In December, FFP Director of Sales, Wyler Gins; CCA Florida Star Tournament Director, Leiza Fitzgerald; and I had the opportunity to fish together for redfish in Tampa Bay. Our main objective: shoot a photo of a redfish for promotional use for the upcoming CCA Florida STAR Tournament. If you are not familiar with the CCA Florida STAR, it is one of Florida’s largest tournaments that provides extremely valuable data on one of our favorite gamefish: redfish. For more info on this year’s STAR Tournament, Click Here.
Although I had not been fishing in quite some time and the pressure was on to get a “money shot”, I was very confident that the three of us were competent enough anglers to get the job done. Wyler has lived and fished in Florida for over ten years, and has become a phenomenal saltwater angler during that time. Leiza is an accomplished tournament angler that began her fishing career fishing the IFA, FLW, and ESPN Redfish Cups. And I have over ten years of tournament experience, fishing up and down both of Florida’s coasts in the IFA Kayak Tour and several local tournaments.
The morning started with a negative low tide to start, and if you know me, tailing fish immediately came to mind. We were a little over equipped using Wyler’s 18’ Hewes Redfisher to chase tails, but we figured worst case scenario we could always wade to the fish. After weeding through some nice winter trout — which Leiza let us know was one of her least favorite gamefish to pursue — we saw exactly what we had been looking for: tailing redfish.
With what seemed like the flick of a switch, the flat erupted with surface disturbances from wading white pelicans, to mullet schools, and the ever so stealthy redfish tail. Immediately upon reaching casting distance of the first fish, Wyler hooked up and almost as quickly had the fish spit the hook. It’s all fun and games until they spit it back at ya! This became a bit of theme for us on this morning.
After having some trouble getting to the fish due to the extreme low tide, Wyler decided to hop out and wade. Within about 30 seconds of hopping in the water, he pulled a Houdini trick and managed to make his lure disappear right off his line as he was approaching a pair of fish. He begged me to bring him a new hook and soft plastic, but I politely declined as I hopped in the water. (Sorry Wyler!) I made my way up to another pod of aggressively feeding fish, and pitched a Slayer Inc. SST in Camo color on a 4/0 1/16th Oz XXX Penetrator hook. A quick twitch of the rod tip, and it was GAME ON! Ziiiiing!
After some long runs, bull dog head shakes, and wrestling around in the grass, I was able to land this beautiful upper slot red on the Osprey 3000 / Stealth Sniper Combo spooled up with our new Distance Premium Braided Fishing Line. I hopped back in the boat, shot a quick pic with Leiza, and then we all hopped back in the water and got to work.
Within a few minutes, we were back on the fish and Wyler stuck another upper slot red! He’s a strong believer in Gulp Shrimp, which I am diligently working to wean him off. But he proved that they work when paired with a Osprey 3000 / TFO Inshore Series Combo. Another phenomenal rod to pair up with our Osprey Spinning Reels. I quickly snapped some pics of Wyler and Leiza, and we once again got back to work. Most people wouldn’t consider fishing as work, but it takes years of experience, hours of preparation, the right gear, a lot of patience, and persistence to not only catch a picture worthy fish but also capture an ad worthy picture.
At this point, I felt like we were showing off to Leiza a bit, and she admitted she was letting us be the fisher “men” at the start of the morning. Leiza is aware that she’s in a predominantly male run industry, and has done a heck of a job making a name for herself in it. She is one of the most well-spoken and talented anglers I have had the opportunity to fish with, and she makes most fishermen look like boys on the water! In addition, she’s a wonderful teacher and role model to many male and female anglers in the industry.
After a few minutes of letting the dust settle, a new group of fish began making their way up to us. Leiza was up to the plate, and used precision casting to stick two reds almost back to back! Unfortunately, both fish spit the hook just a few seconds into the fight. We determined later that day as we recorded a recap of our trip that the redfish were a bit upset with her due to her spending so much time hunting the previous few weeks instead of fishing. Fishing superstitions are real…
As the tide continued to rise, I waded my way towards the shoreline and picked off another red and a nice snook to finish out my slam. At this point, we all had caught nice trout, Wyler had caught a red as well, and I had finished my slam. We collectively decided to make the move into a nearby saltwater lake to search for snook to complete Wyler’s slam.
After skipping the bushes for a couple hundred yards, Leiza and Wyler both stuck and landed solid snook. Another slam completed, and only one more to go. The tide had reached about a foot above chart datum (chart datum is the level at which the tide is measured from and is typically the mean low tide for an area, so even on most low tides the water does not go below the zero point), which is a relatively high tide for December in Florida. Figuring the reds would be working towards the shorelines at this point in the tide, we moved spots and once again began fishing the bushes.
With little luck in the past hour and a half and only a few hours left in the day, we made the decision to switch over to some chunk bait to see if we could finish out Leiza’s slam. After three missed fish on circle hooks (seriously the redfish were not happy with Leiza that day), Leiza finally boated her red and completed her inshore slam. All in all, it was an incredible day on the water, and an awesome opportunity to get to know Leiza better, tell her about Florida Fishing Products’ long term vision, and begin working on some more collaborative work with CCA Florida STAR Tournament.
Thank you for reading. Please let us know about your thoughts on this article and share your own stories in the comments below.