PENSACOLA, Fla. — After Day Two, Manny Perez and Paul Jueckstock found themselves one day away from becoming the first Redfish Cup team to win back-to-back year-end titles.
They anchored a stellar Day One performance with a 10.92-pound bag on Saturday and lead the Crown Royal Redfish Cup Championship presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors with 24.59 pounds.
"Repeating sounds nice, but now the pressure is really on," Jueckstock said. "We've fished hard, everyone here has. No matter what happens tomorrow, we have given it our all."
Mike Friday and Danny Latham moved up to second place, with a two-day total of 23.87 pounds. Making a jump up the leaderboard with the biggest bag of the day was the team of Ozzie Lessinger and Jeff Totten with 23.47 pounds.
Team Lake & Bay, Bo Johnson and Mike Del Duca made the biggest move into the top five with 22.42 pounds to finish fourth. Kevin and Cajun Phil Broussard rounded out the final-day field with 22.32 pounds.
The top five teams fish Sunday with weights zeroed. The team that brings in the heaviest two-fish limit of redfish between 18 and 27 inches will be crowned champion and take home the $50,000 first-place prize.
Perez and Jueckstock plan to be back in the winner seat for the second consecutive year after winning the Cup in 2008. Some changes on the water Saturday forced them to adapt, but they still easily led the field after the weigh-in was concluded.
"Today was horrible for us because the conditions changed completely," Jueckstock said. "There was no bait, clear water, no wind and the tide was higher. We had to wait until 11 a.m. for it to start falling and after that, only had a few bites all day."
The few bites they did get were quality fish, and their biggest of the day provided some excitement and suspense on the water. Perez hooked it on a popping cork and had it on for a bit, but the fish came off. He immediately cast back into the area and the fish turned and ate his bait about 30 feet from their boat.
Jueckstock said that he hoped the weather on Sunday is "horrible and windy with dirty water." The team faced those conditions on Day One and found success and their chances of repeating as champions may hinge on just how long the early morning showers that are forecasted hang around.
For Friday and Latham, Saturday was a trying ordeal from the moment they left the dock.
"The lower unit on the boat blew out on the way to our first spot," Latham said. "Fortunately, our roommates, Matt Haag and Scott Hughes, came back and dragged us out to our first spot. That was just awesome of them."
They got another blessing in the afternoon when the Watts brothers, who were also fishing the same area, offered to bring the team in to check-in.
Latham said it best, "We have some real stand-up anglers on this tour." The second-place team already acquired another boat to use on Sunday's final day, which gets kicked off at 8 a.m. ET. Weigh-in starts at 4 p.m. ET, with full coverage of the event available on ESPNOutdoors.com and RedfishCup.com.