Louisiana team overcomes tough conditions with tide-based strategy
By Pete Robbins
[Chalmette], La. (October 03, 2020) – In the second annual Redfish World Series, the Louisiana team of Sean O’Connell and Eddie Adams made sure that the title stayed close to home in St. Bernard Parish, and in doing so kept their batting average at one thousand. Based on an impressive catch of a tournament-maximum fourteen fish for 110.59 pounds, they dominated the 50-boat field to repeat their 2019 title and maintain their status as the only anglers who’ve won this prestigious crown.
“Both times it was equally special,” said Adams, who is a full-time Louisiana redfish guide. “As a guide, COVID has made this a tough year. I missed two full months of work in April in May. But just as importantly, even though we fished at the same time of year and in the same place, the way we fished was totally different last year and this year.”
Practice and Strategy
Although some teams came down weeks in advance to scout out the available tournament waters, the region was battered by storms in the days leading up to the tournament, which made practice difficult if not impossible. Even those anglers who were able to get out were not certain that what they’d found would hold up.
Both members of the winning team attributed a large part of their success to teamwork and complementary fishing styles.
“Eddie is a brilliant angler,” said O’Connell, who is a Physician Assistant. “But I’ve also had a lot of success in a lot of different trails. We fish differently. He’s hard-nosed and fast on the trolling motor. I tend to be a slower fisherman. We’ve found a meeting point – he can speed me up, and I can pull the reins back when he needs to slow down.”
Even their mechanics work well together. Adams is left-handed and O’Connell is right-handed, so they know when the other is best-suited to make the money cast.
Because they had extensive prior knowledge of the fishery, the pair continued to “practice” well into the tournament, watching changing conditions and adjusting accordingly.
“We started close to try to get some fish in the boat,” Adams said. “The weather was still nasty and windy, with real high water. We scouted the whole day because we hadn’t been able to look around before. We knew that with the tide falling the pockets would clean up and it would be a late bite, so we could run further then. We weren’t losing much by staying close early. It wasn’t a gamble. The difference between winning and losing was all about decisions.”
Even with many areas dirtier than usual, Adams and O’Connell committed to sight fishing, but a large part of their strategy depends on complementary tactics and skill sets.
“Eddie got a lot of his tournament techniques from Texas, where they like to throw big, big jig heads with swimbaits and crash cast them. I’m more of a finesse fisherman.” Accordingly, while Adams chunked a Berkley Gulp Swimming Mullet in black/chartreuse, root beer/chartreuse or glow/chartreuse, O’Connell was able to ply the thicker grass with a PowerBait Chigger Craw fished on a Berkley Fusion twist-lock hook with a small tungsten weight.
They knew that the key would be to catch at least a 7 pound average per fish, but that wouldn’t be easy under the changing conditions. The task is also complicated by the unique format of the Redfish World Series, where teams are able to weigh in two redfish on Day One, three on Day Two, four on Day Three, and five on Day Four. It requires not only an ability to find those high-grade keepers, but also to manage them properly. A fish caught the prior day may not bite again, so teams have to know when to lay off their primary areas.
Fortunately for Adams and O’Connell, they started off on track with a 15.82 pound catch on Day One. That had them in 10th place, but well within range given the increased bag limits on subsequent days. The next day they added three fish for 25.42, an average of well over 8 pounds per fish, and grabbed a lead they’d never relinquish.
Despite their solid performances those two days, it was on Day Three that they really made a power move, slapping four monsters totaling 35.36 on the tournament scales. That’s an average of almost 9 pounds apiece.
“Those included two of the biggest slot fish I’ve ever happened to catch in a tournament,” O’Connell said. “One 9 ¾ and another close to 10. That gave us a 6-pound lead going into the final day. We’d been careful not to exhaust our fish, hitting a lot of areas where we could catch one or two, We still knew that in order to win we’d have to execute on the fish we had.”
Indeed, with 33.99 on the last day, they maintained that lead, but it wasn’t a walk in the park. “I thought we’d have 38 pounds, easy,” Adams said, “But those fish vacated. I thought it would be easy and it ended up being stressful. We left the door open.” Nevertheless, they’d built what ended up being an insurmountable lead, and claimed the top prize for the second straight year.
While both Adams and O’Connell are happy to fish close to home, and rightfully proud of their two trophies, they reject the idea that their “home field” gives them an insurmountable advantage.
“You never go into a tournament thinking that you are going to lose,” O’Connell said. “But I love that the field consists of the best of the best, the people who have done so well in their respective divisions It’s an honor to be invited and it was something special to win again, especially with the increased size of the field.”
He noted that last year’s runners-up were from the Carolinas.
Just as importantly, St. Bernard Parish is properly known as The Redfish Capital of the World, precisely “because the fish are so catchable,” Adams explained. “Every time, it’s still anybody’s ballgame.”
So will there be a “threepeat”?
“I haven’t had a chance to think about it yet,” said O’Connell, who quickly went back to the full-time job in the operating room after claiming the title. “But if it did, that would be absolutely amazing.”