The Star Rods Carolina Redfish Elite is the premiere redfish tournament in North Carolina and 35 teams gathered at Big Rock Landing in Morehead City to compete for the guaranteed $15,000 first prize on June 2 and 3. Now is a prime time to catch large redfish in this area and fishermen were expecting to catch lots of upper slot fish and post heavy weights. The fishing fulfilled its part of the bargain and at the end of the first day, eventual winners, Team Hook and Bones/The Redfish Guys, of Dwayne Smith and Lee Padrick, was one of three teams with weights heavier than 14 pounds.
Smith and Padrick didn't have the early lead, but were second to Team Riley Rods, Mike Pederson and Gage Henley, who posted 14.95 pounds. Smith and Padrick were four ounces back at 14.73 pounds and Team Chasin' Gingers, Cory Durako and Richard Gilligan, were third with 14.14 pounds.
Conditions were much tougher the second day, with 15 to 20 knot winds, tides that weren't on schedule with the tournament and an hour less fishing time. Most teams posted lower weights on the second day.
"We had a plan and it worked to perfection — Friday," said Dwayne Smith. "We wanted to weigh at least 13 to 13.5 pounds Friday to be in position to win Saturday and we had that in the boat and watched a school of nice fish for about 2 1/2 hours Friday afternoon without casting to save them for Saturday. If it had been a one day tournament, we would have kept casting and trying to upgrade, but we knew we would need good fish again on Saturday.
"Let's just say Saturday didn't go as planned," Smith said. "Those fish wouldn't bite Saturday morning, so we were off chasing plans B and C. We caught a few fish, but were getting worried when we decided to go back and try the big school again. This time they bit Tsunami Spoons, Johnson Silver Minnow Spoons and Gulp baits fished on Carolina rigs and we upgraded our smaller fish to above 13 pounds. We didn't know if we had enough to win, but were sure we would be competitive."
Back at the scales, Smith and Padrick's Saturday fish weighed 13.93 pounds and were the heaviest bag of the second day. They secured the win by more than a pound at 28.66 pounds. Durako and Gilligan of the Chasin' Gingers team had a pair of nice fish and moved to second place with 27.45 pounds. The biggest movers of the second day were Dexter Smith and Milton Miller of Team Duplin County Mafia. They combined 13.64 pounds with their 12.27 pounds on Friday to total 25.91 pounds and move from twelfth to third.
The tournament paid $1,000 for the largest fish each day. In spite of slower fishing on Saturday, Team Flatsmaster, with Jacob Gainey and Jerry Burns found a perfect, fat 26 7/8 inch redfish that weighed a whopping 8.86 pounds. Friday's largest fish was a 7.83 pounder caught by Team Smokin' Reels, with Jamie Player and Brent Hart.
The tournament also paid a $1,000 bounty for the smallest fish each day. Friday's smallest fish was a 3.26 pounder weighed by Team Gotta Kill It To Grill It, with Rob Koraly and Jake Knight. Team No Idea, with Wyatt Clark and Luke Tippet and Team Riley Rods, The Day 1 leader, tied for the smallest fish on Saturday at 3.27 pounds.