PENSACOLA, Fla. — If the tournament ended today, Paul Jueckstock and Manny Perez would be the first team to take back-to-back Redfish Cup titles.
As it stood after Day One, the duo that captured the crown in 2008 found themselves back on top of the leaderboard at the Crown Royal Redfish Cup Championship presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors with a 13.67-pound limit of Pensacola redfish.
"We want to defend our championship title so bad," Jueckstock said. "It's never been done before — until this weekend…hopefully. We feel like you have to have the confidence to win it all."
The team looked confident after jumping out to a 1.17-pound lead over former Cup champion Andrew Bostick and his teammate John Landry, boating a Day One weight of 12.50 pounds. Third place went to Kevin and Cajun Phil Broussard with 12.34 pounds.
Rounding out the top five after the first day was Mike Friday and Danny Latham in fourth with 12.32 pounds and the fifth-place team of Mat Haag and Scott Hughes with 12.24 pounds.
With the weights tightly bunched at the top of the leaderboard, Jueckstock and Perez need another solid performance on Saturday to assure themselves a shot at the top prize in Sunday's championship round. Only the top five teams after two days move on to the finals. Weights are zeroed then, but the leaders feel comfortable with the Pensacola fishery and the areas they are targeting.
"We really didn't burn our fish up too bad," Jueckstock said. "We think we can go back and catch them again, but the weather looks like it will get worse tomorrow, blowing harder and a front coming through."
Even with weather changes, the duo have enough experience here to make the right adjustments. They did a lot of moving around on Day One and at their final stop of the day, boated their biggest fish, a red over 7 pounds.
"The kind of fishing we are doing this week is unusual for us," Perez said. "We are usually sight casting to redfish, but here we are fishing in 2 to 3 feet of windblown, dirty water. The fish are reacting to spinnerbaits and popping corks near schools of mullet."
Jueckstock and Perez seem to have found a strong area. In addition to catching the leading bag of redfish, they also boated flounder, trout, jacks and even a few bonita.
A sideshow at the Day One weigh-in was the crowning of the 2009 Academy Sports + Outdoors Team of the Year presented by Crocs. With 187 points over the four-event regular season, the Broussards walked away with the crown by 13 points over Greg and Bryan Watts.
At stake this week: the $50,000 grand prize, two bottles of Crown Royal XR for the winners, a case of JT4 synthetic oil from Mystik Lubricants and an etching on the Redfish Cup.
Coverage continues Saturday with the weigh-in at 4:00 p.m. ET and full stories and photo galleries available on RedfishCup.com and ESPNOutdoors.com.