I’m sure I’m not the only one who was awakened around 3:30 a.m. Saturday as a line of severe storms rolled through the area ahead of a cold front.
The intense lightning followed by deafening thunder seemed more like a June storm than a January one. I glanced at my iPhone, took a look at the radar, and felt sorry for the group of anglers who were probably already awake preparing to launch out of St. Petersburg’s Maximo Park for the Florida Pro Redfish Series One Man Tournament.
The unique format for this tournament put 26 solo anglers in charge of hooking, catching and netting their own redfish in a search for the biggest two of the day.
Joining anglers on the boat was a team marshall, who was in charge of going live on Facebook to the Florida Pro Redfish Series page when a fish was hooked, netted, and placed in the live well. The marshall wasn’t able to help in any other way.
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As a result, I spent much of my morning watching anglers manage to find fish despite the windy conditions. The live aspect of the tournament made me really feel like I was there, on the boat, except for the frigid rain and at times 35 mph winds. At 2 p..m., winds on Tampa Bay were a sustained 28 mph with temperatures at 58 degrees.
One of the anglers who dealt with the conditions was Palmetto resident Josh Bibler. Bibler had been catching redfish on the south side of Tampa Bay, but with the conditions he wasn’t able to get to his preferred spots.
“I stayed around the Fort (DeSoto).” Bibler said. “A couple guys did cross the bay and said it was 3 to 5 (foot seas) out there easily. I was in the winning fish, but broke off two and missed another. Just didn’t get it done today. Caught a ton of trout and snook though.”
One angler who ran across the bay was Jeremy Heimes.
“I don’t wish what we went through on anybody,” Heimes said after earning third place with two redfish that combined to weigh 11.46 pounds. “I thank my partner and God that we made it back!”
Second place went to Shane Haas with a two-fish total weight of 12.54 pounds.
In first place with 12.67 pounds was Brian Visnovec. Visnovec had his son onboard as his marshall, but his son didn’t see his dad collect the winning check.
“He’s in the truck, warming up! It was cold.” Visnovec said.
To see the videos from the tournament, visit the Florida Pro Redfish Series page at facebook.com/ FloridaProRedfishSeries.
Event organizer Kent Hickman said the format will be making a return in the future.
“We are fine tuning it and definitely going to do it again. Everything went pretty smooth and the fish were chewing despite the bad weather.”
The tour will return to the west coast of Florida on Feb. 11 in Tampa for the beginning of the more traditional two-man team event. For full results and tour information visit FloridaProRedfishSeries .com.
Source: U.S. Naval Observatory data