UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2020 - Smith Mountain Lake

Quick Bites: FLW Redfish Series Championship, Day 1

Quick Bites: FLW Redfish Series Championship, Day 1
Rome (left) and his son, Tony Gregorio (right), show off the day's catch. Tony Gregorio, 11, represents the youngest angler to qualify for the 2007 Redfish Series Championship.

2007 Wal-Mart FLW Redfish Series Championship
Orange Beach, Ala.
Opening round, Thursday

Wet and wild opening round ... If the 2007 Redfish Series Championship wasn't already shaping up to be difficult enough, Mother Nature made sure that the 100 qualifying teams that hit the open waters of Alabama's Gulf Shore region today would remember this tournament as one of the toughest on record. From nearly the start of takeoff until the beginning of weigh-in, anglers endured near-hurricane conditions - including torrential rains, high winds, lightning, thunder and plenty of big waves. With the Pensacola, Fla., area enduring an actual tornado touchdown, the Orange Beach, Ala., region saw nearly 6 inches of rain fall in just a few short hours. Throw in gusting winds and a variety of other inclement elements, and it was clear that many anglers were suddenly second-guessing their choice of careers. So, just how bad was it? Let's hear from the anglers themselves. "It was rainy, blustery and very hard to keep your concentration," said Redfish Series veteran Greg Watts. "We had squall lines coming in, wind gusts to 25 mph and plenty of lightning. Today, concentration was the biggest key." Greg's brother and partner, Bryan Watts, agreed that it was not an easy day on the water. "We've fished in near tropical storms before, but this was one of the longest days we've ever had fishing."

Patterson and Phillips prevail ... While the majority of the field fell victim to the weather, the team of Mike Patterson and Brett Phillips, both of Rockport, Texas, took control of the 2007 Redfish Series Championship with a 13-pound stringer. But they'd be the first to admit, it wasn't easy. "It was horrendous out there," said Patterson. "It was one of the worst days I've ever had on the water. You have to be a real good fisherman to catch two fish in weather like this." Like most teams, Patterson and Phillips said the torrential rains and wind forced an abrupt change in plans. "We were going to make the 125-mile run to Panama City to fish, but we wound up shutting it down after going 30 miles. (Ultimately) we fished a spot that we'd never really scouted before." The duo said they used a Rapala DT-6 crankbait in both red and purple/chartreuse colors to land their catch. And as for tomorrow? "If the weather clears up and it's really, really calm, we might try to run to Louisiana. But most likely, we'll probably wind up going back to that same spot we fished today."

Eric Holstman of Gulf Breeze, Fla., and Sonny Granger of Pensacola, Fla., finished the day in third place with a total catch of 12 pounds, 5 ounces. Storm? What storm? ... Of all the teams that hit the water today, nobody had a story quite like the third-place team of Eric Holstman of Gulf Breeze, Fla., and Sonny Granger of Pensacola. While every other team came back to the marina covered in rain and sweat from head to toe with their nerves frayed, Holstman and Granger arrived at weigh-in looking like they'd just returned from a trip to Club Med. "We worked really hard today. But for us, the weather wasn't bad at all," said Holstman. "We wound up running all the way to Pascagoula, Miss., (three hours roundtrip) and it was sunny almost the entire time. We took our rain suits off, fished in our shorts and worked on our suntans. It worked out pretty well for us. But when we got back here and heard the stories, we honestly didn't know what everyone was talking about. But then I ran into my girlfriend, and it was clear she was really worried about us. She was just thankful we're OK. Obviously, we're really happy with the way things turned out."

Points leaders fall on hard times ... Heading into the 2007 Redfish Series Championship, three teams were riding a wave of success that earned them the distinction of front-runner status - Tadd VanDemark of Key Largo, Fla., and Kevin Shaw of Corpus Christi, Texas (winners of the 2007 Land O'Lakes Western Division Team of the Year award), the brother team of Cody and Kyle Chivas of Belleair, Fla., and the team of Scott Guthrie of Jacksonville, Fla., and Rick Murphy of Homestead, Fla., (the latter two teams sharing the 2007 Land O'Lakes Eastern Division Team of the Year award). However, after day one of competition, it's clear that regular-season awards don't always translate into postseason success. After today's weigh-in, VanDemark-Shaw could only muster 5 pounds, 4 ounces (good enough for only 55th place). However, that was the good news. The Chivas brothers recorded a scant 4 pounds, 11 ounces (62nd place), while Guthrie-Murhpy finished in 64th place with a total catch of 4 pounds, 6 ounces. VanDemark summed up the teams' frustration. "It was brutal. It rained as hard as I've ever seen it. It was a day to be on the couch."

Stump the fifth-grader ... One of the lighter parts of today's weigh-in came when 11-year-old Tony Gregorio and his father Rome stepped up to the scales. As the youngest competitor by far in the competition, Tony has proven over and over again that age is no obstacle to success - on the water or in a game-show format. Without missing a beat, FLW Outdoors tournament host Dan Grimes took advantage of the popular culture fad by bringing FLW Outdoors tournament director Ronnie Brinegar onto the stage to compete in a trivia contest against the 11-year-old. "OK, let's play `Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?'" said Grimes. When both contestants successfully answered the first question - What is the capital of Texas? - Grimes then posed a follow-up. What is the capital of Mississippi? When Gregorio successfully answered, "Jackson," Brinegar (with tongue planted firmly in cheek) graciously conceded defeat. "I'm not smarter than a fifth-grader," said Brinegar, allowing Gregorio yet another opportunity to bask in the limelight.

Quick numbers:

52: Total number of limits caught during the opening session at Orange Beach, Ala.

69: Total number of teams that weighed in on the first day of competition.

526-13: Total weight, in pounds and ounces, of redfish caught during opening day of competition.

100: Total prize money, in thousands, awarded to the first-place team to win the Orange Beach event.

121: Total redfish caught during opening round.

13: Total pounds recorded by the leaders after day one.

1: Number of teams (Kris Walter of Hudson, Fla., and Danny Winters of Tampa, Fla.) currently in the top five who finished in the top five overall in last year's Redfish Series Championship.

Sound bites:

"We wound up in our backup, backup, backup spot today."
- FLW Redfish Series pro Mike Patterson, commenting on how today's storm impacted their strategy and ability to make long runs during the opening day of the 2007 Redfish Series Championship.

"Not until it hits one of us."
- Redfish Series pro Bryan Watts, answering a question as to whether or not lightning usually affects his team.

"It was ridiculous. It was like a typhoon out there."
- Capt. Mike Miller, Redfish Series pro, on what it was like fishing in today's conditions.

"We're ducking tornadoes and lightning bolts. We're lucky to catch anything today."
- Capt. George Johnson, Redfish Series pro, echoing the sentiments of many anglers in today's competition.

"We're fortunate to catch any fish today. That thunder, it scares the heck out of those redfish."
- Redfish Series pro Brett Phillips, on the difficulty of catching redfish in inclement weather.

"The rain was annoying. All day long it was rain jacket on, rain jacket off, rain jacket on, rain jacket off."
- Redfish Series pro Mark Sepe, on the difficulty of maintaining concentration in today's competition.

"Some of those waves were as big as an FLW trailer. It was one of those days you're just thankful you're alive."
- Redfish Series pro Scott Isbell, on his team's harrowing day on the water.

Day two of Wal-Mart FLW Redfish Series Championship action continues at Friday's takeoff, scheduled to take place at 7 a.m. CDT at The Wharf, located at 23101 Canal Road in Orange Beach, Ala.

Tags: gary-mortenson  quick-bites  2007-10-18-orange-beach 

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