by Pete Robbins
Gritter Griffin is not a man who thinks small or acts slowly. He’s a serial entrepreneur with an M.D., and a mind that spins at warp speed. With that as a backdrop, it should surprise no one that his attempts to unify and elevate competitive redfishing are grander than anyone thought possible – and they’re happening faster than even he envisioned. The next step will be this month’s second annual Redfish World Series in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, where 50 two-person teams of the world’s best inshore anglers will compete for bragging rights and a big payout over the course of four days on the water.
“Several other organizations have tried to take a stab at a competitive redfish circuit, but they’ve never made it what I would call a professional sport,” Griffin explained. “Up until a year ago, it was completely disjointed and fragmented. Everyone was doing their own thing with no mission statement or central direction.”
That changed with the first Redfish World Series last year. Unlike typical one- or two-day events, the four day format, with teams able to bring in two, three, four and five fish on consecutive days, added an increased element of strategy. Teams had to figure out how far to run, when to lay off their fish, and how weather conditions would affect their catch. That resulted in substantial flip flops in the standings each day, thrilling fans and keeping anglers on their toes.
“Last year turned out spectacularly,” Griffin said. “It felt like a kiss of destiny.”
That destiny was bolstered by the tremendous and ongoing support of the government and businesses of St. Bernard Parish, entities who see this effort as a means to help the angling public understand why their locale should be considered the "Redfish Capital of the World".
“You can launch your boat from any marina here and target redfish, speckled trout, red snapper, grouper, tuna, or wahoo all from that same place,” Griffin explained. “It’s in the center of everything. St. Bernard is truly the doorway to the greatest multi-species fishing experience on earth.” While competitors can run as far as they want during the designated tournament hours, he predicts that the winners will catch their fish close to where they launch. That doesn’t mean it will be easy. Between the recent hurricane and this week’s 8 to 10 foot tidal surge, things are changing by the hour. There is a ton of bait up in nearby areas, but the fish that are here today can move overnight. “You’d better have Plans B, C and D.”
The only history that most of the anglers have to rely upon is last year’s 7.25 pound average fish for the winning team. With that experience to rely upon, returning teams may be in a position to improve upon that standard. But, constantly changing conditions may make a consistent run difficult. No matter what, one team will take away the top prize. What Griffin can control, however, is the grandeur that goes along with the event. Because of St. Bernard Parish’s extreme willingness to provide whatever it takes in terms of equipment, logistics, and manpower, he is confident that this year’s event will be bigger and better than last year’s high bar.
“They’ve caught my vision,” he said. “They have supported everything we’ve asked for and envisioned. Last year we held a banquet that was like an Academy Awards presentation. We filled up an entire auditorium, we ushered everyone to their seats at tables covered with white tablecloths. I’m well aware that the banquet is the public-facing event that will be the face of the Redfish World Series for the future.”
Another aspect that captures the event’s quick rise is the payout, which this year will total $290,000, almost twice the entry fees put in by the anglers. Griffin has vowed that the “mason jar” mentality that has governed redfish events in the past will never exist in his circuit, and that “the minimum payback for any tournament I ever put on is 100 percent.”
The speed with which this event has reached his five-year goals has amazed even the ever-optimistic Griffin, and it has accelerated his other plans to bring professional redfish angling up to par with other professional athletic and competitive endeavors. He’s established the organization as a 501(C)(3) and next year plans to officially launch the National Redfish League – with four divisions and a total of 16 events.
“My goal has always been to change an entire sport and create an industry out of it,” he concluded. “We’re on the cusp of that, and we’re there way faster than I expected.”