OUTDOORS: Floridians capture fishing title

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 24, 2002


Who says lighting doesn’t strike twice?

You cannot convince Florida anglers Eric Manino and Paul Jueckstock of that. The pair managed to claim their second Louisiana first place finish in the Ranger/Mercury Redfish Tour’s event last weekend at Hopedale.

Facing extremely high tides brought in by Tropical Storm Hanna, the pair pushpoled across the ponds in Half Moon Bay where they spotted a good concentration of feeding redfish in the flooded grass.

With a 9.17 pounder, they tried a larger pond but could not troll motor to it since the high winds had caused their battery to drain.

“We never had to make it into the pond because as I’m idling in, Paul’s casting the banks and he hooks up with the second 9 pounder while I’m running the outboard! Louisiana redfish don’t spook,” Manino said.

Their two-fish total weight was 18.22 pounds and good enough to place them atop the other 85 teams. That win along those in Lafitte and Punta Gorda, Florida earned them their third first-place finish on the tour and locked up first place overall position in the Minn Kota (LA) Division as well as Team of the Year.

The baits they used to catch the two winning fish were an XPS Laser Eye Twin Tail Shad and a Nemire Spoon Buzzer.

The Nemire offers the combined appeal of a spoon and a topwater buzz bait.

Second place went to local Lafitte guides Todd Dufour and Alden Bourgeois who caught 8.70 and 9.11 reds for a 17.81 total. They caught their fish down the Mississippi River below Venice between Main and Octave Passes using spinnerbaits tipped with black and chartreuse cocahoe tails.

“The spinnerbait is a no-nonsense approach,” Dufour said. “You just find a fish and cast in front of him. As long as the sun was out, we could see them well.

“We saw a few fish that would have bettered our score, but we lost them when the clouds covered the sun. If you’re not ready to cast, it’s over.”

The father and son team of C.J. and Chuck Howard, of Bradenton, Fla. weighed in 8.62 and 8.83 fish for a total of 17.45 good for third place money. They fished an oyster-laden pond just to the east of Hopedale with Exude shrimp.

They stayed there all day catching 35 redfish which weighed more than six pounds each.

Another Florida team, Mark Sepe and Scott Guthrie of Deland, brought in the day’s biggest redfish, a 9.21 pounder worth a $1,000 on its own.

They also had an 8.02 for a 17.23-pound total. They were almost 20 miles deep into the marsh from tournament headquarters at Breton Sound Marina.

Working the grass edges with pumpkinseed and watermelon Mepps Exude Salatubes, they picked up 20 of their 25 fish caught after noon.

When one of their fish rolled over in the live well, they decided to take action to protect their catch.

Heading back to port in cooler, cleaner water helped bring the fish back somewhat but it was Sepe’s personal attention that preserved their fourth place finish. He rode all the way back with his hand in the well supporting the fish in an upright position to revive it.

“At 65 miles an hour, that’s not too fun,” he said.

The National Ranger Redfish Tour was organized in Florida by the Inshore Fisherman’s Association and has now expanded to Louisiana and Mississippi.

The next tournament is set for Nov. 2 at the Venice Marina. Billed as a saltwater answer to the Bassmaster Circuit, Redfish Tour tournaments are geared for the every day fisherman but open to anyone.

Because entry fees are affordable ($400) and hi-tech equipment unnecessary to catch redfish, anglers who only dream of becoming a fishing professional can compete. All tournaments are catch and release and a hefty 1 pound penalty for a dead fish ensures anglers make every effort to properly handle each fish.

Entries in each tournament are limited to 125 teams. Entries are now being accepted for the Venice tournament at the Venice Marina at all participating metro New Orleans Super Chevy Dealers, on line at www.RedfishTour.com or by calling the local tournament director Mark Hodges at 504-913-6275.

DON DUBUC is the outdoors reporter for L’Observateur.