It pays to be different

ISLAMORADA, Fla. — In a lineup of 650- to 675-pound boats with 40- to 100-horsepower motors, one rig stands out. It's Bryan Holeman's 20-foot, 850-pound Lake & Bay Boat with a 250-horsepower Evinrude E-Tec outboard motor.

Why the stark contrast?

"I fish different than the other guys, so my boat is different," said Holeman, whose nickname is "Bear," and is obvious when first laying eyes on him. In other words, he's a big man.

In Holeman's case, straying from the norm with regard to fishing technique has paid off — in cash.

"We (Holeman and his brother, Travis) almost always get in the top 10 in redfish events," he says. "We catch them in water other guys wouldn't even think about fishing."

The reason for the ultra-light hulls on these specially-designed flats boats is the water many redfish and bonefish feed in is very skinny, sometimes as shallow as 6 inches. Weight is at a premium. If you're too heavy, you won't be able to get at some of the best spots. While some criticize Holeman for his choice in vessel, he believes it is unfounded.

"I can go anywhere those little boats can go, and faster, too," he said. "The added size and weight mean I can go in rougher water than those little boats. It makes for a more comfortable ride, too."

An 18-foot skiff with a 60-horsepower motor may top out at only 50 miles per hour. When Holeman's 250-horsepower outboard is wide open, he sees 76 miles per hour.

"In the redfish events, speed is everything," Holeman says. "It's a matter of who gets to the best spot first."

However, in an ESPN Outdoors Saltwater Series Redbone event, Holeman, who guided during Friday's pre-practice, may not have any competition for his fishing grounds. While some anglers' depthfinders may never read more than 12 inches, Holeman's sometimes ventures to double-digit depths.

"The deepest I've fished all year was about 36 feet," he says. "Those little boats would have a hard time in water that deep if it was rough."

Add Travis Holeman, and you've got a deadly and versatile team. The Holeman brothers finished seventh in the Eastern division and eighth in the Western of the O Boy! Oberto Redfish Cup in 2007, proving it truly does pay to be different.