The kick off tournament of the Emerald Coast Redfish Circuit was amongst us. We
expected to experience the same short tides, 2 highs and 2 lows and about the same
weather 15 to 20 mph winds out of the North as 2 weeks previous at the Florida Pro
Redfish Series where we finished 19th.
Leading up to the tournament Jake and I had pre-fished 2 days in 5 different areas to be
prepared and not weigh in with just 2 pounds. The first day of pre-fish went to 1 spot,
caught a 7.01-pound red fan casting and left. The second day of pre-fishing we caught 6.5
pound red at the island and a 7.2-pound red in St. Andrews Bay. We had found roughly 10
schools of reds with over half yielding upper slot reds. We pin pointed what baits, jig
head size, and speed to work to catch the bigger reds.
What's great about the Emerald Coast Redfish Circuit, besides low entry cost and 3
calcuttas to buy into, it has more of a good time, relaxed environment. We bought into most
spots and big trout calcuttas. We thought about buying into the big red, but knew 7 teams were
making runs for the bigger reds. We were going to head towards the island to fish one of the
schools we found, when we came out of Callaway Bayou and it was capping 2-3 ft waves, we
changed our mind quickly. Instead, went to find the school we found the weekend before in
East Bay that produced a 7-pound red. We arrived at the point, power poled down, and begin
to fan cast, since it was over cast and windy, and no visibility. Third cast and hung a
2-pound trout at 19 inches. Next cast, catch a 17-inch trout, next cast, a 16-inch red, and
more and more trout. The wind and waves were beating us down being in the open. We moved
to a cove we knew out of the weather and would come back later when it warmed up.
Got to the cove, dropped the trolling motor and begin to slowly beat the banks looking for
big trout and reds. Again, it was trout after trout after trout and nothing bigger than 16
inches. Just as we are about ready to move, I hooked up but this time no head shake and it
nosed down, hung a 21-inch red weighing in at 3 lbs. We knew that wouldn't place or win
calcuttas. It was a no cull tournament, so we released and moved on.
We went to another cove that has done well for us on standard tides, but sometimes
hard to access on short tides. We manage to get back in there and immediately spotted a upper
slot red with the little bit of sun that appears every so often a minute at a time. Casted,
jigged, waited, and nothing. Sun is behind clouds again so we can't see where he is or went.
Sun appeared again and red is gone, no idea where. We worked through the cove, fan casting
and trying to sight cast when allowed. We saw a handful of middle to lower slots reds and
nothing would eat.
It is now 11 AM with weigh in at 3 PM. We have a 2-pound trout in the live and aren't
finding the schools of upper slots we were hoping for. We went back to the first point as the sun
became a constant, water rippled from the wind. Why we worked around the point, I noticed
blue tails moving about 75 feet in front of us, couldn't tell how big, just they moved away from us.
I told Jake, be ready, we are going to try and cut an angle and get within distance so we could cast
ahead of them. As we angled, the blue tails got closer, I said now, we both threw ahead, both jigged
once, and both hooked up. We hung a 4-pound red and a 3.75-pound red. Normally we wouldn't keep
either unless it was a cull tournament, we weren't seeing much and Jakes 3.75-pound red had 10 spots.
We knew that red was a candidate to place in the Calcuttas and when us something. After pulling two
out of that school, everything spooked and couldn't find another red in that area.
We ran to a flat that was either hit or miss for us in the past. We drifted the flat
throwing soft plastics and caught a 20-inch red. We saw big trout but they refused to eat, and spooked
off. We followed that flat around a bend and found calm, smooth, clear, shallow water. Once we were in
the smooth water, we found the school of upper slot reds we had been looking for. We couldn't breathe
hard without spooking a fish. There were probably 10 in that school of upper slots, and could never get
in casting distance due to how spooky with the clear, smooth, shallow water.
We finished 8 out of 25 teams, 14 teams weighed in, only 8 teams had 2 fish. The conditions were
hard and the big fish became scare and few and far between. Winning weight we right at 12 pounds, followed
by 11, then to 9 and below. We took 2nd in both calcuttas, missing 1st in spots by 1 spot and trout by half a pound.
All and all for first tournament, considering conditions, it was a good tournament and we did take home some money for the calcuttas.