Anglers weather elements at tournaments

Poor elements humble Family Fun Day

Published: Thursday, May 8, 2014 at 8:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 8, 2014 at 8:00 p.m.

The 50th Annual Family Fun Fishing Tournament held by the Builders Association of North Central Florida (BANCF) was set to be an epic one. The event, held Saturday at Crystal River's Plantation Inn, was well attended by fishing teams and families with targets in mind ranging from nearby freshwater bass to grouper far offshore.

Ah, but the best-laid plans ...

Hopeful anglers woke Saturday morning to rain, lightning, a stout breeze, and a surprisingly chilly air temperature. Not an ideal recipe for a Family Fun Fishing day. While results at weigh-in clearly reflected the poor fishing weather, many of the anglers paid the price of discomfort to catch what they could.

Freshwater Bass was probably the smartest of the tournament species to target on that day. Don Van Curen and Dale Laney bagged three keepers to win the Heaviest Stringer competition, while C.J. Crosier's 1.4-pounder was 'big bass'.

The winning redfish, a 6.8-pound beauty, crushed Doug Stringfellow's Rapala Skitter Walk in the early morning rain. I was pleased to be net man on that one. The Steve English team had motor trouble early in the day, but had things repaired by 1 p.m. Fierce competitors, they then made the long, rough run to Cedar Key to fish for a half hour before heading back to Crystal River. And in that brief thirty minutes of casting, Collin English caught the second-place redfish at 5.5-pounds.

Kirk and Lance Smith teamed up to bag nine good trout weighing 14.7, easily surpassing the 10-pound second-place trout bag. It was Nathan Weber, though, who hauled in the best single trout at 3-pounds.

As nasty as the conditions were, many at weigh-in were amazed to see a limit of grouper. But, there at the scales was the team of Ivan Oelrich, Josh Blackford, Dustin Dykes, and Derek Dykes with a tournament limit of four red grouper weighing a bit over 20-pounds — those couldn't have come easy. Derek's 6.4-pound fish took Big Grouper honors.

Several managed to locate keeper Spanish mackerel. The team of Jeff Goodwin, Chris Short, Wes Emmanuel, and Josh Dixon brought in the top mackerel stringer, anchored by Chris' 2.5-pounder — the best single Spanish.

Most importantly, Junior Anglers Cade Billings (catfish), Blake Crosier (speckled trout), Ava Howard (speckled trout), and Matthew Howard (speckled trout) all received trophies and prizes for their catches made in tough conditions.

Curiously, the wet chill that plagued the Builders did not much hinder participants in the 23rd Annual Optimist Club of Perry tournament. This event allows participants to launch at any of three Big Bend ports…Econfina, Keaton Beach, or Steinhatchee. To the relief of the Optimists, the nastiest of the front came through south of this stretch of coast. But they probably were confident of this all along. With Mother Nature smiling, catches were far better than those made south of Cedar Key.

The winning trout, a thoroughly impressive 6.9-pound beauty, was taken with cut bait near an oyster bar by Scott Robinson of Keaton Beach. Second-and third-place trout, taken by Blaine Bonner and Chase Stefanelli, were also fine specimens at 5.95 and 5.85.

Mike Conrad and Todd Mitchell each pulled in a redfish weighing 7.35-pounds. By virtue of having weighed his first, Steinhatchee resident, Mitchell won the “Big Red” money.

Victoria Wirick and Caleb Holden bagged the brute of tournament — just in time. The young Perry couple made it back to weigh in with just four minutes to spare to claim the “Big Cobia” victory with their 52.55-pound ling.

Continued great catches in the Steinhatchee area bode well for the biggest of all area saltwater tournaments still to come. Doug Johnson's Reeling for Kids Saltwater Challenge will roll around on Friday, June 13 and Saturday the 14th. This is always a clash of gulf angling titans fishing for a great cause.

Freshwater catches, while very good here-and-there and now-and-then, seem to have not yet settled into dependable late-spring fare. Lake Santa Fe is a prime example. Some say they feel the Lake Santa Fe bass fishing is sub-par, but Eric Canto of Gainesville and Miguel Miranda of Newberry enjoyed great action during their short, three-hour trip to Santa Fe Monday. Casting Zoom Trick Worms to the outside edges of maidencane beds, they boated and released six very nice bass from 16-to-18-inches long.

Mr. and Mrs. Ron Britt of Chiefland and their daughter, Shirley spent three days at Cross Creek Lodge. During their stay, they had fine luck fishing live worms and grass shrimp in Lochloosa. Each day, they returned with nice catches of speckled perch, bluegill, warmouth, and catfish.

Gary Simpson, a veteran tournament angler, operates Gary's Tackle Box at L & S Auto Trim.

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