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The show must go on

9/22/2007

Tropical storm warnings


MIAMI (AP) — Tropical storm warnings were posted Friday for
parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast as a subtropical depression formed in
the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
At 11 a.m. ET, the depression had top sustained winds of about
35 mph. The warning extended from Apalachicola, Fla., west to the
mouth of the Mississippi River, including New Orleans, the National
Hurricane Center said.

PENSACOLA, Fla. — The low pressure system threatening to become a tropical depression — or worse — was on everyone's mind during Day One's launch of the Oh Boy! Oberto Redfish Cup Championship.

Before a boat had hit the water, the National Weather Service had already issued a coastal flood watch and a small craft advisory for the area through the scheduled final day of fishing.

And by the time the field throttled out of the safety of the harbor, national network morning shows had held their "Gulf Watch" pre-dawn live remotes from nearby Pensacola Beach.

"Something is coming," angler Chaz Williams said as he checked and re-checked the security of his trolling motor.

The forecast for the tournament's first day called for 5- to 7-foot seas, a 90 percent chance of rain, and winds out of the northeast blowing from 10 to 20 mph. The weather system, which had been yet to be named by launch-time, had meteorologists and hurricane-hunters on full alert. Most predict the storm to move west, brushing the Florida Panhandle on its way towards Louisiana.

"We're going to get a beat down, today," Scott Guthrie said. "Whether it's the boat ride or the fishing."

Guthrie, who has fished in two previous tropical systems, said redfish tend to wait out high surf by moving to deeper water. And with the majority of anglers fishing between 1-3 feet in streams, back bays and river channels, Day One's deteriorating conditions will present a series of tough challenges.

"You got to treat today like it's the last day," Ray Malone said as he picked up the paintball mask used to protect his face from the wind and rain. "You have to fish as hard as you can for as long as you can because the top five could easily come out of today."

After weighing their options overnight, tournament officials announced just before blast-off that they were shortening the fishing day by 30 minutes. For many in the field who had already planned their day's journey, the decision meant on-the-fly adjustments. For anglers to get back in time for weigh-in, 100-mile runs may be shaved to 80.

With the possibility of a day-shortened tournament, several anglers felt Day One would be crucial.

"We're either going to go to our spot and win this tournament, today, or we're going to come back with nothing," Bryan Watts said. "We don't have a C- or D-hole, we have an A and a B and that's it."

Even with the impending weather, Brian Fornea and partner, Jim Franklin, aim to stick to their guns.

"It doesn't really change what we'll be doing at all," Fornea said. "We've got some fish and we're going to go after them."

Mike Friday questions how much the weather will affect the redfish bite. "I think weights could go down to less 11 or 12 pounds," Friday said, "and less than 20 pounds to make the top five."

As "Gulf Watch" continues, anglers have a full day Friday before the brunt of the storm comes. And Day One's weigh-in promises to have more than one tale about the day's runs.