Jason and I planned to fish the 4th annual West Bay Redfish Showdown tournament together several months ago. Jason fished the event for the first time last year and took home 4th and little spending money for his efforts. I’ve wanted to fish the event for a couple years now, but prior commitments have kept me from entering. That wasn’t the case this year.
The tournament is put on by West End Anglers. It’s also a fundraiser benefitting Shriners Children’s Hospital in Galveston, Texas. The boundaries are west side of the Galveston Bay Complex from the Surfside Bridge to the Galveston Causeway. Although most of the participants are boaters, there are no restrictions as to your method of transportation; some people even fish the tournament by foot. Jason fished the tourney from his kayak and I fished from out of my canoe.
Leading up to the tourney I had only fished Galveston once in over a month. Jason had been on some good fish for the Lone Star Kayak Series, but none of the spots either one of us had fished lately were in bounds. We blindly picked a spot that we fished before. Our game plan was to fish hard, have fun, and let the cards fall where they may.
This is our favorite time of year to fish. We were hoping the conditions would line up right for one of those epic days in the marsh. Early week predictions of a strong cold front moving through prior to the tournament had Jason and me amped. Conditions looked to be playing exactly in our favor.
The conditions tournament day were almost perfect. The front moved through early Friday morning. The prevailing north winds didn’t drop the water levels as much as we hoped, but the water levels did drop a little as compared to the high tides of earlier in the week. Fall cold fronts usually fire up the fish in the marsh and make them more active than normal and we hoped that would be the case for the fish in our area.
The only nuisance was the lingering winds. It usually takes the wind a few days to settle down after a front, but we knew from our tournament fishing experience that strong winds could play into our favor. In windy conditions some people struggle to catch fish. We’ve seen it level out the playing field on several occasions.
When we arrived to the launch on Saturday morning we were greeted by brisk N wind. The water was white-capping in front us and the wind chilled us to our core. At that point we started to wonder what we had gotten ourselves into. We put a few more layers on and unloaded our boats and waited for launch time. When launch time arrived we braved the wind and headed to our spot. Jason even put his life jacket on as a safety precaution. It was first time I’ve ever seen him wear his life jacket in the bay.
We had to fight the tide and the wind to get to our spot. When we arrived we saw gulls working as far as we could see in every direction. We both started to get excited. We thought we would see schools but as we got closer we saw no signs of schooling activity. The gulls were hovering over single fish.
Despite how many fish we saw early the day started off a little slow. We caught a few fish each but we were surrounded by fish. We felt like we should have been catching them more frequently. About that time I shouted over to Jason that we needed to slow down and work the area well instead of moving quickly like we normally do. My nerves were sky high and I knew Jason had to be feeling the same way.
I started to see and catch fish but Jason still struggled because of the cloud cover and his lower vantage point. He couldn’t see the fish as well as I could. I had almost 14 lbs on the stringer in the first hour of fishing. As the clouds began to break Jason and I were both seeing and catching fish at about the same rate. The bird and feeding activity died down after a few hours but the water was clear enough for us to see most of the fish. We spent the rest of the day slightly upgrading or catching fish that were either barely over the slot or way too big.
Our predetermined cutoff for fishing was 3:00. We caught fish up until the very end. Jason had one big fish over 8lbs and I had three fish on the stringer that were all 27-28”. I couldn’t determine which was the heaviest so we kept all of them. We figured we have time to find which one was heaviest at the weigh-in.
We ended up leaving a little later after getting our fish and belongings situated. We knew we were going to be cutting it close to the 5:00 weigh-in deadline. On the way back to the launch all we talked about was how good the fishing had been all day. We had a great time on the water regardless of where we finished. We weren’t sure how we would stack up against the field, especially considering how good the fishing had been and the tough field we were fishing against.
We made to the weigh-in with ten minutes to spare. Team Notorious, the two-time reigning champs, were in first with 15.5 lbs + 1 lb two live fish bonus. I remember mentioning to Kaylin, member of Team Notorious, it was going to be close. I had no idea just how close. Our fish weighed 15.6 lbs + 1lb two live fish bonus. We beat them by .1lbs. I couldn’t believe it.
We were both happy and shocked at the same time. We really didn’t think we had the weight to win. Both of the fish we weighed in were caught in the last hour of fishing. We caught every fish sight casting with soft plastics. Awesome day. Fun tournament. Thanks to everyone who helped put it together.