Mattress Mack's $1 million March Madness bet still alive in Louisiana

OUTDOOR CORNER: Downsizing to the extreme

Lyle Johnson
Steve Lessard fed Texas Tackle Factory soft plastics to his first place stringer of trout and redfish. The total weight was 45.55 pounds.

Many moons ago, probably more than I’d like to remember, we got around the marshes in Venice in a pirogue. Now, we certainly weren’t the only ones doing that, it was a common practice for most duck hunters and is still done that way today.

But I remember one day Goosie bought what I called a “motorized pirogue”. It was more like a kayak as it was wider than a pirogue and much more stable if you know what I mean. Most folks I know have had exciting moments operating those Cajun kayaks.

It had a built troll motor and man could it cruise, you only carried a paddle for looks mostly and never turned over. The craft could get places you only thought about in a boat. But alas, one day the troll motor gave up the ghost and we had to paddle. Then it got stolen and that was my last memory of that awesome duck hunting boat and back to the pirogues.

From back in that time until today, boating has made a circle of sorts. They grew in size and shape while the motors that propelled them grew in horsepower. As salt water fishing grew in popularity, the bay boat was introduced and they grew as well.

For a myriad of reasons such as travel distance, fuel costs, access and other issues, smaller began to attract attention. One and two-man boats for bass fishing came to the market. They were very water-worthy, light to handle and could be launched nearly anywhere, especially off the side of the road.

Small watercraft runs the gamut now, heck, you can even buy a boat that folds up and can almost be carried under your arms. Unfolded, the boat is sturdy enough to support a small outboard motor.

But the craze today is the kayak! They’ve always had a niche in personal watercraft but it usually leaned to the extreme end. White-water kayaks have been popular for sport and racing for a long time and I’ve even seen them in Resurrection Bay in Seward, Alaska a lot closer to a glacier than the big boat we were in.

A few years ago, fishing from a kayak made quite a splash and the wave just gets bigger and bigger. One can find all sorts of kayaking clubs that fish for fun and big-time tournaments have made their way into the mix.

One such club is Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club that welcomes participation from rookies as well as those that are pros at this rising sport. Their Web site is and you can get all the info and help one would to take up this popular venture. They held their Fourth Annual “Minimalists Challenge” kayak fishing tournament on January 15, out of Bason’s marina in Cutoff, Louisiana.

What’s cool about this event is that all the participants launch at the same location and time while fishing with only the lures provided to them on the morning of the tournament.  The anglers are allowed only five plain jig heads to fish with.  They were allowed one small top water lure and were also given an assortment of five soft-plastic lures for use with their jig heads.  

The winner for this inaugural event of 2010 was none other than Ascension Parish’s own Steve Lessard who took his very minimal supply of tackle and parlayed them into a whopping limit string of five slot redfish and 25 specs that strained the scales for 45.55 pounds.

“I paddled my way into the Sulphur Mine (a community hot spot) and headed to the bank and try to catch an early limit of redfish in the shallow water. I got in about 3 feet of water and the redfish were stacked on the bottom, so a limit was easy to catch,” stated Lessard.

“I noticed that I could catch a spec a little off of the bottom, so I improvised by taking the top water bait they supplied and sort of used it as a cork by tying a leader with about 24” of string to my jig head and it was on!”

Sixty yakers participated in the event and weighed and their combined weight was 660 pounds of speckled trout and redfish.  The winners were then determined by a combined total weight of up to their legal limit of 25 trout and five slot-sized redfish.  

In second place was Bill Crawford nearly ten pounds behind Lessard with a respectable 35.95. Third place was snagged by Denis Soignier with 34.95. The fourth spot was captured by Barrett Jones with 30.40 and rounding out the top five was fifth place winner, Rick Keranen with 29.75.

I haven’t had the opportunity to fish out of a kayak but that’s next on my bucket list and I hope it happens sooner than later. Remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. So until next time have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God bless you.