35" Bull Red Fish caught on Rat-L-Trap
One can only imagine the tug on your line with each anticipated cast, the feel of a bull red pulling against everything your stout rod has to offer. The sound of your drag while line is peeling from your reel to the point of panic. These are just a few of the thoughts keeping me up at night as I anticipate my annual trip to Venice, LA, for a media event otherwise known as “Marsh Madness”. 2018 Marked the 20th year for the Madness and it was one that I will never forget; from shark bites to 100lb plus tuna being caught daily, sight fishing for red fish and alligators biting off my baits. These are great memories that will last a lifetime, but nothing compares to great friendships that are built over the years. Sharing these moments with like- minded individuals makes for even better memories to reminisce about.
Marsh Madness started out as a media event 20years ago hosted by Eric Cosby of Top Brass Tackle. Over the years it has expanded its family and its purpose to not only showcase fishing products but to amplify important conservation issues taking place in this pristine waterway. Issues such as the menhaden harvest regulation or lack there off, to the unprecedented amount of water being diverted from the marsh. Thankfully there are great organizations such as Vanishing Paradise that do the hard job of working not only with our political leaders and local government, but also spend time in the field to show us all firsthand the ramifications of doing nothing. The Gulf is a very fragile eco system. Even though the fishing appears to be amazing, many locals can tell you how it has changed over the years. Areas that were once great ponds for duck hunting are now dry land and other areas that were once dry land are now privatized flooded marsh. The fishing predictions vary from year to year with so many variables at play, such as Mississippi river flows from heavy snow or rain coming from the upper Midwest, to forage species, such as the menhaden being over harvested requiring the predators to forge upon bait fish or move to where forage is plentiful to sustain a healthy fishery. Not to mention rising sea levels and natural disasters, such as hurricanes which now have become inevitable.
Thanks to the many advancements in fishing, the traditional angler is still able to put a program together to have an epic day on the water in this diverse fishery. For those of you who are not geared with all the necessities, there are plenty of charter captains willing to educate and show you the ins and outs of fishing the Gulf out of Venice, LA. Whether you want to pursue redfish, speckled trout, tarpon or tuna, there is an outfitter for everyone.
For the past couple of years, I have dialed in a few baits that have proved to put big redfish and many other species in the boat on a daily basis and on occasion with each cast. Zman makes many plastics formed with ElaZtech technology and these baits are able to stand up for several days and many fish without being destroyed cast after cast. My personal favorite is the Zman Diezel Chatter bait trailed with a MinnowZ in Sexy Penny color. This bait, hands down, out performed any other combination I tried this past trip. However, I highly recommend you load up on several colors and styles, as like any fish outing, you want to be prepared. When chasing the bull reds, it’s paramount to make your bait stand out amongst what they are already feeding on. I prefer to go with a big bait for big fish; the original Rat-L-Trap from Bill Lewis Lures does just that. Casting a number 143S Gold Black Back or Chrome Black Back Red Eye mimics some of the bait fish but the loud rattle and action pulls those bulls in your direction and away from the crowd in pursuit of the easy target. The Mustad Hooks on these lures give you the upper hand on keeping your fish hooked up as it makes a run for cover. Sometimes you will find the fish you are after in clean water, and some in dirty water, but no matter the case I use a fluorocarbon leader attached to my braid. Fluorocarbon has very little stretch which makes for a solid hook set but yet just enough stretch I’m not ripping my lure from the fish’s mouth. Seaguar is known for the being the innovator in fluorocarbon line and they continue to improve on greatness. I have yet to have a bull red or even an alligator gar break off, so however they are making that line, it’s working. Each year I’m able to try out a few new rods from St. Croix, and since I have always used St.Croix rods for my Walleye fishing, I have no doubt these models will be able to handle the test of these much larger aggressive fish. I purposely down sized my rod one day on this particular trip as I knew we would be targeting eater size reds 18-27” size. I used a St. Croix Legend Xtreme Inshore Spinning rod in a Medium Light and man was it fun. With a little learning curve to get a solid hook set, the battle was on. As a walleye angler I don’t normally over exaggerate my hookset due to the biting style of a walleye. However, on this trip I was setting hooks like Mike Iaconelli to drive those sharp hooks through the solid mouth of the reds ensuring a solid hookset for what would be a battle on the lighter rod set up.
I was able to go sight fishing on my final day in Venice with Plano/Frabill Pro
Chris Schieble. Chris’s boat is decked out with a tower to give you the advantage and full view of spotting a moving red’s wake as moves bait in the shallows. This was a blast and we had great success. As with any sight fishing application, polarized sunglasses are a must. I was set up with a pair of Wiley X Boss Pol Venice Gold/Kryptek Frame shades. And even though the water was a bit dirty I was still able to spot many reds trying to make a move tight along the Roseau cane.
They call Louisiana “A Sportsman’s Paradise” and as a guy who makes his living being a sportsman I can’t argue with that statement. What a beautiful place and diverse fishery. My appreciation for the area grows deeper with each visit. As does my appreciation for the Marsh Madness event. There are several media events I attend each year where I will meet some great people and have a good time. But nothing compares to the Madness. It’s more than just an event, it’s a family tradition. To view a short video of this years Marsh Madness follow this link.