Sitting at the Fontainebleau State Park in Mandeville, Louisiana, a fellow Virginian put voice to what many of us at the Kayak Fishing Boondoggle knew to be true.
“Just look around,” Jeff Singleton said, motioning to the crowded campsite #74 that belonged to Holly and Stanley Jones. “This is what the Boondoggle is all about. All these people, together.”
You’re probably wondering, “What the heck is a Boondoggle? Why Louisiana?”
Per the website: “The Kayak Fishing Boondoggle™ is a four-day event, which occurs twice a year usually over the President’s Day and Columbus Day weekends. The Boondoggle provides an escape for kayak fishing enthusiasts who want to relax, hangout, and fish with like-minded individuals in a new location.”The Columbus Day Weekend Boondoggle has vendors, a raffle and clinics, while the President’s Day Boondoggle is a more laid-back event. This was my second Boondoggle. I’d attended two years ago in Pensacola, FL. I caught some big fish and got to hang with a lot of cool people. The Boondoggle changes location for every event, giving anglers the chance to fish new waters.
When the Louisiana Boondoggle popped up, I jumped on it. I’d never been to bayou country. The event was based out of the beautiful Fontainebleau State Park. I drove 14 hours to get there over two days.That first night there was a Meet and Greet at the pavilion area, and then several clinics. Then Adam Hayes and Mark Watanabe from YakAngler, plus Woody Calloway of Native Watercraft got up on stage for a spirited game of Ro Sham Bo with the winner taking home a Native Watercraft Slayer 13 Propel. It’s a pretty fun contest!
The next morning I joined Richie Bekolay, Old Town/ Ocean Kayak Pro, and Bart Swab, Action Kayak Adventures Guide, and headed out into Bayou Lacombe. It was a beautiful morning and many Boondogglers were up and paddling out. The wind picked up quick, and the skies clouded over shortly after we launched. We paddled back into the marsh. I caught my biggest fish of the day, a tiny largemouth bass. What?Saturday night it was back to the pavilion for great Louisiana food courtesy of the local fire department. The vendor village was lit up; there were games and the big raffle. It was a great time hanging with the tribe.
That night the revelry picked up and I had a good time walking the campground and visiting with friends from all over the country. The next morning I awoke and decided to hit Bayou Lacombe again. I paddled back into the marsh, caught some more bass, and then portaged over the beach into Lake Pontchartrain. Immediately I saw Jack Crevalles busting the surface. I cast to them, chasing them up and down the beach, but never got a solid hook up.That night I adjourned to the aforementioned campsite #74 for the potluck. Hilarity and hi-jinks ensued, on this, the last night of the Boondoggle. It was a night of laughter, great food and more than a few beverages.
The next morning I got up at around 3:30am to meet Jameson Redding, YakAngler Inside and Out TV, John Jackson, of Ram Mounts, and EJ Caughlin, of Nocqua Lights, for a trip south for redfish.
On this day, we paddled out into the vibrant color of a magnificent Louisiana sunrise.
It was the last day of the Boondoggle. We needed some quality fish. Jameson was already getting some quality filming with the magnificent sunrise. John and EJ had never caught a redfish before, so the mission was simple. Find the reds! We paddled into a cove of busting fish. The entire day we paddled a 300 yard stretch of bait busting water! I’ve never seen anything like it.EJ was the first to hook up, but then lost it. Jameson hooked up right after him, on his Live Watersports SUP. I hooked up shortly after Jameson. It felt good! Then John’s rod got bent and it was game on! Next it was EJ’s turn. The fishing was hot!
This was the coolest part of the trip and I love seeing people hook into their first species, especially when it’s a redfish.
Jameson asked me on camera, “Why do you Boondoggle?”
I’m a fisherman. I love the camaraderie and community of the Boondoggle, but I really love catching good fish in beautiful new areas. This day was my Boondoggle. The air echoed with laughter and fish were busting loose everywhere. It was special.
And with that the Boondoggle was over. Kayak anglers packed up and headed out. I decided to stick around for two more days. It paid off….
I was standing up in my ATAK, patrolling the grass line in a deep south Louisiana marsh, when I spotted a shadow moving 30-40 yards away. It was a redfish backed up against the grass, waiting on bait to come rolling in. I quickly slung a 4″Gulp shrimp on a jig head towards the spot. It was perfect. The cast landed 2 ft. in front of the fish. I twitched the bait, and BOOM! The water erupted and the sleigh ride was on! I landed my personal best redfish at 40″.
Louisiana is a magical destination. Recreating in the outdoors is paramount to my happiness. The Boondoggle afforded me the opportunity to do just that. I paddled every day I was in Louisiana, soaking in every scene, every sound and feeling every push of my blade through the water.
The Boondoggle, once again, gave me the chance to fulfill my big fish dreams. It gave me the chance to visit a unique sportsman’s paradise. And I got to hang with some excellent people. Louisiana, I’ll see you again.