<
>

Woelber Bros. stake team to lead

SAVANNAH, Ga. — On a cold, blustery day, a trio of childhood friends, brothers Brian and Gary Woelber and Raymond Rogers, used patience, camaraderie and perseverance to jump to the Grand Team Champion division lead at the ESPN Outdoors Saltwater Series Redbone Savannah Red Trout Celebrity Classic.

The elder statesman of the crew, Capt. Brian Woelber, 35, who operates a guiding business out of Savannah, used his extensive knowledge of the tournament waters Friday to guide his team to a honey hole that the trio never left.

Woelber had scouted the area and expected things to start happening around 11 a.m., but a few early redfish when conditions were perhaps at the worst caught him by surprise.

All in all, the spot yielded more than 90 trout and 11 redfish to the top-scoring team, which translated into 8,150 points heading into the final day of competition on Saturday.

As expected, the bite did pick up later in the day. But the two anglers, Gary and Raymond, needed to exhibit patience to capitalize on the productive spot.

"It was hours of boredom interrupted by minutes of sheer panic," Gary said.

Much like bass fishing, the fish would be turned on after long periods of inactivity, which meant the anglers had to be vigilant at all times. They were committed to the cause, foregoing lunch and refusing to miss out any possible hot periods.

The trio executed on a well-designed plan. Rogers, who fishes other Redfish tours, is the more experienced angler and threw artificial lures while Gary used live bait. Neither angler has logged much time with a fly rod, so that approach was never in the cards.

The spot, which wasn't much bigger than a moderate-sized pool, is one of Capt. Woelber's frequent stops when he guides. Admittedly, all three anglers had a tough time not exploring other options.

"My father always told me never leave fish to go find fish," Brian Woelber said. "It's tough sometimes to play the waiting game. Trust me, I wanted to pick up and go a number of times but I'm glad we didn't."

Despite the success, the trio wast affected by the not-so-ideal conditions. Rogers admitted that when he woke up, he would have been happy to not go out. For Capt. Woelber though, it was another day at the office.

In the tournament scoring system, anglers receive 50 points for each fish caught on bait; 100 points for each caught on artificial lures; and 200 for each caught on fly. Each redfish-trout pair, called a "slam," earns a 50-point bonus.

Florida's Susan and Gary Ellis started the Redbone Series 20 years ago to raise money for cystic fibrosis research. Last year the series raised more than $1.5 million toward for Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and fighting the debilitating disease that affects the respiratory and other organ systems.

Fishing legends Stu Apte and Flip Pallot also competed in the event that attracted nine boats. Apte, a saltwater legend, found success in the celebrity division and his team scored 7,250 points. The Florida native was eager to describe the conditions after he got off the water.

"If I was home, I wouldn't have bothered going out," said Apte, who showed his fishing prowess landing a few trout on a fly despite the wind. "I always say about fishing, I don't care where you are, it's all about the adjustments."

Despite Apte's advice, the leading trio will not change up a thing Saturday. They plan to stick with their productive honey hole and will not look for new water. It's a risk, but one the lifelong pals are prepared to make.