This was the ninth year for Doug Johnson’s Reeling for Kids tournament which benefits the Boys and Girls Clubs of Alachua County. Doug spent a lot of time as a kid at the Northwest Boy’s Club, and after his NFL career with the Falcons and Bengals, moved back to Gainesville and wanted to give something back. I remember well the first year in 2003….Brian Holt and I fished and we managed to catch the largest redfish; I even found some pics from that first tournament.
The tournament has grown over the years to be the biggest tournament in our area, with a host of sponsors, a kick-off event at the Touchdown Terrace, and around 100 boats participating. I have been fortunate the past three years to fish with Noah Brindise, former Gator quarterback, assistant coach for the Redskins and offensive coordinator for the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels. Noah decided that a football career was a tough way to have a family and has been working for Arthrex for a number of years, a company that makes orthopedic applications. He also is a very good fisherman and several years ago we had a great day during the tournament, with the boat catching the second biggest redfish. I’ve been lucky enough to fish with him each year since. Last year was a tough tournament, but we were optimistic this year as I thought I had located a great redfish area. Our only worry was the weather, with storms and high winds. Noah invited his friend Paul Michas from Albany, Georgia and we set out before dark on Friday. The fishing wasn’t easy, and made a little more challenging when my GPS gave up the ghost just as we got out on the water. We found some nice redfish early, but no tournament fish, and when we moved out with the tide, and fished an offshore bar for trout, we realized that the electrical problems were continuing; my bilge pump had failed and we had a bit of water (actually more than a bit) in the bilge. Unfortunately we had no choice but to run in and get the pump replaced which kept us off the water for three hours (thanks be to Charlie Norwood, who managed to get us back quickly). We managed to get back out and caught a few more fish, but again no tournament challenging fish.
We had great hopes for the next day, and managed to find an excellent fish early that measured 26 1/2 inches, which ordinarily is a fine contestant.
We drifted out over some deeper flats. We had been catching lots of trout, but very few keeper fish, which has been a problem this year. One excellent boat caught 110 trout…and only one was a keeper. We actually caught about four or five keepers, but none were large enough to be tournament fish and were released.
We came in early because of other commitments and I was disappointed to find out that our redfish came in sixth place….which means there were five other 26 1/2 inch redfish that weighed more than ours. Mine had obviously been on a diet and just lacked that killer appetite that we needed. Two years ago we had the largest fish (also 26 1/2 inches) and a fish the same length beat us by almost a pound. Happens all the time.
In spite of not finishing in the money, we had a great time and we’re looking forward to next year. Here are some of the winners…The Master Offshore Team, the Williams team, caught a 16 pound red snapper, an 8.3 pound red grouper and a 30 pound kingfish to win the $5000 prize.
And my buddy Mark Brady and his team caught a 3.15 pound Spanish mackerel, a 4.3 pound trout and a 6.7 pound redfish to take the Master’s Inshore prize.
We had great food on Friday and Saturday night, great entertainment, and it was an all-around good time. Already looking forward to next year’s tournament. You should make plans now. Great thanks to Doug, Ken Fickett from Mirage Boats (who donated a boat for the raffle prize for the second straight year), Wiley Horton, and especially Laura Javidi from the Boys and Girls Club who makes everything go. You guys are great!