Redfish Cup
Tight Fit
by Steve Bowman
Web posted on May 04, 2004

Stephen Johnston and Pete Young discuss strategy; then take off for a day on the water.

Anglers will go to any lengths to reach what they consider to be a honey hole.

Just ask Pete Young of Luling, La., and Stephen Johnston of Hemphill, Texas, one of the teams to make the finals at the Oh Boy! Oberto Redfish Cup event at Kemah, Texas.

Getting to their prime water meant squeezing under a low bridge, which wasn’t too difficult during the qualifying round in Johnston’s bass boat.

However, in the finals, all five teams compete in similar 24-foot Triton bay boats with a center console, which has a much higher profile than a bass boat.

“It was tight getting in on the first day,” said Johnston, who guides for bass on Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn reservoirs. “We measured the Triton and knew we couldn’t get in the way it was.”

When the team got to the bridge, they discovered the hard north wind following the cold front had changed the situation dramatically.

“The water had fallen about three feet, but we still had to take the windshield and handrail off,” Johnston said.

Young, who is accustomed to fishing in shallow water as a guide out of Venice, La., said it didn’t take long to realize the team’s chances had disappeared with the water.

“We had caught good fish in there all week,” Young said. “Our only concern was the water. I knew we were in trouble when I shut the boat down and it didn’t move. That was a bad feeling. We ended having to get out and push four times before we got back out. There was just no water. Our fish had packed up and moved out during the night.”

BRING ‘EM ON

When pro bass fishermen Stephen Browning and Jeff Coble claimed last weekend’s Cup victory at Kemah, some thought it might cause a little animosity from the redfish die-hards.

Not so, says Bryan and Greg Watts of Florida, the reigning Cup champions.

“We think it’s great,” Bryan said. “We used to fish a lot of bass tournaments in the ‘80s and ‘90s. I think there’s going to be a lot of bass fishermen come in and pick up this redfish game now that they’ve seen what Stephen and Jeff have done. And we can’t wait for the competition.”

Local favorite Rick Kersey, who finished second in the Kemah tournament with his partner Bryan Sandow, echoed the sentiments of the Watts brothers.

“Those guys are great,” Kersey said of the bass anglers. “We don’t mind it at all. At this level, we all recognize they do have a clue and that means we have a lot of respect for each other.”

COLD-FRONT BLUES

Last weekend’s unusually late cold front wreaked havoc on the fishing strategy of the five finalists, including the Watts brothers and the runners-up.

“We could see the fish on the recorder,” said Bryan Watts after the team’s third-place finish with 5.17 pounds. “They just wouldn’t bite. We thought they would eventually come up and bite, so we hammered it out.

“We decided to live or die in that one spot because we knew there were good fish there. I guess we were lucky to catch that one fish.”

Kersey and Sandow, who weighed in 15.0 pounds, had to deal with a howling north wind.

“We started out by going further back up the bay to try to get to where it was a little calmer,” Kersey said. “That didn’t play out like we thought, so we went to our best spot in the middle of the bay. We put out two drift anchors and we were able to fish, although it wasn’t like we wanted it.

“But we can’t complain. We thought our fish would be close, but we were a little short.”