BLOG: Russo - Practice Makes Perfect
Preparation is an essential key to success. This is true for just about anything in life. Whether it be preparing for a job interview, studying for a test, or heading into a redfish tournament. While in a one day tournament, it is always possible for someone to luck into the two perfect fish, in my experience there is a high correlation between preparation and success. That being said, heading into the Lake Charles RAA tournament I felt like we prepared well and were set up for the possibility to compete for the win. With that type of mindset, I believe it allows you to fish as stress-free as possible during the event and increases your chances for success.
After talking and strategizing with my alternate partner, Thomas Barlow, we decided to fish a location with shallow water and broken shell that was adjacent to deep water. We knew an area that was holding tournament-winning fish, however the numbers were not all that good. By fishing there it allowed us to retreat to deeper water fish as the afternoon wore on and the temperature rose. This area also allowed us to retreat to other spots closer to the weigh in if Plan A and B failed.
After a quick 30 minute ride in the 23’ Shoalwater Cat, we approached spot #1. The water looked good and the bait was abundant, however the water was a bit high. We worked the edge of the lake with tops and weedless TTF Killer Flats Minnows. Most of the fish were pushed deep into the grass taking advantage of the tide. We sight-casted to multiple fish but just couldn’t get them to bite consistently. After a couple of hours and one lower slot red to show for it we decided to make a move.
We started working some rip-rap shoreline along the ship channel and started catching fish immediately. Unfortunately they averaged around 16 inches. With boat traffic starting to increase both of us just had that feeling we needed to make a change. We talked about what we both experienced over the last week regarding patterns and had found the best bite of the day had occurred between 12 and 2. No coincidence, this was the exact time of the major bite / moon phase. We both looked at each other and decided to retreat to the marsh, where we had found upper slot and over size fish willing to eat. We had just enough time to make it there before the bite.
While trekking along to spot #3 we passed a large body of marsh neither us had seen before. The lake was full of broken cat tail grass and stumps. The water was a bit stained but penetrable with the eye especially since there was zero wind. It looked expansive and was very similar to the marsh area where we had found fish earlier in the week. We both agreed it was time to stop and do some exploring. We were rewarded immediately. We both looked over and low and behold a nice upper slot fish cruised by. Fish ON! Thomas threw a TTF Pumpkin Seed and Chartreuse Killer Flats Minnow right in front of its nose and he pounced on it. After peeling out a lot of drag, we both got worried, he looked a little too big. Getting him in the net we both knew it was going to be close. We put him on the Boga and he was right at 8 Lbs. As we held our breaths and laid her on the Check-It stick, we both gasped as he measured 27.25 inches. While this would have been an excellent Texas fish, it just wouldn’t work in Louisiana. It was heart breaking but we knew fish were all around us.
We proceeded to sight cast to fish after fish. It was a blast, and the paddle tail of the TTF Killer Flats Minnow was too much for them to refuse. After catching several smaller fish we boated a nice 26 inch fish that went 7.5 Lbs. We needed one more nice fish and we felt like we could be close to contention. We knew we had a chance. Not minutes later, another nice fish starts peeling out drag. We both see the fish bust water and get excited. Right about that point snap, the line breaks. Bad luck, but when fishing amongst the old stumps, it is just a reality. Not long after that, bad luck struck again after another stud just came unbuttoned as the fish turned and shook its head right at the boat.
We continued to catch more fish and finally boat another 6.5 pounder. That put us right around 14 or so pounds or so I thought. More on that later. Right at 2:00, the wind picked up slightly and rippled the water. The fish were still there but they were harder to see. Just as the bite turned on frantically, it stopped just as suddenly.
As we arrived back at the weigh in, it was time to see how we finished. After putting the 7.5 pounder in the weigh in bag, we retrieved the second fish out of the livewell. No easy task with the murky water from the marsh. After pulling out the second fish, my heart dropped out of my chest. I realized I made a serious mistake. I culled out the wrong fish and it cost us around 2.5 pounds. I didn’t know what to think, all I could do was apologize to my partner and keep my head up. I replayed the events over and over in my head and don’t know how I let it happen. Bottom line it was hot, and I made a mistake. The marsh water was 93 degrees and you had to move quickly to ensure the fish were able to live.
A couple of things stood out to me when reviewing the events from that day. Putting in the right preparation is key, and always trust your instincts. It was a GREAT day of fishing and I look forward to the next stop.