CYPREMORT POINT — Order was restored, according to happy saltwater fishermen from Lafayette, and a tradition renewed July 3 on the third and final day of the 69th annual Iberia Rod & Gun Club Saltwater Fishing Rodeo.
Basket Case, a 37-foot long Freeman, cruised to the Offshore Division’s Boat Captain’s Award and boasted the Offshore Division’s Best All-Around Fisherman in Kevin “Hot Hand” Carter. Before the crew started celebrating in earnest at fishing rodeo headquarters at mid-afternoon Sunday, crew member Chris Landry of Lafayette took the microphone from IR&GC official Brock Pellerin during the awards ceremony to announce the boat’s $500 in Calcutta winnings would be donated back to the fundraising event for St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
The large crowd on hand for the event reacted favorably, as did Pellerin.
Somewhere, Ryan Dearman, who skippered most of the winning boat’s crew last year on the Aorta B Fishing, had to be proud. The Oregon resident, formerly of Denver, and previously of Lafayette, kept the donation tradition going when Aorta B Fishing won back-to-back titles in 2019 and 2020.
With Dearman unable to get back to Acadiana for this Fourth of July Weekend, Basket Case pinch hit and avenged last year’s loss by Aorta B Fishing to Outlaw in the Offshore Division.
Like Carter, Brian Romero of Lydia, who doubled up as the Inside Division’s Best All-Around Fisherman and winner of the Inside Division Boat Captain’s Award, and Grant Romero of Coteau, who rallied to become the Best All-Around Fisherman in the Junior Division, the individual and overall winners were on Cloud Nine. Ditto for the first-, second- and third-place winners who got trophies in the Junior Division and cash paybacks of $200, $100 and $50, respectively, for the Inside Division and $230, $130 and $80, respectively, in the Offshore Division.
Carter, Landry, Carter Kauffman, Jonathan Foreman and Michael Duhon, Aorta B Fishing’s original crew, joined Patrick Foreman and Jordan Duhon of Patoutville over the holiday weekend on the Basket Case, co-owned by the Foremans.
“So Friday (heading south in the Gulf) there were a lot of thunderstorms and it was bumpy around the thunderstorms. We dodged the storms big time. All the storms were moving north so we knew where they were going. We slept out Friday night and it was very nice,” Michael Duhon said.
Nevertheless, Carter and company became more and more concerned the farther south they traveled. The water was green far into the Gulf of Mexico.
“We finally found blue water. We grinded for two days. It was just tough with green water so far out. We finally found blue water, where we found fish,” he said.
That was at Vermilion 131 in a “couple hundred feet of water,” he said.
Basket Case accounted for 14 of the 36 places (no entries in king mackerel, tripletail or wahoo and no third place entry in yellowfin tuna for 10 blacks on the leaderboard) in the Offshore Division. Carter owned eight of those 14, including first-place yellowfin tuna (37.3 pounds), blackfin tuna (22.9 pounds), bonito (10.4 pounds) and barracuda (24.3 pounds).
Outlaw, a 37-foot long Freeman skippered by Pat Savoy of Oakdale, didn’t go down without a fight. The big boat wowed the crowd here at midday Sunday with its boat “wrap” graphic created by Jason Mathias of Stuart, Florida. Mathias’ “Blue Marlin It” is featured on the 37-foot long Freeman’s hull.
Outlaw’s flags, including an American flag, were flying high above the boat’s bridge as it moored. One of the flags represented the landing of a blue marlin, of which there is no category in the Offshore Division.
That catch was one of the most exciting moments of its trip soon after sunrise on the high seas July 2.
“It was a group effort. I hooked it. Everybody else fought it,” Pat Savoy said about the big blue marlin, which he estimated weighed 450 pounds.
Outlaw almost turned around and called it a no-go for the holiday weekend. After rocking in 5- to 6-foot seas on the way out Friday, the Freeman 37 VH encountered calmer and calmer waters the farther south it ventured.
Savoy, accompanied by his all-Oakdale crew of his son, Peyton Savoy, and their friends Chad Bailey and Paul Durio, went all out in his bid to defend the Offshore Division’s Boat Captain’s Award.
He steered the boat powered by four 300-h.p. Mercury outboard motors approximately 122 miles offshore to the Helix Energy Solutions drill ship in Green Canyon 237. That’s where he went last July.
Outlaw managed to stick five fish on the leaderboard this go-around. Its lone first-place fish was Durio’s 48.3-pound grouper.
Plenty of fish hit the digital scales on the weigh-in stage manned by veteran IR&GC weighmaster Mackie Boudreaux and his assistant, Jonathan Rush. The weights were duly recorded by Tara St. Germain and her daughter, Kourtney St. Germain.
Despite heavy rains Friday, 30 or so boats checked in to weigh fish opening day. Traffic around the scales was consistent the second and third days before the event ended at 1 p.m. July 3.
The challenge of trying to catch fish or weathering the weather while fishing was the common denominator for dozens, young and old, during the fishing rodeo. Acadiana’s fishermen, young and old, went out in small boats and big boats with family and/or friends.
Naturally, there were tales to tell. One of them came from Chad LeBlanc of New Iberia, who fished with his wife, Korie LeBlanc, and daughter, Sydnie LeBlanc, sporting a boot cast and a soft cast on her wrist, on the Syd-Rock, the family’s 22-foot long Blazer Bay. They were fishing inside waters at one of his favorite spots.
His was a tale of woe, of one that got away. Unseen.
“It’s all over but the crying,” LeBlanc told friends under the pavilion along Quintana Canal.
The veteran saltwater fisherman said a fish smashed the bait he was using and he set hook. The fish ruled the rest of the lopsided match because the fishing reel’s drag was loose.
He has fought beaucoup big bull reds, gar, gafftop catfish, drum, etc. But this one took the cake … and the line.
“Something kept taking drag. It kept taking more drag … but not like a shark. It peeled off 500 yards,” LeBlanc said, noting midway through the fight he thought about lifting anchor and chasing it.
When there were approximately five wraps of line left on the reel, it was too late. That heavy, cruising fish wasn’t about to stop.
“I should have decided quicker. By the time we got the anchor up, I was down to the last wrap,” he said.
And that, as they say, was the end of that. Spooled.
He just wanted to see the fish, he said.
One of the oddest catches reported during the fishing rodeo was a 25- to 27-inch long flounder, a real doormat. It was caught in 900-foot depths in the Rezak Bank about 120 miles southeast of Cypremort Point by Seth Kerstetter of Lafayette.
Kerstetter skippered Fortunate Son, a 33-foot long Freeman crewed by Blaine Blanchard, Carter Dooley and Logan Shivers, all of Lafayette.
They still are amazed by that monstrous flounder.
Unfortunately, there is no category for flounder in the Offshore Division.