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Sunshine state smackdown

5/2/2009

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. — Despite getting only two bites on Day Two, they proved to be the right two bites as Ozzie Lessinger and Jeff Totten brought in nearly 12 pounds to preserve their lead at the Redfish Cup event in Punta Gorda, Fla., Saturday with a two-day weight of 25.11 pounds.

"Our fish from yesterday were gone," Lessinger said. "We fished for two and a half hours and couldn't do anything. At our second spot we saw five to six fish and got two of them to bite and they were keepers. That was it for the day."

Even without being able to cull a small fish from their two-fish limit, Lessinger and Totten had enough to easily make the cut, but their 1-pound lead will be erased as weights are zeroed for the final day. All five remaining teams will start Sunday's Day Three on an even playing field.

Second place after Day Two belonged to Richard Freund, fishing with substitute partner and good friend Derek Carlson with a two-day total of 24.01 pounds. Brothers Ron and Chris Hueston held down third place after bringing 23.89 pounds to the scales over the first two days of competition.

Kevin and Cajun Phil Broussard made the biggest leap of the day, catching 12.95 pounds, the biggest bag of the day, to move into fourth place. Rounding out the top five teams was Joe Crosby and Rick Steckelberg with 21.52 pounds.

Lessinger and Totten survived a boat malfunction that saw a livewell pump come apart and put water in the hull of the boat. After a stumble on Day Two of last year's event in Punta Gorda left them just out of the cut, Lessinger and Totten were determined not to let that happen to them again.

A slow start had them nervous early in the morning, but they quickly turned the day around by boating both keepers off their second stop of the day.

"Unlike most of the guys that are fishing the bigger schools of fish, the majority of the fish we are catching are legal," Lessinger said. "Those bigger schools have a lot more over-the-slot fish."

Redfish have to measure inside the slot limit of 18 to 27 inches in order to be deemed legal. Lessinger and Totten are not seeing many fish, but they think they will be able to find two more fish Sunday that can go for a ride back to the weigh-in at Laishley Park.

"We are going to stick to the same game plan as the past two days," Lessinger said. "If that doesn't work, Jeff has some good fish up north more and we will go to them."

The leaders will have to contend with a second-place team in Freund and Carlson that are fishing very relaxed and get along well together. Carlson is substituting for Ralph Frazier, Freund's usual partner.

"Richard and I are buddies — his son goes to my school, so we were just out there relaxed and cutting up," Carlson said.

So far, that approach appears to be working for the two local anglers. Neither of the anglers are guides in the area, Carlson is a teacher and Freund works as a contractor, leaving only the weekends for the two to practice for the event.

"Fishing locally, we knew where we were going," Freund said. "We have been on the same fish for the past month. Living here, it's our backyard, so we know the water, we just need the fish to settle back down tomorrow."

Freund and Carlson had six boats in their area Saturday and they said that the boat traffic caused the fish to move around all day. The pair hopes that when they get back in the morning without any boat traffic, the fish will be easier to catch so they can make a run at the title.

The Hueston brothers entered the day in third place and will go out Sunday morning in the same position after bringing in nearly identical limits of 11.96 and 11.93 pounds on Days One and Two respectively.

"We went to where we fished yesterday and got our biggest fish of the day deadsticking a bait," Chris said. "Then we made a move back closer to the ramp where we caught the rest of our fish sight fishing. All we need tomorrow is for the water to come back up in our areas, that will help the sight fishing."

The Huestons will be entering the final day with less sleep than their competitors. Chris left the weigh-in shortly after completion to drive three hours to Miami to pick up a new boat.

"We are making a boat change for tomorrow," Chris said. "We are polling around and we need that v-hull. We don't want to take that beating crossing the harbor either. Ron and I will be around fish, but this is Punta Gorda, anything can happen."

The biggest surprise at the Day Two weigh-in was the absence of 2008 Punta Gorda champion Mark Sepe and his new partner Dwayne Eschete, who sat in second place after the first day of the tournament. Without weighing a fish, the team dropped all the way to 31st place in the overall standings.

The team with the heaviest single-day weight Sunday will be crowned champion. The weigh-in starts at 3:00 p.m. ET at Laishley Park with complete coverage of the event available at RedfishCup.com. The television shows from Punta Gorda air July 4th and 11th at 8:30 a.m. ET on ESPN2.

Day Two Results From Punta Gorda