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Masters of the marsh

By By Mike Giles / outdoors writer
June 27, 2003
Although I've caught more than my fair share of lunker bass and huge freshwater stripers, I had never been offshore fishing until this week. I was somewhat hesitant about going, but jumped at the chance when the offer finally came. Our destination was to be the home of Bobby and Juanita Bryan at Leeville, Louisiana who, along with their sons Darel and David, operate Marsh Masters guide service.
Shortly after we got a good cup of coffee to start the morning, Captain Bryan came in and the action started. Captain Bryan is a larger than life figure who changed careers late in life and found his calling in the saltwater guiding business. "Boys, we're going to make TV stars out of y'all today," boomed Bryan almost nonchalantly. "We've got a film crew coming in for a television show." When it comes to Captain Bryan you always know that there is going to be some good fishing and fun.
Cajun Quest fishing host Mike Rabalais was a surprise guest on our trip. In addition to Captain Bryan, Captain Gary Harp and Otha Barham, Lee and Wylie Burns came along for the trip.
After a few minutes of introductions, we loaded up on the 32-foot boat and headed offshore. Twenty-two miles and numerous oil rigs later, we pulled up to a huge yellow rig and the action began.
Marsh master
Although he is the true Marsh Master, Bobby Bryan also knows a thing or two about offshore fishing and quickly let us know it as he hooked up with the first fish of the day.
While fishing on bottom 30 feet deep, he tied into a beautiful orange colored mangrove snapper, and the race was on.
All the while host Mike Rabalais was really mixing it up while carrying on lively, good spirited banter with the captain. They had obviously fished together many times before and really enjoyed each other's company. Suddenly the mood changed, "Fish on, fish on!" shouted one excited angler. As I turned to look, Rabalais was hooked into a serious fish.
At first it looked like he had a shark or whale on, as he couldn't get much headway on the big bruiser. The fish was definitely what we were looking for, but it was anyone's guess if he could land the lunker. Quite some time later he landed, filmed and released a huge thirty-pound class redfish.
As we quickly learned, Rabalais knew how to catch and release huge fish!
Shortly after Rabalais landed his big bruiser, Otha Barham tied into a nice mangrove snapper. Upon landing that one, he promptly hooked and fought another one. Barham proved that an old country boy from Mississippi could catch fish anywhere! As the action continued almost everyone caught fish. Many of the fish were ten and twelve-pound mangroves and they fought like crazy. If you weren't quick, they would head for the rig and cut off your line. That happened more times than I could remember. "Those mangroves have got a pea sized brain and it tells them one thing head for the rig, head for the rig," repeated Captain Bryan excitedly.
A short while later I tied into a big fish that almost pulled me out of the boat. I had previously expressed a desire to catch a big fish with my bass equipment and now I had the chance. I had captain Bryan's Garcia casting reel and rod in my hands and a giant fish on the other end. As he fought towards the oil rig a couple of times, I was able to turn him and get him headed out to deeper water. Then all I could do was hold on. Every chance I got, I took up some slack, and he would take it right back.
Turns out the fish was a big bull redfish in the 38 to 40 pound class! After a couple of quick photos, we released him to fight another day. By then it was time for a break and I finally took a coke break and relaxed.
Lunkers galore
As we left that rig we moved from spot to spot catching red and gray snapper and an occasional grouper. Suddenly someone spotted a small school of cobia and Rabalais and Lee Burns quickly hooked up a couple of the lunkers at the same time. Two sixty-pound cobias on at the same time in the same boat make for some fast and furious action. About 30 or 40 minutes later there were two proud and tired anglers as both landed their fish.
The giant cobia was the biggest fish that Lee Burns had ever caught, and he had his dad there to help him land it.
Arriving at our last oil rig, it didn't take long before Lee's dad, Wylie, hooked up with a nice mangrove. Suddenly he was the hottest angler on board as he caught snapper after snapper!
What a day for a father and son. Wylie was the lucky recipient of a Father's Day fishing trip courtesy of Lee. Does it get any better than that?
Just as the captain signaled everyone to bring up their lines to make another move, Barham suddenly tied into a big fish. "I think I'm hung up. He won't move," exclaimed the excited angler! Suddenly as if on cue, the big brute started moving and the fight was on.
Quite some time later, Barham landed his biggest fish of the day, a 30-pound plus black drum. It was the last fish of the trip and really fought like a whale. That made two large drums on the day for the veteran angler.
As we made our way back to the camp, everyone was pretty much worn out but excited from catching so many fish.
Many of those were lunkers, and all of them fought like wildcats. If you want to get in on the saltwater trip of a lifetime, you might want to give the old Marsh Master a call at (985) 396-2411.