After experiencing a very strong redfish bite in late January, Ralph had the idea of entering the Lowcountry Redfish Cup’s first event of 2012: The Charleston SC, North event on 2/4/12. As I have never entered a “big-time” tournament, this would prove to be a great experience regardless of the outcome.
I drove back from business in Jacksonville, FL to meet up with Ralph and our wives at Reds Ice House for registration and the captain’s meeting on Friday. The turnout was a who’s-who of lowcountry inshore fishing, with 61 boats entered in the tournament. We received our launch number (34) and headed out to dinner, then home to prepare for an early morning.
Saturday AM we launched the boat and headed to the City Marina. The number of flats boats of all types was staggering. As we waited for our number to be called, we watched as boat after boat turned and headed toward the Intracoastal waterway, with the extensive flats that they have to offer. We were one of only a handful of boats to head north. We motored at full speed to our destination to find no boats on the spot – a good sign! Well, as fishing goes, the fish were there but not like they had been in weeks leading up to this morning.
So, we set about finding the fish. We fished a cove with a rocky point and I cast up near the grass and worked my jig out across the rocks and hooked up with a really nice fish. The longer I fought it the more it pulled or so it seemed. You know you have a big fish when you have trouble fitting it in the net! This was my biggest redfish ever, at 33″ and over 15 lbs.
We kept fishing structure and I caught a potentially perfect fish. Upon first measure it was exactly 23″, the legal upper limit for redfish. We re-measured carefully and it was just over the limit, at 23 1/16″, so we released it. Undeterred, we kept at it until Ralph got a strike, and then hooked a nice 22.5″ fish. I put it in the live well, and Ralph continued to pull fish off this spot, as I made sure we always had a line in the water. It was a school of “tourney-fish” all above 21″ and we eventually had six fish in the well – all over 21″. We carefully measured and weighed and culled them down to three “triplets” of 22+”, 4 lb fish. With smiles on our faces, and a few hours till weigh-in, we slowly made our way back to the marina.
At the weigh-in, we heard many stories of being surrounded by hundreds of fish but they would not bite. We took our time to get in line to weigh-in, and our fish were 4.2 and 4.1 lbs. We watched the remainder of the weigh-in and saw no one with more weight than us. After the scores were tallied, we ended up in 5th place. Not bad for my first real tournament! I learned a lot from Ralph about adapting to the situation at hand, working as a team, and especially having fun.