Each year, usually in early fall, a few dozen angling enthusiasts convene at the Lighthouse Lodge near Venice, Louisiana. They’re invited by Eric Cosby, who heads up Top Brass Tackle, the organizer of an event now in its 18th year called Marsh Madness. most of these enthusiasts are in the tackle industry or fishing media, and enough tow down boats to accommodate one to three others so everyone gets out fishing for the three-day event.
Let the Games Begin — Leaving Venice Marina
We certainly couldn’t fault the weather, as a few of the many Marsh Madness boats head out of Venice Marina on day one.
Full Throttle Into the Marsh
Several boats roar into a canal that winds into the marsh. Quite a few Marsh Madness participants towed down their bass boats, well-suited to this fishery.
The Skunk is Off — Landing a Good Redfish
Seaguar’s Brian Evans shows how it’s done on the first morning.
Redfish in the Boat
Brian Evans rejoices in the day’s first redfish; looking on is Hal Schramm who drove his boat to the spot.
Leading a Reluctant Bull Red into the Net
A trio of Marsh Madness anglers tries to lead an oversized redfish into an undersized net.
Big Fish, Small Net
The landing net barely contains the heavy redfish.
Venice Offshore Cats Return to the Venice Marina Dock
Some anglers fished for tuna and swords out around the deepwater oil rigs. Big catamarans with triple or quad outboards make the run of 50 miles and more in good time.
Venice Marina on a Busy Sunday Afternoon
Crowds gather around fish-cleaning tables (far left) and upstairs for a cold one on a warm October afternoon.
The Mighty Muddy Mississippi
Though the breeze came up as second morning wore on, the main obstacle for anglers was the unseasonably dirty brown water that pretty much precluded many sight-casting opportunities.
Redfish Comes to the Boat
Z-Man’s national sales manager Glenn Young eases a redfish toward him, after he hooked it on a DieZel MinnowZ and one of Z-Man’s new EZ KeeperZ weighted hook. I took this shot while trying GoPro’s new Hero 5 black, on an extendable stalk (advising the camera by voice command when to start and stop taking photos thanks to its new voice-activation feature which really works!).
Redfish in the Marsh
Blind-casting (in the turbid waters) along the edges of the tall grass worked for Glenn Young, the marsh evident in the background.
Big Bull Provides Light-Tackle Excitement
Our captain on day two, Eddie Permenter, found some water just clean enough for Glenn Young to spot a school of big reds. I cast quickly but missed a strike. Second cast brought another whack but I couldn’t set the hook. Quickly I reeled in and cast out to where I thought the school was moving and got nailed hard, this time to stay connected. On a tiny new Shimano Stradic CI4+ with 14-pound braid, I was in for quite a battle. We put the big bull over the side moments after this shot.
Got a Light?
A common part of the landscape around Venice is the sight of towers burning off gas, more or less constantly, as a refining byproduct.
Although this was at least 50 feet above the ground, we felt the heat strongly as we zoomed past, below the (noisy) flames, on a canal.
Cajun Cuisine to Serve 50
Ken Sherman tends to a humongous pot of “pastalaya” — pasta jambalaya — to feed the Marsh Madness participants.
We made a run with Eddie Permenter to Breton Island where mullet and smaller baitfish seemed to be pretty much everywhere, that fact hardly lost on the pelicans.
Easy does it — Myles Freeman, president of sales for sunglasses manufacturer Wiley X, tries to coax a reluctant redfish closer to the net, held by Bo Tidwell, on whose Skeeter Bay Boat we were fishing.
The Reluctant Redfish Tires
Freeman’s fish, one of the few caught on a tough day, fell for a Z-Man ChatterBait; the bright gold blade and chartreuse tail an eminently visible choice for such muddy water.
After many casts over the course of the morning, Myles Freeman is glad the efforts paid off with a good redfish in the hand.
Fishing in the Slop
Bassmaster editor James Hall (at the helm) and friends work the choppy east side of Breton Island — where shortly after this photo was taken, Hall had for a brief time a tarpon estimated at upwards of 200 pounds on his ChatterBait lure.
Black Drum Surprise
Casting near a jetty rewarded me with this black drum after a brief but spirited battle.