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Torpedoes, racing, fish CPR and coming home

7/6/2007

GULF SHORES, Ala. — Eric Rue and Larry Puckett were just doing their part.

Pulling up a 14-pound, 16-ounce bag onto stage, the two men joked about their Day One results in the Oh Boy! Oberto Redfish Cup Mid-Season Bash.

With most of the field making 150-plus mile runs to the Bayou State's waters, a running joke emerged when the anglers began pulling their boats into the docks at Lulu's at Homeport Marina.

After the weigh-in, this part of coastal Alabama was soon to be the recipient of a number of quality redfish as tournament organizers released them. And according to Rue, these heavier fish were "just part of the Alabama reintroduction process of Louisiana reds."

Full speed ahead

For generations the famous order, "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead" has been a rallying cry for anyone who has ever faced adversity. Union Admiral David Farragut delivered the words in 1864 just down the road from the take-off during the Battle of Mobile Bay

Never in the history of redfishing has this Civil War era quote rang truer than during this week's Mid-Season Bash in Alabama. With the overwhelming majority of these Redfish All Stars high-tailing it the 150-plus miles to Louisiana waters, the only torpedoes these anglers are seeking to avoid will come in the form of mechanical problems, empty gas tanks or a mid-summer squall.

As the high-speed powerboats zoomed across Mobile Bay, past Forts Morgan and Gaines that were once manned to protect the Confederacy's valuable last port on the Gulf of Mexico, there is no doubt that the echo of Admiral Farragut's words will be heard over the roar of this westbound redfishing flotilla.

Don't Stop Believing

With that said it was a quiet morning at the take-off for the Oh Boy! Oberto Redfish Cup All Stars.

That is, until one of the boats bellied up to the dock blaring Journey's classic 1981 single "Don't Stop Believin'."

This may become the unofficial theme song for the weekend because not only will an estimated 90 percent of the field be embarking on a long "journey" into Louisiana water — they'll also need to keep believing they can make the run, catch a few heavy stringers and still make it back to the weigh-in stage on time.

And the race is on

Travis Holeman, commenting on the popular long runs planned by the field, likened this Mid-Season Bash in Gulf Shores to a NASCAR race.

"We're not fishermen this weekend, we're racers," Holeman said. "Have a plan to get your gas and make it home or just pray that you can coast on in and win the race on fumes."

Back-up hard drive

Travis Holeman thought when they hit a coral head a month ago it would be a factor sometime. His younger brother Bryan Holeman, didn't.

But regardless of who was right and who was wrong, they blew their lower unit on the take-off on Day One. After the boat overheated twice, Bryan figured that something was seriously plugging up the intake and dove in as the other boats flew by them.

Fortunately, the pair had planned to bring another boat. "We always bring two boats for a tournament," the older Holeman said, "and this time it ended up paying off."

The brothers now stand about a half pound out of the top five in eighth place.

Yes, but can you predict the weather?

Jim Franklin lived up to his morning pledge. As his boat eased through the boat check line, he made his disclaimer.

"I'll be honest," Franklin said, "I've never been more confident in my life. We're going to catch big fish."

Franklin and Fornea's stringer of 14.60 pounds placed the team in a firm second place.

OVERHEARD

"They're just not eating today, refusing the bait and following the lures all the way to the boat. It's really spooky out there."

— Mike Friday on the tougher bite and different conditions for his team on Day One