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By Justin Willmer

In part one of our US adventures we visited the ICAST tackle trade show and hit the water in search of a redfish with Cajun Fishing Adventures. Our day two plans in Louisiana were to roll south to The Mexican Gulf Fishing Company to tangle with a few tuna around the oil rigs, followed by half a day back in the Louisiana marshland chasing redfish before it was back on the long haul flight to Australia and a mad preparation for Australia's AFTA trade show, complete with new products from the US show.

Venice Marina, 'The Fishing Capital of the World', looked like a scene from a movie... shrimp boats, timber boardwalks and jetties, plenty of game boats, floating accommodation that you could tie your boat up to when finished for the day and plenty of colourful characters. Daniel, Gareth and I were to meet Captain Kevin Beach at the marina to board his boat 'Pale Horse' and head out into the Mexican Gulf to target tuna around the many FADs that litter the gulf in the form of oil rigs.

When I caught the first glimpse of 'Pale Horse' it blew me away... a 37' Freeman Cat, with three 300HP motors! We slow cruised out of the Mississippi River and the hit the throttle and rocketed across the Mexican Gulf, passing oil rigs, skirting a storm, tunes cranked and enjoying our comfortable ride from vinyl bean bags on the bag floor of the boat.

The first stop was an oil rig and then a floating weed mat to gather live baits... big live baits that I would have been happy catching on light spin gear! There were plenty of dolphinfish hanging around the weed mat, but the boat is geared up for big fish, so we didn't have anything light enough to throw small plastics. Luckily, or I could have easily become distracted.

We arrived at our first spot, live baits were put out on a slow troll, anglers nominated as 'on strike' and then within minutes the rods were bent, reels screaming and two at a time we were doing battle with 20-30kg blackfin tuna, along with the odd yellowfin, dolphinfish and shark. It was non-stop tuna action for an hour or so and after three nice blackfin, a new species for me, I tapped out due to only being flathead fit! This was a third new species in two days and I was absolutely stoked. Add to that the boat, professional and friendly crew, incredible location and the fishing and I understand where the 'Fishing Capital of the World' sentiment came from.

We left the fish biting, deployed even larger live baits, including smaller tuna we had caught and it was time to search for a billfish or monster tuna. I took this opportunity to swim the new ZMan 10" HeroZ and test how they rigged and swam on a TT Lures HeadlockZ HD jighead. I would be casting them on a 20000 Stella, loaded with heavy braid and a wind on leader, so I opted for a 3oz 8/0 HeadlockZ HD and selected a Nuked Pilchard Glow 10" HeroZ. A couple of test casts and the action of the HeroZ on a jighead was awesome! On the drop it snaked as it swam down and at speed it looked alive as it snaked through the water. Time to wait for a few tuna to blow up while we trolled the big livies.

We saw some big fish on the sounder and a couple of blow ups in the distance the size of small cars... there were some seriously big tuna in these waters and after our workouts on blackfin for the morning I'm not sure that anyone was keen for those big baits to go off. A couple of baits did get taken and we lost a rig to something big... but we left the barrel there for your trip over. More dolphinfish were landed, along with a shark on a ZMan 5" StreakZ in Bubble Gum that one of the boys trolled out the back. To minimise the damage to the fish all fish were cut off with scissors at the side of the boat, leaving enough tag so that they could still feed effectively and the hook would soon perish.

I did get a chance at the yellowfin and when a few popped up around the boat I lobbed a cast out and cranked it back at speed. Second cast, fish on and a little yellowfin was soon in the boat for a photo and release. A few casts later and I was on again with another yellowfin caught and released. This was an exciting test for the HeroZ and HeadlockZ combo, with the fish having no problem finding the hook on the big plastic. It gave us great confidence in this plastic in these early phases and it has since gone on to produce GTs and other trevally species, tuna, cobia, kingfish and more in Australian waters. The TT Lures HeadlockZ HD jigheads have also been successfully released in the U.S. and are now available at many of the major fishing tackle stores.

It was a great day aboard Pale Horse, with an excellent crew and plenty of fish. The backdrop is amazing, with a run out of the Mississippi River, ships drilling wells, oil rigs, wildlife, big fish and it is an experience that I would recommend to anyone who gets the opportunity. Back at the marina it was time for a coldie and the one blackfin tuna that we kept was cleaned for sashimi that night.

Back in the Bayou

After a feed of sashimi and a big day on the blue there was no problem finding sleep, especially knowing that we would awake to a few hours chasing redfish before returning on a long haul flight to my home flathead waters. I wanted to make the most of my few hours in the marsh, absorb the smells, sounds, sights and take the time to appreciate the redfish as I didn't if or when the opportunity to target them would come again.

We rolled out of the Cajun Fishing Adventures Lodge, flats boat on the back, plenty of TT Lures and ZMan gear in the hatches and an itchy casting finger, launched, shot across the big river and were swallowed up by the marsh. I rigged a ZMan 3" MinnowZ in the new Golden Boy colour on a TT Lures 1/4oz HeadlockZ HD jighead and before long had landed three largemouth bass from channels that ran through the weed. I was having a ball and had watched two of these fish eat the lure, with another just missing as it raced out from cover.

Gareth had rigged a ZMan 4" SwimmerZ in Sexy Mullet colour on a TT Lures SnakelockZ weedless jighead and was landing some nice redfish, along with Daniel and our guide ....... Throughout the morning we spotted and cast to bow waves, edges and sighted fish, landing plenty of redfish, along with a few spotted seatrout, juvenile ladyfish (giant herring) and largemouth bass. I had changed to the 3" MinnowZ in Chartreuse Glow that had been so successful for me on day one and it was again producing, rigged on a 1/4oz 3/0 HeadlockZ HD jighead.

Our few hours flew by and it was soon time to head for home... but not before everyone declaring one more bank... as fishos do. As we cruised into the final section of bank of I was greeted by a sight I had seen in magazines many times over, a tail protruding from the water and moving slowly, the signature tail dot of a redfish clearly visible. I really wanted to finish the trip on a high and land this fish that I had spotted feeding, head down a sloping bank and tail in the air.

I cast to the right of the fish and almost on the bank, hopped the MinnowZ a couple of times and swam it past the fish... no reaction and the boat was slowly moving away down the bank. Second cast into the same spot, hop, hop, roll and this time the fish sensed the lure, lit up and pounced, inhaling the plastic, exploding on the surface and then heading into deeper water. After a stubborn fight the fish was in the net and as I held it for a photo you couldn't wipe the smile off my face. This was the perfect end to my U.S. adventure; sight casting a tailing redfish and watching it eat my plastic.

Thanks to Cajun Fishing Adventures, Mexican Gulf Fishing Company and the team from ZMan Fishing Products, I'm sure that the time spent on the water fishing, testing gear, discussing lure designs, colours and new products will see plenty of new products born that will put bends into to rods of not only anglers in Australia and America, but throughout the angling world. Fish on!

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