KEMAH, Texas After two days where it appeared rocks would be the deciding factor in the Redfish Cup, the final day proved that grass could still be king in Texas.
Ben Alderman and Ronnie Pitts won the event with an impressive two-fish stringer that totaled 17.52 pounds, earning them the $40,000 top prize.
Their stringer anchored one of the heaviest final days in Redfish Cup history. One of the closest too, just 1.33 pounds separated the final five teams.
Erik Rue and Larry Pucket were second with 16.78 pounds, followed by Rick Murphy and Geoff Page in third with 16.28 pounds. Day Two leaders Sonny Granger and Jake Martney were fourth with 16.20 pounds and Chris Wittman and Tom Winrow rounded out the five with 15.19 pounds.
Interestingly, grass wasn't the only deciding factor for the winners. They started this event out of the smallest boat in the field. While their competition ran long and far in 21- to 24-foot boats, the pair stuck to 18-foot poling skiff.
"The weather played right into our hands,"' Alderman said of the lack of wind in an area known for its wind.
Each day the pair would run approximately 100 miles one way to an "Industrial-looking area right across the border."
"Ronnie found these fish last year, but they had grown this year,'' Alderman said. "It looked like a freshwater marsh."
The fish were hiding out in hydrilla beds in the bays and pockets of the area. On each day the team would start their day throwing a topwater plastic-frog called a Ribbit. The action of the frog is similar to a buzzbait utilized in bass fishing.
On the final day, they had a big fish blow up the bait but not take it.
"When they knew we were there we would switch to a gold Berkley spoon or a 3-inch Gulp shrimp,'' Alderman said.
But the pair really didn't use much of any of them. On Day One they only caught three fish, then left the area to get back to the weigh in on time in their little skiff. On Day Two they caught six fish and produced their lightest weight of the event.
"We knew we had what we needed,'' Alderman said. "We probably saw 20 fish in the 9-pound range."
They proved that on Day Three. Still they only caught two keepers and decided to leave.
"The weather reports basically predicted that it would get rough in the afternoon,'' Pitts said. "We didn't want to take any chances. We thought we had enough."
With the two winning fish in the boat, caught in less than an hour, the pair headed to the weigh in at approximately 9:30 a.m. for a 3 p.m. check-in time.
"We just didn't want to chance it,'' Alderman said.
Granger and Matney had taken the lead on Day Two with an 18-pound plus stringer off the rock jetties at Sabine Pass.
They caught between 25 and 30 keepers but fell to fourth place overall.
"We just needed that 9-pounder and we would have had it,'' Matney said.
The story was the same all the way down the standings as most of the field ferreted through dozens of fish in their areas and were still unable to come up with two that matched the winners.
"It was a long 20-mile an hour ride back across the bay,'' Alderman said. "It got even longer when we checked in and all I could do was get nervous and then more nervous."