the group.

Skeeter featuresOne nice feature of the fishbox design is that when you pull the plug, the fishbox drains directly overboard without the need for macerator pumps and other clog-easy plumbing. Its features like this that tell you the Skeeter was designed by real fishermen with on-the-water experience.

fishing tipsWe continued catching trout, but began to think about looking for tripletail as the sun got high in the sky. We left the structure and began to run further offshore into open water. We found a really nice color change full of bait and bonita feeding in great frothy schools. It certainly looked fishy, but then we came across a couple in another boat with arms waving madly in the air.

boat towingCapt. Ross didn’t hesitate to swing alongside and hear their tale of woe. Broken down, no phone signal and a problem with the VHF. We rigged up a towrope and bridle and began the arduous but honorable process of towing them 12 miles back to shore. Though it cut the fishing short, we’ve all been or will be on the other end of that towrope at some point.

It’s just something that has to be done to help a fellow fisherman.

HUK gearIt did give me time to reflect on the morning trout whacking and to study the new HUK Attack shoes and HUK performance shirt I was wearing. The shoes were quite comfortable and had a really good grip and arch support, which is a result of being one of the most hi-tech shoes on the market. The long-sleeved shirts are essential to keeping the searing sun off your skin; yet staying cool thanks to the high-tech fabrics HUK has designed with anglers in mind.

Live Target
Victor Cook and Gary Abernathy of Live Target presenting the latest lures.

The evenings back at the lodge are an integral part of the event. After a scrumptious dinner of fresh fish and seafood dishes, we would gather round and listen to presentations from the attending companies about the products we were testing or new to the market.

Skeeter bay boat
Brand new Skeeter SX240 bay boat with custom options.

Kevin Polston from Skeeter Boats had towed down a brand new SX 240 Skeeter Bay Boat and went over all of the new options including the well thought out “Comfort Console” which features an easy to use porta potti option with a drop-down privacy curtain built in. This is sure to be a selling point for the ladies and it also creates wide-open access to the battery systems and backside of the console.

A new leaning post with high-performance seating options allow anglers to both sit or stand with comfort as the front part of the seat swings up to be a back support when standing. The backside of the leaning post is bristling with 9 rod holders of which you can never have too many.  This particular boat came with Skeeter’s new T-Top option as well as a very cool custom casting platform on the bow.

Yamaha outboardEach Skeeter is powered with a new Yamaha four-stroke outboard and the SX240 performs very well with the new F300 outboard. Other rigging options that have become a necessity for serious fishermen are the pair of Power-Pole Shallow Water Anchors. These hydraulic arms extend out and down to drive an anchor spike into the bottom, stopping the boat quickly and quietly so that you can stop on a dime. They offer a variety of models that can reach depths of up to 10-feet. These are must have items in my book.

vision charge
Robert Shamblin of Power-Pole explains the new Vision.

Speaking of Power-Pole, this year they just announced their new Vision Marine Accessory Management/Multi Media Tablet and the Charge Marine Power Station. Both of these new products will solve the power issues that have plagued boaters from the beginning and I’m sure they are built with the same innovation and quality found in all Power-Pole products.

skeeter yamahaDay two was spent with Ryan Lambert himself in his brand new Skeeter. We made the run across open water to Breton Island, a barrier island created from sediments flowing out of the Mississippi.

A known hot spot for trout and reds, though on this day, the predominant flavor was ladyfish. I was fishing with Jonathan Zucker of Z-Man and Ricky Teschendorf of 13 Fishing. Despite the hordes of frenzied ladyfish, we managed to capture our target species; redfish and trout.

Vanishing ParadiseWe worked our way back to shore and pulled up to fish a very special spot according to Capt. Ryan. The awesome part about this spot was the fact that it is a new-born marsh and the water it had just filtered was crystal clear.  We could see everything including redfish, gar and bass that patrolled the thick grass edges.

Chatterbait lureWhile we were talking, Capt. Ryan saw and caught a brilliantly colored redfish on a Z-Man Chatterbait, a Louisiana favorite because of the incredible vibration it emits.

This is where I have to give you some backstory into the perils facing the Louisiana marsh. Capt. Ryan has been personally active in fighting to save the marsh, but it has been an uphill battle against money and politics and the negative effect of man’s redirection of the Mississippi River. You see the freshwater that flows down the Mississippi River carries with it a multitude of sediments it has carved from the heartlands of our country. Historically, this freshwater spread out and flowed through the marsh and into the Gulf of Mexico in a wide fan pattern. The water slowed down and dropped the sediment it was carrying, thus creating a delta that supports incredible life.

vanishing paradise
Photo Credit: Vanishing Paradise

It’s just the kind of life that fishermen and sportsmen thrive on too. The great expanses of roseau cane and hundreds of other freshwater plants that flourish in the marsh are the key to the delta’s great diversity. It not only filters the water, but also offers food and protection to the young aquatic creatures and fish that grow up in the backwaters of the marsh.

Mississippi riverNow enters man, who years ago built dikes and levees to funnel the great Mississippi into navigable channels for shipping and commerce. They cut off the traditional sheet flow of freshwater and sediment to the marsh and as a result, Louisiana is losing one football field of land per hour to erosion. The saltwater comes in and kills the freshwater plants who then release their hold on the sediment which is then carried away by the eroding tides.

We’ve lost an area the size of Delaware already; its a race against time.

“Land and marsh where people lived are all gone and what remains is a barren flat, four feet underwater”, said Capt. Ryan. “I’ve taken old timers fishing who spent their whole lives on these waters and they are totally lost, because the landmarks and homesteads they knew are all gone. I take congressmen, legislators and all types of people out here to see it first hand, but until the public begins to understand and put pressure on them, the money and the politics continue to destroy our precious resource. Fishermen, hunters and all lovers of the outdoors need to learn about what is happening and help do something before it’s all gone.”   “There is a bright side”, continued Capt. Ryan. “I have proven that we can rebuild land and marsh by diverting portions of the river back through the levee. I have personally paid to do a scaled project that created hundreds of acres of new land.

Mother Nature has done some of her own too.

marsh erosionThe lush marsh we are fishing right now was all barren saltwater flats until the freshwater broke through the levee and has been flowing since last year. All of this land and plant life is brand new. We just have to let nature work its magic. I’m working as hard as I can to reverse this damage, but I need more help. I need people to want it for themselves and future generations. I want to take my grandkids out here to see this clean water, catch these fish, watch the great flocks of ducks take to the air. It truly is a “sportsman’s paradise” but it is vanishing before our eyes and out from under our feet.” (Visit Vanishing Paradise to learn more and please help!)

Capt. Ryan’s passion for this marsh is contagious, but his message is muffled by the area’s remoteness and momentum is stifled by various commercial interests who like the status quo because they stand to make more money in the event of another spill. It is a convoluted story, but I urge all fishermen to lend an ear to Ryan’s cause because it is your cause too if you like to fish and hunt. This is one of the best places in the world to fish, right here in our backyard and it is washing away one football field at a time; one every hour.

Mustad hooks
New Mustad hook kits are coming. Perfect for traveling.

Day two drew to an end with another great meal and talks from Mustad, Live Target Lures and Z-Man Lures. Mustad has been making quality hooks for 184 years, but none have been better than the ones they are making today. New sharp-hook technology and corrosion resistant coatings are taking Mustad hooks and jigheads to the next level. Mustad makes hooks for manufacturers too, like Live Target who introduced and awesome new lure concept this year in the Baitball Spinner Rig.

live targetLive Target’s number one goal is to “match the hatch” with ultra realistic representations of actual baitfish. But not only do their lures have to look good, they have to swim well and last, fish after fish. The Baitball Spinner Rig is a unique spinner bait concept with a host of teaser lures above the lure with the hook. A willow-leaf spinner in the center draws a predator’s attention and the hooked bait trails slightly behind the cluster of teaser bodies making it the natural target. An amazing bait to see first hand, but it gets better. The teaser bodies are interchangeable and come in a variety of sizes and colors so that anglers can customize their approach for the conditions. This is soon to hit the market, and I can’t wait.

swimbait lure
Sportfishing’s Sam Hudson with a big bull red that ate the Live Target Swimbait.

The other Live Target lures that hit the market last year are the Swimbait Series. Offered in a wide variety of species for both fresh and salt, the Swimbait Series is a versatile, durable imitation of the real thing. The thumping vibration from the enhanced clear tail is amazing and the strikes they drew from big bull reds was awesome. The new Mullet Swimbait was on fire accounting for many of our big reds on this trip as well as the new Menhaden model pictured above.

Z-Man ElaztechZ-Man was also introducing a great new variety of lures, all built from their incredibly tough Elaztech plastic. This proprietary material that was an offshoot from the space industry brings a new level of durability to the fishing world. No longer do you have to frequently change your soft plastic bodies during the trip.

Trick Shotz
The new Z-Man Trick ShotZ for a smaller presentation or finesse fishing.

Another unique feature that enhances the performance of Z-Man lures is the fact that Elaztech floats. This creates a softer fall for jigs, an enhance wiggle for plastics and they even have a weedless, soft-plastic topwater called Pop ShadZ. All of them are amazing and also accounted for countless fish during the trip.

Skeeter yamahaOn the final day of the event, I got to sneak in a quick ride on the brand new Skeeter SX240 with the custom platform. The fit and finish is spot on and the attention to user-friendly details make you really appreciate the thought that goes into the design of each Skeeter. Skeeter started as a bass boat builder in 1948 in Shreveport, Louisiana, and have maintained their lead in the freshwater world, while earning a healthy slice of the growing bay boat market. Skeeter builds a very quality boat while maintaining a very affordable price point, which is a fine line to walk, but I think they have it figured out.

redfish fishingI then joined Gary Abernathy of Live Target and Sam Hudson, Senior Editor of Sportfishing Magazine for a day of redfishing with Capt. Todd Seither aboard his Skeeter bay boat.   We fished a variety of Live Target Swimbaits to the delight of the big bull reds that would absolutely crush it on the bite.

A big red can leave a hole in the water as well as any tuna.

Their bulldog strength put Mustad’s new 8-strand Wish braid to the test for both strength and manageability. In fact, looking back, I don’t think I had a single wind-knot in three days of fishing. The Wish braid comes in 300-yard spools and the tests range from 15# to 80#, either dark green or chartreuse. It was my first time fishing with Mustad Wish braid, but definitely not the last.

Louisiana fishingWe caught a pile of big bull reds and some slot reds to take home for dinner. Capt. Todd taught us all the valuable lesson of “when its time to change a leader”, and its not when you think. We had some great laughs and caught a bunch of fish.

Capt. Scott GoodwinWhat more can you ask from a fishing trip? I hope the tradition continues and that I’m lucky enough to remain a part of these Cajun Fishing Adventures.

Capt. Scott Goodwin
Capt. Scott Goodwin started fishing in the lakes of Kentucky where he grew up. A move to Florida, however, brought him into a whole new realm of fishi...