GEORGETOWN, S.C. — Still at the tanks with their fish yet to be weighed, Cody Chivas and Fred Myers III slapped hands jubilantly after their closest competitors’ weight was announced — they knew they had won their biggest tournament.
The Florida team, fishing in just their sixth event together, captured their third victory of the year with Sunday’s Yamaha Bassmaster Redfish Cup Championship presented by Skeeter Boats.
“This is definitely the biggest name tournament I’ve ever won,” Chivas said. “Just the name behind it, B.A.S.S.
“The saltwater world is always kind of second. I’ve won a lot of tournaments, tarpon, kingfish, grouper, sailfish, but this is definitely the biggest name. It’s definitely at the top.”
With Day 3’s biggest bag of 15-9, Chivas/Myers totaled 36-7 to defeat the Texas team of Travis Land and Jeremey Reeves. With the title they earned $75,000 and a berth to next year’s Redfish Cup.
Myers, almost tearing up with the trophy in hand and surrounded by family, said the key was finding the fish and staying put. They were in the right place at the right time.
“We read fish very well. And not just fish, we read water,” he said. “We read what’s going to do down in the tournament. I think other teams ran around a lot, and I think it wasted a lot of time not having your lure in the water at a critical time.
“Cody caught his fish on back-to-back casts — it took three minutes. I caught my fish back to back — it took about five minutes. That made the difference in us winning.”
The team won their first tournament in March, then qualified to the Bassmaster event by winning the Redfish World Series on Lake Charles. Those were big events, Chivas said, but this win topped them.
“For us redfish guys, to have B.A.S.S. host an event means so much, and not just the guys fishing it, everyone else watching it at home,” Chivas said. “I’m going to remember this one for a while.”
The tournament was remarkable in many ways but will be remembered for the frustrating slot size and extreme tides. Each added to the intrigue and strategy followed.
Each angler on the 10 teams could bring in two redfish between 17 and 23 inches. Only 48 made it to the scales out of a potential 150, and there were five of a possible 45 limits caught. There were numerous “under” fish and as many “heartbreak” fish, or “overs,” that measured 23 1/4 inches.
Teams unfamililar with the region’s tidal swings of almost 6 feet reported they ran aground plenty in practice, but two teams – the past two winners – took zeroes after getting stuck on Day 1 and not making it back to weigh-in.
Let’s take a quick look at most interesting notes and quotes from the 10 teams.
Gary Moreno and Tony Viator, 10th place
Thought to be a team that would contend after posting a number of perfect fish on social media, the Texas team zeroed the first two days before weighing one 2-9 redfish on Day 3.
“I’ve never been so pleased to finally put a 3-pound redfish in the boat,” Viator said.
With emcee Dave Mercer moving to interview Moreno, the diminutive Moreno moved from behind the podium to be seen, explaining, “I’m like an under redfish.”
Mercer quickly quipped, “I’d be an over.”
As most of the competitors at the final weigh-in, Moreno had praise for the event hosts.
“I can’t thank Yamaha and Skeeter boats enough to put on such a great event. Thank you South Carolina and Georgetown,” he said. “It’s humbling to be here. I’ve never been to side this of the world. I promise you I will come back.”
Jeff Mullet and Ken Mullet, ninth
On Day 1, the Florida cousins brought in an over, incurring a 1-pound penalty. They caught 6-13 on Day 2 but zeroed in the finale for a 5-13 total.
Passing on asking Ken whether his haircut was a prerequisite for his name, Mercer instead asked the origin of the surname.
“It came from Switzerland in the 1700s. It was actually spelled Mollet and then my grandpa added a “t” when he came over here in the 1900s. He was mad at other family, and he wanted to be better so he added one.”
The Mullets also were expecting to do well after catching 20 fish a day in practice, but the fishery humbled them quickly. Jeff mentioned hearing of drone footage from cameraman Wes Miller that showed they were close to redfish.
“Our boat is sitting here and about 100 yards behind us is a school of about 100, 150, which makes you feel really good,” he said sarcastically. “That kind of sums up our week.”
Aaron Salazar and Ben Human, eighth
Disappointed in their finish, both still thanked all the sponsors and said it was an honor to fish in the event, which they almost didn’t make. Before their final qualifying event, Salazar’s father had to undergo surgery.
“I almost lost my father. He had heart surgery the day before leaving for our big tournament in Florida,” he said. “My dad gave me the green light. He said, ‘Son, please go. I’m fine. I’ll never forgive myself if you don’t.’”
Staying with him as long as he could, Salazar drove 23 hours straight to the Florida tournament and finished 12th to earn Power-Pole Team of the Year and a berth in the Redfish Cup.
Justin Atkins and Ryan Rickard, seventh
Justin Atkins, an Elite pro from Alabama, made a lot of new friends, including partner Ryan Rickard.
“It’s an awesome experience. Thank you Skeeter/Yamaha for having me here,” Atkins said. “I run one on the Elites, and it never lets me down. I really enjoyed spending the week with Ryan. I hope we get to do this again.”
Rickard has got to go again and again now. The pro from near Tampa, Fla., is the only three-time Redfish Cup competitor, teaming with Elite Chris Zaldain to win the first in 2021 and taking second in their defense last year.
“It’s an honor to be a part of all three. I love the format with having a B.A.S.S. angler with a redfish guy,” Rickard said. “Having the mix, B.A.S.S. gets to follow their people and watch them do something different, and you end up making a lot of good relationships.”
The exposure, with live telecasts on FS1 and Bassmaster.com, is also a plus, creating positive waves in redfish circles. Chivas, for one, said he was proud, and a bit jealous, of Rickard when he won.
“When you qualify and are fishing with people really high on the totem pole in the fishing world, you always get extra love from your sponsors and from people on your social accounts,” Rickard said. “But for me, it’s always about the competition, not the recognition. It just drives me to be a better angler. Fishing around these B.A.S.S. guys definitely makes you do that.”
Scott Canterbury and Krista Miller, sixth
Miller, a redfish guide on Florida’s St. George Island, was fishing her first ever tournament, while Canterbury was fishing his second event on as many continents in a week.
“A week ago today I was fishing in Portugal for largemouth bass and we won a gold medal for USA,” he said of teaming with fellow Elite Scott Martin in the Black Bass World Championship.
As the seasoned tournament angler, Canterbury took over the helm of Miller’s Skeeter Bay boat and loved it so much he vowed to get one.
They weighed four fish and “had a few heartbreakers, for sure. The fishing has been phenomenal, it’s just hard to catch those slot fish. It’s been fun fishing with Krista. I tried to learn about redfishing, but I think we ended up doing bass fishing, catching them that way.”
Miller, who became a guide when told she couldn’t, took pride in being the first woman to fish the event.
“It’s great to be one of the guys, and I hope we see more (women) in future tournaments,” she said.
Eddie Adams IV and Sean O’Connell, fifth
The defending champs from Louisiana missed weighing their two fish on Day 1 as falling water left them stuck on a sandbar, but they came back strong on Day 2 with a solid 13-15 then caught one fish on Championship Sunday.
“It stings a little bit. I think we’d be in pretty good shape if we had those two fish from (Friday),” O’Connell said. “The tides were a huge difference — a lot to learn in a couple days.”
“There’s definitely no gimmes here,” Adams said. “Anyone one of us can catch them any day or get stuck any day.”
The two returned after winning last year’s Redfish Cup in Port Aransas, Texas, and were sure appreciative of the opportunity.
“It’s an unbelievable thing for a redfish angler to get on this kind of a stage and fish with these anglers,” O’Connell said.
Pat Schlapper and Ben Powers, fourth
Schlapper turned the tables on Powers, a redfish guide out of nearby Charleston. The Elite pro kind of took over after they zeroed on Day 1, leading the team to three-fish weights of 11-8 and 12-11 the last two days. Yet they could have done better, suffering from overs.
“Every fish that seemed to come over the rail was a half inch to a quarter inch long,” said Powers, who was impressed with Wisconsin Elite. “He’s an awesome fisherman, watching him catch with the bass lures was quite a treat.”
Usually going about Elite business quietly, Schlapper took charge, barking orders and displaying urgency that he wanted to make a competitive showing. After catching his two, Schlapper took the role as guide, although it was his first time targeting redfish.
“He was baiting my lures, hooking my rigs up, taking my fish off, just to try to get me out there as fast as he could,” Powers said. “I’m usually the guide.”
Initially frustrated by the difficulty of landing slot fish — only three of 30 fish on Sunday — Schlapper changed his tune after he got in tune with redfish.
“These fish are addictive,” he said. “I’ve caught 50-inch muskie, 6-pound smallmouth, giant northerns and 12-pound largemouth, and they don’t compare to how these things fight.”
Drew Cook and Dwayne Eschete, third
Cook, an Elite pro from Georgia, meshed well with the redfish pro from Louisiana, but most everybody gets along well with the amiable Eschete.
Each in their second Redfish Cup, they made it look easy on Day 1, catching the leading bag of 16-4 and for an 8-pound lead. Day 2 was trying with one fish.
“We kind of stubbed our toe,” Cook said. “We made things a lot more interesting. If we had done what we did yesterday, we’d be sitting pretty good.”
A limit on Championship Sunday might have done it as they brought in two upper slot fish for 9-15, just 6-2 shy of winning.
Eschete explained their misfortune, saying he had a first with breaking off the same fish twice. The first time the cork was floating in the grass and they raced over to it, as hand-lining it in would have been a legal catch.
“I reach down there and grab the cork, and it breaks off again. Really? Twice on one fish?” Eschete lamented.
Fishing for 40 years, Eschete was again thrilled with the venue and the crowd, asking them for one thing.
“If you ever wanted to be rewarded,” Eschete said, “take a kid fishing and watch the smiles on their face when they catch a fish. That’s what it’s all about.”
Travis Land and Jeremey Reeves, second
After only one fish on Day 1, Land and Reeves moved locations and found a mother lode, bringing in the event’s biggest limit of 16-6 to get back in the game.
“I feel better than I’ve felt in a long time about a redfish tournament,” Land said. “We left them biting. That spot is absolutely loaded.”
They gave it a run on Championship Sunday with 15-3, the fifth limit of the event, but they fell short by 1-7.
“We left it all out there. We did the best we could,” Land said. “You’re fishing against some of the best guys, coast to coast.”
For all but Rickard, it was the first time on the Winyah Bay fishery for the redfish pros from Florida, Louisiana and Texas. Although hampered by the slot — it’s usually 27 or 28 inches on the Gulf — and the wild tide swings, all left lauding the event.
Hailing from Orange, Texas, where the Elite Series has had record crowds, Reeves was right at home with how friendly everyone was in South Carolina.
“Everybody is waving, smiling — every boat on the water waves at you. I got tired of waving back,” he said to laughs.
“It’s hard to pull a Texan out of Texas, but if there’s anywhere I’d probably go, I’d come here,” Land said. “I love ya’ll’s country, and great food.”