With the Southcentral Fishing Association’s first tournament of the year set for Saturday, Keo Khamphilavong is more than ready to wet a line or two in defense of his crew’s hard-earned Angler(s) of the Year title.
The lure of competitive redfish fishing gets stronger and stronger as February turns to March. Khamphilavong isn’t the only one who can’t wait for that first cast in an SFA tournament in and around Vermilion Bay.
“I think everybody’s excited about it. I know we’re ready,” he said Monday morning while riding across Pendleton Bridge on the way to a bass fishing trip with Phil Haney at Toledo Bend.
Khampilavong, skipper of a 24-foot long Blazer Bay, and Craig Landry, both local contractors, expect to welcome back Randy Migues. Migues still was recovering from 2021 back surgery and was able to fish only one of last year’s five regular-season tournaments (the three redfish fishermen won that tournament April 23), plus he also missed the SFA Classic.
“I think Randy’s back is much better this year. I think he’s going to make it this year,” the skipper said.
Khamphilavong has yet to make his first redfish fishing trip of the year but plans to get out soon.
“We’ll go next week to look and see what we can find,” he said.
Springtime redfish fishing success is often fickle, he said, sometimes feast or famine.
“That’s the thing. We’ve just to see what we’ve got. This time of year we should be able to find fish. (But) every year is different. I hope we luck out and catch two big ones” on March 25, he said.
All SFA contestants will be looking for the right redfish in the “slot” tournament. Redfish must be within a 16- to 27-inch slot and measured on the SFA’s official “check stick.”
Redfish are measured with the mouth closed and tail pinched.
Each weigh-in is held under the pavilion at the end of the parking lot at Quintana Canal Boat Landing. SFA officials and members are anxious to see the turnout for the season opener Saturday.
“If we have good weather and the week stays calm, I think people will show up,” SFA Director Brooks Amy said last week.
Someone will take the early lead in the race for AOY. There are a dozen or more boats capable of winning it all because of the caliber of redfish fishermen across Acadiana.
Amy said, “I think, at this point, it’s anybody’s ballgame. But Milton (Milton Davis), Jonathan (Jonathan Rush) and Chopper (Dusty Davis) are always one of the boats hard to beat. Keo and his crew are hard to beat.”
Of course, Amy isn’t counting out his own crew that includes his father, Perry Scott, his young son, Hayden Amy, and his fishing buddy Jacob Fisher.
“We will be there, ready to go,” he said, noting the youngest crew member is really looking forward to fishing.
“He’s kind of excited himself about it now. Yeah, we need an extra pole in the water. We’ll give it our best shot,” he said.
So will the crews of at least a dozen more boats, perhaps many more, that launch for the season opener.
In 2022, the number of boats for each tournament was 13, 10, 10, 11 and, in the fifth and last regular-season tournament, 11. The attendance, or lack of it, weighed on many of the participants.
That issue was addressed at the SFA supper and awards presentation held Feb. 15 at the Lydia American Legion Hall. Shrinking membership and participation was the elephant in the room.
Many of the nearly 30 SFA members who showed up on a cool, damp night expressed their concern going into the 2023 season. They discussed at length some possible remedies to rebuild a once-popular saltwater fishing circuit.
Rush, a key crew member with the Davises on Strickly Bidness, suggested promoting the circuit on social media, then volunteered to take on that task to find ways to attract other competitive redfish fishermen as well as young anglers.
Another offseason move was confirmed later. The SFA Classic champion will receive $1,000, guaranteed, on top of the regular winner’s purse, SFA officials announced recently.
A little more than a month after the meeting, Khamphilavong remains optimistic. The tournament field for the opener should be larger, he said.
“I hope so. We’ll see what happens this year, see if we get more participation this year,” he said, adding he believes even an increase of five boats above the average would be significant.
SFA’s membership fee is $25 per person. Boys and girls 15 years old and under can join for $10. Entry fee per boat each tournament is $100. (There is a maximum of five members per boat.)
The SFA’s second tournament is scheduled for April 22, followed by tournaments on May 20, June 17 and July 15 with the SFA Classic set for Aug. 12.
For more information on SFA membership and tournaments, call Amy at (337) 316-8175.