The day started at 4:55 am when my first of 5 alarms go off (I had to set that many after my power hour of craft beers at the Flood Tide event the night before). I checked my phone and read a text from Chris saying he would be at my house in 5 minutes. I drug my slightly hungover body out of bed and pulled my clothes on for the day. After poking my head out the door to let Chris know I was alive and moving, I packed up my camera bag and I headed out.
Our first plan was to fish close to home. We reached the spot that we were going to fish we quickly realized there was DEFINITELY not enough water- even for Chris’ boat. We could hear fish crashing in the thick grass but it wasn’t an option for us at that point. Unfortunately, Chris and I put all our eggs in one basket on this spot. We knew it held great fish and we were really counting on a positive outcome.
The night before, we planned out the next day. We planned to fish our side of town and then make the 45-minute drive north. As soon as we figured out there wouldn’t be enough water, we made the call to head north right as the sun peaked over the horizon.
We made it to our second spot and things were looking good. It was the last hour of the outgoing tide. We fished an area where we have seen some nice size fish in the weeks prior. Chris was doing his job with the boat by keeping me in perfect casting position to the bank. We fished for a solid 10 minutes before approaching a nice point where we saw some nervous water. I made a shabby but adequate cast and BOOM he was on, and put a hell of a bend in my 8wt fiberglass rod. The fish worked me, to say the least. It pulled me right into my backing in a matter of seconds. I looked back at Chris and said, “Holy shit dude this sucker is nice!” We got the fish boat side and he was still green as could be. Chris jumped down off the platform and wrestled him into the boat. Obviously, we were FREAKING PUMPED! The fish measured in at 27” on the dot. This changed the mood for us. We figured we could hit the flood later and catch two nice fish and possibly get a 3rd or 4th place finish.
Shortly thereafter the water just dumped out like a plug pulled on a bathtub. We were finding it difficult to fish through the 5lb mullet that were dive-bombing our boat. We tried fishing the creeks but struggled to make anything happen. We picked up one small red that put us at 40” leading into lunch and we decided to just sit and polish off a few cold beers. We knew there would be some solid fish in this area, all we needed was just enough water to get the boat moving. Through the music, we heard a crash right by the boat! I was sitting on the polling platform and Chris was up front. I stood up and five feet from the boat was a small pup red bulldozing through the grass. Chris picked up the rod and gently rolled a cast right in front. BOOM!! Hooked up! This fight lasted seconds. We pulled the 15” guy right in the boat.
Now it’s nearly 5 pm and we finally had three fish on the board. We sat at 55”. With a little dust off the shoulder, we still knew this wouldn’t touch the leaderboard. We figured “Hey, it’s better than the 26” we pulled in last year”. Finally, the water started to pour in. We had our hopes set to the max. We started to see what looked like fish in the distance. We soon realized that we were wrong. The fish just weren’t there, and I mean NOT THERE!
At this point, it was around 6:15 pm. We ended up passing another skiff that was in the tournament. They seemed to be having the same luck as we were. Shortly after passing these guys we saw our next fish. Chris laid a perfect cast and with a few short ticks, BOOM!! He was on! Luckily this fish was in open water so having him wrap us up in the thick grass wasn’t going to happen. The fish laid across the bow with a gut the size of an amateur sumo wrestler. Chris shouted out “YESSSSSSS, HELL YESSS”. After this 24.5” fish we ditched the measurement of the smaller fish from before. This put us at 64.5” with only 20 more minutes of fishing time if we wanted to make it back before the 8 pm weigh in. I quickly hopped back on the platform and we were off to the next pocket. We polled vigorously in that area for the last 20 minutes.
As we were heading out we saw two nice fish floating in a dead space. I whipped the boat around and Chris was locked in. He made a cast that landed right on the first fish. Bam!! Both fish spooked. With our heads immediately to the sky in frustration, Chris looked back down and saw the second fish, which stopped and stayed close. He made another cast and BOOM!! He’s on! This fish pulled us all over the marsh. I reached over and pulled the 28.25” fish into the boat. Chris and I looked at each other with eyes the size of dinner plates. I said, “Man we have got to go or we aren’t making it back in time.”
We quickly polled out into a small creek and hit the “Rocket Ship” button. Pulling up to the landing we texted everyone we knew fishing to see if they knew what the leaderboard showed. It was looking like everyone had just as tough a day as we did. Driving home all we could say to each other was, “We have 79.75” we might have a shot at winning this.” We pulled up to Revelry Brewing with 10 minutes to spare. I walked up to the board and said:
“Damn Chris, we won.”
Ryan Rodgers is a Low Country native and the reigning Badfish.tv Tailers Cup champ. Check him out on Instagram @ghostwatersc