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Day 1 Inshore Challenge: Quality Over Quantity

Big fish give Holemans early lead at Mississippi Delta

By: David A. Brown, OutdoorChannel.com

For complete photo coverage of day 1's fishing action, please click Day 1 Part 1 - here and Day 1 Part 2 - here.


 

DELACROIX, La. – In the numbers game that is tournament fishing, savvy fishermen take the path of least resistance in pushing their totals to the max. Brothers Travis and Bryan “Bear” Holeman leveraged this angling axiom en route to topping day one of the Saltwater Series Inshore Big Fish Challenge on the Mississippi Delta.

 

Hailing from Cudjoe Key and Key West, respectively, Travis and Bryan tallied a total of 207.5 pounds. Eligible species included speckled trout, jack crevalle, redfish and black drum, but the Holeman’s opted for focusing on the latter two. Good call, as their 109 pounds of black drum included a 42-pounder and their 98.5 pounds of redfish included a bronze bomber of 28 pounds.

Typically, the coastal marshes in and around Delacroix offer considerably more shots at fish than the Holemans and the event’s other two teams encountered. However, a cold front that arrived two days before the event dropped the water temperature from the low 90s to around 70 degrees. Today’s calmer and warmer weather certainly began the process of stabilization, but the inshore scene remained tepid at best.

Knowing that he and his brother would face a tough bite, Travis Holeman said they approached day one with a simple strategy: “Going slow and capitalizing on opportunities – absolutely, that’s what it was.”

Having recently practiced in the area, the leaders knew that they wanted to stick with spinnerbaits for the majority of their day. They ended up catching all of their fish on spinnerbaits with single gold Colorado blades and minnow tails in purple with green and blue flake. Today’s intense sunlight quickly warmed the shallows, so that’s where the Holeman’s concentrated their efforts.

“A lot of the bigger fish were coming out of areas that have a lot of deep water pushing up onto shallow flats,” Bryan Holeman said. “That deep water is the key to catching those bigger fish here. I think the front helped us out because we fished up there the other day and didn’t see anything. We went back to the same areas today and there were a few fish in there.”

Fishing a bay boat with a custom tower behind the casting platform, the Holeman’s utilized this vantage point to spot their quarry in water still muddied by recent winds.

“In the dirty water, you have to have a tower because a lot of times we’re looking for the darker backs and they look like shadows,” Travis Holeman said. “Without the tower, you’re at a real disadvantage.”

Running marsh grass edges was the general game plan, but shell bottom proved most productive. “I think the shells are holding heat so the fish are staying around them,” Bryan Holeman said. “In a couple of areas, we’d stick a fish and the other fish that were there would just circle around and not really want to leave the shell. I think the reason for that was that it was a little bit warmer.”

Thomason and Hartsell stand in second

Charlie Thomason and Keith Hartsell caught 126.25 pounds of black drum, 48.25 pounds of redfish and 14.75 pounds of speckled trout to take second place with a total weight of 189.25. The anglers got on a school of drum in Lake Fortuna early and piled up a lot of weight in the first hour of fishing by hopping jig heads with fresh shrimp in open water.

“We knew it was probably a good shot to go in there (for drum),” Thomason said. “Yesterday we went in there and we didn’t catch one, but we knew there were fish in there, so we went in a little quieter today. Once we figured them out, we started catching them one after another. We used shrimp because this time of year, there’s so much shrimp in the water, that’s what the fish are looking for. If you put it out there, they’re going to eat it.”

Hartsell said that he and Thomason focused on a stealthy approach to keep the drum action going. “We came in from behind with the wind at our backs and just tried to slowly sneak up on them. Once we located them, we made sure we didn’t get too close and push the school away. Charlie did a good job of trolling up behind the school and once we saw the first mud, we put the PowerPole down and we were able to whack away at them.”

After securing a strong catch of black drum, Thomason and Hartsell went looking for redfish along marsh grass shorelines. They threw gold spoons and spinnerbaits with minnow tails in the Who Dat color for the reds. Trout also hit the spinnerbaits, as well as jigs with the same minnow tails and live shrimp under corks.

Watts place third

Greg and Bryan Watts focused solely on redfish and are in third with 148.5 pounds. Swinging for the fences, they committed most of their time to hunting bull reds at the edge of the Gulf.

“We did the same thing we always do – we were targeting big fish,” Bryan said. “If we were looking for slot-sized fish, we’d be in different areas than we were today. We were out on the barrier islands in open water where some of those big fish were.”

The Watts brothers threw Berkley Gulp! Shrimp on Bass Assassin jig heads and sight fished the reds and the wakes they could see. The wind that kicked up as the day progressed continued to challenge the visual game, but as Bryan noted, they fished where they thought the fish should be.

Noting that he and his brother may adjust their focus for day two, Greg Watts said the abundance of big black drum swimming areas waters could present opportunities for advancement.

“We’re (approximately) 50 pounds back and to me, that relates to three or four bites,” he said. “Everybody’s still in the game. Everybody here knows how to catch fish, but with two or three big drum, we’re back in the game. It’s certainly very doable for us to come back and win this thing.”

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