The preseason outlook is much brighter for the first Southcentral Fishing Association tournament of the year compared to this time in 2020.

The Atchafalaya River is lower than it usually is in mid-winter and that’s positive news for waters in and around Vermilion Bay. SFA Director Gerrit “T-Blu” Landry gives that a big thumb’s less than a month before the opener March 13.

“With the river staying low like it did, it (the Cypremort Point area) ought to have pretty good fishing this year. I don’t think it’ll be as muddy and fresh, even if it comes up right now. Last year it was at 18 (at Butte La Rose),” Landry said Thursday from his home in Patoutville.

The river stage Thursday at Butte La Rose was 10.82 feet with a forecast to start falling Sunday. It should fall much, much more based on the forecast for the Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois, which is dropping like a rock.

“Hopefully, we have a better year than the past couple of years. Hopefully, the weather cooperates so we don’t have to move anything,” he said, recalling that last year with weather, river and coronavirus pandemic restrictions, the circuit was backed up two months.

Each boat’s goal is to bring back the best two “slot” redfish and get them to the weigh-in under the pavilion along Quintana Canal. Redfish must be within 16 inches to 27 inches when measured on the SFA’s “Check Stick.”

No one did that better last year than Keith Delahoussaye of New Iberia and Quentin Comeaux of Delcambre. They won three of the four regular-season tournaments to claim the Angler(s) of the Year title and put a big exclamation point on the year by winning the SFA Classic with two redfish weighing 17.20 pounds.

Who, if anyone, will challenge the defending championship team in 2021? We’ll find out starting March 13, the first contest of the year.

Delahoussaye, for sure, realizes a repeat won’t be easy against the caliber of redfish fishermen in and around the Teche Area.

“Those guys are tough, very good fishermen. Let me tell you, these guys (SFA members) that are fishing, every single one of them are good fishermen. SFA’s tough, good competition. Those guys fish hard and they have knowledge. It’s a very competitive club, believe me,” he said before last year’s regular-season finale.

The SFA’s director agreed and said winning back-to-back titles is the exception rather than the rule. Delahoussaye and Comeaux could be unseated.

“I think it’s possible. The good thing about the club is it ain’t the same one every year. We have a couple go back-to-back or skip every other year. These are the best fishermen in the area fishing with us,” Landry said.

Landry and his Gotta Have Faith crew could pass the defending champs with the right bites.

“Most of the time you’ve got that one fish and are waiting for one kicker fish. Sometimes it’s a challenge but we’ve got just as good a team as anybody in there,” he said about his crew of Brady Derise and Jeremy “Tooky” Lasseigne on the 23-foot Key West.

After the SFA opener the second Saturday of March, the rest of the regular-season schedule unfolds over the next three months. The second tournament is scheduled for April 10, followed by the third one on May 8 and the fourth-and-final event on June 5.

The SFA Classic’s date is July 17.

Tournament hours are from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. each of those Saturdays except the opener on March 13, when takeoff is at 6:30 a.m. and weigh-in at 3 p.m.

Entry fee per tournament is $100 per boat with a maximum of five people in the boat. Entry fees will be accepted up until 5:50 a.m. the day of the tournament.

SFA membership is $25 per year for those 16 and older. For boys and girls 15 years old and younger, membership fee is $10.

More and more youngsters are getting on tournament boats in the club with an active membership of approximately 120 anglers in 2020.

“I think a bunch of us in the club have got kids the same age. Most of them fish against each other on the Fourth (Iberia Rod & Gun Club Saltwater Fishing Rodeo). Now they’re starting to fish in our club, which is great,” Landry said.

He said the more members the merrier and encouraged the area’s many saltwater fishermen to join the SFA. Call 380-0387 for more information.

DON SHOOPMAN is outdoors editor of The Daily Iberian.

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