Thomason and Pescay stay close to take All Star title
GULF SHORES, Ala. --- Charlie Thomason and Shane Pescay stood shoulder to shoulder on the weigh-in stage, looking like two exhausted prizefighters, heavyweight belts triumphantly slung over each of their shoulders.
Thomason was overcome with emotion after three grueling days that ended with his first championship title after five long years on the circuit.
It was a day when Mother Nature took control, forcing the anglers to forego the lucrative run to Louisiana and instead stay close and change strategies entirely. Thomason and Pescay won after bagging 6.98 pounds and the $60,000 top prize, which increased to $75,000 after Triton Boats contingency money was added.
In second were Anthony Randazzo and Billy Wallbaum with 5.59 pounds, followed by Day Two leaders Jim Franklin and Brian Fornea with 4.85 pounds in third place. Both fourth place finishers Jody Morris and Manny Perez as well as fifth place team Tim Young and Jason Catchings failed to weigh in a fish.
In the end it was a bass fishing strategy that helped Thomason and Pescay find success. They used a combination of Bass Assassins and Swimming Mullets with 1/4- and 1/2-ounce jigs to hook their fish, but the bites didn’t come easy.
“We were casting under docks and the fish were way underneath,” Pescay said. “We had to skip it under to reach them, and if you hooked ‘em you had to bring ‘em in or else they’d take you.”
The pair was fishing a spot Thomason had found nearly three years ago during another tournament.
“We didn’t have a game plan, so we did the only thing we knew how to do in this area. We fished the docks like we were going for bass,” Thomason said.
The plan worked for the first-time winners, who bested second-place finishers Randazzo and Wallbaum by more than a pound.
“We fished as smart as we could fish and used every lure in the tackle box,” Randazzo said.
The team didn’t catch their first fish until around 1 p.m. this afternoon, but then followed that by hooking a second only 30 minutes later.
“I nearly killed Anthony after he hooked that second one,” said Wallbaum. “I fell on top of him we were so ecstatic.”
Elated reactions over fish only half the size of the previous two days was typical for the field of five teams.
“We ran 130 miles to a spot Jody found a few weeks ago, but when we got there the fish weren’t there,” a dejected Manny Perez said. “We fished up until the very last second but we came up goose eggs.”
It was a tale of hard knocks for Jim Franklin and Brian Fornea as well. The team led going into the final day and was the only team to seriously consider making the risky run to Louisiana. They began the day with boat trouble and finished with fish trouble, losing both to a live well failure on the way back to the dock. The team was penalized 1 pound for the lost fish, 8 ounces for each. The penalty dropped them from second place to third and cost them $7,000.
“We saw that flag this morning and it was an easy decision to stay in the area,” Franklin said. “The tough decision was where to go. But we sure wanted to put both those fish back and we’re real sorry we couldn’t keep them alive.”
In the end it was a veteran and a rookie both earning their first win, a title that is arguably one the hardest fought in five years on the Redfish Cup circuit.
“It’s been five years since I started on this circuit, and I’ve done every damn run you can do and played by the rules every single time,” said an emotional Thomason. “This win was different because we couldn’t go back to my home turf in Louisiana. We had to stay and beat the best anglers in the world in waters I had never fished before. And we did it.”