PORT ARANSAS, Texas — Travis Land of Seguin, Texas, and Nicky Savoie of Cutoff, La., didn’t panic when their spot failed to produce. They simply adjusted their positioning, worked their plan and took over the Day 2 lead at the Yamaha Bassmaster Redfish Cup Championship presented by Skeeter with a two-day total of 27 pounds, 11 ounces.
The leaders, who are representing the Elite Redfish Tour, placed fourth on Day 1 with 13-3 and bolstered that with a Day 2 catch of 14-8 — the day’s second-heaviest bag, behind the 15-6 weighed by Bassmaster Elite Series pro Patrick Walters of Summerville, S.C., and Dwayne Eschete of Lake Jackson, Texas. Land and Savoie lead Walters and Eschete by a margin of 1-5.
After Friday’s moderate south wind, Day 2 brought 15 to 25 mph winds out of the north. Land and Savoie stuck to their main spot — Mesquite Bay on the east side of Matagorda Island — but relocated to a more strategic area.
“We made a move around the corner from where we fished yesterday because our fish have left,” Land said. “I think they’ve pushed back further into the marsh, so we picked up and moved to where we thought we would have a little cleaner water, because the wind blew pretty hard this morning.
“Immediately after that move, we went 50 yards and caught a good fish. We just continued that pattern the rest of the day.”
Land described their relocation spot as a small flat with a shelf. The fish were feeding along the shallows and dropping off the edge. Land and Savoie were catching them when they rose onto the flat.
“All of these fish were moving in with the tide and we sight-fished all day,” Savoie said. “We found this place in practice because we knew we needed to find a place to fish in this weather. It was perfectly planned, perfectly executed and it just worked for us.”
With the flat rising to about 8 inches of water, Land and Savoie caught their fish on Berkley Ripple Shad and Berkley Gulp! Shrimp on jigheads. Short, accurate casts with Abu Garcia baitcasting gear were essential to maximizing their opportunities.
“These fish are spooked, that’s why we went to baits without vibration,” Land said. “We were throwing root beer and sugar and spice colors. They started to react to those better than something with (vivid tail colors).”
Savoie said he and his partner mixed up the bait presentations. He threw a 1/4-ounce jighead, while Land threw a 3/8-ounce. If they spotted a fish that refused one bait, they would immediately follow with a different look.
“We felt like those fish fed the best in the middle of the day, but we have yet to find our biggest school that we caught our biggest (practice) fish out of,” Land said. “We keep trying, we keep checking that spot and hoping they’ll come back. I believe some porpoises have moved into that area and spooked them out of there, but we’re going to keep checking it.”
Savoie, a 6-foot-8 former NFL tight end, scored the save of the day after hooking a slot fish across a narrow bulkhead. He reeled the fish as close as possible, but Land was unable to reach far enough to net the red and tournament rules prohibit competitors from leaving their boat to land a fish.
“My partner was trying to net the fish and the net wouldn’t even touch the water,” Savoie chuckled. “He’s trying and trying and I’m looking at him thinking ‘Oh, this is hilarious.’
“I said, ‘Here, hold the pole.’ So, I gave him the pole and I took the net and said ‘Clockwork.’”
Looking ahead to Championship Sunday, Land said he’s optimistic about his team’s potential.
“I feel good about what we did today,” he said. “The fish we weighed are only 25 inches long; if we go catch the ones that are 28, they’ll weigh 8 to 8 1/2-pounds. We caught them during pre-fishing.
“We’re competing against a great group of anglers, so you can’t ever let off the gas. I didn’t really want to be in first place going into the last day because I always like to move up the leaderboard, but here we are.”
Walters and Eschete entered Day 2 genuinely happy about the stronger winds. They’ve been committed to drifting large flats in the upper end of Laguna Madre where they’re targeting a mix of grass and sand bottom with paddle tails and swimbaits on jigheads.
“The wind 100 percent helped us today,” Eschete said. “We made 20 drifts that were triple the distance of our drifts on Day 1. We were drifting at 2.5 mph. Yesterday were making drifts at .8 mph.
“That made the difference in everything because we were able to cover more water and locate our fish. Our fish had moved today, but we got them dialed in. Now, we just have to go out tomorrow and continue doing what we’re doing.”
Toward the end of their day, the anglers came close to surging into the lead when Walters hooked a big fish that crushed his bait and put up an extensive fight. In the net, the fish looked like it might fit the 20- to 28-inch slot limit, however, the 10-pounder went 28 1/4, so Walters had to release it.
“It was a big one, but the good thing is I feel good about the day,” Walters said. “We struggled for a while; I think it was 10 o’clock before we caught our first one. Then we slowly kept pecking away at it.
“After lunch, I think we dialed something in. We’re around 10-pound fish, they just need to be a quarter-inch shorter. I feel pretty good about tomorrow.”
Bassmaster Elite Chris Zaldain of Fort Worth, Texas, and Ryan Rickard of Brandon, Fla., remained in the third-place spot with a total weight of 25-15. They added 11-5 to the Day 1 weight of 14-10.
Describing a tougher second round, Zaldain said the day’s complexion nearly shut down their main area. Making a long run south of Port Aransas, they couldn’t afford to burn much time running around, so they did their best to work with the areas they had selected.
“I knew in the back of my mind: It’s a northeast kind of front, the air was kind of light and, down here on the Texas coast where that southern, heavy, low-pressure wind is predominant, things change (with these fronts),” Zaldain said. “It was pretty nasty in our areas. We noticed there were no mullet jumping, there were no pinfish (showing in the grass) and there were no pelicans (indicating baitfish).
“Those were the ingredients we needed and it wasn’t happening. We only had five bites and landed all of them.”
Noting that he and Zaldain threw weedless gold spoons and jigs with soft plastics, Rickard said that as the afternoon brought warming and slightly less wind, they saw their area start to pop. Baitfish started showing and redfish followed.
“This all happened in the last 45 minutes of the day,” Rickard said. “We just didn’t have enough time to take advantage of it. But those fish will still be there tomorrow.”
Competition hours Sunday will be 6:45 a.m.-2.45 p.m. CT, with weigh-ins set for 3 p.m. at Fisherman’s Wharf. Fans can catch Bassmaster Redfish LIVE coverage of the tournament as cameras capture all of the action. FS1 will broadcast live from 7-11 a.m. with continuing coverage available on Bassmaster.com.
The 2021 Yamaha Bassmaster Redfish Cup Championship presented by Skeeter is being hosted by the Port Aransas Tourism Bureau & Chamber of Commerce.