When the anglers of the 2014 Yellowfin Elite Series launched their boats for the first day of competition they began 3 days of competition under conditions that some would say were, the worst ever in the history of the sport.
35 pros met for a great captain’s meeting and dinner hosted at The Rush lounge located in the middle of the Golden Nugget Casino and Resort. After terrific food and beverages and a short rules meeting the anglers were given their complimentary Frabill nets in hopes of filling those nets with 5 big redfish each day of competition.
It was obvious at day 1’s launch amidst rain and wind that this weekend would be one more related to a marathon and not a sprint. With several anglers choosing to make long runs to fish they had located earlier in the week and under better conditions in Louisiana, leaving Mississippi waters would prove to be demanding on both equipment and anglers a like.
Day 1 found the return to competitive redfishing by Jason Catchings after doctor’s concerns about a herniated disk in his neck kept him from competing in the opening event of the season. What a return it was, leading all anglers with 26.35 but a long and bumpy ride to south Louisiana was too much on his body and day 2 he chose to stick closer to the Biloxi area and like other anglers, reduce the beating on his body and equipment.
Eventual winner, Natural Light Pro, Jamie Hough was close after day 1 with 25.20 pounds and had the luxury of a tank of a boat, “I tell you Pat, I love my 25′ Scout it takes this rough water great and fishes shallow. I have fished for 2 years out of big boats like this and usually am at a disadvantage to the shallow running skiffs or tower boats, it’s nice to have an event where my equipment was an advantage, for a change”, Jamie told tour host, Pat Malone on stage.
Erik Rue, always lurking around the top 5 like a hungry redfish waiting to strike at the top spot would weigh in with 24.86 pounds, well within striking distance. The last angler to break the 20 pound mark was Louisiana Pro, Mike Lambert, weighing in 24.68 pounds on day 1, the only question was, would his equipment, and body, hold up under the pounding he was taking in the gulf. Day 2 would play out a bit differently, with top angler after day 1, Jason Catchings choosing to stay closer to Mississippi waters failed to weigh in a fish and would spend the remainder of the weekend, healing up.
5th place finisher after day 1, Chad Billiot made a big move on day 2, expertly piloting his 22′ Blazer Bay (the smallest boat remaining in the field) all the way to Louisiana and back, delivering 24.38 to the stage on day 2 to take over the 2nd spot. Texas pro, Kevin Akin made a big move, making the run to Louisiana but heading back at 1:00 pm to make sure he had plenty of time, to take his time getting back and bringing in 21.15 pounds to secure the 3rd biggest bag of day 2. After day 2’s weigh in, the Super 7 were set to do it all again on day 3.
The Redfish Series is among the most grueling test of man and machine in the professional redfish arena and this weekend confirmed the guys and the gear that were up to the challenge. Making another cut to fish on day 3 was Paul Dufrene, coming off his big win in the Elite Open kick off event earlier this year in Chalmette. “These guys are the best of the best and to make the cut is a big deal, against this field of anglers”, Dufrene told the crowd rain soaked fans at the H2O pool side weigh in on Saturday. Newcomer to the Super 7, Haynie Pro, Kevin Akin settled in to the 6th spot after 2 days along with LMC pro Ray Malone and newcomer to the tour, Lance Reynolds, the final day of this competition would prove to be the biggest challenge, weather wise, of the entire weekend.
Day 3’s launch was delayed, as were days 1 and 2 and the 30 minutes added to the angler’s final day check in. All anglers out and all anglers back it was time to hit the stage and see how this weekend would finish out. After being introduced in an “Nascar” type driver introduction ceremony, each angler took their place on stage to have their catch weighed in reverse order. The fish were off to the side of the stage in aerated tubs sealed by each pro with wire ties before turning them over to tour officials, not to be seen again, until it was time for the pro to cut the wire tie off his tub and reveal his catch to the crowd and his fellow competitors. One by one anglers weighed their catch, first to weigh, 7th place, then 6th place, 5th place and on until all but one angler had weighed. Erik Rue put a good limit on the board as the next to last angler to weigh and was sitting in first place with just 1 angler to go.
That angler garnered more support from his fellow anglers, respect and appreciation that had more than 1 angler stating at the mornings launch. “we’re not going to give it to you Jamie, you better catch em all today… but we are pulling for you bud, you deserve this”… Such professionalism, such respect had this humble South Carolinian angler opening choked up on stage during his live interview. Jamie lifts his first to fish and they hit the scale at 11 pounds total, he needs another 20 pound limit for the win. The next two fish hit the scales now they jump to 17+, he needs a fifth fish, he reaches in, and lifts the biggest fish of his weekend, nearly an 8 pounder and takes home the win with a 3 day total of 76.71 pounds, a 9 plus pound margin of victory, dominant!
The celebration was on as gracious pros like Erik Rue, Chad Billiot, Paul Dufrene, Kevin Akin, Ray Malone and Lance Reynolds all made their way to Jamie to congratulate him and celebrate with him this well deserved victory. No excuses from this group of pros, “he spanked us pretty good, gotta give it to him”, Rue and other anglers echo’d throughout the awards ceremony. A tearful Hough thanked sponsors, family, friends and fans that believed in him and supported him on this 5 year journey to his first victory on The Redfish Series. Jamie took home a much needed $25,000.00 check “I was considering selling my guide business, it has been a tough year, this will keep me in business”, a tearful Hough told family and friends watching The Redfish Series live stream. Erik Rue took home $10,000.00 for second place and had the big bag of the weekend for a $3,500.00 bonus from The Talon Challenge. Chad Billiot finished in 3rd and won $9,000.00 in event and Talon Bonus money. Paul Dufrene finished in 4th place, took over the top spot for angler of the year and netted $6,000.00 for the weekend. Kevin Akin landed in 5th and captured a check for $5,000.00 while Lance Reynolds finished in 6th taking home $3,500.00, $1,5000 bonus dollars in the Talon Challenge big bag promotion and a brand new Talon anchoring system valued at 1999.00. The final pay spot for the super 7 went to Ray Malone, returning to the check in point just 2 minutes after the allowed time, having his fish disqualified Ray still took home $3,000.00.
All in all what a messy weekend, weather wise, but it could not have shined any brighter or any better for one Jamie Hough and for that, we are glad to have been a small part in the big story that was Biloxi, 2014. To the folks at the Golden Nugget we say a tremendous thank you for your support during very difficult conditions. Thank you to our staff and the volunteers that continue to make us what we are. To the anglers a continued thank you for your professionalism and support, even under extreme circumstances and to all the fans, thank you for your continued interest in our sport and series, we are glad we were able to bring you this event and share with you, a truly good story of a good guy making something good happen.