ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. The oldest city in America has seen its share of change throughout the years. For the Oh Boy! Oberto Redfish Cup anglers navigating the waters around St. Augustine, constant change came in the form of the largest tidal fluctuation experienced at any event on the circuit.
The highest and lowest tides of the year for the area called for unforgiving fishing precision at the last Eastern Division event. But while many predicted locals familiar with these "First Coast" tides to have the competitive advantage, Day One at St. Augustine proved to offer mixed results.
New Port Richey, Florida's Artie Price and Brian Hart took the early tournament lead after bagging 14.20 pounds on a limit of two redfish. Fred Grey and Herb Payne sit in second place 13.52. In third place after Day One is Jacksonville Beach natives Christopher Cenci and Kyle Bienkowski with 13.14 pounds. Andrew Bostick and Mark Sepe hold onto the fourth spot at 12.65, while John Henninger and John Eggers turned in a 12.61 pound bag and sit fifth heading into the second day of fishing.
Day One's westerly winds, coupled with near-flood high tides, gave anglers a small window in which to identify and catch slot fish. But for Artie Price and Brian Hart, their pre-fishing preparation paid off. It took the anglers just three early bites for them to nab two 7-pound fish, good for 14.20 pounds.
"We needed that high outgoing tide in the grasses and we got it," Price said. "Once that water flooded the grasses, they were chasing the shrimp and we were there."
Price and Hart plan to return to the less popular area to the north on Day Two.
Fred Grey and Herb Payne, from Jacksonville and Neptune Beach respectively, found success during the lowest tide. The team arrived at their spot minutes after launch and soon had their stringer.
"We got 'em, where we thought we'd get 'em on that low tide," Grey said. "Then, we just rode the tide higher and higher throughout the day and looked to upgrade later as the grasses were flooded."
Many anglers found the bite tougher than usual. Out of 77 boats that launched the morning of Day One, only 59 returned with fish to weigh. Even BASS Elite Series professional Preston Clark, fishing with his father L.E. Clark, admitted to the challenge in St. Augustine.
"Finding the fish here is tough, and finding the right size here is tougher," the younger Clark said. "But the best thing about today is that we have a mess of trout to go home and eat."
Team Clark's Day One efforts produced only one fish, weighing 2.81 pounds.
Ken Chambers and his partner John Merriwether had only two fish, good for 6.50 pounds and 38th place, but Chambers remains optimistic.
"You know, the fishing will get better this tournament as it progresses and we get further and further away from that full moon," he said.
With many teams on the bubble to qualify for each division's 15 spots in the Redfish Cup Championship, the competition is sure to grow more intense by the day. But just how much these drastic tides will affect the standings at this tournament remains to be seen.