The Southcentral Fishing Association’s Angler(s) of the Year title eluded two New Iberia redfish fishermen since the mid-2010s.
Keo Khamphilavong and Craig Landry, both contractors, never could nail it down since they joined SFA. They came close in 2020 and 2021 but, alas, no cigar, er, AOY.
They did what they had to do and Ryan Savoy of Lafayette, born and raised in Loreauville, did what he had to do in the fifth and final regular-season tournament July 23 at Cypremort Point. Savoy, fishing alone, won while Khamphilavong and Landry finished right behind him to complete an improbable comeback to claim this year’s AOY.
The top two boats going into the last event finished below Savoy and Khamphilavong and Landry. SFA president Brooks Amy, Jacob Fisher and Perry Scott on Fish Karma had a slim lead, 746-745, over Glenn St. Germain and Josh Napier.
“If either one would have beat us they would have come out first,” Landry said.
When Savoy won with three “slot” redfish weighing 24.3 pounds, and Khamphilavong and Landry were runners-up with 21.20, the elusive AOY title was theirs.
“Oh, it’s special. We were close two years in a row. The last one (final tournament) always got us,” Khamphilavong said.
This time “the last one” got the other contenders.
A new rule permitting two dropped tournament results benefited the 2022 Angler(s) of the Year. The local fishermen were no-shows for the season opener March 26 before winning tournament No. 2, then finished second in three straight tournaments.
Khamphilavong, 57, and Landry, 61, dropped the first tournament worth zero points and one of the second-place finishes worth 190. Their adjusted point total was an unbeatable 580, 10 points ahead of Amy, Fish and Scott and Glenn St. Germain and Napier, who all tied for second at 570.
“There are no slouches out there. It really feels good to come out on top,” Landry said.
Khamphilavong agreed and said, “Those guys catch fish, those guys that fish in our club. You’ve just got to be where the fish are, that’s all. Just go find them. That’s the ticket.”
His 4-foot long Blazer Bay boat had the ticket July 23.
“I was hoping we would get this first (a first-place finish in the finale). It would have been a wrap,” Khamphilavong said.
“We caught a bunch of fish. It could have went either way. When we caught the last, 26 ¼, I said, ‘We’ve got a chance, bud.’ ”
“We had some good fish. If somebody beats us out for the tournament they deserve it. Ryan deserves it. Ryan did it, for sure. He catches some big fish. You’ve got to give it to him,” Landry said.
“We had two fish that we caught for 26 ¾ and one 26 1/4. Ours weren’t heavy like his,” he said, noting Savoy’s redfish were caught inside Marsh Island. “If you can find them in the island, they’re going to be better fish. We were along the bank around Cote Blanche Bay.”
Redfish “don’t get long and skinny if they stay in the island” because of their steady diet of mullet and/or pogeys, Landry said.
“Ryan Savoy had a monster (8.40-pounder that won the Calcutta). When he pulled out his fish, I said, ‘We lost.’ He’s a good fisherman, too, that boy right there. As far as length we had him beat,” Khamphilavong said.
Consistency was the story of their season, starting in tournament No. 2.
Khamphilavong, who owns Keo’s Construction Inc., and Landry, who owns Craig Landry Construction, fished one of four tournaments this year with their buddy, Randy Migues, another contractor from New Iberia.
Migues missed all of last season because he underwent back surgery.
The trio won that second tournament on April 23 with three “slot” redfish in the lone “draw the high end of the slot size” – 22 inches. Their winning limit weighed 10.70 pounds, more than 1 pound ahead of the runner-up catch by Glenn St. Germain, Josh St. Germain, Noah St. Germain and Josh Napier.
The carpenters nailed a second-place showing in tournament No. 3 on May 21. Their two “slot” fish weighed 8.45 pound behind the 11.45-pound winning weight of Fish Karma, which was led by Fisher’s 8.4-pounder.
Khamphilavong and Landry notched another second June 18 in tournament No.4. With 12.60 pounds, the team finished behind Milton Davis, Dusty Davis and Jonathan Rush, whose two “slots” weighed 16.15 pounds.
The AOY team fished a different area each time, Landry pointed out.
“We fish all the time together besides that (tournaments). So we fish decent together in a tournament, I guess,” Landry said. “I’ll tell you this … I told the other boats at the end of the tournament, I told them, ‘There’s no reason to follow us.’ The reason is we fished four tournaments this year with a first and three seconds and never in the same place.”
Khamphilavong said, “At certain times of the year we know where we need to go.”
For example, he said, in the first few tournaments in the spring and late spring, they target inside Marsh Island. In June and July, he said, “We start doing something else.”
In the regular-season finale, they fished grass beds along the shoreline in 3- to 5-foot depths, Khamphilavong with shrimp on the bottom and Landry with a soft plastic tipped with shrimp under a popping cork in East Cote Blanche Bay.