Words and photos by Chris Holmes
Ride the Bull 5, contested at Grand Isle, La. on August 16, shook the kayak fishing world. This relatively young competition is now the largest on the globe by a large margin. The reason? Wide arms and an easy, welcoming atmosphere.
"While there are many who bring to the water thousands of dollars in equipment, gear and electronics, I saw just as many in plain, inexpensive kayaks with simple fishing reels and no frills have the same fun and chance," said Blaine Tamplain, first time Ride the Bull participant. Tamplain is a native of Louisiana, but now resides in Katy Texas. "I don't know what is making it so popular, but from what I saw, it's just the sheer simplicity of the format," he added.
Popular is an understatement. Ride the Bull 5 crushed its prior participation numbers (488 last year) and hosted another world record setting crowd of 732 paddle craft anglers. Billed generically as a kayak fishing tournament, a wide variety of other human-powered vessels including paddle boards, canoes and pirogues are also allowed.
A video look at Ride the Bull 5, the world’s reigning largest kayak fishing tournament.
A simple format targeting a single species, bull redfish, is the secret to making the event run smoothly. With a unique live-weigh feature, anglers only need to successfully land the fish, where it is then taken by tournament officials for weighing, tagging and releasing.
Though they had no motors, the horsepower was palpable as the contestants crowded near the imaginary start line waiting on the horn blast. Shortly, they would take off in a slow-moving fury of paddling and pedaling towards their anticipated honey-holes. The tranquility of motor-less fishing was shattered during those few minutes. A drone flew overhead to document what the birds were seeing and spectators on the nearby fishing pier cheered and snapped photos. The contestants hooted and hollered as they pedaled and paddled into the distance. The sounds faded, and tranquility returned.
For nearly eight hours, the anglers soaked mullet, crab and other natural and artificial baits in hopes of riding the bull. They got to know each other as quiet conversations linked this diverse group that all share the same passion of fishing from a paddle craft. How diverse? Contestants hailed from 17 different states and there was also a contestant each from Germany and New Zealand.
When all was said and done, there was a genuine air of excitement regarding the identity of the 2014 Ride the Bull champion. 731 anglers were bested by 26-year-old female angler Kalley LeRoy and she did it on a YOLO paddle board. Kalley, from Denham Spring, Louisiana, hauled in a 26.14-pound brute that earned her a new Wilderness Systems Ride 115X kayak and a cool bundle of $3,200 in cash.
Despite the significance of winning the world's largest kayak fishing tournament, Madam Champion is a gracious and humble winner. She summed up her astounding accomplishment as follows: "We love what we do and are thankful for all the friends we have made along the way. With them, even the people who don't win are winners. The stories told, the advice given and the good company provided makes you a winner. At least that's how I feel about it. I usually never win anything, but always walk away smiling because I know I had fun and in my book, that's what makes you a winner."