Flying to the top

PELICAN POINT, Bahamas — Redbone competitors were treated to some un-Bahama like conditions Saturday.

A windy, cloudy day translated into rough seas for the 11 teams at the Redbone Deep Water Cay Bonefish Classic, the first tournament of the 2010 Built Ford Tough ESPN Outdoors Saltwater Series presented by Takemefishing.org.

But most were able to overcome the dreary conditions — the sun hid behind the clouds for some time in the afternoon — with the team of David Collier and Todd Smith combining to land 15 bonefish. Collier landed eight while Smith scored seven on their way to top team honors and a 1-2 placing in the individual competition.

The scoring system puts a premium on catching bones on fly. That trick earns competitors 200 points while anglers score 150 points for landing a bonefish on spinning tackle. Bones that fall for live bait reward anglers with 100 points. While permit are a scored species in this event, no competitor was able to land one of legal size.

Collier, 40, is no stranger to Redbone competitions and has had previous success in Redbone events out of Deep Water Cay scoring the previous two victories. But Saturday was different and even with a heavy wind gusting up to 40 mph; the duo was able to land all their bones on a fly.

"It was pretty steady pickings all day," said Collier, a equity investor from Greenwich, Conn. "But when the conditions are like this, it makes everything harder. Managing your line and just actually concentrating become tough tasks. Plus, the ocean gets a lot smaller when it's blowing like it was today (Saturday)."

Still, Collier and Smith, guided by 28-year veteran Walter Reckley, were able to execute with a heavy dose of versatility. Both caught bonefish from the boat in addition to wading. Collier said that the weather will dictate their plan of action Sunday, but if conditions are right, he felt wading was the key to closing the tournament Sunday.


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David Collier will have to fend off some familiar faces Sunday if he wants to win the IGFA-sanctioned event. Father, Cal, and brother, Cal Jr., each landed six bones on flies and their team was part of a grouping of competitors just behind the leaders.

Jim Novinger, who landed five bones on a fly and two on bait, was also part of the contingent.

"It was just a difficult fishing day and the fish get nervous when the conditions are like this," Novinger said. "It's sort of surprising to see that everyone did this well."

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.


• Sweeting's Cay was a popular spot for Redbone competitors. A tiny island populated by more than 100 people, the island boasts no police force. Instead, it's self-policed.

• Bahamas cars output speed in kilometers and everyone drives on the left side of the road. The two adjustments from the States take a while to sink in. Trust me.

• Due to the rough conditions, Redbone competitors Paul Dixon and Chip Hammersmith came in late and were penalized one fish.

• Deep Water Cay boasts the Deep Water Cay Club, which is home to more than 100 members. The exclusive club comes with a heavy premium but the lodging facilities and the accessibility to stacked bonefish flats make it one of the premier fishing clubs in the Bahamas.

• Collier and Smith devoted a portion of their day to rescue a commercial fisherman, who had engine problems.

• Dixon must have crossed the path of a black cat. In addition to the penalty, Dixon landed the biggest bone of the tournament, a 26-incher. However, Matt Benson trumped him when he landed a bone of equal exactly one hour before Dixon.