UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Ft. Gibson

Aces of eights

Aces of eights
First place anglers Todd Dufour and Alden Bourgeois have caught two 8-pound fish in both days of qualifying competition.

VENICE, La. - Wild Bill Hickok was holding two pair - aces and eights - when he was killed during a poker game in 1876. Flash forward 132 years: Todd Dufour and Alden Bourgeois converted the "dead man's hand" into a near perfect performance as they took the lead in the Wal-Mart FLW Redfish Series Western Division event at Venice Marina.

Since day one, stage talk has revolved around the 8-pound average - generally considered the number necessary to win the event. After weighing 16 pounds, 9 ounces on day one, Dufour and Bourgeois added 16-8 on day two for a 33-1 total and the event's only double pair of 8-pounders.

Dufour hails from Marrero, La., Bourgeois from Barataria, La. Both days, they've fished their home waters in Lafitte. As they did on day one, the top anglers again focused on shallow duck ponds, but the dynamics were different on day two.

Bourgeois explained: "It looked like the water was a little higher (in the ponds) today, and the fish were scattered. Yesterday we were fishing these narrow trenches where the water drains, and the fish were weaving in and out of these trenches. But they weren't like that today."

Sight-casting with spinnerbaits and soft plastics on ¼-ounce Saltwater Assassin jigheads, Dufour and Todd Dufour and Alden Bourgeois complemented their spinnerbait attack with scented soft plastics.Bourgeois kept the action close. "We caught our fish within 15 to 20 feet of the boat. We're not making long casts because the grass is so thick you'll never get a fish out of the grass (from a distance). When you see a fish, you'd better be ready to cast to him.

"A lot of times, if you make long casts and stick a fish, he's not even fighting, because all you're doing is pulling in a big ball of grass. We've lost fish that way, so we played it safe and just stuck fish that were close."

The team's first weight fish came early, but then the waiting game ensued. "On our third cast this morning, we stuck a good one, and then we went several hours without even seeing a fish. So we decided to leave that area and go to another area that we had scouted, but we hadn't fished in the tournament yet.

"It paid off because those fish weren't biting when we scouted, but they bit today. We were sweating it out though. We got our second fish about an hour before we had to come in."

Dufour said that despite two good rounds, he and Bourgeois are making no assumptions: "It's been great, and we hope it stays that way, but tomorrow's another day. We're shooting for 16 pounds again tomorrow. We think that's what we'll need to win this thing."

"We had about a dozen spots that we could have tried, but we didn't even get to all of those spots," Bourgeois said. "Maybe we can try those tomorrow."

Fontana-Grose second

Sal Fontana and Tony Grose combined sight-fishing with blind casting tactics and moved into second place.Sal Fontana of Metaire, La., and Tony Grose of New Orleans fished broken marsh in the Empire area on the west side of the river and paired their day-one weight of 16-4 with a day-two effort of 15-11 to qualify for the final round with a second-place total of 31-15.

Spinnerbaits and Berkley Gulp Shrimp have proven highly effective, but Fontana and Grose didn't chose between the two - they combined them by fishing a Gulp Shrimp on their spinnerbait jigheads. This gave them the ability to leverage a spinnerbait's flash and vibration characteristics, but instantly switch to a dead-stick presentation when needed.

"Sometimes, the fish will spook away from a spinnerbait," Grose said. "If they turn off from the bait and you can put another cast on them, you just reel it up to them and let it drop it and let it sit like if you were going to fish a Gulp on a hook, and they just pick it up.

"If they're not committed, they'll spook off of it, but if you can get it really close to them and they don't Combining two productive redfish tactics, Sal Fontana and Tony Grose fished Berkley Gulp! Shrimp on spinnerbaits.want to run after it, just let it go and hit the bottom."

The anglers also like to integrate fishing styles with Fontana blind-casting to cover water and hopefully locate fish, while Grose focuses on sight-casting to specific targets. Their strategy produced plenty of small fish early, but the big reds eluded them until the afternoon. Grose attributes this to the day-two weather.

"Yesterday, when it started storming on us (in the afternoon), is when we caught the big fish," Grose said. "Today we were hoping for a little bit of the same thing, but we didn't get it. We didn't catch big fish until noon."

Eschete-Pizzolato third

Gaining three spots from their sixth-place day-one finish, Dwayne Eschete of Mandeville, La., and Blake Pizzolato of Montgomery, Texas, ran west of the Mississippi Delta and fished the marshes of Cocodrie. There, they secured two big reds weighing 15 pounds, 9 ounces and boosted their total to 31-7.

Casting at wakes and pushes proved productive for third-place anglers Dwayne Eschete and Blake Pizzolato.Casting white Berkley Gulp Shrimp on ¼-ounce Saltwater Assassin jigheads, they targeted shallow duck ponds with stumps and interior grass. With cloudy conditions muting the natural light, Eschete said his team had to modify their preferred sight-fishing tactics.

"The last couple of days we haven't had a lot of sun, so we've been fishing a lot of pushes and fish-chasing bait," he said. "We're just throwing in front of the fish and letting them find the bait."

Eschete said his team elected to make the 110-mile trip to Cocodrie because the purely saltwater environment made it easier to keep their fish healthy than the brackish waters of the Mississippi Delta. Redfish can live in completely fresh water, but they fare better in briny abodes - particularly in summertime heat.

"We fished last week in Delacroix (northeast of Venice), and the biggest problem we had was that we Moving up from eleventh to fourth, Steve Reupke and Frank Duxstad made the biggest jump in the top five.put some fish in the livewell, but we couldn't keep them alive," Eschete said. "We didn't want to take the chance of catching some good fish and winding up with a dead-fish penalty."

Also, Eschete said he caught eight 8-pound redfish in the Cocodrie area during practice. "We knew the fish were there, so it was just a matter of going over there and getting them to bite."

Best of the rest

In fourth place, Steve Reupke and Frank Duxstad caught a limit weighing 15 pounds, 11 ounces for a 31-5 total. In fifth, Steve Snopek and Trey Hallmark caught 14-3 for a 31-4 total.

Day-one leaders Trey Hallmark and Steve Snopek slipped to fifth on day two.Rounding out the top 10 leading teams at the FLW Redfish Series Venice event:

6th: Clark Jordan and Chief Tauzin, 30-11
7th: Mike Patterson and Brett Phillips, 30-11
8th: Stephen Stork and Bo Johnson, 30-10
9th: David Nelsoney Sr. and David Nelsoney Jr., 30-4
10th: Jonathon Culpepper and Kris Culpepper, 30-3

Wal-Mart FLW Redfish Series action in Venice continues at Saturday's takeoff, scheduled to take place at 6 a.m. CDT at Venice Marina, located at 237 Sports Marina Road in Venice. Saturday's final weigh-ins start at 4 p.m. at the Wal-Mart store located at 1501 Manhattan Blvd. in Harvey, La.

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