PENSACOLA, Fla. Saturday night, before the final day of the Oh Boy! Oberto Redfish Cup Championship, anglers prepared differently. For each team, the variety of pre-game activities echoed the assortment of techniques and wide-ranging fishing locations that propelled them into this Sunday final. Regardless of how each team spent their night, winning the Redfish Cup Championship proved to be on everyone's mind.
Brett Phillips and Mike Patterson, who launched into fourth place after Day Two, took it easy last night. With total weights now zeroed for the Sunday final, both men knew the competition would require a good night's sleep.
"It was really just a calm night for us," Patterson said. "We basically watched some college football and crashed."
Surprisingly, this championship tournament marks the Texas duo's first top five on the Redfish Cup circuit all year. After a restful evening, both men feel confident about finding the heaviest fish again on Sunday.
"If we can get some sun, we can catch 'em," Patterson said.
Andrew Bostick and Mark Sepe would have had a quiet evening Saturday night, too, if it weren't for the late-night revelers next door.
"I wake up a lot during the night so it wasn't that bad," Bostick said, placing particularly slow emphasis on the word, "that."
At one point in the night, Sepe stepped out and saw a little more than he had expected.
"I took a few steps out and saw a bunch of half-naked people," Sepe said. "One girl was in her bra and panties and just having a good time."
Perhaps more tired than other anglers in the field, Bostick and Sepe pulled up to the launch dock Sunday morning only to learn that their GPS system was down.
"It's fine, though," Bostick said. "We'll just follow the other boats heading that way, so we don't need it."
Jon Loring, Jr. and Ray Malone went to Outback Steakhouse on Saturday night.
"Man, that was some good eating," Loring said, "but winning this tournament would taste better."
Earlier in the evening, tilt and trim issues had to be resolved on their Mercury engine. Loring and Malone would need their engine in top form on Sunday as they headed for the marshes just east of Pascagoula, Mississippi, yet again.
"We'll throw that white Gulp shrimp with a little popping cork to draw some noise," Malone said. "We hope that will bring 'em in."
Jeff Pope and Brandon Buckner would have watched the L.S.U. football game if they had had a television. The Florida anglers stayed with an angler-friend from a different circuit whose house was being remodeled.
"They won without my support, so it's okay," Buckner said, shouting from the boat deck.
With their traditional lucky fried chicken in the boat, Pope and Buckner hope to start Sunday by making the 100-mile run east, fishing blindly and casting spoons. Next, the team aims to run another 20 miles further east to sight cast in spot where they had found tons of fish when pre-fishing.
"The wind is perfect now," Pope said, "so we're planning to hit that spot for the first time, today."
Al Keller loves Mexican food. He loves it so much that it's become tradition for him and partner Bill Faulkner to dine "South-of-the Border-style" before every tournament's first day.
"Al absolutely loves it," Faulkner said. "And I just go along with it."
But if the team makes a final day of fishing, tradition also requires the team to return to that same Mexican restaurant. In Pensacola on Saturday night, that local restaurant was called "Cancun's."
Because the anglers will stick around Pensacola Bay, they know that 11 or 12 pounds may not be enough to beat some of the bigger bags. It is a risk that Keller is happy to take.
"Look, we'll just stick with we got and what got us here," Keller said. "We're in Pensacola; we'll fish Pensacola again today.