CHALMETTE, La. — With southwest winds and overcast, rainy skies dominating Day One of the Academy Sports + Outdoors Big Easy Invitational, weights were lighter-than-average on the renowned Louisiana Delta fishery.
This event typically takes from 17 to 18 pounds or more to lead. But those weights are literally gone with the wind.
Charlie Thomason and Shane Pescay lead the event with 15.95 pounds. And despite the light weights, catch rates for redfish in the Louisiana Marsh were just like always.
"The fishing was phenomenal today," Thomason said. "Leading in Chalmette is really special to me. There are people I knew who left after Hurricane Katrina that have come back to see me. This tournament is a good boost to this town — it needs everything it can get."
Ron and Chris Hueston are in second place with15.84 pounds. Third-place belonged to Ken Chambers and John Merriwether with 15.20 pounds.
Rounding out the top five are Scott Hughes and Matt Haag in fourth with15.05 pounds and Heath Seckel and Brian Ulch in fifth with 14.99 pounds.
Despite the cluster of weights in the 14-pound range, Day One belonged to Thomason and Pescay, who managed to find those slightly larger redfish that vaulted them to the lead.
"The fishing was so good today, we had double hook-ups at times," Thomason said. "In spite of that, we were actually pre-fishing because of all the changes the past four days. The winds and higher water made it so the fish were deeper than in practice."
Thomason and Pescay found success even after sharing their primary area with a number of other top contenders, including the Watts brothers (18th, 14.12 pounds), and the third-place team of Chambers and Merriwether.
Chambers, like Thomason and many of the other teams this week, found oversize fish in abundance, but cited the winds as part of the contributing factors to lower weights because sight-fishing for the right size fish was so much more difficult.
"When you are just blind casting, it makes everything harder," Chambers said. "The wind blows a big loop in your line, you can't see the fish as well and that's a whole lot tougher. I'm from Florida, so I'm used to working hard for my fish, but I just didn't expect it coming here."
Aside from the weather, which isn't expected to let up for Saturday's Day Two, anglers blamed lost or finicky fish for lower weights. Blaine Friermood and Robert Scherer ended the day in 14th place with 14.38 pounds, but were disappointed after a great practice period.
"We had such high expectations coming here, people that come to our ranch in Texas are fed redfish on a half shell from right here in Chalmette," Friermood said. "We got here last Thursday and it was the best fishing we have seen in our lifetime. Since then, it has gotten progressively worse and we almost feel let down."
"They are not fully committing to the bait, it is more of a protective strike where they are trying to get it away from them," said Brian 'Bear' Holeman (25th place, 13.64 pounds). "Part of the reason is you have 56 of the best teams in the country whacking fish and those fish still remember what happened to them three days ago. We ended up losing 10 fish, all studs, on the same bank."
A few teams also suffered at the hands of the 16 to 27-inch slot limit. Anglers are allowed to bring in their best two fish, but they have to stay within that slot limit, which varies from state to state. Several anglers reported catching dozens of over-sized reds
All 56 teams fish for the first two days of competition on Friday and Saturday and then the top five based on combined weight will move on to Sunday's final round, where weights are zeroed. The team with the best single-day performance on Sunday will be crowned Academy Sports + Outdoors Big Easy Invitational champions.
Weigh-ins will begin at 4:30 p.m. ET at Gulf Outlet Marina in Chalmette, La. For full coverage of the event, visit RedfishCup.com.
Day One Results:
Charlie Thomason - Shane Pescay
Ron Hueston - Chris Hueston
Ken Chambers - John Merriwether
Scott Hughes - Mat Haag
Heath Seckel - Brian Ulch
John Henninger - Warren Girle
Scott Ritter - Robert 'Bobby' Abruscato
Jarrett Lombard - Leland Symonds
Greg DeVault - Bill DeVault
Trey Newton - Al Keller
Jason Hughey - Matt Ingram
Mike Friday - Danny Latham
Terry Seagraves - Sam Swett
Robert Scherer - Blaine Friermood
Bo Johnson - Mike Del Duca
Tim Young - Jason Catchings
Andrew Bostick - John Landry
Bryan Watts - Greg Watts
Kevin Broussard - Cajun Phil Broussard
Ray Van Horn - C.A. Richardson
Bill Faulkner - Kevin Mihailoff
Chuck Howard - CJ Howard
Erik Rue - Larry Puckett
David Christian - Charlie Paradoski
Travis Holeman - Bryan Holeman
Richard Freund - Ralph Frazier
Ben Alderman - Ronnie Pitts
Ryan Sweezy - Randy Weaver
Chris Cenci - Tommy Derringer
Chris Wittman - Tom Winrow
Jason Keating - Keith McBride
Chief Tauzin - Clark Jordan
John Ochs - David Crews
Paul Chavis - Blaine Peterson
Jeff Totten - Ozzie Lesinger
Blair Wiggins - Travis Tanner
Roland Martin - Steve Loyd
Jeff Pope - Brandon Buckner
Sonny Granger - Jake Matney
Rick Murphy - Geoffrey Page
Paul Jueckstock - Manny Perez
Hugo Garza - Steve Auld
Joe Crosby - Rick Steckelberg
Cody Chivas - Kyle Chivas
Eric Taylor - Eric Holstman
Jon Loring Jr. - Ray Malone
Joey Sostheim - Pete Turner
Bill Pittman - Scott O'Brien
Kris Walter - Terry Brantley
Sam Bertha Jr - Gary McKenzie
Nick Georgeopoulos - Shannon Haskell
Alex Suescun - Mike Laramy
Mike Frenette - Michael Frenette
Dwayne Eschete - Mark Sepe
Jimmy Lloyd - Terry Thomas
Tadd Van Demark - Kevin Shaw