PORT ARANSAS, Texas — Ryan Rickard and Chris Zaldain might be in third place, but they’re easily the most confident team after Day 1 of the Yamaha Bassmaster Redfish Cup Championship. Rickard had a pre-tournament plan and it played out to the letter Friday.
“I went into today saying I would love to come out with 14-plus pounds,” Rickard said. “I don’t care if we’re in sixth place, 10th place, first place, it didn’t matter for us. With the fish we’ve got to go back to, we’ve got a great opportunity to get this done.”
Their two-fish limit of redfish measuring between 20 and 28 inches weighed 14 pounds, 10 ounces. Rickard and Zaldain are only seven ounces behind leaders Ricky Bort and Mark Menendez, who totaled 15-1. Thomas Barlow and Glenn Vann are second with 15-0.
“The reason I said 14 pounds is because in pre-fishing here and the amount of water I covered and with some knowledge of this general area, I knew it was very difficult to catch those seven- and eight-pound fish,” Rickard said. “When there’s not many of those during pre-fishing, that says to me there’s not many of those for everybody else.
“Going in with 14 pounds on Day 1 of a three-day tournament, you’re in contention on Days 2 and 3 no matter what. Weather changes – wind changes, barometric pressure changes - but if you’re posting 7-pound fish every time, you’re going to be where you need to be at the end of this tournament.”
And the weather is definitely going to change Saturday. The forecast is for heavy wind blowing out of the northeast. That’s the other factor Rickard took into account when planning where to fish in this tournament, which includes a vast area roughly 80 miles long and five miles wide.
“Our pre-fishing strategy all week was go find the areas that will be protected no matter what the wind does,” Rickard said. “It could blow 30 (miles per hour) and we’re going to be fine where we are fishing.”
Rickard and Zaldain threw only two lures all day – spoons and small swimbaits. Zaldain is known for throwing bigger versions of both those baits on the Bassmaster Elite Series tour, so that plan was in his comfort zone.
“My favorite parallel (to bass fishing) is the fact that redfish eat swimbaits and spoons,” Zaldain said. “If you’ve watched the Elite Series, you’ve seen me go down in flames throwing those two baits. Captain Ryan makes it easy. He puts us in the area and I just start casting.”
Zaldain and Rickard estimated they caught over 20 redfish, but not many big ones. Zaldain landed an 8-pounder that allowed them to cull and top the 14-pound mark.
“I couldn’t ask to be paired with a better person,” Rickard said. “We both think so similarly. We have the same personality. We both get amped up and jacked up. It was a really fun day. We’ve got a really good chance, I believe.”