ISLAMORADA, Fla. — Windy conditions mixed with overcast skies provided tough conditions at the Redbone Celebrity Tournament Saturday. Still, a unique trio of angling teams prevailed to head up the leaderboard after the first day of competition.
Fishing in this event for the first time, Cal Collier Jr. and Sr. took the team lead with 400 points, all tallied from redfish. Close behind was the team of Mike Miller and Stu Apte.
Miller, an 11-year old, and Apte, a fly fishing legend, couldn't have less in common but they worked together beautifully to score 300 points. Miller landed all three bonefish, registering a near 12-pound beast.
Another seemingly different team, Chris and Bobby Lane, joined the Miller/Apte combo with 300 points. Both Lanes are Bassmaster Elite Series pros who have considerable saltwater chops. They landed 3 bonefish, all on artificial bait, but lamented a few missed opportunities.
An unpopular decision paid off handsomely for the Colliers Saturday. Searching strictly for redfish — few in the 41-team field did — allowed them to land five of the species, four on artificial and one on a fly. They worked the backcountry and got on the reds early in the day.
In fact, the Colliers were so on fire that fish were jumping in their boat.
"It was a strange day," said Cal Jr. "We caught a number of different species, none that counted. And a tarpon got spooked and jumped in the boat. You have to feel very fortunate that we caught anything considering the conditions."
Guided by Capt. Steve Thomas, the Colliers will change up strategies for the final day. In the event, competitors earn bonus points for pairing up both species. So, with the reds covered, the Colliers will focus strictly on bonefish Sunday.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are Miller/Apte and the Lanes. Both filled up on bonefish and will employ differing strategies Sunday.
The Miller/Apte team was captained by Jim Dalrymple, who described his strategy on a tough day.
"You have to approach it very slow and deliberate," he said. "Soak the bait and keep it wet for as long as you need. It's almost like bass fishing when you are deadsticking it. You have to remain patient. It isn't the most exciting way to fish but you have to do whatever works on a day like today."
While the Lanes are in prime position to take the tournament, the missed opportunities were what both talked about Saturday.
"Both of us missed a few," Bobby Lane said. "We are going to absolutely crush them Sunday."
The Redbone Celebrity Tournament is the pinnacle event of the Redbone Series. The Redbone, founded by Gary Ellis, is focused on its mission to "catch the cure" for Cystic Fibrosis. Coverage of this event will be aired in March 2010 on ESPN2.