|Division: 7||Venice, Louisiana||WEST DELTA KINGFISH INVITATIONAL||July 27-29, 2012|
Griffin’s Wild Ride – Best at the West
Venice, Louisiana – The Wild Ride crew made the long run from North Carolina south to the Mississippi River delta and took home the top prize at this year's West Delta Kingfish Invitational held at Bill and Mike Butler's Venice Marina. Soon after their arrival in Venice, Skipper Randy Griffin developed a high fever and by morning was so sick that he wasn't able to fish either day of the tournament. Craig Hughes took over the controls of the Mercury powered Fountain and along with Randy's wife Shayna, son Ayden, and Grandpa Randy Griffin, Sr. headed offshore Saturday morning.
Randy had already made the decision to fish an area 16 miles out of Red Pass where they had fought a couple decent fish Thursday on their way over from Biloxi. They started the day near the 63A rig where they caught several fish on Saturday but none bigger than the 34.20 they carried to the scales. Sunday they started fishing the same area with little success so Craig started rig hopping. Craig told me that they had been pushed a ways away from the rig that they were fishing by a couple of work boats that came to service the rig. "We had caught three or four nice kings there and decided to stick around, so we slow trolled away from the rig and waited for the work boats to leave," he explained. "Around 10:30, we were a half mile away from the rig when our big fish skied on a hardtail in 125 feet of water." Craig grabbed the rod, tightened up on the fish and set the hook. After a 15-minute fight he had the fish close enough for Randy, Sr. to gaff.
On the Venice Marina scales their fish would weigh 52.67 pounds and edge out the 52.15 weighed by the Rxscape on Saturday for their tournament win. The fish would also earn young Ayden another SKA Top Jr. Award and the $500 Mercury Scholarship prize awarded to the top finishing junior fishing on a boat equipped with Mercury Outboards. Randy asked me to thank Mercury Marine as well as the Maker 17 Marina, Raymarine, and Myco Trailers for all their help and support.
Finishing in second were the 1999 SKA National Champions, Dan and Ronda Abshire who haven't tournament fished for the past few years. They recently purchased their Mercury powered Contender, the Rxscape and the Venice tournament would be the first time that they had been able to put their new boat to the test…
Dan had made plans to fish Saturday in Venice and head home to fish the Bud Lite Rodeo in their home waters off of Pensacola on Sunday. Fishing with the Abshires were their friends Quint Higdon and Jason Tison. Dan told me that they started the day fishing in the West Delta Block without much luck and moved on to the Grand Isle Block where they found two or three mid-30 kings. Around noon, a bigger kingfish ate a hardtail in 140 feet of water and took off away from the nearby rig. "I had just put out a bait way back behind the boat and had handed the rod to Jason to put it into one of the T-top rod holders when the big fish tried to jerk it out of his hands," Dan explained. "Jason had never caught a fish anywhere close to the size of the king and with Ronda's expert advice he did a great job keeping the line tight and kept lots of pressure on the fish while I worked the boat close enough to gaff her." After weighing their 52.15 pound first day leader, the Rxscape headed back to Pensacola to try and win their hometown rodeo with hope that nobody would find a bigger king on the second day of the Venice tournament. On Sunday, they caught a couple of nice grouper and some Spanish mackerel and then headed to the Bud Lite scales were they would take home the Rodeo's Kingfish Jackpot check as well as the second and third place grouper awards.
The Sarasota, Florida based ProMarineUSA.com fishing team sponsored by Mercury Marine, Dogfish Tackle, Uflex Steering, and Fisherman's Ideal Supply, headed to the Delta to try and catch one of those giant kings that roam the rigs off the Louisiana coastline. Skippered by Kevin Hannon with crew members Jim Naset, Chris Blackwell, Rick Cook, and Steve Niell on board their Mercury and Yamaha powered Yellowfin, would finish in third place with a 48.03 pound fish that they caught in 120 feet of water, 100 miles west of Venice on Saturday. They were fighting a fish off of the bow and Naset was free lining a big runner off of the back of the boat when it got eaten. The second fish took off while Jim watched as the line disappeared off of his reel. Kevin made the right decision to head after the second fish and after a short fight they gaffed their big king and soon had the first fish close enough to release.
Kevin described their trip to the Delta: "Awesome, the best trip ever!" The ProMarine team came a couple days early in order to film a television show and got some great video of a 250+ pound marlin they fought to the boat and released. They also caught several big yellowfin tuna and some nice dolphin to take home. Kevin asked me to thank Billy and Mike Butler and the Venice Marina crew as well as George Mitchell for all their help during their visit.
The fourth largest king weighed at the event was a 45.75 pound fish caught on the Crawgator. Fishing with Capt. Bill Butler on his Yamaha powered Invincible were long time teammates Rick Ryan, Donald Bourgeios, and Mark Poche. Bill told me that they caught several nice kings on Saturday and had the tournament winner circling under their boat but broke it off before it was close enough to gaff. On Sunday, he told me that they must have had 60 or 70 fish to the boat. He went on to say that fishing was unreal; they started the day with a baitwell full of baits, refilled their well two more times, and came home early when they ran out of bait a third time.
Neal Foster's Intense would finish in fifth place. Fishing with Mr. Foster on his Yamaha powered Contender boat sponsored by Contender, Yamaha, Garmin Electronics, Ameratrail Trailers, Ken's Car Tunes, and Offshore Towers were Mark Collier, Mitch Mosley, Darren Blanchard and Steve Hall. Neal told me that they had pre-fished an area about 100 miles west south west of Venice and caught several 40-pound fish so they made the run back to the same numbers on both Saturday and Sunday. They caught their 45.71 pound king after it ate a big runner in 120 feet of water around 10:30 Saturday. It took Mark ten or fifteen minutes to get it close enough for Neal to gaff.
Leading the way in the Small Boat race was the 2011 Small Boat National Championship Team, the Strike Two, a Mercury powered Onslow Bay boat skippered by Rob Lupola with Ray Martinez, Jason Spratley, Nike Henke, and Jeff Hall on board. Rob told me that they ran 45 miles west of Tiger Pass to fish the Grand Isle block. The area that they had planned to fish was so covered up with grass that they had to work their way further west until they found some clean water. As soon as they could get their baits in the water they started catching fish. He told me that they caught two or three dozen 30-pound and bigger kings on Saturday including their 47.47 pounder that Jeff caught after it ate a hardtail in 150 feet of water. They went back to the same number on Sunday but the biggest king they could find was a 38 pounder. The Strike Two is sponsored by Daiwa, Raymarine, Costa Sunglasses, Bluewater Candy Lures, Mercury Marine, Rip Charts, Cannon Downriggers, Mojo Clothing, and Offshore Marine Electronics.
Craig Prescott and Ryne Vincent fishing on their 20 foot Yamaha powered Palm Beach boat, the Midnight Rider, would weigh a 45.57 that Craig caught around noon in 128 feet of water 80 miles due east of Baptsit (ask Jack) to take home the Small Boat second place check.
One thing that is for sure, my heart starts to pound every time I drive through New Orleans and head south on the Belle Chase expressway. Every time I'm there, I am amazed at the numbers of big fish of several different inshore and offshore species that are offloaded there every day. Venice is, without a doubt, one of the overall best fishing areas in the world.
Everyone who participated asked me to thank both Mike and Bill Butler for the wonderful time they had at the West Delta event and I would personally like to thank Paul Reeves, Ashley Butler, and Kelly Gaudin for all their help and a job well done.
Mr. Mike – the cobia was wonderful!!!
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