The final tour stop of the regular season took place in Lake Charles, LA. as the 35 pros of the 2014 Yellowfin Elite Series looked to put the severe weather of Biloxi and the Gulf of Mexico in their rearview mirror and look forward to the well protected marshes of western Louisiana, known for yielding giant redfish.
Day 1 the anglers launched amidst early morning clouds and light winds as they left Prien Lake Park in search of big day 1 weights and for the first time in this part of Louisiana, they would be fishing for a 5 fish limit. As the day progressed the skies never cleared enough to the site fisherman’s liking which made blind casting very visible or noisy baits, like spoons and spinner baits, the main pattern for this day.
At 1:30 in the afternoon, The Redfish Series “early session” weigh in began. In the early session anglers can weigh in their catch, take more time to thank sponsors on camera, talk about their day and get their 5 fish limits weighed, recovered and released before the field is required to be back, 3:00 pm local time.
As the anglers came to the scales in the early session several good limits were weighed in, the best of this session and it would remain a top of the leader board at the conclusion of the day was brought in by Grizzly Cooler’s pro Todd McKellar. Todd weighed in 37.32 pounds of live Louisiana redfish to secure his first lead of the 2014 season.
At 2:45 the “early session” of the weigh in comes to an end followed at 3:00 pm with the “lightening round”. During the lightening round the fish are weighed, recovered and released with a quicker pace making for less stress on both the fish and the anglers. Taking second place in to day 2 would be Haynie Boats pro, Jeff Steckler. This south Texas angler brought 36.35 to the scales, just 97/100 of a pound behind the leader, but one of Jeff’s fish died and that meant a penalty of 75/100 would be deducted from his total weight making his official weight 35.60, 1.72 pounds behind the leader, this would prove to be significant.
The top 5 from day 1 would finish our with LMC Marine pro, Ray Malone following up a super 7 finish in Biloxi, in 3rd place with 33.42, Mystik pro, Erik Rue in 4th with 33.08 and finally in 5th, Shock pro Paul Dufrene brought in 32.59 pounds. Day 1 was in the books, 29 of the 35 anglers weighed in 747.05 pounds of redfish and released 89.71% alive.
Day 2 started out a lot like day 1, the anglers launched under cloudy skies with a bit more wind but well within safe weather parameters, but that was all going to change and change quickly. At approximately 12:00 pm a massive, slow moving and deadly storm blew across the bayous and bays of southwest Louisiana and would remain for all of day 2 and parts of day 3.
Angler after angler sent in pics and videos from their phones or GoPro cameras showing 50+ mph winds, hard driving rain and in some cases funnel clouds forming in and around the very areas the anglers were fishing, some dodging lightening strikes that landed so close to them, they said they felt the heat from the strike. Thankfully all anglers returned safely and day 2’s weigh in could begin, or could it?
The Tour did not escape the storm, the affects of this storm was not going to spare any one or any thing.
The weigh in for day 2 did eventually take place thanks to make shift repairs of awnings, tents and other damaged equipment. After day 2’s weigh in, the Super 7 (see 2 day totals above) met on stage to discuss the possibility of competing on Saturday with the forecast of storms to be as bad as or worst than Friday’s. It was unanimously voted on by the anglers and accepted by the tour to move day 3’s competition to Sunday, when the storm had been forecasted to be finished in this area.
Day 3 the Super 7 gathered and launched under much better early morning conditions than days 1 and 2. The forecast even called for some sun throughout the day, which meant for the first time this entire week, the site fishermen remaining could have the advantage they had hoped for earlier in the week. One thing was for sure this would be the best day, weather wise, any of these anglers had fished under since day 1’s launch.
The weigh in would take place at the Academy Sports and Outdoors in Lk Charles where the Super 7 anglers were welcomed by good crowds, good facilities and most of all, great weather. Rock 101 was onsite with a live remote broadcast, great music and giveaways, families, friends and fans showed up, in a big way, to watch day 3 and the conclusion of the 2014 regular season. The Super 7 pulled their boats into the Academy Sports and Outdoors parking lot and positioned them up close and personal behind and to the sides of the fan’s tents.
Several folks could be seen peering over the gunnels, standing on the trailer steps and even some brave enough to climb right in the boats with the pros to get a closer look at the rigs, gear and if possible, the fish these pros were able to catch on day 3. It was exciting but yet, personable, each pro did a great job at sharing their rigs and themselves to family, friends and fans that came to watch them on day 3.
One pro not making it back was Majek/Yamaha angler, Dwayne Eschete who’s water ran out in his pond and left him stranded and unable to make it back in time for the 3:00 check in at Prien Lake Park. His lovely wife, Angela, accepted his 7th place check for $3,000.00 on stage and promised he’d see “some of it”… The other 6 pros finished greeting the crowd, shaking hands, hugging family members and were called to their boats to make ready for the weigh in to begin.
Angler by angler they were called to bring their catch to the stage in reverse order of finish after 2 days. First up was Mystik pro, Erik Rue who proved locals don’t always have the advantage, after Erik weighed he moved up to finish in 6th place and take home $3,500.00.
Next up was 5th place finisher after 2 days, Haynie pro, Jeff Steckler. Jeff brought a whopping 34.33 pounds to the scale to vault in to the lead, but remember day 1’s dead fish? Keep that in mind as the weigh in continues with QCP pro, Jay Cedotal-Shock pro, Paul Dufrene and Grizzly pro, Todd McKellar.
Each pro that came to the stage brought in good fish, solid fish, but only one pro could top Steckler’s final day 34.33 pound weight by enough total weight to knock him off the top spot and that was the Grizzly Cooler pro, Todd McKellar. Just 1 angler remained to weigh in and it was the leader after 2 days of competition, Yamaha/Majek pro, Clark Jordan. Clark would need just 27.59 pounds on his final 5 fish limit of the week to notch his first win on the Yellowfin Elite Series Tour.
The fish were placed on the scale, Jordan was now joined on stage by McKellar and the wait was on. Tour emcee, Pat Malone to build the excitement for the fans…. “when we remove this cover if the auto locked computer read out shows 27.60 or better, Clark, you have won $25,000.00, if not Todd you have won the $25,000.00 and notched your first win ever at this level. Do you think you’ve got it Clark”, asked Malone. “I’m not sure, it’s going to be close”. “Read the scale, lock em in at… 25.64 pounds that leaves you 1.95 pounds short and that means Todd McKellar you have notched your first win on The Redfish Series Tour”….. The celebration was on!
After a short interview Clark Jordan graciously gave the stage and “kudos” to Todd McKellar, “he flat caught them Pat, no 2 ways about it, he deserved the win, great guy, great win”, stated Jordan in his interview prior to leaving the stage and making room for the 2014 Tour Stop 3 champion…
Todd accepted Clark’s and others congratulations, a check for $25,000.00, an automatic bye in to the 2015 championship, 200 valuable team of the year points and all the accolades that comes with beating, in his words, “the very best anglers in the world”.
“Pat I’m not sure what to feel, I’m afraid someone is going to pinch me and I’m going to wake up and that it’s all been a dream”. Malone replied, “It’s no dream Todd you went toe to toe with the best of the best and finished on top”.
Grizzly Coolers pro, Todd McKellar finished with a 3 day total weight of 94.89 pounds of Lk Charles redfish. Remember that day 1 dead fish of Haynie pro, Jeff Steckler? Jeff vaulted to the lead on day 3 with a tremendous 34.33 pound biggest bag of the day but it was the slip up on day 1 that would cost him. “I did everything I could to keep that fish alive but it just died on me and we aren’t allowed by law or tour rules to cull dead fish so I had to keep it, that really hurt, but today is about Todd winning not me finishing 2nd because of a dead fish”.
A gracious Jeff Steckler, who also took home The Talon Challenge Big Bag of the weekend, told Todd and the crowd during his awards interview. Jeff finished in 2nd place just 34/100 pounds behind the winner after receiving his 75/100 pound penalty. This moment, this day, this week all belonged to Todd as he used his 3 days of practice wisely to locate his fish and lock down his winning pattern.
However, he didn’t get all worked up either, a laid back and confident McKellar enjoyed the company of fellow angler, Florida Blue Wave pro, Chris Williams during the practice period as they worked together in an attempt to locate some good ones for Chris.
What a great weekend to finish off the 2014 Yellowfin Elite Series, regular season. The Super 7 as well as all the anglers did a great job, locating, catching and releasing their fish from this weekend amongst challenging circumstance to say the least. The weather, once again, played a major role in this event but the pros were able to take mother nature’s best / worst shots and finish the event in great style.
As the regular season concludes, leaving just 2 Yellowfin Elite Series open qualifiers remaining it would have to be said 2014 was a tremendous success. 35 pros competed, 4 events held, 4 different winners, 4 first time winners, 1 first time angler of the year, 945 fish weighed a total of 5,386 pounds, 93.70% were released alive, $237,000.00 CASH paid out to 18 of the 35 anglers.
Before a ribbon could be put on this event and a wrap on the regular season we were proud to announce that the 2014 Angler of the Year was won by a consistent Cut Off, LA pro, Paul Dufrene. Paul was brought to the stage to accept what he and others thought would be just a recognition of this accomplishment, perhaps an oversized check and perhaps a trophy.
That was not the case, The Redfish Series will present Paul with a beautiful custom trophy designed and created just for him by the fine folks at MTM awards, the official trophy and awards provider for the tour. The Redfish Series will also present Paul with a big over sized check with his name and accomplishment printed on it, sure to join the beautiful custom trophy in his trophy room at home.
However, what Paul, the anglers and the fans did not expect was that The Redfish Series would present the final check of the weekend to Paul, in the amount of $10,000.00. Angler after angler commented on how legit that surprise, prize was.
It was a great time and a great way to finish off the regular season and head into the final 2 one man events of the year, both open qualifiers for 2015 and the last chance for the 2014 Elite Series anglers finishing out of the top 10 and gathering less than the 700 total points needed to qualify for the 2015 Classic Championship.
Thank you goes out to so many that helped make this event and this regular season such a success. The anglers, their families, friends and fans deserve a big shout out and a sincere thank you as without each of them, there is no tour.