A little more than a month before the first Southcentral Fishing Association tournament of 2020, water conditions are looking a lot like they did at the same time last year and that development is less than favorable.
Nevertheless, SFA members by the dozens will start planning for the season opener scheduled to be held March 28 out of Quintana Canal Boat Landing at Cypremort Point. The entire schedule, including the date for the SFA Classic, was released Jan. 20 by SFA president Gerrit “T-Blu” Landry of Patoutville.
And as sure as there are spots on redfish, those redfish fishermen, arguably the best in the Teche Area, will bring two redfish within the 16- to 27-inch slot (except for one tournament) to the scale under the pavilion along Quintana Canal that day no matter how tough the fishing conditions are on that last Saturday in March.
Erron Derouen of Rynella starts defense of his 2019 SFA Angler of the Year title in that tournament March 28. Derouen rallied in the fourth and last regular-season tournament with a first-place finish that gave him a total of 590 points, passing up the team of Keo Khamphilavong, Randy Migues and Craig Landry, who finished with 580.
Can anyone unseat Derouen?
:A bunch of people can do it any time of the year at the right time and the right place. These are the best fishermen in the area. But Erron, he’s a good fisherman,” Landry said. “If you can get a good jump, then you’ve got to stay on them for sure. He does that real well. He’s one of the best in the club, for sure.”
Derouen, Khamphilavong, Migues, Craig Landry and Gerrit Landry, plus the rest of the membership, in all likelihood must deal with unfavorable water conditions again in the first tournament of 2020.
“I just hope the high river water doesn’t mess us up like the last few years. I went out about three weeks ago and the water was pretty. If we can get the wind to stop …,” he said Friday morning, his voice trailing off, hopefully, knowing that would help improve water conditions.
Based on past openers in March, this is the tournament with the highest, or “best,” weights.
“March and April. I guess the bait’s there and they’re eating more,” the tournament director said.
Landry, set for his eighth year at the helm of the organization, and his father had a limit of redfish before noon, big redfish at that, on that recent outing, he said.
The Atchafalaya River stage already is unseasonably high, like it was in 2018 and again in 2019. As of Thursday, the river stage at Butte La Rose was at 17.7 feet, dropping slowly and forecast to be around 17.4 feet by noon today. That’s approximately 6 or 7 feet higher than any saltwater fisherman worth his salt wants it because the freshwater intrusion via the Wax Lake Outlet impacts the water in and around Vermilion Bay.
At this time in 2019, the river stage was at 16.76 feet and forecast to rise to 17.8 feet. The 2019 opener was March 30.
“If we’ve got good weather, if it’s calm, I’d like to see 24-25 boats, for sure,” Landry said.
The rest of this year’s schedule has the SFA back at Cypremort Point for regular-season tournaments on April 25, which will be a draw-the-high-slot number tournament; May 23, and June 20. The SFA Classic will be held July 18.
Entry fee is $100 per event per boat. Registration is set for the morning of the tournament up until 5:50 a.m. Payout for each tournament is 35 percent of the purse for first; 20 percent for second; 10 percent for third; 8 percent for fourth, and 7 percent for fifth. The remaining 20 percent goes toward the SFA and the SFA Classic.
The fishing hours for the first tournament in March are from 6:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. For the regular-season tournaments and the SFA Classic, fishing hours are from 6 a.m.-3 p.m.
SFA membership dues are $25 for adults and $10 for boys and girls 15 and under.
The SFA welcomes new members, Landry said, urging area outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen who would like to join the organization to call him at 380-0387. There were more than 100 members in 2019.
“A bunch of new guys have been calling. It looks like we’ll have a good year. A bunch of new people and a bunch of older members are coming back,” he said.
The Top 25 anglers in the point standings after June 20 qualify for the SFA Classic with no entry fee required. Also, any winner of a regular-season event qualifies automatically with no entry fee for the SFA Classic.
SFA officials added a new rule last year to allow members who don’t automatically qualify for the SFA Classic to fish the event as long as they pay the entry fee of $100.
Last year’s SFA Classic was won by Gerrit Landry, Jeremy “Tooky” Lasseigne and Brady Derise, whose two-fish limit weighed 15.45 pounds for $1,600. Their Calcutta-winning biggest redfish, an 8.05-pounder, was worth another $170.
They will be gunning for that title and more.
“We’re going to try like hell. We’re going to give it our best shot,” Landry said.
The SFA’s annual end-of-the-year supper tentatively is scheduled for July 31 at the American Legion Hall in Lydia.
DON SHOOPMAN is outdoors editor of The Daily Iberian.