UPCOMING EVENT: TACKLE WAREHOUSE PRO CIRCUIT - 2020 - Harris Chain of Lakes

Grinding out a victory

Grinding out a victory
Tournament winners Chris Joseph and John Jernigan celebrate their win with Joseph's wife Kelly and sons Ryan (3) and Dylan (7).

FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. - For Chris Joseph and John Jernigan, winning the FLW Redfish Series Eastern Division tournament in Fernandina Beach had a certain alpha and omega vibe to it.

Joseph of Holmes Beach, Fla., and Jernigan of Venice, Fla., made their Walmart FLW Redfish Series debut with an April 2007 win at Englewood, Fla. Having won the first event they entered, it seems fitting that they topped the last Eastern Division event of FLW Outdoors' final saltwater season.

Now, their $50,000 Fernandina Beach win was no cake walk - tournament victories rarely are. However, considering the notoriously fickle fish and brutally harsh tide fluctuations of northeastern Florida, the anglers from southwestern Florida had their hands full.

"We knew that it was tough here," Jernigan said. "We've heard a lot of people say that this is the `Land Extensive research prior to arriving in Northeast Florida gave the winners a headstart on their tournament quest.of 1,000 Casts.' You come here your first two or three times and never catch a fish. That was in the back of our mind, and when we got here we were very intimidated. But we worked hard and checked the areas that we had researched and advanced from there."

Jernigan said that his team was not able to put in extensive prefishing time, but that didn't stop them from preparing: "We did a lot of homework and research. We got on the Internet and used Google Earth to research the (geography). We talked to people and tried to learn strategies for the last year."

The effort paid off, as the winning duo placed second on day one with 11 pounds, 8 ounces (their heaviest limit), secured their top-five spot with 8-12 on day two and then sealed the deal in the final round with a 10-15 effort that yielded a 31-3 total.

Chris Joseph and John Jernigan react to the news of their second FLW Redfish Series win.Fishing south of Fernandina Beach, the winners selected a secondary channel off the Intracoastal Waterway and spent their day working a 400-yard stretch of the northern shoreline. They threw Exude Darts in golden bream color on ¼-ounce Saltwater Assassin jigheads and slowed their retrieves when the tide started rolling to keep their baits from moving too quickly.

"All day long we spent working that shoreline - back and forth, back and forth," Jernigan said. "We caught our first fish within 10 minutes and the second fish about 10 minutes later. We had our limit within the first 30 minutes of arriving. We culled one fish about 1 o'clock, and we were able to bump up by about half a pound."

Dotson duo delivers second-place performance

Michael and Linda Dotson, both of Fernandina Beach, Fla., continued their upward climb, but ended up 15 ounces shy of the top spot. They placed fourth on day one with 9 pounds, 14 ounces and improved to third on day two with 10-12. In the final round, they added 9-10 for a total weight of 30-4.

"It's been a rough week, but we hung in there and got the bites we needed," Michael said.Locals Linda and Michael Dotson had a productive day with ten redfish and a second place finish.

The husband-and-wife team caught most of their 10 redfish in the early morning when they fished oyster reefs on the outgoing tide. Around 1:30, they caught two reds, one of which was oversized. The other fish culled up their total.

"We caught them in real skinny water," Michael noted. "When we pulled up to our spot, we saw them with their backs out of the water."

The Dotsons used spinnerbaits with dimpled Colorado blades.Light spinnerbaits with grub tails and gold Colorado blades accounted for all of their fish.

"We like the Colorado blade with the dimples," Michael said. "I can feel it thumping more in the water, so the fish can feel that better."

Acknowledging the benefit of local experience, Michael said: "These are great fishermen, so it's hard to have an advantage over them, but we just had a few more spots to hit than these guys did. We laid with the spots a few minutes. We didn't hit them and run."

Perez-Jueckstock fight for third

Day-two leaders Manny Perez of Punta Gorda, Fla., and Paul Jueckstock of Port Orange, Fla., knew that the day's tide schedule would not allow them any time to fish their preferred scenario - reds tailing in Spartina grass on the flood tide - before having to return for check-in, so they rolled the dice and spent their entire day at the Nassau Inlet jetties.

Their strategy was to power-fish deep-water reds while their competitors finessed their way through shallow-water scenarios. Jueckstock said that bouncing deep-diving crankbaits off the jetty rocks was a grueling routine.

"It's different when you're throwing soft plastics to fish that won't eat," Jueckstock said. "When you're Third place anglers Manny Perez and Paul Jueckstock spent their entire day cranking the Nassau Inlet jetties.throwing a 5-inch (crankbait), it's like pulling a 5-gallon bucket through the water."

Perez added: "It's like catching a fish on every cast."

Their plan produced a pair of keepers weighing 7 pounds, 3 ounces that gave Perez and Jueckstock a 29-14 total good for third place. Perez said that on this dismal day, he was happy to see those fish.

"We didn't get a (redfish) bite until 1 o'clock," he said. "We caught a couple of snapper, a sheepshead and a jack at the jetties. Around 1 o'clock, we got the first redfish bite. Within about five minutes, we got five bites, missed two or three, but then we got the second one in the boat.

"We were excited to get two fish in the boat the way it was today. The water was real dirty, but we finally found a spot that worked out for us. We wound up catching some oversized fish there."

The 13-pound limit that Perez and Jueckstock caught on day two was the tournament's largest.

Owens-Aldridge zero, drop to fourth

Scott Owens of Brunswick, Ga., and Robert Aldridge of Jacksonville, Fla., endured a frustrating day in which they found plenty of redfish, but couldn't get the right ones to eat. They weighed no fish in the final round and slipped from second place to fourth with a 21-8 total.

Despite finding plenty of fish, Robert Aldridge and Scott Owens could not get the right ones to bite in the final round.Fishing mostly drop-off edges along grass lines, Owens and Aldridge threw soft plastics and spinnerbaits, but they couldn't get the fish to cooperate. Owens surmises that their urgency level on day one may have been their undoing.

"We got on our fish, but we pounded them the first day and really put them in the boat because we were worried about Hanna coming across and canceling the tournament a couple of days early," he said. "We wanted to bring as much weight to the table as we could.

"We only brought about 10 pounds to the scale on day one, but we kept trying to upgrade those fish that first day. I really feel like we probably stuck about all of the fish in the school."

Onstage, Aldridge joked about his team's success with a fish of the wrong flavor, "If this was the FLW Flounder Tour, you'd all be in trouble - we hammered them today."

Long run leaves Cenci-Taylor fishless, fifth

Chris Cenci of Jacksonville, Fla., and Eric Taylor of Rockledge, Fla., blanked in the final round and A long run to Jacksonville turned up fruitless for Eric Taylor and Chris Cenci.finished fifth with 19-13. Making a 90-mile roundtrip run to Jacksonville, they fished 20 spots and caught several fish. Unfortunately, none would measure.

"We chose to stay away from the (tournament boats), but it seemed like the weekend crowd was at every spot we went to," Cenci said. "We still managed to catch fish today - they were just oversized or undersized. We had our chances."

Targeting oyster bars and trenches, they fished Slayer Inc. jerkbaits and spinnerbaits.

Tags: david-a-brown  headline-story  2008-09-04-fernandina-beach 

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