Each year, The Yerrid Foundation Grand Slam Fishing Tournament presented by Bonefish Grill is one of the best tournaments in all of Florida, bringing anglers together to raise funds for pediatric cancer research.
The weekend is capped off with teams joining the area's best captains looking for the biggest redfish, trout and snook slam based out of St. Petersburg's Renaissance Vinoy.
For the past five years, I've been fortunate enough to fish with different captains. It gives me a chance to hop on with another fishing guide, see how the fishing is around the bay and hopefully learn a few things along the way.
On Saturday, I joined Capt. Jay Plastic of Tampa. Plastic is a Clearwater native who fishes primarily around northern Pinellas county and northern Tampa Bay. Inglis Leslie joined Plastic and I as we departed the Vinoy Basin at 9 a.m. on Plastic's 22-foot Tournament Edition Pathfinder. We turned north, heading to the Weedon Island on the west side of Tampa Bay.
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If you've never fished Weedon Island, I will tell you it's a different fishery. Imagine Boca Grande Pass during tarpon season, but the flats version. Seemingly every 20 yards there is a boat fishing the shoreline, with kayakers paddling on top of where your baits are. The fish seem almost trained to the movement of boats.
Despite this, Plastic said the redfishing was good nearly all summer. "Some days, you'd be on a school and next thing you know 10 boats are around you, all catching fish. The school thinned out recently following the recent rains but a few fish are still around."
As we pulled up to a cove full of active mullet, a few redfish meandered about. We set a spread of live whitebait and a piece of cut pinfish. Plastic preferred bait for redfish. After a little waiting, the cut pinfish was the first bait hit, letting me land a 25-inch red. A live whitebait under a cork was also bit, yielding a 21-inch red.
After about two hours, we had landed about half a dozen reds and a few small snook, setting off in search of bigger snook. The day before, Plastic had landed about 30, with a few slot-sized fish up to 30 inches.
We pulled up to a spot north of the MacDill A.F.B. on the western side of south Tampa. Plastic said as the outgoing tide dropped lower, the fishing would be better. This held true as toward the end of the day, the snook became more aggressive and we landed about 20. The largest was 25 inches. Along with a trout of 15 inches, we ended the first day with a 65-inch slam.
Of course, my curiosity about comparing the bite in northern Tampa Bay to southern Tampa Bay led me to look at the leaderboard and the unofficial results for local captains.
Capt. T.J. Stewart brought the Yerrid Foundation team south, where they would end Day One in second place. Angler Steve Yerrid led the way with a 31.25-inch redfish, 25-inch snook, and the first day's largest trout of 24.25 inches, while teammate Wade Boggs added to the team total with a 26-inch snook.
"We lost the big one!" Stewart said, describing the one that got away as a snook of more than 40 inches. Action for the tournament will conclude Sunday.
Those interested in learning more about this great cause may visit fastercure.org.