The Southcentral Fishing Association’s defending championship boat returns to the water Saturday for the first of four regular-season SFA tournaments of 2012.
Will the four team members capture another title in this, the third year of the competitive redfish fishing circuit that has been embraced by more than 100 anglers each year?
“It’s definitely not going to be easy. To repeat as champions is definitely going to be tough. But we’re not going to put pressure on ourselves. The main reason we’re out there is we just enjoy fishing,” Leo Frederick of Loreauville said last week while fielding questions about the season opener scheduled from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday out of Cypremort Point Boat Landing. Weigh-in will be at the one-year-old pavilion along Quintana Canal.
Frederick, 43-year-old lead systems protection specialist for Cleco, and the rest of the winning crew from last summer haven’t been fishing much, if any, so far this year. But they are more than ready to begin defense of the title earned mostly on the strength of two tournament victories last year on the circuit.
Frederick will be joined by his daughter Alyx Frederick, a junior at Loreauville High School, and fellow Cleco employees Gerald Huval, senior apparatus specialist, and Mark Comeaux, project coordinator, in Huval’s 24-foot aluminum boat powered by a 340-h.p. Super Go-Devil.
“We were definitely surprised to win two tournaments last year,” Leo Frederick said. “Looking back at the tournaments we fished in, some of the fish we caught, some of them were luck. It takes some skill but it takes a lot of luck. It takes luck to get the big fish in the boat.”
Huval, 44, is looking forward to starting the season. Successful defense of the boat’s title won’t be easy, he said.
“They’ve got a lot of good fishermen in the club. They’ll be gunning for us,” he said. One of the gunners will be Matt Landry of New Iberia, SFA president and one of the founders of the organization.
“I think it’s a very competitive group of guys and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone else took the title this year. I don’t think anyone has a clearcut advantage,” he said.
Landry, who fishes the tournaments with his brother Bryant Landry of New Iberia, said he is looking forward to another season. The first two years were special, he said, with “good participation each year. We averaged over 115 members each of the first two years, so I think it went fine.”
An average of 20 boats have fished each tournament, he said, noting “if we could get 20 boats (Saturday) that would be great.”
Entry fee is $100 per boat with a maximum of four fisherman per boat. Registration for each tournament ends at 5:55 a.m.
Each boat captain can bring only three redfish to the scale and only two redfish will be weighed per boat. They must be within a 16-inch to 27-inch slot limit, a measurement that is checked for each redfish by Landry.
The defending champions’ boat captain, like the Fredericks, hasn’t been out to sample the redfish fishing yet. He hasn’t heard any fishing reports either, Huval said.
“I’ve been working a good bit. I guess I’ll try and fish Friday before the tournament. That’s about all I can do,” Huval said.
“It’s a matter of catching the tide right and all that.The (Atchafalaya) Basin’s dropping, so the water ought to start clearing up somewhere, so you just have to find the bait to find where the redfish are.”
Alyx Frederick, 16, has the knack for finding where the keeper-size redfish are as she proved last year in the boat’s first victory.
She caught a 6.82-pounder that was the biggest of the day and anchored their winning stringer of three redfish for 13.61 pounds.
“She loves to fish and she’s a good fisherman. She doesn’t give up.” her father, a 15-year veteran saltwater fisherman, said about the young outdoorswoman, who also hunts.
"Hunting season kind of gets in the way of fishing and we were hoping to make a fishing trip this weekend. We haven’t made one yet. I don’t think the weather will let us.”
Their other victory was June 11 with a three-fish limit that weighed 15.24 pounds. Huval had the tournament’s biggest redfish, a 7.68-pounder.
The SFA Classic was won last summer by Brandon Delcambre and Erron Derouen, both of Rynella, and Trevor Broussard of Lydia.
Their three-fish limit weighed 15.06 pounds, just enough to stay ahead of the runner-up team of the Fredericks, Comeaux and Huval, who checked in with 14.62 pounds.