ISLAMORADA, Fla. BASS Elite Series pro Bobby Lane of Lakeland, Fla., caught only two keepers in the Redbone Celebrity Tournament and he could not have been happier.
On Saturday, Lane caught and released a bonefish and his brother and fellow Bassmaster Elite Series pro Chris released two bonefish fishing with Capt. Mike Ehlers. That left the Lanes each needing a redfish for their slams, so Ehlers headed into Florida Bay.
"After we caught the bonefish, we drained ditches but caught only two little reds," Bobby said, noting that redfish had to be at least 18 inches long to count. "Sunday we sight-fished."
Lane saw several redfish, but getting them to bite his 3/8-ounce chartreuse bucktail jig was another story. He made good casts to about half a dozen reds, but they all ignored the jig.
Ehlers moved to another spot about five miles away and soon after they arrived, Lane looked down and saw a 28-inch redfish about 20 feet from the boat.
Lane flipped the jig in front of the fish and it grabbed the lure, but when Lane lifted his fishing rod, the fish wasn't there.
"Then he turned on it again and got it," said Lane, who needed 10-15 minutes to land the redfish.
Redfish aplenty, but not big enough
Several of the 82 Redbone anglers said fishing for redfish was good, but catching a redfish that was big enough to count was hard.
"We probably caught 20 redfish [Sunday]," former Miami Dolphins player Mike Kozlowski said. "They were all 16 and 17 inches, but it was a blast catching them."
Mitch Howell, who finished third in the angler standings, had a similar story, catching one redfish on Gulp! Sunday to go with two bonefish Saturday.
"We were fishing in some runoffs with the low tide and we caught, I guess, a dozen redfish, but only two of them were big enough," Howell said.
Blustery winds and overcast skies made for tough fishing, but that's come to be expected of the Redbone. Tournament founder and director Gary Ellis even joked about it Sunday.
"This is Redbone weather," he said. "We're selling the name to the Farmer's Almanac."
Mike Stanley, who played for the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers among others, performed well in the Celebrity division at the tournament.
Stanley, an American League All-Star in 1995, landed three reds and one bonefish. He was guided by Larry Sydnor, who was a winning guide at the 2009 Florida Keys Outfitters IGFA Inshore World Championship.
Summing it up
Of the less-than-ideal conditions, ex-Denver Bronco Mark Cooper said, "When the wind's at 35 knots and the foam lines disappear, you know you are in trouble. It wasn't the worst day, but heck, I came in three hours early."