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Redfish anglers are seeing double


© St. Petersburg Times, published October 26, 2001

TIERRA VERDE -- Tournament fishing is a lot like marriage.

TIERRA VERDE -- Tournament fishing is a lot like marriage.

"If you don't have confidence in your partner, you can forget it," Greg Watts said. "It just won't work."

There are times when you have to act on faith and faith alone.

"If he says he has located some fish, then I know we'll catch some fish," Watts said. "In this sport, you can't afford to waste time."

After all, the Redfish Tour travels from city to city, across the state, and no lone angler could possibly know where all the fish are.

Titusville, Fernandina, Port Charlotte, Key Largo, Jacksonville, Sarasota, Tampa ... they all have red drum. But knowing where they will be on any given day is what puts a team on the leaderboard.

"It is good to scout every location at least a couple of days before a tournament," said Watts of the Hewes/Maverick Fishing Team. "The problem is, it can be tough for both of us to get off work. That is why it pays to have a partner you can count on."

And Greg Watts has felt a special bond with his teammate for more than 40 years, ever since the day the two were born just four minutes apart.

"If I'm on, he's off, and if I'm off, he's on," said Bryan, the older of the identical twins. "Either way, we always put fish in the boat."

The formula works. With one regular-season Redfish Tour event left (the tour stops in Tampa on Saturday), the Watts brothers lead the race for anglers of the year honors. Then it is off to Titusville on Nov. 15 for the championship and a shot at winning a fully rigged ranger powerboat with a 200 horsepower Mercury outboard motor and trailer valued at $35,000.

The rules are simple: Only artificial lures may be used and the fish must fall within the legal slot limit of 18 to 27 inches. Anglers may weigh in two fish, which are kept alive and released. There is a 1-pound penalty assessed for weighing in dead fish.

Watts and Watts, like most competitors on the Redfish Tour, are confident they can catch fish anywhere in the state.

"A redfish is a redfish," said Bryan Watts. "It doesn't matter if it is in Jacksonville or Key Largo, they still eat the same way."

The trick is finding a fat redfish. There are plenty of big redfish out there, but most are too long to be legal.

"But redfish are funny," Bryan Watts said. "Just when you think you have got them figured out ... "

They do something that makes you want to just hang up your rod and reel.

On this sunny September morning, the Watts brothers thought they would hit the grass beds, zero in on a couple of schools of redfish, and be home for lunch. But by noon, they had yet to find a single fish.

"They have to be here, somewhere," Greg Watts said, scouring the flats for a telltale tail. "This area always has fish."

Redfish schools move around. They might be hanging on the north side of a mangrove island one week and on the south side the next. A recreational angler usually will find the fish, given enough time, but tournament anglers seldom have that luxury.

"You have to get out there first before somebody gets on the fish," Greg Watts said. "But the good thing is you only need two fish."

So the Watts brothers worked the stretch of water along this productive redfish key (I am not naming the exact location to protect their fishing spot), working everything on their "go-to" list.

"The MirrOlure Top Dog, gold spoon, Hank Brown Hook Up bucktail jigs ... we both have our favorites," Bryan Watts said. "Usually, if we keep at it long enough, one of us will catch a fish."

Then, when all seemed lost, a reel screamed, and 10 minutes later, a 7.2-pound, 25-inch redfish hung from the brothers' scale.

"This is a good fish," Greg Watts said.

"One of the best we have seen all year," Bryan added.

"Now if we can only catch a couple like this ... " Greg said, stopping himself in mid sentence.

He didn't have to say anymore. His teammate knew what he meant.

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