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Cloud Nine

9/25/2009

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MONTAUK, N.Y. — Persevering through rough conditions Friday, Steve Bechard of East Hampton, N.Y., upgraded his tally to nine slams at the F.C.A Montauk Redbone, smoking the individual competition.

Bechard was joined by Jason Puris of Montauk in the team format and the duo lapped the field with their tally of 9,800 points.

Clearly, Paul Dixon, who guided the two, had the magic touch this week at the Redbone event. Always a contrarian, Dixon made a decision in the rough conditions to head west while the rest of the field went east. Bechard had nothing but praise for Dixon, who has been fishing these waters for 18 years.

"Paul deserves all the recognition," said Bechard, 32, who had 5,100 points. "All we did was just cast and reel but Paul made all the decisions. He's just the best."

Still, it was Bechard who scored the fish of the day. Blind-casting for striped bass — one of the three scored species including bluefish and false albacore — Bechard threw a bucktail to a distant area. He landed an albacore — a surprise to Bechard — and continued to get the fish toward the boat.

What he ended up with was a 33-inch Albacore, which weighed more than 14 pounds. Dixon, with his myriad of experience, said it was the biggest of the species he had ever seen.

"Sometimes it's good to be lucky," said Bechard, who works as a medical sales executive in East Hampton, N.Y. "The conditions made it tough to fish with flies. So I picked up the spinning rod and made it work."

Still, Dixon made the wheels turn. The decision to head west allowed both anglers to land multiple species in an untouched area. Like Thursday, Dixon also served as a tangible motivational tool.

"I kept telling these guys that you can't just wait for the blitzes," Dixon said. "You have to keep something in the water at all times. Often times, you do well just blind casting. These young guys just cant keep up."

Puris, while trailing Bechard, outpaced the rest of the field to finish second. His 4,700 points were stout but he was only able to land six slams to Bechard's nine. The dynamic of fishing against each other and occupying the same boat was odd, but Puris said the two worked well together and employed a strategy that allowed each to flourish.

"It was so rough I didn't even eat today," said Puris, who appeared on ESPN2's Guidehouse: Montauk. "It was still awesome to be out there. I'm fishing a night tournament after this so it was great to get a sense of where the fish are."

Even after the rough day Friday, Puris will take a short nap and wake up at midnight to fish the next tournament.

The field of celebrity anglers included ex-Miami Dolphin Jim "Crash" Jensen and Tom Colicchio, who serves as lead judge for Bravo's Top Chef: Las Vegas.

The scoring format required each team to register a slam and gives varying points for each species.

The EOSS continues to integrate Redbone events into its season as each event receives television coverage on ESPN2. While the tournaments appeal to serious tournament anglers, the Redbone was founded to help "catch the cure" for cystic fibrosis.