The Yeti Ambassadors Summit Redfish Tournament

by | Oct 24, 2018 | Yeti Ambassadors Summit | 1 comment

YetiI’m proud to be one of an elite group of Yeti Ambassadors.  The group not only consists of some dang good fly fishers but also Kevin VanDam, professional bass angler, and the best athletes in other sports ranging from snowboarders to rodeo cowboys to hunters.  This week Yeti brought us all together in Venice, Louisiana to meet, mingle, discuss old product and new product AND have a little redfishing tournament.


The Yeti/Pro Am Tournament works like this:  There are 18 teams of two anglers and a Louisiana redfish guide.  One team member is a “Fly Fishing Pro” the other matches up with a pro of another sport or a Yeti employee that knows little about fly fishing.


Journey South Fishing LodgeAfter an incredible barbeque under a huge tent at the Journey South Fishing Lodge with the rain pouring down outside, we drew the teams and guides.  Non fly fishing pros reached for fly fishing pro names from a Yeti Bucket.  It was entirely random and I matched with Yeti’s Beer and BBQ Marketing Manager, LeighAnn Bakunas.  LeighAnn and I then drew fishing guide Capt. Scott MacCalla.  Soon all teams were set.


Yeti redfishing tournamentYou can fly fish or spin fish.  Originally it was all fly but with the bad weather and poor water conditions rules changed.  The only fish that count are redfish.  It’s a catch and release competition and each team enters the total inches of three measured fish each of the two days (today and tomorrow).  Each fish caught on the fly receives a 10” bonus.


Capt Scott Maculla redfish guideThe tourney began at 6 AM this morning.  6 was far too dark to start so Capt. Scott, LeighAnn and I headed out at 7:30.  The rain had subsided but it wasn’t hot by any means for the chilly 30 minute boat ride to the first spot.


LeighAnn fly fished for her first time recently.  Coincidentally it was in Idaho with my pals from WorldCast Anglers while she was in Jackson Hole for the Food and Wine Festival in June.  As Scott poled us into the marsh I set LeighAnn up with my Winston and explained what to look for and how to plunk a Clouser with a short cast to a cruising redfish if we were lucky to see one.


LeighAnn Bakunas YetiThe marsh continues to be murky.  Water visibility is only around 6” so you’re lucky if you can see the back of a redfish 10ft in front of you.  You have a mere second to get your fly there before they vanish.  Honestly, you can’t even tell which end of the fish is the head so the sight fly fishing is brutally hard.


fly fishing LouisianaScott poled.  LeighAnn and I rotated holding the fly rod while poised from the bow.  I say holding because LeighAnn never got a chance to cast and I had only one cast.  That redfish disappeared so fast we’ll never know if the fish even saw the fly.  After a couple unsuccessful hours trying to sight fish, Scott suggested we move to the bay and blindfish.


We made a long winding ride through marsh and came up on a bay.  Scott cut the engine and looked around.  I switched my Clouser minnow to a popper and Scott rigged LeighAnn to fish a popping lure on the spin rod.  The idea behind the poppers is that despite the poor water clarity the fish will be able to hear the pops.  Once rigged, Scott turned his key to start the motor to get us in the exact right spot.  We had engine trouble.


boat engine troubleScotts motor would run for a few seconds in neutral but when he shifted to gear it died.  We’ll call it the start of the “big drift”.  Ten minutes of tinkering went by.  Then thirty.  Next thing you knew we’d been drifting an hour.  No doubt LeighAnn and I were bummed but we never stopped casting and popping.


Scott was beyond frustrated.  I believe there were a few bad words echoing.  I’ve been there.  It’s one of the reasons my boats move by oars and paddles.  Scott finally gave up.


YetiIt looked like our team would blank on Day 1 and miss the afternoons fishing because we’d be calling for a tow back to Venice.  But Scott knew we were close to one of his guide friends and suggested we keep fishing.  LeighAnn and I cracked a couple cans of beer and continued to cast.


LeighAnn Bakunas redfishing

Scott poled us off the bay and near an island.  We went through a channel and when we popped out on the next bay there were several anchored flats boats, each in the tournament.  There was even the Yeti camera boat.  We didn’t have a motor but at least we were in the right spot.  It was at that exact second I heard an explosion of water followed by the sound of a screaming spin reel drag.  Holy ****!  My partner was hooked up!


redfishing with Capt Scott Maculla

Photo by Matt McCormick

You can be down in the dumps in a fishing competition yet find yourself on Cloud 9 minutes later.  I reeled in my fly.  The Yeti camera boat heard the excitement and came to film.  LeighAnn dug her heals in and broke the spirit of this feisty redfish within a few minutes.  Fly fishing may be new to her but she knows how to fight a big fish on gear.


I’m not sure our boat could believe this was happening.  Here we were broke down but not giving up and it paid off.  LeighAnn landed her redfish and he was 37” long!  A gem of a fish and even better, one of the camera guys knew a thing or two about Honda motors.  After we measured then released the redfish he suggested a couple adjustments for Scott to try.  The motor was back in action!


redfishing with LeighAnn BakunasAll this craziness happened at 1 PM.  Naturally because LeighAnn caught the redfish we remained in the spot awhile.  But nothing else.  It appeared LeighAnn nailed the one and only redfish.  Scott suggested another fly fishing spot in the marsh.  A place he thought might have clearer water.


After a fifteen minute ride we hit a series of islands and shallow marshy ponds.  The place was the best looking water I’ve seen all week.  I took the bow with the fly and faced the shallows against the grass while LeighAnn blind casted her popper to the deep on the spin rod.


fly fishing for redfishImmediately, I spotted a redfish inches off the grass before Scott reached his poling platform.  The fish was out of sight by the time I launched my cast but I knew my fly landed in the right spot.  Two strips and I had him.  Next strip the hook pulled.  Bloody heck!


It’s funny how competition fishing goes.  Honestly, in my experience, redfish are one of the easiest fish to hook on a fly.  Ten minutes after missing the first one I missed another.  And it was a big one.  Ugh!


black drum flyfishing

LeighAnn cheered me on like nothing happened and continued to launch her rig.  She’s a damn good teammate.  I simply needed a slump buster.  Soon after, a big fish appeared ten feet off the bow.  Something looked funny about this one but naturally I cast.  My fly dropped perfectly and the huge fish turned on it and ate.  I made no mistake this hook set.  This brute was on!


I wanted this to be a redfish being only redfish count in the Yeti Pro/AM, but I knew it wasn’t a red.  It was a huge black drum.  The black drum is a fish I’ve wanted to add to my species list for a long time and now I was afraid my team would want me to break him off.  Luckily it was the opposite.  Both Scott and LeighAnn were completely behind me to land this unique fish of the Louisiana flats.


Jeff Currier black drum

It was a hard fight.  The fish went into the backing on the first run then when I got him close he circled a few times.  But, with straight 40lb leader I was able to get him in quick.  I landed my first black drum on fly and he was 33”.  He may not count in the comp but I have a new species for my list and he’s cool as they come!


My slump was over and our team was far from done.  It wasn’t five minutes after I released the black drum that I stuck this respectable redfish.  We now had two of the three fish we needed.


redfish fliesIn the last half hour LeighAnn brought our third fish to the boat.  It was nice to have our three fish to score but it was a little guy.  She turned right around and next cast hooked a big one.  But this one got tangled in weeds and spit her lure.  We really needed a miracle big fish in our last 20 minutes.


I lost track of time but knew there wasn’t much left.  When Scott announced there were five more minutes he was poling us out to where LeighAnn had just lost her big one.  I scanned hoping to catch a glimpse of a red but it wasn’t a redfish that made me cast.  It was a group of mullet that jumped.  Only it wasn’t the normal casual mullet free jump.  These ones sprinkled like fleeing baitfish.  I saw some nervous water along with so I tossed my fly to the spot and stripped.


Jeff Currier flyfishing for redfishI made at least three casts to the area.  The water remained nervous like something was there but I couldn’t draw a strike.  Scott declared, “Two more minutes”.


I made one last cast to the nervous water but turned my head to start scanning for a new target.  That’s when I went tight.  Fish on!  And this fish had some weight to him!


Big redfish start their fight slowly.  Like they’re winding up.  They don’t make an immediate run but rather start a tug-o-war.  That’s when I felt the heft of this one.  I cleared my line then fought back hard.  This sent the redfish on a scorching run.  Off went my fly line and at least 30 feet of backing.  Yea man, this was a good fish!


Jeff Currier LeighAnn Bakunas redfishI won’t bore you with describing the fight but it was a dandy.  And when we got our first glimpse of the redfish my knees got weak.  This was a colossal red fish.  Soon he was tired and Scott was able to grab him and with some help from me, we lifted him in the boat.  Wow!


We had a monster.  This redfish measured 43.5”.  There was some hooting and hollering amongst us.  We clicked some pictures then let the stunning animal go.  Scott smiled and said, “That’s the biggest redfish on the fly in my boat this year!”


Yeti Ambassador SummitScotts comment meant one thing, we would score well.  And score well we did.  Luckily our motor worked fine and we raced back to Venice.  After a quick trip to the Lighthouse Hotel we hit the Yeti party back at the Journey South Fishing Lodge.  And we partied!  We had a magnificent meal then Yeti read off Day 1 results.  Our team is in second place.  We are 13” behind first and only 1” above third.  And the big red was THE big red.  My last cast produced the biggest of the tourney so far!


We have our work cut out tomorrow.  The forecast is horrible but that’s ok.  It will take some luck to get to first place but other teams have work to do to get to us.  And in bad weather it won’t be easy.  Stay tuned. . . .


Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing

1 Comment

  1. Matthew Norton

    Congrats once again Jeff! That is a monster and the drum is cool as heck! Fitting you and the BEER & BBQ Manager are teamed up LOL. I think I need to send my resume to YETI!

Welcome to the Blog of Jeff Currier!

Contact Jeff

I started fly fishing at age 7 in the lakes and ponds of New England cutting my teeth on various sunfish, bass, crappie and stocked trout. I went to Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, where I graduated with a Naturalist Degree while I discovered new fishing opportunities for pike, muskellunge, walleyes and various salmonids found in Lake Superior and its tributaries.

From there I headed west to work a few years in the Yellowstone region to simply work as much as most people fish and fish as much as most people work. I did just that, only it lasted over 20 years working at the Jack Dennis Fly Shop in Jackson, WY where I departed in 2009. Now it’s time to work for "The Man", working for myself that is.

I pursue my love to paint fish, lecture on every aspect of fly fishing you can imagine and host a few trips to some of the most exotic places you can think of. My ultimate goal is to catch as many species of fish on fly possible from freshwater to saltwater, throughout the world. I presently have taken over 440 species from over 60 countries!