Charlie Barton of Port Lavaca had to overcome a 0.75-pound penalty to win the top prize in the Elite Redfish Series’ Challenge on the Coast on Sabine Lake by that slim margin.
“Three-quarters of a pound is a lot,” Barton said. “It’s a big penalty. It’s hard enough to catch them, and you want to get everything you can get out of them.”
Barton had an eight-fish total of 66.93 pounds to take home the prize package, which includes a Yellowfin boat with a Yamaha engine and Ameratrail trailer. The daily limit on redfish for the three-day tournament was three.
Kevin Akin of Corpus Christi was the last of the seven Saturday finalists to weigh in his fish, and series host/organizer Pat Malone had Barton, who was sitting on the “Check It Stik hot seat” on stage as the leader, bring the trophy to the weigh-in area thinking Akin would snatch victory. Akin finished with a nine-fish total of 66.12, checking in his final bag at 24.12.
Barton hung on for his second straight regular-season victory on the series, as the Classic Kickoff in Orange earlier this month served as a preseason event.
“Charlie is one of my best friends,” Akin said. “He did a great job winning this tournament. It was well-deserved.”
The field was narrowed to seven from a field of 36 anglers who fished Sabine Lake on Thursday and Friday and dealt with harsh weather. Saturday’s round was delayed for almost an hour due to storms in the area.
“Fishing today, I stuck with my game plan, and this morning I went blind casting and put three in the box,” Akin said. “I went to sight casting when the storm passed and the sun came out.”
Barton said the sun was key to his victory, although he culled a 10-pounder before the big star broke through the clouds.
“I think the best decision I made was culling that big fish,” he said. “When I culled that big fish, I was more comfortable and I calmed down. I upgraded another fish, and everything was good.”
Barton was trying to regain his mental edge after taking the 0.75-pound dead fish penalty on Friday. He was eighth through Thursday’s round and still caught 21.41 pounds of two fish Friday to move into second place behind Akin.
“Whenever you do that, you’re sort of mentally out of your game,” Barton said. “I was like, oh no, I just gave this away. I knew I was on good fish. We just had to get them to bite. It’s tough when you have a fish that dies. It’s hard to get your mental edge back. As you can see, I did everything I could to get my fish healthy and into the weigh-in.”
Barton took a longer run off Pleasure Island than most anglers during the storm and even ran into areas he wasn’t used to in the rain.
Jimmy Lloyd was third with 63.98, followed by Dwayne Eschete at 56.49, Jeff Steckler at 55.53, Chad Billiot at 54.62 and Bo Favre at 43.09.
Freddy Frederick won the $6,000 Huk Heavy Bag award for the biggest bag caught, which was 25.99 on Thursday.
Thank you to I.C. Murrell of Port Arthur News for your contribution to this recap along with Elite series contributions and comments and to Brooks Kubena for your coverage of the Elite Series events for the Beaumont Enterprise. The media, marshals and communities made this an event to remember.
Thank you to Nashville recording artist and host of The Right Place with Kevin Sport for bringing your band all the way from Tennessee to be a major part of day 3’s success. We at the Elite Series really appreciated your talents, songs and easy going ways.
A special thank you to the Port Arthur Convention and Visitors Bureau for bringing the event to Pleasure Island and for your staff’s exceptional work on our tour’s behalf as well as its anglers, their families, friends and fans.
Next up, the tour moves just down the coast a bit for the #MagicOnMustangIsland2016.