Paperwork is turned in, entry fees paid, calcuttas entered, boat launched, and were sitting in the boat waiting for the horn. It is the Emerald Coast Redfish Circuit tournament 4 out of North Bay. Coming into this tournament we are in 3rd for the Team of the Year standings and only have one more season tournament left after this. We have done our homework and studied for the last three weeks to make sure we have every opportunity to jump a place or two in the standings.
Horn blows and all the boats took off, and headed every direction. Two boats stayed in North Bay, two in West Bay, 3 in St Andrews Bay, and the rest headed for East Bay, St Joe, and Appalachicola. Jake and I have been on 5-7-pound reds in East Bay, and had a plan mapped out for the day, we made a beeline for spot number 1. The plan for spot one was to catch the wind pattern, drift the flat, and hold up on the point. We have found a strong tidal swing and movement at the point causes a feeding frenzy, and usually big fish. We arrived on the flat, as we drifted, Jake hooked up, 16-inch trout. The trout went in the live well since we were in the trout Calcutta. We made it to the point, poled down and watched and casted for a little while. It was a dead high, no movement, and apparently that means the rats come out to play. We probably caught 7 rats in a matter of 45 minutes. We discussed and decided to head to spot number two while waiting for the tidal swing and come back if we couldn’t find anything.
Spot 2 usually holds 3 -4 pounders with occasional 5 and 6 pounders mixed it. We drifted the flat, fan casting, looking for a slot red, hopefully big. I threw Saltwater Assassin Sea Shad and Jake threw Saltwater Assassin Shiner. We drifted about 20 minutes with nothing, I began to question things and why. Then I threw, let it sit for about 5 seconds, reeled, felt weight, set the hook, drag pulled and we poled down. I knew then it was a red, hopefully slot. Landed a 22.5-inch red that weighed at 3.78 pounds, not the right fish, but got the skunk out of the boat. We fan casted for about 2 minutes in that spot and I see Jake set hook and his drag pulled. Net it, land it, measured at 23.5 and weighed 4.35 pounds. We knew we had roughly 8.25 pounds, that is not going to win any tournament, but we have a dog in the fight now. We lifted the pole and started moving again and realized a dark, cold windy, front headed our direction. The bite was done on the flat and moved to a spot we caught 11 pounds at the last Florida Pro.
As we headed to the next spot, it begun to lightning and rain, we called an audible and headed for the Marina. We sat out the storm at the Marina for about an hour or so. There are a lot of things I will chance and risk, lightning is not one. The rest of the day, we caught rats, and nothing bigger. We didn’t see big ones, we didn’t catch big ones, we couldn’t find big ones. We headed back to weigh in and hoped that everyone else struggled just as we did.
While waiting to weigh in, we over heard talk of teams not catching a single fish, teams not catching fish over 3 pounds, and talk of low weights at this tournament. That gave us a little hope, but also knew they could all be blowing smoke. Big weight was 11.6 pounds caught 100 yards from our first spot, next were two teams with 10 pounds from Apalachicola and then 9 pounds from St Andrews. We placed 6th which usually wouldn’t be good enough to move in the standings, but the first-place team didn’t fish this one and we beat the second, fourth, and fifth place team.
It was a rough day fishing, the bite stopped at 9 in the morning except for rats and small trout. We continued to grind and were thankful we chose to move early and find fish as soon as possible to weigh in. We didn’t bring the biggest of weights, but managed to do enough to move to 1st place in Team of the Year Standings.