Tournament fishing comes with trials, tribulations and sweet victories
Tournament fishing is addicting. I love the heightened adrenaline rush that goes with the added pressure of having to rely on my angling skills, along with my teammate’s on-the-water savvy, to perform under any and all conditions. Actions and decisions on game day carry plenty of weight, and betting on my team to catch fish never gets old.
At the time of writing this, my tournament partner, Capt. Tim Young, and I were recently named Anglers of the Year for the 2019 Galveston Redfish Series. Up against a highly skilled and extremely competitive field of anglers, we were fortunate enough to land the right fish when it mattered the most.
The Galveston Redfish Series tournament trail began in April and included five events that took place each month through August. Teams of anglers competed in each of these five tournaments with the goal of weighing in the heaviest two red drum. Each fish had to measure within the legal slot range of 20-28 inches.
The 2019 Galveston Redfish Series Anglers of the Year results were determined by a cumulative point total each team earned throughout the tournament season. The higher a team placed in an event, the more points it was allotted. For example, winning first place in a tournament awarded a team 100 points for that event. A second place finish was worth 99 points, and a third place finish was worth 98 points. The point scale continued to decrease with each consecutive position.
For the Anglers of the Year title, each team’s worst finish in a single event out of the five in the series was dropped. The four best finishes were used to calculate each team’s final point total. We earned 384 points on the season to secure our victory, while the runners up weren’t far behind.
Upper coast anglers Justin Lowry and Leslie Gourley put up a dangerously close 375 points, putting them in second place overall in the running for Anglers of the Year. Third place went to Clint Barghi and Aaron Stillwagon, who earned a total of 370 points. To say it was a tight race would be an understatement.
Our success began with the very first series event on April 27. We found a school of reds on the day before the tournament in a stretch of open water completely void of any fishing pressure. These were the caliber of fish we were looking for, with most weighing more than 8 pounds. We were only able to land two redfish out of this school while pre-fishing, but that was enough to give us the confidence we needed in our game plan to start the season. The next day, we caught more than 20 reds during the mid-morning hours once the school started feeding, and there wasn’t another boat in sight. By 11 a.m. we had more than 17 pounds in the livewell. We ended up taking first place in this tournament with 17.60 pounds and kicked off the 2019 Galveston Redfish Series tournament trail with a bang.
As excellent as our luck was to start the season, it was equally as poor for the second series event. After coming off our high from a first-place finish, we crashed and burned during the May 18 tournament. Gale-force winds and high tides left us scratching our heads as we failed to find a consistent bite. We straight up zeroed in this event and didn’t land a single redfish. Other anglers managed to adapt to the adverse conditions and scored some heavy weights, while we went into panic mode. We knew we couldn’t have another performance like this if we wanted to have a chance at the title.
The third and fourth series events produced a roller coaster of emotions. We rebounded in the third tournament on June 8, weighing in 17.29 pounds, which was good enough for a third-place finish.
The fourth event, which was originally scheduled for July 13, was postponed because of uncertainty about approaching tropical weather. It was held on July 27 instead, and conflicted with a traveling obligation Young had. I pre-fished for the tournament without him, and he barely made it back for take-off time to fish on game day. Operating on one hour of sleep, Young powered through his fatigue alongside me without ever missing a beat, with the exception of him hooking not one, but two fingers, with a lure. Even with that mishap, Young just gritted his teeth, yanked the plug from his flesh and kept on casting.
We landed plenty of fish during the fourth tournament, but were lacking the heavy kicker we needed to have a competing weight. Weighing in at 12.63 pounds, we earned a 14th-place finish and 87 points. It wasn’t the outcome we had hoped for, but the points we earned in this event kept us in the race for Anglers of the Year.
Going into the Galveston Redfish Series Championships event on Aug. 17, the top positions for the Anglers of the Year race were separated by less than 10 points. Our goal was to earn a top-three finish in this event, which we hoped would be enough to secure the title.
We were able to land two reds that produced a combined weight of 15.87 pounds, earning us a second-place finish in the championships. The 99 points we were awarded in this event gave us the final edge over our competition, and the Anglers of the Year trophy was ours.
One of the most unique things about fishing this tournament series is that our upper coast waters allowed us to pursue redfish in many diverse areas, using a variety of techniques to be successful. We had a lot of help along the way from some of the best lure and gear manufacturers in the business.
Rods produced by Old 18 Outfitters helped us cast baits made by Bill Lewis Fishing Lures and Z-Man Fishing Products. Our main arsenal of lures consisted of Z-Man’s Scented Jerk ShadZ, along with the baits manufactured by Bill Lewis — the Stutter Step 4.0, MR-6 MDJ series crankbaits, Echo 1.75 crankbaits and ¾-ounce Rat-L-Traps. Fish Monkey gloves and face guards protected our hands, face and necks from the sun during the many hours we spent on the water.
The adventures, the ups and downs and the experiences throughout the entire tournament season are what made our successes so gratifying. It was an honor to be recognized among such a fiercely competitive field of exceptional anglers, many of whom could have just as easily and deservingly found themselves in our shoes.
Calling Tim Young my tournament partner and friend is a privilege that I will continue to cherish. We are proud of our 2019 accomplishments, but most of all, we are looking forward to next season.