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Sunday, February 28, 2010
'Best day ever'

By Doug Grassian
ESPNOutdoors.com

PELICAN POINT, Bahamas — Wind is typically not an angler's friend, but Sunday at the Redbone Deep Water Cay Celebrity Classic, windy conditions — gusts were up to 20-25 knots — turned the bonefish on and Cal Collier Jr. capitalized in a big way.

Collier landed 16 legal bonefish, which upgraded his tournament total to 22, enough to take Grand Champion honors at the event for the fifth time.

The Redbone event was the season-opener of the 2010 Built Ford Tough ESPN Outdoors Saltwater Series presented by Takemefishing.org. Eleven pairs of anglers competed in the two-day IGFA Championship qualifier.

Collier, who was teamed with his father Cal Sr., caught all of his fish wading in the shallows. He didn't find any schools but instead picked off one or two from a bevy of flats fish throughout the day.

His first came at 9:15 a.m., just minutes after arriving to his first flat, and his last came at 3:51 p.m., just minutes before the check-in time.

"It was my best day ever out of Deep Water Cay," Collier Jr. said. "It's ironic, too. Today when I woke up it was 57 degrees and it was really blowing. But the wind tends to relax the spooky bonefish and the conditions other than the wind were pristine."

The high sun and bright blue sky provided ideal conditions for sight fishing. Sunning bonefish were pushed up into the shallows and provided Collier Jr. with the opportunity to exclusively wade.

The visibility resulted in Collier making casts in the comfortable range — 50 to 70 feet. Collier heaped praise on his guide, Cecil Leathen. Leathern and Collier have built up a camaraderie as they have been fishing together for more than a decade.

"I got up and put on the long johns, the rain pants and two long sleeve shirts," Collier Jr. said. "It was just one of those days. The weather was windy and it was pretty cold, but it was a fantastic day for fishing."

While Sunday's conditions were similar to Saturday, Collier Jr. felt that the fish were relating to the flies differently. Collier labeled the Bahamian bonefish as hybrid — with a mix of Keys DNA in them — with a deep sense of intelligence.

So, wading was of the utmost importance. Collier said he feels that the fish react to boats slapping in the water and turn off.

To take the grand champion, Collier Jr. had to overcome a familiar face, his brother David. David took the Saturday advantage with eight bonefish, and while he didn't falter Sunday, Cal put up such huge numbers that David wasn't able to match.

Still, David and his partner Todd Smith took the team championship. David settled for his seventh second-place finish in the event's 11 years.

"I still think that my brother is a little bit of a better angler so anytime I beat him, I consider myself lucky," Cal said.

The Redbone Series of events are devoted to "catching the cure" for Cystic Fibrosis. Through Redbone founder Gary Ellis, more than 25 events are executed each year with proceeds going to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Starting in 2009, Redbone events were integrated into the ESPN Outdoors Saltwater Series, and are aired on ESPN2.

Notable

• David Collier caught the biggest bonefish of the day and tournament, a 28 1/2 inch beauty. Paul Dixon, who narrowly lost out on big fish honors on Saturday due to time, again barely missed out with his 28-inch brute

• Permits were part of the scored species for the event but again, no anglers were able to land the species

• Conditions were so windy in the morning that Redbone signs had to be temporarily pushed down. Redbone found Gary Ellis kept the morning fleet blessing to a minimum.