PENSACOLA, Fla. — Bill Faulkner turned 37 Friday, but his age was the last thing on his mind. Instead he's focused on the two biggest prizes in competitive saltwater fishing: Team of the Year and Rookie of the Year.
Faulkner and his partner Al Keller currently lead the race for both of these coveted trophies, and after their first day of fishing in Pensacola found them in the top five, their eyes are clearly on the prize.
"It's been a great year for us, and we feel really lucky to be here with all of these great anglers," Faulkner said. "It may sound trite, but for us it's really all about teamwork. Al and I know each other so well we might as well be brothers."
This brotherly bond has served the duo well, as they have been in contention for the title in every tournament they have fished this year. But the icing on the birthday cake would certainly be walking away with the rookie and team titles. Not a bad birthday present at all!
The unpredictable weather for Day Two of the Oh Boy! Oberto Redfish Cup poses a unique dilemma for one of the Championship teams. Al Keller and Bill Faulkner currently lead both the Team of the Year race and the Rookie of the Year race, and they're sitting in the fifth position after Day One of the event. If Day Two were to rain out, it could mean that Keller and Faulkner sew up both titles much earlier than previously planned.
So to fish or not to fish?
"That's a tough one, because we're competitors and we always want to be out on the water," Faulkner said. "Of course selfishly, if the top five were set based on today, that would be huge for us. Can we do it again tomorrow? I think we can. We're fishing a deep spot that's protected by the wind, so the weather really won't affect us too much. But you never know, and there's a lot of money at stake."
No news is good news
For most of the anglers, Day One of the Oh Boy! Oberto Redfish Cup Championship was a little anti-climactic. The expected high winds and thunderstorms failed to materialize to the extent many were predicting, leaving the anglers pleasantly surprised.
"We just went right around the corner from the takeoff site and didn't really have any drama at all," Keith Hartsell said.
"There was no lightning and the sun even came out for a while," John Merriwether said. "I had to pull out my sunglasses because I didn't think I was going to need them and had packed them up."
Three of the championship teams came back to the dock disappointed with their catches. As a consolation, they made a friendly wager: Each team chipped in $20 to see who would have the heaviest weight of their small bags.
The winners? Charlie Thomason and Shane Pescay with an underwhelming 6.91 pounds. It may have been a disappointing day on the water, but at least they didn't walk away empty-handed.
Weather? What weather?
The Redfish Cup is never one to turn down media. But when the Weather Channel showed up to report in front of the Cup stage, it was an ominous sign for organizers and anglers. After all, coverage is great… but coverage for being at ground zero of a tropical depression? That might be cause for concern.
One tournament shirt in particular stood out in the crowd on Day One of the Oh Boy! Oberto Redfish Cup Championship: It belonged to BASS Elite Series angler Randy Howell, who was fishing in a nearby tournament and decided to stop by for a taste of some saltwater action.
"I love redfishing, but I've never had the chance to compete in a tournament because of the BASS schedule," he said. "I think it parallels bass fishing in a lot of ways though, like lures and strategy, and that's why a bunch of the freshwater guys like it."
So is he planning to join the likes of Roland Martin and other bass anglers who have made the saltwater switch?
"If we didn't have so many tournaments of our own, I'd love to," he said. "But not any time soon."