One week ago, Hurricane Nate was bearing down on Louisiana. The relatively small storm brought heavy rain, strong winds, and a bit of surge along with it. But it moved quickly and was gone seemingly as soon as it started.
This weekend Venice, La., played host to the Inshore Fishing Association redfish tour championship. Venice is known for having the best redfishing in the world, and not even a hurricane is capable of preventing great catches of redfish.
“My partner Brian (Visnovec) said it wasn’t even that bad,” local captain Jason Prieto said. “He came before the storm and said it was gone quickly. The news likes to focus on one place and make it look worse than it is. Honestly you wouldn’t even know there was a storm.”
Prieto, a longtime captain on southern Tampa Bay waters, qualified to fish in the championship by finishing strongly in the Florida West Coast division Punta Gorda tournament with Visnovec. Sept. 9’s round two of the west coast division was canceled due to Hurricane Irma.
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The team went to Venice early in an effort to find the biggest slot redfish possible by prefishing. In the process he saw why people call it the redfish capital of the world.
“We probably caught 50 redfish a day and could have caught more. There were a few 35 pounders and catching them is almost like it’s nothing. For a two fish slot limit we were averaging 15 to 16 pounds each day of prefishing.”
During Friday’s tournament day one, Prieto and partner Visnovec ran about an hour west of Venice. The fishing, while good, wasn’t quite as productive in terms of the correct size they were hoping for. “The fish are so much heavier here. Our catch would have been good in Florida, but it takes much more to win in Louisiana.” Their day one total of 11.86 pounds put them in 67th place.
For perspective, 11.86 pounds in Tampa Bay would probably be close to top 10 in many tournaments, but 77 of the 112 boats weighed in more than 10 pounds between two redfish.
Leading after day one was the team of Bo Favre and Brett Ordes with 17.25-pounds. Right behind them was Chad Dufrene and Barnie White with 17.22 pounds.
In third place after day one was Paul Dufrene and Nicky Savoie at 16.97 pounds. On day two, the team of Dufrene and Savoie would end up catching another solid weight to take home first place with a two day total of 34.15-pounds. Their championship win would bring home cash and prizes worth $47,415.
Second place for the championship would go to Bobby Abruscato and Scott Ritter with 33.60 pounds. Their winnings would total $30,128.