Tournament Fishing: Texas Style

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Chandeleur Island Fishing off Mississippi Motherships. Photo: Troy Gilbert

Everything is bigger in Texas and this includes fishing tournaments. With more than 367 miles of coastline on the Gulf of Mexico and along the famed Laguna Madre with charters running from Galveston to Corpus Christi and all the way south to the Mexican border in San Isabel, Texas can satisfy your need for deep or near-shore saltwater fishing.

One of the largest tournaments, the Texas Star State of Texas Angler’s Rodeo run by the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) lasts a solid three months. This tournament with more than 45,000 participants is unusual in that tagged species of fish are specifically released throughout the coast for the purpose of the tournament. Registered participants have the entire summer to reel in those tagged reds and trout. Successful anglers can reel in their share for more than $1 million in prizes and scholarships. ccatexas.org, startournament.org

Down the coast in Matagorda, the Matagorda Bluewater Challenge is another monster multiple species tournament with boats allowed to leave from several ports. The tournament also includes a small boat (under 25 feet) class. The big action is offshore where winners are decided over the combined weight of multiple and specific species hauled in. This two-day event brings out the Who’s Who of Texas fishing and novices who charter vessels with groups of friends and try their luck at bringing in the largest kingfish, ling, and dolphin. Winning isn’t everything, but two days spent offshore is a perfect recreational investment for men, women, and children.

Not to be outdone and celebrating its 19th anniversary on the legendary Louisiana barrier island of Grand Isle, the Swollfest Fishing Rodeo kicks off June 8-12. Headquartered at the Sand Dollar Marina on the easternmost reach of Grand Isle, this event has exploded from its humble beginnings as a group of eight guys going out fishing one weekend to one of the largest fishing rodeos in Louisiana.

With world-class offshore and inshore fishing throughout the waters of Louisiana, Swollfest was among the early to recognize and adopt the growing trend in spear and kayak fishing and have adopted them as classes alongside the standard fishing rodeo classes. Kayak fishing is ideal in these estuaries of southeast Louisiana with kayaks able to navigate all of the shallow coastal marsh and find those hidden and previously unreachable honey spots.

Located at the edge of Barataria and Caminada Bay and the deep-water oil platforms of the Gulf of Mexico that serve as incredible artificial reef habitats, Grand Isle is known for hosting multiple world-class fishing events. The species of fish from the multiple habitats are far too numerous to list, but there is a definitive reason why southern Louisiana is known as the “Sportsman’s Paradise.”

By Harlen Leslie, Southern Boating Magazine April 2016