UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Ft. Gibson

Stormy relationship

Stormy relationship
Tournament director Dan Grimes huddles under a heavy downpour with first-place anglers Trey Snopek and Trey Hallmark.

VENICE, La. - By the time Steve Snopek and Trey Hallmark wrestled the day-one lead from Alden Bourgeois and Todd Dufour with their 17-pound, 1-ounce limit, much more had changed than the top weight at the Wal-Mart FLW Redfish Series Western Division event at Venice Marina.

When Bourgeois and Dufour set their early mark within the first five minutes of the weigh-in, they were squinting against bright afternoon sunlight. An hour later, Snopek, Hallmark and Tournament Director Dan Grimes blinked away rain drops from a gusty storm that blanketed Venice Marina.

Sweeping across the delta, that nasty weather not only shut down the afternoon sight-fishing game forA heavy thunderstorm approaching Venice Marina popped its cork around 3:30 and drenched the weigh-in stage. many teams, it severely limited where they could run and prompted many premature departures. Rain and wind rarely intimidate experienced tournament competitors, but Mother Nature's electrical temper tantrums are a different story.

Put it this way: Conditions grew so hazardous at one point that teams reported seeking shelter wherever they could find it. Snopek and Hallmark had to make themselves impromptu house guests at a vacant marsh camp. "We had to hop off on somebody's cabin and spend an hour of our time there while the lightning was popping all around us."

Despite losing valuable fishing time, Snopeck and Hallmark were comfortable with what they weighed on day one.

"I think we got the max that we could catch today," Snopek said. "We worked hard for the fish that we got."

The leaders ran northeast of Venice past the Delacroix Marsh to find cleaner water. Heavy rains in the northern United States have fattened the Mississippi River, and that has left the Venice area muddier than normal. Snopek and Hallmark sought areas outside of the river's levees, where the silty flow wouldn't affect redfish habitat.

Spinnerbaits and jigs were among the most productive baits for tournament competitors.Throwing 1/8- and ¼-ounce spinnerbaits, they looked for the thickest hydrilla beds in the spots they fished, while avoiding the patches overlaid with the bright green algae common to the summer months.

"We're catching bigger fish the farther we get back in there," Snopek said. "There's a lot of boat traffic around, and I think those fish are getting pushed farther and farther back into that grass. We were just burning our spinnerbaits across the top just like buzzbaits."

Hallmark said the action was consistent throughout most of the day. "We'd catch them from the minute we'd get (to a spot) until the minute we'd leave."

Banging the edges aggressively was necessary to stimulate somewhat lackadaisical redfish.

"TheseFLW official Mike Lundy checked in plenty of big redfish on day one. fish aren't really aggressive; they're not chasing baits really well," Hallmark said. "If you can see them, you can catch 75 percent of them. But when you can't see them, they're not chasing baits, so we basically beat the bank - we just never stopped casting and reeling."

Going into day two, the top team has confidence in their ability to match their performance, and Hallmark said the key will be staying on the right group of fish: "The key is knowing where the big fish are. We practiced for five days before this tournament, and we found the heavy fish the third day. Luckily, they're still there - they're hanging in the same structure."

Snopek added: "We have two spots that we didn't even go to today. We had a lot of traffic around us, and that's one of the reasons we didn't go to those spots."

Bourgeois-Dufour second

Running north to Lafitte, La., the second-place anglers sight-fished clear water along the grassy edges of Alden Bourgeois and Todd DuFour took an early lead, but slipped to second at the end of day one.duck ponds. Positioning near pond drains, Bourgeois and Dufour cast selectively to fish exiting with the tide. Throwing spinnerbaits and jigs with scented soft plastics, they caught 20 redfish, with their best two weighing 16-9.

"We don't have a lot of fish in our areas, but we have five or six spots where we have a shot at catching a good fish," Dufour said. "We were just going around and trying to pick up an 8-pounder, and if we're lucky, two. Out of six spots, that's what happened.

"We were just waiting and picking out what we'd hope were the right fish. That's why we only caught 20 fish. We probably could have caught 40, but you don't want to waste your time with little fish."

Dufour said he and Bourgeois enjoyed their best action early in the morning during the outgoing tide, although their heaviest fish came later in the afternoon. Once the water started rising, the fish turned finicky and they had to work harder for their bites.

"Later in the day, they were tougher to catch - you had to cast at them a couple of times," Dufour said. "In the morning, you knew whatever you threw, they were going to hit it."

Randazzo-Wallbaum third

Venice guides Anthony Randazzo and Billy Wallbaum decided to stay in their local waters and target shallow flats with milfoil and widgeon grass (aka "coontail"). They spent the first half of their day sight-fishing shallow water, caught what Randazzo termed "a world of fish," but decided to shift gears Local guides Anthony Randazzo and Billy Wallbaum stayed in Venice and focused on deep water patterns.when the right fish eluded them.

"We couldn't catch the quality fish that we knew we'd need to put us in contention for the (final round)," Randazzo said. "So we switched over to a different pattern, got out of the clean, shallow water and moved to some off-color, slightly deeper water, and that really paid off for us."

Their adjustment yielded a pair of 8-pound-plus redfish totaling 16-7.

Randazzo, who has guided in the Venice area for 20 years, said he was amazed at how differently the local conditions and fish behavior lined up during three days of practice. Uncertainties still remained on day one, but he and Wallbaum relied on their local knowledge and experience to work through the challenges.

Fourth place anglers Sal Fontana and Tony Grose carry their catch from the weigh-in stage."We're trying to figure it all out," Randazzo said. "Every day has been a learning experience. That's the cool thing about fishing is that nobody ever learns everything there is to learn. Just yesterday, I learned some really neat stuff about this place. I learned a few shortcuts, and I found some productive areas that I never knew about that are close to where I have been fishing."

While many competitors ran far from Venice to escape the muddy water, Randazzo and Wallbaum decided that they would do best by sticking to what they practice nearly every day.

"We will sight-fish if given the opportunity, but the deep-water structure and the blind-casting is our forte - it's what we make a living doing every day," Randazzo said. "We just have to put the pieces of the puzzle together and make this thing work."

Best of the rest

In fourth place, Sal Fontana of Metaire, La., and Tony Grose of New Orleans caught a limit weighing 16 pounds, 4 ounces. Stephen Stork of Houston and Bo Johnson of Cape Coral, Fla., placed fifth with 16-0.

Rounding out the top 10 leading teams at the FLW Redfish Series Western event at Venice are:Bo Johnson and Stephen Stork landed in the fifth-place spot on day one.

6th: Dwayne Eschete and Blake Pizzolato, 15-14
6th: Charlie Thomason and Britt Ordes, 15-14
8th: Clark Jordan and Chief Tauzin, 15-12
9th: Mike Patterson and Brett Phillips, 15-11
9th: Doug Colvin and Jeremy Turner, 15-11

Wal-Mart FLW Redfish Series action in Venice continues at Friday's takeoff, scheduled to take place at 6 a.m. CDT at Venice Marina, located at 237 Sports Marina Road in Venice. Weigh-in starts at 3 p.m. at Venice Marina.

Tags: david-a-brown  headline-story  2008-06-12-venice 

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