• Anthony Watson

2 for 12

My cousin came to town from North Carolina and asked if Jake and I could take him fishing while he was here. My cousin has done limited fishing in his life; what he has done has been offshore or live bait.

The next catch to this was that it is getting close to tournament time and we are in pre-fish mode. That means we spend the day finding the fish and schools but not hammering them until tournament time. We try to see or catch a tournament fish, we release and we leave so as not to sore lip the whole school.

The plan was to meet at the landing at noon, as my cousin is not an early riser. I couldn’t wait until noon and headed out at 9 a.m

While launching the boat, I noticed the water was very tannic from all the rain water north of us and the rivers dumping in the bays. That meant sight fishing, and a lot of visual cues would be absent, unless you could find the handful of areas around the bays that hold a little bit clearer water.

While waiting on them, I decided to check on a couple of spots that I couldn’t take my cousin due to noise and movement. I went to a couple of docks and ponds that have held this time last year, and the last couple of weeks we made it out — nothing.

I knew fishing a 7:30 a.m. dead low tide with 15 mph winds and tannic water would be tough, but didn’t expect this tough. I headed back at 11 a.m. toward the landing and wanted to check one more spot before I picked them up. There are seven docks in the bays’ systems around here I fish that 80 percent of the time will produce reds. I thought of another one of those docks to hit and see if it was holding before I picked up the fellas.

I got to the dock. Again, no visibility, so I continued to throw the shad with pro cure. I made a cast that was close to a piling and chose not to reel until moving forward so I didn’t hang the piling. I got into position to reel and it didn’t budge, so I jerked trying to snatch it off the piling.

The line started running and drag going out; it wasn’t a piling. The fish ran through three sets of piling and went out the other side. From the pull and run, I assumed I had hooked a big ugly (Black Drum). All I could do was spin the bow toward the dock and reel, hoping it didn’t pop.

I got it back through two sets and it started busting the top. I could see the toad of a red I had. I needed to land this fish for a quick measure, weigh and release to see if it was worth fishing on tournament day. I got it out from under the dock and let it run a little bit on the flats by the dock until I could get the net and land it.

The red turned out to be 26.25 inches, weighing 6.13 pounds. After measuring, weighing and a quick pic, I released it to fight on tournament date. I immediately left that spot not to sore lip the rest and headed to the landing to pick up my stepson and cousin.


It was about time for the tide to start moving, so we headed for some flats. We stopped on the flats in a position so the wind would push us the way we wanted to go and by other docks to investigate. I had my cousin throwing a spoon since he didn’t fish artificial; my son threw a chartreuse tail paddle; and I threw the blazing hornet shad with procure

We were throwing deep, shallow, retrieving fast, slow, jigging and popping. We weren’t catching trout, reds, catfish — I mean nothing. We got to the point we were about to move spots, and I saw a roll on my son’s bait. He threw right back and his drag immediately took off.

We could make out maybe two more reds with it, so I had my cousin throw at those to see if he could have hooked up — nothing. My son landed a chunk of a red at 23 inches, weighing 5.87 pounds. His red had shoulders and was so gorged up on something it looked like the fish’s stomach could bust at any moment.

We released and took off immediately, knowing we had good fish. I told my son it was too bad we were three weeks from tournament and not two, as the tides would be the same. He was like, “Um, we are two weeks out.” I had to check the calendar and he was correct.


The tides are the same two weeks out, unless there is a new moon. So we like to pre-fish, starting three weeks out because: 1) Finding the fish on different possible tides; 2) Week 2 the tides are the same as tournament unless a new moon; and 3) It allows the fish to recover from being hooked and not be pressured until tournament day.

We checked two more spots that day and managed to catch a couple of small trout and a rat red. The fishing was tough and the conditions were rough, but we managed to land 12 pounds which is a good weight to weigh in around here.

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