“If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.” — Patches O’Houlihan in Dodgeball.
For fishing that might be, “if you can catch a bass, you can catch a redfish.” That’s the thought when the two fishing tours collide for the Yamaha Bassmaster Redfish Cup Championship presented by Skeeter.
Six B.A.S.S. anglers will partner with decorated redfish pros when the 10-team field plies the waterways around Port Aransas, Texas, Nov. 12-14. The competition is being covered by the Bassmaster LIVE team, starting at 8 a.m. ET each day. It will air on FOX Sports 1 from 8-11 ET on Nov. 13-14.
Longtime Bassmaster TV host Tommy Sanders will lead the proceedings, with renowned angler and TV host Capt. Rick Murphy serving as color analyst. Murphy’s expertise in saltwater fishing is akin to O’Houlihan’s knowledge of dodgeball, though Murphy’s never thrown wrenches … that we know of.
The Miami native has likely thrown everything but the kitchen sink in his fishing exploits, which have taken him around the world targeting varied sport fish. The host of three fishing shows, including Sportsman’s Adventures on Discovery Channel, Murphy is the winningest saltwater tournament angler in the U.S. with 139 titles, including three redfish titles in a single year.
Contacted during a fishing shoot in Guatemala, Murphy had already done prep work for Bassmaster Redfish LIVE, and he said the time, place and competitors set up well for quite the show.
“Talking to some of the guys who work on Texas Insider Fishing Report (another of Murphy’s shows), they tell me the best time of year to redfish there is in November,” he said. “What a blessing to be hosting this tournament at this time. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we don’t have a cold front and the weather drops 40 degrees during the tournament.”
Cold snaps shut redfish mouths, similar to largemouth bass in Florida. Even if a front did pass, it could add to the intrigue of figuring out the redfish, the reddish-brown brutes with a distinctive black eye spot on their tails, but Murphy figures fans would be more entertained with multiple fish battles.
The 14 redfish pros can surely fill that bill. All have impressive resumes and tournament titles, and most “could catch fish in a 7-11 parking lot in a cup of coffee,” said Murphy, adding their expertise will make the transition easy for the bass anglers. After interviewing all the competitors, Murphy said he thinks the bass pros will take to the briny world well.
“A lot of the baits that they use for bass fishing, we use for red fishing, and vice versa,” Murphy said. “That’s one of the things I’m very excited about. I don’t think you’ll see the bass guys have to do much adjustment. Once they figure out a pattern with their partner, I think redfish enthusiasts are going to see some really cool things coming out of these anglers.”
The event has anglers vying to bring in their best two redfish, also known as red drum, each day. The trick is that redfish, a predator much like a bass, have to measure between the Texas slot limit of 20 to 28 inches.
“You’ll want to bring in those 27 7/8-inch fish,” said Murphy, who estimates a great weight will be around 9 pounds. At 18 pounds a day, a total weight in the upper 50s could earn the team $50,000.
After an off-limits period of Oct. 11 to Nov. 7, the competitors have three days of official practice and a media day off the water on Nov. 11. Murphy said pre-fishing will have anglers scouring the waterways around Aransas and Corpus Christi for schooling redfish near the upper end of the slot.
“Redfish hang out in schools. Whether it’s a depth of water or structure, an oyster bar, a marsh, a jetty, fish of a similar size stay together,” he said. “If you catch 24-inch fish, you need to move on. School fish have a tendency to stay with the same-sized fish.”
In targeting those bigger redfish, Murphy said he expects to see some oversize redfish, which while wasting the anglers’ time could be rather exciting for viewers. He anticipates a good number of catches over the slot.
“If we’ve got guys that are fishing jetties with crankbaits, they could potentially catch a 40-inch fish that screams off drag and takes 15 minutes to land,” he said. “That’s a cool thing, but if you’re that angler and you know he’s way too big, it’s still hard to break him off … you don’t have the heart. What it does is it eats up a chunk of your tournament time.”
Some of the bass fishing lures that do double duty for redfish include topwater plugs, hard-twitch baits and the scented soft plastics. Generally bottom feeders, which can lead to their tails sticking out of the water, redfish feast on crabs, shrimp and small fish. Murphy said one key bit of advice is to keep your bait moving.
“Saltwater fish aren’t used to the prey stopping, like a frog or mouse or lizard or snake,” he said. “You have to keep the bait moving. If you get a bite, you have to speed it up, whether a topwater or soft plastic, as if the prey is getting frightened, that it’s scared and trying to get away.
“That redfish can be underneath it and if the bait stops, he’s going to fade in the abyss. He’s not just going to stop, he’s going to go, ‘Nope. Something’s wrong there, and I’m out.’”
Unless a dreaded front cools things off, Murphy expects some great fishing. He said he’d like to see the anglers presented the same conditions as in pre-fishing, or they’d have to start over on Day 1. There are plenty of targets which will lead to great visuals for the show.
“With big tides, the fish could be on the beach,” Murphy said. “There could be fish on the rock jetties in the passes, they could be on shell bottom, in the marsh grass. I’m really excited about it.”
Well-versed in redfish competition, Murphy hopes to help illuminate the species and competitors for viewers, explaining the who, why, where, what and when.
“I hope to be able to relay the personalities of the anglers and try to explain what’s going on through their minds at any particular moment,” he said. “Try to explain their plans, why something might or might not be working, and not changing tactics quickly enough, just like the bass anglers.”
Editor’s note: See What to know about the Redfish Cup