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It was fall in southern Louisiana, when the redfish bite is on fire. I was fishing the 2013 Inshore Fishing Association (IFA) Kayak Tour championship with fellow Hobie team member Matthew Vann.

On the prefish day we found a spot of 40-inch redfish and enough decent-sized trout to have high hopes of placing in the money. The fish were still there the next day. We both caught good ones, putting both of our names on the leaderboard. Victory was in reach if the final day went well.

It didn’t. We launched into a nasty storm with high winds and sheets of heavy rain. We took shelter on shore, our game plan in tatters.

Finally the storm cleared and we made the four-mile dash back to our big redfish honey hole. No luck. Two hours of hard fishing later we still couldn’t buy a bite.

Disappointed, we started the long trip back to the launch so we could at least make the weigh in. Then a little cut caught my eye.

“Let’s give it a try. There might be fish in there,” I said to Matthew, then headed in. The water shallowed quickly. We pulled our MirageDrives and paddled into a tiny marsh pond.

“What are we doing in here?” Matthew grumbled as we laboriously worked through the six-inch puddle. There were pushes of water everywhere. We paid them no heed. They were only mullet.

As we moved farther into the pond towards the cut on the other side that led back into deeper water, we started to notice. The backs and tails of hungry golden Louisiana redfish stuck out of the water. The wind was pushing these golden pumpkins from the cut into our little pond.

We quickly and quietly staked out our kayaks to cast topwater lures toward our intended targets.

Twitch. Twitch. Twitch…. Bam! Zzz. Fish on!

The fight was quick but frantic, the redfish fat and covered in dark Louisiana mud. I looked over at Matthew, who was intently battling his own.

I cast out again, the tournament forgotten, intent on the moment and the chance to sight-cast to tailing reds in just six inches of skinny water.

We reeled in a few more, shot photos of the biggest, then kicked hurriedly towards the weigh-in. A respectable finish was in range, but we wouldn’t win. These golden fish weren’t the big bulls we needed. Winning isn’t everything. Remembering why we fell in love with kayak fishing was plenty to keep us coming back.

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