For Capt. Josh Bibler, winning a fishing tournament could not have come at a better time. “About four months ago, our AC went out,” Bibler said. “We put it all on a credit card to get it paid for.”
Against 17 other anglers, Bibler competed in the unique “One Man Pro” tournament division of the Florida Pro Redfish Series last Saturday hosted from the Salty Shamrock in Apollo Beach.
The rules were simple. Anglers could launch from anywhere, begin fishing with artificial lures only at 6:46 a.m., and have to report back to the Salty Shamrock by car before 3:30 p.m. Each angler would be joined by a marshal, who would have to go live on the Florida Pro Redfish Series Facebook page when a redfish was hooked. The caught fish would then be weighed on a digital scale and showed to the live stream. Anglers would have their total poundage of redfish catch added. No single fish could weigh more than 10 pounds.
A resident of Ellenton, Bibler decided to stay local, launching from Palmetto’s Green Bridge boat ramp. He had four potential spots in mind after prefishing earlier in the week. His two preferred spots would have to wait until later in the day during a higher tide, so he began working the edge of a flat in Terra Ceia first thing in the morning with the low water.
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“I saw five or six fish there when I went through prefishing. I only went there first because it was the edge of a flat I could fish no matter how low the tide was. I knew the fish would move out to the edge,” Bibler described.
First thing in the morning, Bibler threw a weedless jerkbait. “My first cast, I caught a snook. Then I caught flounder, trout and grouper before hooking a redfish around 7:30 in the morning. That first one was 7.2 pounds and was the largest I caught all day.”
Bibler kept working the edge, landing three fish on the jerkbait. When he noticed a redfish not reacting to the jerkbait later in the morning, he switch tactics to a gold spoon.
“I don’t think it saw the jerkbait in the grass. When the sun was up I switched to a gold spoon, and I caught that same fish that wouldn’t eat the jerkbait.”
After landing seven redfish in Terra Ceia, Bibler made a short move to Miguel Bay. The fishing was good, as he continued to add to his total. By the end of the day, he weighed 14 fish for a total of 65.56 pounds. Despite the option to see a live leaderboard, Bibler remained focused as his weight kept adding up.
“I kept fishing as hard as I could and didn’t pay attention to that. I actually didn’t check the leaderboard until I was at the weigh in, but knew I had over 50 pounds. I told my marshal if someone beats me, good for them,” Bibler said.
When everything was tallied, he would come out almost 22 pounds ahead of second-place finisher Bobby Carroll, who caught nine fish totaling 43.8 pounds.
The victory paid $5,000, and with the advantage of not needing to split with teammates, Bibler was able to pay off the credit card.
“We even had a little left over for Christmas,” the captain said happily.