Outdoor Corner: Ride the Bull is coming up

Lyle Johnson
Photo gives a pretty good idea of the Ride the Bull Kayak Tournament scene.

Anybody in for a little bull riding? No, we're not talking about the PBR and cowboys riding rank bulls in a rodeo arena. We're talking about kayak anglers hooking up to a bull redfish and letting them pull you around in the Gulf of Mexico!

That's right, taking a "Cajun Sleigh Ride" in Caminada Pass from Bridgeside Marina on Saturday, August 24 in Grand Isle at the "Ride the Bull 10" paddle craft bull red rodeo. That sounds like an adrenalin rush that just might get on the top of my list of things to do.

The brainchild of Danny and Kristen Wray, RTB started 10 years ago and has become the largest kayak (paddle craft) fishing tournament in the world. The Ride the Bulls redfish tournament is just about as exciting as Running the Bulls is over in Spain, only it's held on the water.

Although I've never taken part in the tournament, I did get the opportunity to give it a try a few years ago in my Kajun Custom Kayak as Captain Danny Wray of Calmwater Charters invited me down for a trial run of the idea he came up with in 2009 for a paddle craft, bull red fishing rodeo.

Ten "yakkers" met at Buggy Vegas' Bridgeside Marina for some early morning socializing, but soon it was time for business. The kayaks headed out in Caminada Pass with cut mullet and live croakers for bait. Captain Danny Wray, his wife Kristen, along with Joe and Chris Macaluso followed close behind in a boat to shoot photos and video.

One by one the anglers anchored their water craft and cast their lines in anticipation of hooking up with a bull. The action started soon enough as a first-timer got initiated to the riding club while landing a hefty redfish.

I had a couple of opportunities to hang on for the ride, but alas I lost the first two fish that took the cut mullet I was using. I'd brought a spinning rod along and was catching small white trout and got the idea to use one for bait. It paid off in a big way as a 27-pound bull took the live offering and took me on a cruise.

Captain Danny Wray is a licensed Coast Guard Captain as well as an experienced and knowledgeable fisherman who has been at the helm of Calm Water Charters. He has been an inshore fishing guide for years who can catch them with the best of the best. Danny loves to introduce folks to kayak fishing as he takes the "mother boat" loaded with kayaks, then deposits the yakkers at a chosen location and mentors them as they learn the ropes.

Every year many of his customers return for another trip. He considers this the greatest compliment he can receive as a guide. The six hours he and his customers spend on the water are special, and he is more than willing to share local knowledge or help your kids learn to fish.

He is probably best known as the founder of "Ride the Bull," the biggest kayak tournament in the world. Grand Isle plays host to up 700 kayaks manned by fishermen chasing the big reds that ply our passes.

He has been featured in magazines such as Field and Stream, CCA's Tide Magazine, Canoe and Kayak, Louisiana Sportsman, Gulf Coast Fisherman, Marsh and Bayou, and on the TV shows Journey South, Louisiana Sportsman TV, Big Fish, and Paradise Louisiana all airing on Cox Sports. Capt. Danny also writes for Marsh and Bayou Magazine, has been a regional contributor to Kayak Angler, and reports on Grand Isle fishing for Coastal Angler.

Ride the Bull is the world's largest kayak fishing tournament, with a record of 733 participants last year! The premise is simple. Everyone launches from Bridgeside Marina (shotgun start) and fishes a confined area of Caminada Pass. The task is to catch bull redfish - reds over 27 inches. Catch a red, and signal one of several boats to come pick it up. They take it to the weigh spot, tag the red, and safely release it back in the water.

The prizes are great, the food is great, but it's the comradery that brings so many folks back again. There's nothing like sharing an area of water with several friends - and several new ones - and the frenzy when one or more hook into bull reds. It's one of the very few tournaments where winning isn't as important as having a good time! Whether you are one of the hundreds of participants or one of the hundreds of spectators, this is an event you need to see!

Danny and Kristen Wray put their life into this event, and Kristen was the backbone of it all. But sadly, Kristen lost her valiant battle against cancer earlier in 2016. A good friend of mine, Vicki Holmes had this to say about her experiences with the couple and RTB: "Since I have been at every RTB since the beginning, I have a lot of great and amazing memories. I loved working side by side with my friends Kristen and Danny to make RTB what it is today.

"But my all-time favorite memory is seeing the two of them dancing at the after party just a few months before she passed. That smile says it all! I miss her spirit and guidance, and I feel her presence when we're all together at Bridgeside continuing what she and Danny Wray started!"

Danny decided to pass the reigns over to CCA Louisiana, who have been an integral part of this event over the years. Thanks CCA! As a bonus, CCA is adding a free year's membership for everyone who registers.

RTB is a for anglers of all ages and experience levels and can be a great event for the entire family. Besides the fishing that day we have many vendors displaying their goods and usually live music on Friday night after the Captain's Meeting.

Registration opens June 1 and don't forget to book your rooms early because they fill up fast. And while you are down, stay a while. Grand Isle is Louisiana's only inhabited island, and it has plenty to do. Come and enjoy the festivities. You won't be disappointed.

Whether you fish or just watch, you will experience the event of your life. It's worth your time and effort. So until next time, remember to keep the slack out, and set the hook hard. Be safe in the outdoors, and may God truly bless you!

Lyle Johnson is a free-lance writer, co-host of Ascension Outdoors TV and Curator of the Louisiana State Fish Records. He can be contacted at reelman@eatel.net.

Outdoor Calendar

EASL Monthly Meeting: 3rd Monday every month, East Ascension Sportsman's League meeting held at Gonzales Fire Dept on Orice Roth Rd. starting at 7:00 p.m. A meal served and special speaker will be in attendance.

Wednesday Evening Bass Tourney: Every Wednesday at Canal Bank from 5:00 p.m. until dark. Fee $40/boat, one time registration fee of $40 going toward the Classic Tournament. Weekly event through spring, summer. Call Canal Bank for information. 225-695-9074

CCA Louisiana S.T.A.R. Fishing Rodeo: May 25 thru Sept 2 summer-long CCA Louisiana saltwater fishing event. Tagged Redfish, Offshore, Inshore, Ladies & Children's divisions. Registration required. Must be CCA member. Website: ccastar.com.

NBAA South La Bass Mafia tourney: August 3 @ New Amelia launch, U.S. 90, Amelia. Two-angler teams. Entry fee $100. Annual membership $40. Fourth in 8-tournament series. Email: Darren Anders: darrenanders309@gmail.com.

Ascension Area Anglers Open Tournament: August 17 @ Doiron's Landing in Stephensville. Pick your partner, entry fee $100 per team, 75 percent payback. Application available at www.fishingfortucker.com. Call Ryan Lavigne for info 225-921-9332.

Ride the Bull Extreme Kayak Redfish Tournament: August 23 & 24 taking place at Bridgeside Marina in Grand Isle. Sponsored by CCA Louisiana. For all the info & registration go to www.ccalouisiana.com.

Need an event publicized? Contact Lyle at reelman@eatel.net